Writers and Readers – Both Are Playing "Games"

What I want to outline here is the dichotomy between writing and reading. There are actually four personages involved in this scheme. Two of them are real, and two are fictitious (but still played by real people). A text is written by an actual person. Let's call this person the Actual Writer. A text is read by an actual person. Let's call this person the Actual Reader. These two are real people. The writer is alive when writing the text (although by the time readers read it, he / she may be dead), and so is the reader. The reader is always alive when actually reading. If the relationship between the writer and the reader is like a conversation that takes place between them, then the writer is speaking and the reader is listening. Yes, but how can a writer who is dead be speaking? Here is where we have to introduce the two personages that are not real in this scheme.

So, in the act of writing, the writer creates or produces a version of him / herself, and this version does not exist outside of the text. This version is in the text, and in the text only. And this happens with every act of writing. Even in the act that I am performing here by writing this article. There is a name for this person – or, rather, persona – the Implied Writer. But the same goes for the act of reading. There is always already a reader planted in every text. Let's call this persona the Implied Reader (this phrase comes from the English translation of Wolfgang Iser's Der implizite Leser published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 1974).

The role the Actual Writer creates in the act of writing, which is the Implied Writer, should be fairly obvious. But that of the Implied Reader may be a bit more difficult to grasp. In what sense do I, as Actual Reader, play a role called the Implied Reader? The scheme is easy to see whenever a narrator (or Implied Writer) addresses the reader directly. Such "dear reader" passes exist in many novels, especially in the 18th century. But more recent metafiction, like that written by John Barth, for example, is notorious for addressing the reader directly. But who is this "reader"? Is it I, the Actual Reader? Or is it an imaginary / imagined reader who is supposed to play along with the Implied Writer?

When Mark Twain's Huck Finn begins his autobiography by immediately addressing his reader as "you" (which is the first word of the novel), the reader is immediately put on alert for the role he / she needs to play, because Huck Finn is talking about an earlier book in which he has appeared, and which his current reader may be familiar with. But even if not, Huck goes on to talk about that book for a bit to get the reader to see who he is, and how the reader is to take what he is talking about. When the Actual Reader plays along with this "role" called upon him or her, he / she is assuming the role of the Implied Reader. And he / she is probably aware of the fact that the character of Huck is really an intermediate between Mark Twain and him / herself as the Actual Reader. So this is what the whole scheme looks like:

The Actual Writer [The Implied Writer] – [The Implied Reader] The Actual Reader

This scheme is always already present in every text written / read. Even if a person is writing a personal letter to a friend, the person "present" in the text is a role played by the letter writer. This "wordy" self is always already the Implied Writer. And the friend reading the letter will also be an Implied Reader as he or she goes about the business of seeing what his or her friend is up to. This is how understanding takes place. It is only when the reader cooperates with the writer that a true meeting of minds can take place. And it is this true meeting of minds between writers and readers that both writing and reading are all about.

Source by Steven Scheer

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