Institute of Sociological Studies, Charles University in Prague
Prospéro is a tool for use by sociologists interested in argumentation: it helps identify and explore the ‘argumentatively strong moments’ (Chateauraynaud 2011: 118) within large corpuses usually based around public controversies. Given, however, that the notion of a discursive configuration or discursive regime is certainly broad enough to encompass narrative as well as argumentative modes of expression or ways of knowing (Chateauraynaud 2003: 83), and that one of Prospéro’s strengths is undoubtedly its sensitivity to questions of time and temporality (identifying turning points in argument trajectories, for example), it is surprising that narrativity remains an underdeveloped area of its conceptual armoury, and that few researchers (to my knowledge) have used Prospéro to explore the narrative structure of corpuses (for an exception see Cézanne-Bert & Hériard-Dubreuil 2014).
In the project I lead at Charles University in Prague on Crisis narrativisation and institutions in politics and public policy we set ourselves two technical-methodological goals: one is to adapt Prospéro for use with Czech texts (perhaps this will be the subject of a later post). The other is to test whether Prospéro can in fact aid the search not only for the argumentatively but also for the narratively strong moments of large corpuses. In this post I want to introduce a way to use formulas in combination with a categorisation of verbs (épreuves) by type of speech act, which represents a promising first step in our effort to investigate narrativity.
The connection between speech acts and narrativity
One way of introducing the theory of speech acts (developed principally by John Searle) is to start from distinction between different classes of speech acts according to how they mediate the relationship between the ‘word’ and the ‘world’. Hence a speech act, for Searle, can have one, both or neither of two ‘directions of fit’.