Narratology: An Introduction

By Susana Onega ; Jose Angel Garcia Landa | Go to book overview

9 Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers*

WALKER GIBSON

In this article Walker Gibson, taking up the New Critical distinction between author and dramatic speaker, differentiates between real reader and 'mock reader'. The mock reader is the narrator's addressee, a fictional figure whose knowledge, taste and personality may often differ from those of the real reader. As Gibson explains, the mock reader is most easily identifiable in such subliterary genres as advertising and propaganda. Although better hidden in more complex and sophisticated literary narratives, it nevertheless constitutes an indispensable element in all kinds of text. The term 'mock reader' has been generally replaced by that of 'implied reader' by analogy with Booth's 'implied author'. According to Gibson, in order for propaganda or advertising to achieve its aim, it must be able to create a mock reader with whom the real reader will be ready to identify. Likewise, in the case of literary narrative, the test of its moral quality can be measured by the moral status attributed to the mock reader. This moral factor, Gibson contends, may be used to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' literature. The emphasis on rhetoric and the concern with the morality or ideology of the text are similarly found in Chicago School critics such as Wayne Booth in his Rhetoric of Fiction (chapter 8 above).

It is now common in the classroom as well as in criticism to distinguish carefully between the author of a literary work of art and the fictitious speaker within the work of art. [ . . . ]

Closely associated with this distinction between author and speaker, there is another and less familiar distinction to be made, respecting the reader. For if the 'real author' is to be regarded as to a great degree distracting and mysterious, lost in history, it seems equally true that the 'real reader,' lost in today's history, is no less

____________________
*
Reprinted from Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism. Ed. JANE P. TOMPKINS ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980) pp. 1-6. First publ. in College English 11 ( Feb. 1950): 265-9.

-155-

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