- Slides: 9
Audience From notes on “The Writer’s Audience” published on line by the BSU Writing Center
Traditional Views of Audience l l l For Classical rhetoricians, audience was “out there” a “target” for the writer/speaker to “aim at. ” The speaker/writer was active and the listener or reader was passive, only reacting to the words. Rhetoric “worked” when the listener/reader came to think as the speaker/writer did.
Reader Response Theory l l l More recently, in conjunction with New Critical Literary Theory, theorists have come up with the idea that meaning was embedded in the work to be dug out by the reader. The reader is not passive, but active in creating meaning. The story isn’t poured into the reader, but emerges and the reader works with the text through her own past experiences and knowledge about the subject of the text. Texts mean something based on what the reader does to them.
“The Audience is ALWAYS a fiction” l l The writer constructs the audience in his or her imagination The audience must “fictionalize itself” – play the role the writer has cast it in, which seldom coincides with real life roles. Writers have to conjecture reader moods, knowledge base, response. . . Writers must also construct “implied versions” of themselves and imagine themselves as members of their own audience.
So, is the Reader/Listener “out there” or “in here”? l l Lots of people didn’t like this choice, that it had to be one or the other. Some theorists came to think of the relationship as a “wide and shifting range of roles for both the writer and the reader. Another theorist came up with the idea that the writer’s task was to create an audience within the text – creating an audience with “particular knowledge, assumptions, and attitudes toward the writer and the subject matter. ” Barry Kroll writes that “the text is a kind of drama, with roles for the writer and the reader, and the audience is invited to enact the role which the writer has created for it. ” In other words, the text creates an audience. . .
Audience Relationships l l l There are four general perspectives here: 1. Relationship of audience to itself: What are the physical, economic, cultural environments of the audience? What are its myths, prejudices, preconceptions? 2. Relationship of audience to subject: What does the audience already know, think, feel about the subject? 3. Relationship of audience to writer: What does the audience know and feel about the writer? What experiences, interests, values do they share? What role is the writer asking the audience to play? 4. Relationship of audience to the form: What mode of development and organization does the audience expect to find? What tone, level of diction, level of sentence complexity? How might these questions and perspectives be useful to writers?
Ethos/Pathos/Logos l l Ethos = Writer’s character and credibility, voice, attitude toward the subject and audience, the writer’s persona. Pathos = appeal to emotion and awareness of the reader’s frame of mind, preconceptions, values and assumptions. Logos = appeal to reason, use of evidence, testimony, personal experience. The three work together in a triangular relationship to shape the writing as it evolves.
Who do I want my audience to be? l l Some critics propose that instead of asking who is the intended audience, writers should ask “Who do I want my audience to be? ” What audience do I want/need to create to make this piece work? Answering this question in pre-writing can help a writer to establish goals, work through strategies, build connections.
Ask yourself what you want from an audience. l l Writer’s block can be overcome by changing the audience you’re writing to. If you’re blocked because you can’t write for/to the teacher who you presume knows everything you have to say, then construct an audience you CAN feel comfortable writing to and begin there. If you’re blocked because you can’t imagine how to talk to a professional community, write to your family or your close friend. Use audience to help you move ahead. It’s a fiction, a construct, a tool in the writer’s pocket.