‘Performative language’ considers issues concerning the meaning and effects of language, identity and the nature of the subject. Performative utterances do not describe but perform the action they designate. Theorists have long asserted that we must attend to what literary language does as much as to what it says, and the concept of the performative provides a linguistic and philosophical justification for this idea. The performative brings to centre stage an active, world-making use of language, which resembles literary language — and helps us to conceive of literature as act or event. The work of Austin and Derrida develops the theory of performativity and Butler applies it to gender.