Who Is the Reader?

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“I argue that ‘Benito Cereno’ employs an insidiously unreliable narrator to ‘set up’ the reader, and that the reader is incorporated into the text in a subject position analogous or at least complementary to Delano’s.”

 

- From Catharine O’Connell’s “Narrative Collusion and Occlusion in Melville’s ‘Benito Cereno’” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism, page 186

 

When I read this line I immediately noticed that O’Connell never actually told this reader from which reader’s point of view she was writing.  In Keesey’s introduction and in Iser’s essay, we were told that there are many types of possible readers.  Reading on I saw that O’Connell never actually chooses one.  Instead she discusses how various critics have looked at the novella through the eyes of many different types of readers (some of whom were not even mentioned in the introduction or in Iser’s essay).  

 

Did anyone else notice this?  What did you think of it?  Do you think it is acceptable for us to do this in our own essays, or should we focus on one particular reader?

 

Back to course website.

2 Comments

If you are referring to the three types of readers, I highly doubt if the author is going to tell us which one he/she will invoke for each essay. It goes back to the one essay Dr. Jerz tore apart for us in class. By not telling us wht reader she is using, O'Connell is flattering us. She assumes that we know and so she doesn't say.

Greta Carroll said:

Erica, I think we need to pick one of the types of readers and I think we need to be clear about which reader we pick. I think that O’Connell wasn’t too clear about who or what she meant by “the reader.” However, I think she was referring to the “ideal reader,” because at one point in the essay she writes, “However, the story ironically inscribes an ideal reader who will not initially get the story’s full meaning. Usually when we use the term ‘ideal reader,’ it suggest a reader who fully appreciates what the text is about, ‘gets it’ in all its complexity. Instead, ‘Benito Cereno’ structures and encourages misreading so that the eventually discovering that one has been duped has the effect of revealing to the reader his or her complicity with Delano’s most egregious and self-serving assumptions” (191). I could be wrong though. What do you think?

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