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A Rich Concept of the Reader

ideal narratees and ideal readers

The richness of the concept of reader comes to the surface when we look at those fictions contrived to demand a complex ideal reader. This is to argue that the every-day reader is the norm: that reader constructed to consume content from linear newspaper spoons.

v also Longaker, Rhetorical Analysis

A rich concept of narratee and reader. First, a distinction between narratee and author and narrator and character - and a distinction between a material reader and the ideal reader that is constructed by a reader using the text. Too much resistance to anything but eyeballs on the script in silent conference with an author.

From Textual Intervention

The ‘actual writer’ is the author conceived as existing outside the text: the living, breathing, eating, loving, defecating, dying, etc., identity who is describable in biological, psychological, social and historical terms. The ‘(authorial) narrator’ is that version of the author (her or his views, sympathies, beliefs, etc.) offered within the text: the particular (self)projection the text implies. The ‘narrative’, broadly conceived, comprises all those characters, descriptions and actions (including speech and thought) which are represented in the text. (Narrative therefore includes such ‘characters-as-narrators’ as Jane in Jane Eyre (see 4.4.3) and Pip in Great Expectations.) The ‘narratee’ is the person or type of person for whom the narrative is apparently intended and whom it ostensibly assumes as addressee: overtly in the ‘dear reader’ mode of fiction, but covertly, as a supposedly sympathetic ear and knowing mind, in all modes of writing. The narratee is therefore the narrative’s implied ‘ideal reader’. ‘Actual reader/s’ - always pointedly singular for each individual reader/reading and always potentially plural when more than one reader /reading is involved - is and are each and every one of us every time we come to terms with a particular text. Actual readers are therefore never wholly or exactly identifiable with the text’s implied ‘ideal reader’, its narratee. Indeed, in so far as actual readers may interrogate and challenge anything and everything the text brings their way (characters, descriptions, actions; authorial narrators and what not), they may turn out to be anything from mildly sceptical to utterly ‘wrideal readers’ - or simply ‘readers with different ideals’. For worse and better, then, the roles of idealised ‘narratees’ and actual readers must be carefully distinguished if we are to maintain any active critical-historical sense. Moreover, it should be pointed out that ‘actual readers’ (plural) must to some extent be equated with ‘actual reading’; for in some sense each one of us is a slightly or a very different reader every time we read what is ostensibly ‘the same text’.

To bring out the constructed position of the narratee and reader, bring in A Most Parisian Episode

Reading becomes fouled at the end of chapter 2, and again at the end of chapter 6. Why? Because the identity of the narratee has shifted without warning while the identity of the reader has not. Because we're not given constructive signals that are strong and direct enough to make the shift. (Chapter 2 is a warning for chapter 6. But will you listen? No, not you, you headstrong romantic.)

Chap 2

Raoul was on the point of laying hands on her.
It was at that moment that the brilliant invention of the greatest anxieties flashed within her little brain.
Turning suddenly about, she threw herself into the arms of Raoul, crying, “Help, my darling Raoul, save me!”

Chap 6

Then, with a sudden gesture, having set his helmet aside, he snatched away the Dugout's mask.
Both at the same instant cried out in astonishment, neither one recognizing the other.
He was not Raoul.
She was not Marguerite.

Ask why a reader would be surprized at this revelation as Raoul and Marguerite are. Why would we expect this the two to know each other - except that we were led to believe they would.

The narratee in this novella is the voice of the prologues to each chapter. The narratee who censors the make up of chap 3. The narratee who comments on the story and addresses you, us, the ideal reader.


For hypertext: Varied reading paths are multiple worlds. They don't have to line up - although that makes it interesting.

Also, see The Listener and the Reader

Also, Burnett, How Images Think, give more agency to viewers of images in the construction of meaning than mass comm tends to.

a_rich_concept_of_the_reader.txt · Last modified: 2019/07/09 11:40 by morgan