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February 17, 2007

EL312: Defined by Wolfgang: implied reader

As luck would have it (or maybe just through a number of grand connections), our critic Wolfgang Iser coined the phrase "implied reader."

My Bedford tells me that this term is used in contradistinction (oo, nice word) to the phrase "actual reader." (No, I'm not air quoting--that's the way it is in The Bedford on page 215.)

Iser says that this "'construct... embodies all those predispositions necessary for a literary work to exercise to exercise its effect.' Unlike the implied reader, real readers bring their own experiences and preconceptions to the text--and thus their own idiosyncratic modes of modes of perception and interpretation" (215).

Am I correct in thinking that implied reader is a sort of deeply-laid type of author intent?

Murfin and Ray, Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at February 17, 2007 12:18 AM


It's great to see Lit Crit blowing everyone's minds through the blogs. What a fun class.

"Am I correct in thinking that implied reader is a sort of deeply-laid type of author intent? "

Excellent question. Let me ask you this: who did you think you were asking this question to? That's the implied reader. Not a real reader, but one implicitly "there," embedded in the direct address.

We write to an imaginary audience.

I read your question... but does that make me real? Yes, but only on my side of the computer screen. And from my perspective, you didn't write the question to me. The implied author did!

This is why one can never know what the "real" author intended. Nothing's really real here; it's all a construct of language and the phenomenology of processing it. That's why someone like Stanley Fish will say that every reading is a misreading.

You guys should be deconstructing that glossary, too! Heh.

-- Dr. Arnzen

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at February 17, 2007 7:58 PM

We did have some fun in class last time when someone used Gilman's "Why I wrote the Yellow Wallpaper" to answer a question about "The Yellow Wallpaper." I pointed out that, if it were the case that the only way we could understand "The Yellow Wallpaper" was to read "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper'" then our discussion of "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper'" would be incomplete unless someone were able to turn up "Why I Wrote 'Why I Wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper"'", and so on.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz Author Profile Page at February 17, 2007 8:32 PM

Ahhh! Dr. Jerz, that's quite a circle of understanding (or misunderstanding... or just simplified analysis, I guess).

Thanks for getting at my question, Dr. A. Much obliged. (Sidenote: imaginary audience makes me think of imaginary numbers in math... http://blogs.setonhill.edu/KarissaKilgore/009589.html)

As for deconstructing the glossary? Did you read my note about the incorrect pagination? (I nearly died.)

Posted by: Karissa at February 17, 2007 10:59 PM

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