This article is concerned with the problem of the dramatic experience that has given rise to a performative shift in the theory of literature and performative aesthetics (ie. the appropriation of the dramatic mode by epistemology and art). Performativeness is discussed here in the context of J.L. Austin's philosophy of language, the theatrical approach to culture, the performative aspects of drama, and Derrida's new aesthetics. The article also shows the links between the dramatic experience and Bakhtin's dialogism in a broad historical perspective. It seems that the arrival of a revised concept of science stripped of absolute certainties, the freeing of our thinking from the methodology of binary oppositions, and the supplanting of the objective concept of art by an approach focused on processes and events have paved the way for a new literary epistemology. Its novel character is determined by the fact that it has to revisit and reassess some of the fundamental issues of literary theory. For example, it has to work out a formula of literariness as an 'event', interpretation as a 'dramatic agon' or 'textual staging', and aesthetic discourse as a 'performance'. As a result the reinvented drama studies can become a superdiscipline reaching out to various areas of culture and the arts, controlling the discourses of other, more specialized disciplines and fields of study. In its new form it is no longer a branch of literary studies concerned with the poetics of drama but a theory of dramatic experience, a philosophical construct and a new aesthetics.