Rudrum, David (2013) Shooting a Donkey: Accidents and Mistakes in Austin and McEwan. Philosophy and Literature, 37 (2). pp. 421-434. ISSN 0190-0013

Remember J. L. Austin’s attempt—in “A Plea for Excuses”—to differentiate between doing something “by mistake” and doing it “by accident”? Well, Austin’s attempts at philosophical distinctions—such as his more celebrated distinction between constative and performative language—do not always result in tenable oppositions. Therefore, this article sets out to explore the accident/mistake distinction with reference to a contemporary novel: namely, Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love. The novel is particularly apt because it opens with a fatal accident , which, in turn, leads to a plot-shaping mistake . These extraordinary events both challenge and vindicate Austin’s “ordinary language” conception of his subject.

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