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Modern Language Association

Readers in Texts
Author(s): W. Daniel Wilson
Source: PMLA, Vol. 96, No. 5 (Oct., 1981), pp. 848-863
Published by: Modern Language Association
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Accessed: 22/12/2009 07:47

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Readersin Texts

A N INTRIGUING outgrowth of the past need not be referred to directly in order to be

decade's awakening fascination with the characterized. That this figure is a fictional cre-
reception of literary works is the new ation of the author (much as the characters are)
focus on various types of readers within works. rather than a real reader is obvious enough that
As is often true with such new growths, how- we can hardly take issue with the general term
ever, the study of these fictional beings is be- "fictive reader"; for reasons that become clear,
ginning to look like a tangled mass because of however, the type should be specified further,
its unruly profuseness. Confronted with studies and I have chosen the name "characterized
of readers' roles, ideal readers, fictive readers, reader" for this particular subtype of fictive
intended readers, implied readers, abstract reader. This type occurs most frequently-
readers, virtual readers, and myriad other terms although by no means exclusively-in eighteenth-
that often seem to duplicate one another, the and nineteenth-century works. Its function can
novice cannot be blamed for turning with im- be much more complex and important than one
patience to tried and true approaches to litera- might suspect at first glance.
ture. I intend to clear up some of this confusion, Far more crucial is a less visible abstract
present a workable synthetic taxonomy, and, in reader, that referred to when critics speak of a
the process, attempt to bridge a regrettable gap "reader's role." Following Wolfgang Iser, I call
of awareness between English- and German- this structure the "implied reader," and I define
language criticism. Along the way I examine the it as the behavior, attitudes, and background-
work of several outstanding theorists, most presupposed or defined, usually indirectly, in the
notably Erwin Wolff, Wolfgang Iser, Walter text itself-necessary for a proper understanding
Ong, Hannelore Link, and Gerald Prince. of the text. This idealized reader may be con-
German-language criticism reserves the term sciously or unconsciously conceived by the au-
"fictive reader" (fiktiver Leser) for a very re- thor, but he or she exists in every work, since
stricted phenomenon: an extreme example is almost every "message" presupposes a certain
one of the hapless victims that Tristram Shandy kind of recipient and implicitly defines him or
berates after interrupting the narrative: her to some extent. Anglo-American critics will
- How could you, Madam, be so inattentive in recognize Iser's indebtedness to Wayne Booth's
Rhetoric of Fiction and particularly to the con-
reading the last chapter?I told you in it, That my
mother was not a papist. --Papist! You told me cept of the "implied author," which Booth out-
no such thing, Sir. Madam, I beg leave to re- lined as follows:
peat it over again, That I told you as plain, at least, Just as one's personal letters imply different ver-
as words, by direct inference, could tell you such a sions of oneself, depending on the differing rela-
thing. Then, Sir, I must have missed a page. tionships with each correspondentand the purpose
(Vol. i, Ch. xx) of each letter, so the writer sets himself out with
And so on, until the narrator forces Madam to a differentair dependingon the needs of particular
reread the entire chapter. Even when readers do works.'
not speak up, they belong to the same basic type The "implied" author whom we sense in a text,
as long as they are characterized in some way in above or behind the narrator, is never identical
the text. Even such a comparatively innocent with the real author in all stages of life as we
address as to "the gentle reader" serves to char- experience him or her in other documents; the
acterize a reader, to fix a sociological status for author fictionalizes himself or herself in order to
him or her. We shall also see that the reader meet the demands of a particular fictive world

W. Daniel Wilson 849
and the accompanying communication. Thus the relevant theoretical remarks.4 The third method
writer creates a "second self" anew in every has the same limitations that it has in any other
work (Booth, p. 71). In an often-quoted pas- literary interpretation: the author's extratextual
sage, Booth relates this concept of the implied comments on the work may be valuable, but
author to the corresponding reader: they must take second place to an analysis of the
work itself and must not be taken as more au-
The author creates . . . an image of himself and thoritative than the work's structures if a con-
another image of his reader;he makes the reader, tradiction arises. The second method comes
as he makes his second self, and the most successful
closer to my concerns, since the generic form of
reading is one in which the created selves, author a work does, indeed, tend to limit the intended
and reader,can find complete agreement. (p. 138)
readership. Certain faculties are required to ap-
In practice, the term "implied author" is fre- preciate fully the innovation in a great work of a
quently superfluous. Booth was concerned with particular genre, as Wolff shows in his analysis.
countering attacks on an author's "sincerity" To understand a new sort of epistolary novel,
that proceeded from a misguided comparison of for instance, one must be familiar with earlier
the implied authors in various works created by representatives of the genre but remain open to
the same writer. But in our theoretical context- change; therefore, a novelist who achieves such
and in most interpretations-we are of necessity innovation automatically defines his or her in-
already speaking of individual works. As long as tended audience more narrowly.
we do not make improper generalizations from Wolff's first method, while apparently most
"Goethe in Elective Affinities" to "Goethe," for relevant to my topic, actually manifests the most
example, we can simply refer to the "author" or serious and most widespread confusion in dis-
use his name when discussing the communica- cussions of intratextual readers, that between the
tive situation in a particular text. Hannelore characterized fictive reader and the intended or
Link, who constructs much more clearly than implied reader. This criterion makes us wonder
Iser a model in which the "implied author" whether Wolff has been writing about anything
stands opposite the "implied reader" on one other than the characterized reader all along; in-
level of communication, herself interchanges the deed, the confusion recurs throughout his essay.
two concepts "author" and "abstract [i.e., im- Quoting the passage from Tristram Shandy cited
plied] author,"2 thus showing the superfluity of earlier, Wolff remarks that the narrator mocks
the latter. It is essential, however, that we not the intended reader; further, since "Madam" is
confuse the "implied reader" with the (real) but one of a large group of such figures, Wolff
"reader," a mistake that is much more easily says that we can infer an individualization of the
committed. intended reading public (pp. 152-53). For
Erwin Wolff introduced the term "intended Wolff, then, "Madam" is the reader type Sterne
reader" (intendierter Leser) for this figure,3 wished for this work, and, inversely, her pres-
which he describes as "the idea of the reader ence in the work attests to Sterne's wish. Of
that forms in the author's mind" or "the 'ideal' course, authors may sometimes straightfor-
representation which the poet conceives of his wardly characterize a reader by whom they
audience and which then 'conditions' his work to want to be read. Such characterizations of the
a much greater extent than the real reader . . . intended audience often appear in lyric po-
ever could" (pp. 166, 143). That the intended etry and in narratives where the reader is char-
reader "conditions" the work shows that Wolff's acterized only indirectly. It is not true in Tris-
and Iser's concepts have the same foundation in tram Shandy, where we are presented caricatures
the text. We must be wary, however, of Wolff's of readers, satirized readers whose behavior the
three methods for determining the author's "idea author does not wish his intended reader to emu-
of the reader": first, describing any reader who late. The conduct of characterized readers is in
may be directly portrayed in the work (i.e., the principle as little a model for our own response
characterized reader); second, ascertaining the as the characters' conduct. In fact, Elizabeth W.
type of reader that complements a particular Harries has shown that in leading eighteenth-
generic form; and third, evaluating the author's century fiction these characterized readers are
850 Readers in Texts
"negative models" or foils for the intended read- tempts to distinguish between them, between,
er's response.5 Wolff is not alone in this mis- respectively, "the image of the reader in the au-
conception; many German-language critics thor's mind" ("das Bild des Lesers, das dem
adopt it, and one of the few English-language Autor vorschwebte") and "the activity of con-
contributors to the discussion, Lowry Nelson, stituting [meaning] which is prescribed to the
Jr., writes that "of the many ways in which the recipients of texts" ("die den Empfangern der
reader is granted his fictive role, perhaps the Texte vorgezeichnete Konstitutionsaktivitat").
most elementary is the direct address to him" If the author's "image of the reader" "condi-
and that another is "direct mention of him tions" his or her work, then it necessarily forms
within the fictional body of the work."6 a role in the text that shows readers how to
Wolff's misunderstanding provides a basis for understand that text (or to "constitute its mean-
a look at the work of Wolfgang Iser, one of the ing"). Or, to approach this issue differently, who
foremost critics in the field of reader-oriented but the author can prescribe anything to the
theory. In his book The Act of Reading (1976; reader? Iser would probably argue that the text
trans. 1978), and not in his earlier The Implied itself does so, and in this sense Hannelore Link
Reader (1972; trans. 1974), Iser most clearly notes that the intended reader is identical to the
defines what he means by the "implied reader," implied reader only when authors succeed in
partly by discussing related concepts like formulating their "messages" according to their
Wolff's.7 Referring to Wolff's first method of de- intentions, that is, in writing for the reader they
termining the intended reader, Iser concludes intended to write for. But Link also points out
that what Wolff really means by the "intended that in most works that we consider "literary,"
reader" is the reader characterized in the text the author realizes this intention (p. 28).
(Leserfiktion).8 But Iser accepts this faulty The deeper problem underlying this issue has
identification of the two concepts, not realizing its roots in Iser's theoretical basis for his
that the characterized reader cannot categori- of the implied reader. For Iser, the author as the
cally be identified with the reader who is "in- determiner of the work's meaning shrinks almost
tended" by the author and who "conditions" the to the point of extinction. Instead, the reader
work. Iser's confusion can be seen in the follow- creates the work's meaning. Iser believes that
ing passage, where he contradicts himself: the implied reader consists of both an
tively determinable structure in the text
The intended reader, then, marks certain positions (Textstruktur) and the varying subjective actu-
and attitudesin the text, but these are not yet iden- alizations of the structure by real readers
tical to the reader'srole, for many of these positions (Aktstruktur); indeterminacies in the text and in
are conceived ironically, ... so that the reader is its implied reader structure make
not expected to accept the attitudeoffered him, but varying actu-
alizations possible. Critics such as Link are
ratherto react to it. (Act, p. 33; Akt, p. 59) baffled by Iser's statements like "the intention of
a text" lies "in the reader's imagination."'0
How can these attitudes be "intended" for the Such statements are less mystifying (and more
reader who is "not expected to" identify with difficult to counter) when one considers Iser's
them? By failing to scrutinize Wolff's application phenomenological roots, which reach back
of the term "intended" to the characterized through the Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden
reader, Iser skirts the question of whether his to Edmund Husserl, Ingarden's teacher. "Inten-
own implied reader or reader's role is equivalent tion" should apparently be understood in the
to the properly understood intended reader. In-
phenomenological sense of "intentionality." The
deed, if we take only Wolff's initial definition of reader-the noetic pole-"intends" or consti-
the intended reader as "the idea of the reader tutes the meaning of the work, the noematic
that forms in the author's mind" and that "con- pole. Whether one views the experience of a lit-
ditions" the work and reject his and Iser's false erary work communicatively (as Link) or
identification of this reader with the character-
phenomenologically or whether one tries to syn-
ized reader, the difference between intended and thesize these outlooks (as Iser
attempts to do-
implied readers virtually disappears. Iser at- unsuccessfully, to my mind) is a matter of
W. Daniel Wilson 851
choice that lies outside the bounds of my topic. effect without worrying about whether it was
It should be pointed out that E. D. Hirsch has produced accidentally or on purpose."14
shown that according to Husserl, "different in- If we understand "intended" in the broader
tentional acts (on different occasions) 'intend' and more proper sense, we find no essential
an identical intentional object" and that "verbal difference between Wolff's and Iser's concepts.
meaning, being an intentional object, is unchang- Iser asks with respect to Wolff's model "why,
ing."11No matter which approach one chooses, generations later, a reader can still grasp the
the implied reader is a part of the overall textual meaning ... of the text, even though he cannot
meaning and is not to be confused with the real be the intended reader" (Act, p. 33; Akt, p.
reader, the noetic pole who actualizes the mean- 59). We may ask the same question about Iser's
ing and who correspondingly relates to the im- implied reader. If a work speaks to a future age,
plied reader's role. the real reader who corresponds to the reader
Iser's use of "intention," however, is far from "intended" or "implied" or presupposed by the
being consistently phenomenological. On a single text and by the author can exist in the future-
page of The Act of Reading Iser speaks of "the the author writes for a reader who does not yet
perspective intended by the author" and "what exist (i.e., who exists only in the author's mind
the reader is meant to visualize" (p. 35). In his and text and who is fully actualized only by a
practical analyses in The Implied Reader, too, future real reader). Whether "intended" by the
Iser is forced more than once to fall back on author (in the wider sense) or "implied," this
"the role intended for the reader," as other crit- reader is, after all, an abstraction, not a really
ics have noted.12 Surely Iser can only be refer- existing reader. He or she will almost certainly
ring (or avoiding referring) to the author's in- possess various characteristics of actual readers
tentions; this position is a far cry from his orig- and reflect the author's historical setting in many
inal theoretical assertion that the text's meaning ways (the "implied readers" in the analyses in
is created by the reader. Of course, we must Iser's Implied Reader reflect the historical situa-
avoid the narrow concept of intention as the au- tion of the works, and Iser never asks how we
thor's statements of purpose outside the work; can today, "generations later," fill these roles).
the intention as expressed in the work itself But precisely because he or she is a construction
should be our guide to establishing the communi- in the author's mind and/or a structure of the
cative structure of the work. Wimsatt and text, he or she exists as long as the book exists
Beardsley clearly formulated this distinction and his or her role may be filled in future ages if
many years ago: "If the poet succeeded in doing the work truly outlasts its time. So it will not do
it, then the poem itself shows what he was trying for Iser to play off the intended reader as "a
to do."13 It is intention in this wider sense-as concept of reconstruction, uncovering the his-
evidenced in the work itself-that Iser falls back torical dispositions of the reading public at
on, as he should. So only if Wolff uses "in- which the author was aiming" against the im-
tended" in the narrow sense (his third criterion plied reader, who "as a concept has his roots
would seem to indicate that he does, although firmly planted in the structure of the text"-
the emphasis on the intended reader "condition- implying that the latter, whose role "can be
ing" the work weakens this impression) can a fulfilled in different ways, according to historical
valid distinction between intended and implied or individual circumstances," is somehow more
readers be sustained. The distinction would then ahistorical.15 Intended and implied readers are
boil down to the individual critic's response to both "firmlyplanted in the structure of the text,"
the age-old theoretical problem: does an author and their roles may be realized by future readers
consciously intend to create those more subtle in favorable circumstances. An interpretation of
structures that critics uncover in his or her the implied or intended reader's role in a work
works? This question remains unresolved for our must aim at what the author intended (in the
discipline generally, and the whole issue is not wider sense) to communicate, and historical cir-
very fruitful for an analysis of the communica- cumstances will condition this intention. Iser's
tive structure actually found in the work, since, reliance on authorial intention shows that the
as Stanley Fish points out, "one can analyze an implied reader, like the intended reader, is "a
852 Readers in Texts
concept of reconstruction, uncovering the his- the characters and, again, that the implied
torical dispositions of the reading public at reader is a different sort of fiction from the char-
which the author was aiming," whether the au- acterized reader. I would agree, but using the
thor aimed at these (real) dispositions nega- term fictive readers (not characters) and distin-
tively or positively; the dispositions are, of guishing between "characterized" and "implied"
course, transformed into a fictional, implied re- (or "intended") precisely express these differ-
cipient. If we understand intention in the proper ences.
sense and avoid confusing the characterized What are the relations of these fictive readers
reader with the intended reader, the implied to reality? Obviously, this relationship cannot be
reader differs from the intended reader only in any less complex than that between fictional
name and to the degree that one attempts to worlds and reality generally, so our response
push the author out of the picture. I use the term must be differentiated. First, characterized read-
"implied reader" without Iser's bias and theoret- ers may be based on real persons (often in their
ical presuppositions. capacity as readers), just as any fictional charac-
When I say that the implied reader is fictional, ter may be. For example, when Sterne had Tris-
I am departing from Iser's-and most German tram Shandy speak to the "Madam" character-
critics'-understanding of the term. Walter Ong ized in his text, he may have been thinking of a
categorically affirms my position, as the title of particular contemporary reading habit or even a
his relevant article shows: "The Writer's Audi- particular individual who incorporated this
ence Is Always a Fiction."16 Can we really call habit. But the same transmutations occur here
the reader's role-that is, the implied reader-a that occur when any real person forms the basis
fiction? Ong means two things when he makes for a fictional figure. I have shown elsewhere
this claim. that although C. M. Wieland partly addresses his
Comic Tales (1765) to a "Herrn Doctor Z,"
First, that the writer must constructin his imagina-
which stands for his friend Johann Georg
tion, clearly or vaguely, an audience cast in some
sort of role-entertainment seekers, reflective Zimmermann, the fictionalized "Z" can be
sharersof experience (as those who listen to Con- clearly distinguished from his model in re-
rad's Marlow), inhabitants of a lost and remem- ality.17The implied reader, too, may be based on
bered world of prepubertal latency (readers of a real reader; following Pushkin's death, Gogol
Tolkien's hobbit stories), and so on. Second, we wrote: "I have not written one line without
mean that the audience must correspondingly imagining him before me."18 And yet the real
fictionalizeitself. A reader has to play the role in person is transformed into a fictional role that
which the author has cast him, which seldom other real readers may play, so that the implied
coincides with his role in the rest of actual life. reader may seem even more divorced from re-
(p. 12)
ality than the characterized reader does. Because
Iser would probably disagree both with Ong's the implied reader's role is fictional, Karl
emphasis on the author and (as we shall see) Maurer rightly dismisses as deceptive any hope
with the insistence that the reader must play the of writing a historical study of reading behavior
precise role the author outlines, and yet the two based only on the texts and their implied read-
models show remarkable similarities. One differ- ers,19 since the degree to which an implied
ence is that Iser follows the standard German reader reflects real reading behavior is not evi-
terminology, calling only the characterized dent from the text alone. True Rezeptions-
reader-the one who is addressed or portrayed geschichte is concerned with real, historical
directly in the text-fictitious (fiktiv, or Leser- readers, not primarily with fictive readers.20
fiktion). Surely Ong is correct: if this role exists The fictive reader is a tool for interpreting a
in the work itself and consists of a reader who work, not-except very indirectly and unreliably
never corresponds to real readers "in an un- -for sketching historical reading habits.
transmuted state" (p. 10), then this reader or In another sense the implied reader's relation
reader's role is a part of the fictive world, or to reality is unique and central: the implied
fictive. Of course, one may argue that these reader incorporates the reading behavior that
readers are fictive in different ways from, say, real readers are supposed to adopt, even if they
W. Daniel Wilson 853
fail to do so. In other words, our relation to the In his essay "The Role of the Reader in Field-
implied reader is crucial to our understanding of ing's Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones," Iser
the text. Within this context, we can distinguish comments on this passage: "As the narrative
two basic models concerning the flexibility with does not offer a description of Lady Booby's
which this relation is realized. Ong sees his fic- reaction, the reader is left to provide the descrip-
tionalized reader-perhaps unwittingly-as a tion, using the directions offered him."22 It is,
less flexible role. He generally speaks in terms of however, only the characterized reader-one,
the roles readers are "called on" or "asked" to indeed, whose knowledge of contemporary and
play (pp. 9, 12), and, more restrictively, he says ancient culture is depicted in some detail-who
that these roles are "enforced" on the reader (p. is offered any flexibility here, and consequently,
10) and that "a reader has to play the role in the flexibility granted the real reader is insignifi-
which the author has cast him" (p. 12). Iser's cant if not actually nonexistent. What does it
model would seem more flexible. He asserts that matter exactly how Lady Booby's surprise
no real reader can completely correspond to the looked? The narrator's comic hyperbole com-
role cut out for him or her, contrary to Wayne municates the central fact and importance of this
Booth's suggestions that "the most successful surprise very well, and for the narrator to imply
reading is one in which the created selves, au- that the reader must imagine it for himself or
thor and reader, can find complete agreement" herself is simply to poke fun at him or her-and
and "regardless of my real beliefs and practices, to create a characterized reader, a superficial
I must subordinate my mind and heart to the snob who would enjoy parading the accoutre-
book," that is, to "the self whose beliefs must ments of his or her experience of the London
coincide with the author's."21In Iser's concep- theater for so trivial a matter and who hypocriti-
tion, the reader's role contains a range of possi- cally disdains the "rabble's" surprise while en-
bilities for realization (a Realisierungsfiicher), joying (and paying a great deal more than they
allowing for varying historical and individual for) the vulgar sort of theater that invoked this
actualizations. surprise. The implied or intended reader is not
In much of Iser's concrete textual analysis, identical to this characterized reader; he or she
however, the flexibility granted to the reader- reacts to the characterized reader just as he or
when, indeed, it is at all as significant as Iser she does to the rest of the passage, but he or she
intimates-can be postulated only by commit- does not follow the narrator's "instructions" to
ting the familiar error of identifying implied him or her.23 Fielding's narrator calls his the-
reader with characterized reader. Consider the oretical chapters "vacant pages," but this
following narrative commentary in Joseph An- description is deceptive: the "vacancies" and
drews, after the hero resists Lady Booby's se- "gaps" that Fielding and Iser mention are often
ductions and professes his "virtue": in fact the most "filled" passages. We must be-
ware of always taking narrators at their word;
You have heard, reader,poets talk of the statue of Elizabeth Harries has shown that in Fielding,
Surprise;you have heard likewise, or else you have Sterne, Diderot, and Wieland "most of the invi-
heard very little, how Surprise made one of the tations to the reader to supply part of the story,
sons of Croesusspeak, though he was dumb. You to use his imagination to fill in gaps, are less
have seen the faces, in the eighteen-pennygallery, than genuine" (p. 145).
when, through the trap-door, to soft or no music, So the flexibility of Iser's implied reader to
Mr Bridgewater,Mr William Mills, or some other play different roles seems to be based on a false
of ghostly appearance,hath ascended, with a face identification of characterized and implied read-
all pale with powder, and a shirt all bloody with ers (not in theory, but in practice). And Karl
ribbons;-but from none of these, nor from Phidias Maurer and others before him have pointed out
or Praxiteles,if they should return to life-no, not
from the inimitable pencil of my friend Hogarth, that even in Iser's own estimation "indeter-
could you receive such an idea of surpriseas would minacy" and the reader's filling of "gaps" in a
have entered in at your eyes had they beheld the text are historically limited phenomena rather
Lady Booby when those last words issued out from than general conditions for the effects of litera-
the lips of Joseph. (Bk. i, Ch. viii) ture.24 It seems likely that the wider phenom-
854 Readers in Texts
enon of flexibility, as Iser refers to it, is itself a talking about, and this reader is therefore "cast
particular reader's role. When we speak ab- in the role of a close companion of the writer"
stractly of the implied reader as a general con- (p. 13). But must "the audience ... correspond-
cept, we cannot equip him or her with individual ingly fictionalize itself" to conform to readers
characteristics, such as flexibility. We must in- within texts, as Ong asserts? We can certainly
vestigate each work without preconceived no- imagine a parody of Hemingway that begins
tions; generalities about the reader's role in any with a sentence very similar to Hemingway's
body of works (even those of one author) will own, perhaps with a few signals of irony to indi-
usually stumble on the insistent uniqueness of cate that the buddy relation is being ridiculed. In
the individual fictive world. Finally, Iser's prac- this hypothetical case, a reader would still be
tical reliance on authorial intention (which is fictionalized, but the real reader would not be
inconsistent with his basic theory) also destroys expected to take on this (characterized reader's)
flexibility; the reader who must uncover the au- fictional role. Rather, an opposite role, still fic-
thor's intention or meaning is not really allowed tional, would be present, one distinguished by an
much leeway. ironic aloofness toward the camaraderie between
The example of Walter Ong's article shows narrator and reader that Hemingway intends
that English-language critics, by implication, seriously. The word "narrator"must be stressed
have something to teach German critics: all here. Aleksandra Okopieni-Slawiniska would
readers within the text can be called fictive. Of seem to describe Ong's example from Heming-
course, Ong's article can only be fit into the de- way when she writes: "The narrator can draw a
veloping discussion ex post facto, since he and very distinct picture of his conversational part-
most other English-language critics were not ner without mentioning him at all."26 But
overtly concerned with the characterized reader; Okopieni-Stawifiska emphasizes that the narra-
so they, in turn, can learn from the German tra- tor, rather than the author, is the communicative
dition. Walker Gibson, in an early article, partner of this characterized reader. Only when
writes: "A bad book . . . is a book in whose the narrator approximates the (implied) author
mock reader we discover a person we refuse to does the implied reader (the implied author's
become, a mask we refuse to put on, a role we communicative partner) correspond to the char-
will not play."25 Leaving aside the dubious acterized reader.
equation of literary quality with our willingness So the examples Ong gives are in the first
to play the implied reader's role, we can see that place characterized readers who are only coin-
Gibson overlooks the category of the character- cidentally implied readers. The distinction may
ized reader entirely (and that his "mock reader" seem sophistic or insignificant in the Hemingway
therefore corresponds to the implied reader). text, where the two roles coincide, but we should
The author may create a reader's role with certainly not be led to believe that all readers
which we are not expected to identify, as we saw characterized in the text are intended to regulate
in Joseph Andrews. Ong, too, misses this dis- our response. In Ong's own analysis, other ex-
tinction. A close look at some of his examples amples show more clearly the pitfalls of this
will enable us to define more clearly the fine confusion. Ong speaks of the frame technique
points of distinction between characterized and (e.g., in The Canterbury Tales or The De-
implied fictive readers. cameron) as one in which readers can be shown
One of Ong's central examples is the opening quite clearly how to fictionalize themselves: they
passage of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms: must simply emulate the reading (listening)
"In the late summer of that year we lived in a behavior depicted in the fictional listeners. This
house in a village that looked across the river correspondence is certainly probable for the
and the plain to the mountains." Ong percep- early historical development of the genre to
tively points out that the use of the definite ar- which Ong refers, but his claim that the frame
ticle and demonstratives ("that year," "the river," "is really a rather clumsy gambit" for showing
etc.) in the first sentence of this work estab- readers their roles (p. 16) ignores those charac-
lishes a fictionalized reader who apparently terized readers who are straw men (and women)
knows which year, which river the narrator is whose faulty responses we are not meant to
W. Daniel Wilson 855
emulate-as may be true in Goethe's Conversa- "les gris-gris" and then proceeds to explain to
tions of German Emigrants and Conrad Ferdi- the reader what these mysterious objects are (p.
nand Meyer's The Monk's Wedding. Similarly, 101). From this passage and others Prince con-
Ong suggests that the audience is intended to cludes that the narrator is speaking to a non-
fictionalize itself in the role of Marlow's listeners Guinean, who does not know what "les gris-gris"
in Conrad's narratives (see above, p. 852). are. As in Ong's example from Hemingway, a
Consider the following passage from Lord Jim, characterized reader happens to coincide with
where Marlow interrupts his soul-baring story: the implied reader. Prince's categorization shows
that any reader who is presupposed, however
He paused again to wait for an encouragingremark subtly, by specific passages in a text must fall
perhaps, but nobody spoke; only the host, as if re- into the category of the characterized reader. We
luctantly performinga duty, murmured- must rely on our interpretation of the whole text
"You are so subtle, Marlow." (Ch. viii) to decide whether the characterized reader is
meant to circumscribe our own response, that is,
Is it altogether clear that we are meant to cast whether he or she is also an implied reader.
ourselves in the listener's role characterized Unfortunately, Prince explicitly rejects the no-
here? I think not, and Ong's principle that we tion that the implied reader is as fictive as the
must always do so for such roles does not hold characterized reader. He asserts that the relation
water. The considerable difference between between "narratee" (characterized reader) and
readers characterized as subtly as Hemingway's "virtual" or "ideal" reader (implied reader) is
and those in a frame narrative or in Tristram not developed within the text itself.28 One of
Shandy may be summed up in the provisional Prince's own examples belies this notion. From
empirical supposition that readers who are char- the famous chapter "Of Love" (Bk. vi, Ch. i) in
acterized without direct reference usually cor- Tom Jones, he quotes the following remark of
respond to the implied reader, whereas readers the narrator: "To treat of the effects of love to
to whom the narrator draws attention usually you, must be as absurd as to discourse on col-
turn out to be negative foils, which help estab- ours to a man born blind; . . . love probably
lish the implied reader's role but which differ may, in your opinion, very greatly resemble a
from it. But the hypothetical example of a dish of soup, or a sir-loin of roast-beef." Prince
Hemingway parody-paralleled by many real notes quite rightly that this passage can only be
parodies throughout literary history-shows that comic to the reader who does not think this way
the difference is in degree and not in kind. about love (p. 192), that is, to the implied
Gerald Prince's studies support this conclu- reader. But our very ability to deduce this cir-
sion, since he has established a continuum of cumstance from the text itself must mean that
characterized readers "according to their degree the reader who does not think in this manner is
of involvement in the events recounted."27 His included within the text, as a fiction, implied by
five major categories extend from, at one end of the very inappropriateness of the characterized
the scale, the narrator as his or her own charac- reader who does think of love as of roast beef.
terized reader (most involvement) through cate- Whether we as real readers actually perceive and
gories of characterized readers who are more or play the role of implied reader is, of course,
less involved with and familiar with events or largely a matter of circumstances outside the
characters in the narrative and who are referred text, but the interaction between the character-
to more or less directly by the narrator to, at the ized and implied readers takes place within the
other end of the continuum, characterized read- work.
ers who are not referred to directly in the text For these reasons, I have chosen the terms
but who may be inferred from it. Although this "characterized fictive reader" and "implied" or
last category may seem to mark the intended "intended fictive reader." By the former term I
reader, it does not do so in principle. For ex- understand any reader characterized within the
ample, Prince includes in this category a charac- text who exists only there. The characterization
terized reader in a novel by Camara Laye in may be achieved directly, when the narrator ad-
which the narrator mentions Guinean pots called dresses or refers to this reader or when the
856 Readers in Texts
reader is heard to speak. But the characterized reader created by the author cannot be "outside"
reader can also be determined indirectly, by the work. Thus the term "inside reader" estab-
uncovering implicit assumptions about a reader lishes a false opposition.
in the text. Most often, the indirectly portrayed Following Gerard Genette, Gerald Prince
characterized reader will correspond to the im- adopts the term "narratee" (French narrataire)
plied reader. The implied reader, in turn, can be for the object of the narrator's message, a term
defined as the attitudes and judgments de- that is intended to include both characterized
manded of the real reader by the text. The im- readers and listeners. I feel, however, that we
plied reader cannot be deduced from specific should avoid jargonistic neologisms where rela-
textual references, whether direct or indirect, to tively self-explanatory terms would serve the
a reader, unless the implied reader is identical to same purpose; surely it is clear that a character-
a characterized reader. The characterized reader ized reader becomes a characterized listener in a
can be a negative foil for the expected reader fictively or actually oral communicative situation
responses, whereas the implied reader is by defi- and that the characterized reader is the narra-
nition always a positively intended model. The tor's communicative partner even though he or
implied reader, to whom we refer when we speak she does not share the narrator's linguistic form.
of "the reader's role,"29 corresponds to our Another of Prince's terms will prove useful. He
overall interpretation of the text, as we shall see calls "secondary" a characterized reader (i.e.,
below. In principle, both these fictive readers narratee) who reads only part of the work and
must be distinguished from real readers (by "principal" one who reads all of it ("Introduc-
which I mean simply persons outside the text, tion," p. 190). Thus, Marlow's listeners in Con-
reading it), since the former are creations of the rad's works would be secondary, as would lis-
author, even if real readers actualize the implied teners in other framework texts and the
reader's role after the work is created or are correspondents in a normal epistolary novel.
reflected in that role as the work is being created. Even in works with no such obvious frame, a
Various other terms have been used for what characterized reader may be secondary since
I have chosen to call the characterized reader. sections such as the preface to the reader or
As we have seen, the most common German notes that are part of the fiction may not be
term, simply "the fictive reader" (der fiktive addressed to him or her. Hannelore Link makes
Leser), incorrectly assumes that the implied the mistake of using the term "explicit" reader
reader is not fictive, as do the terms "immanent (expliziter Leser) for the characterized reader:
reader" (immanenter Leser), used by Wolff and the characterized reader may not be explicitly
others, and "inside reader," a term introduced characterized, as my examples have shown.31
by Arthur Sherbo. Sherbo speaks of the charac- Finally, Peter Michelsen's term "imagined
terized reader as being "inside" the work and reader" (vorgestellter Leser) inappropriately re-
another reader as being "outside." Most of the fers to the real readers that the author "imag-
examples Sherbo gives of the "outside" reader ines" as his or her audience.32
are not the real reader but the author's fiction- Terms for the implied reader have propagated
alization of his or her intended reader, that is, themselves even more profusely than those for
the implied or intended reader. Referring to the the characterized reader. One of the most com-
Tom Jones passage about love as soup or roast mon terms is the "ideal reader." Iser's criticism
beef, Sherbo claims that the narrator "asks us, of this concept defines his own position more
the 'outside' readers, to share his joke at the exactly:
['inside' reader's] expense."30 As we have seen,
the narrator's very "asking" us also fictionalizes The ideal reader ... is a purely fictional being; he
us. Were this fictionalization not "inside" the has no basis in reality, and it is this very fact that
makes him so useful: as a fictional being, he can
text, Sherbo would not speak of it as such a self- close the gaps that constantlyappearin any analysis
evident truth. Elizabeth Harries, who uses Sher- of literaryeffects and responses.He can be endowed
bo's terminology, suggests (following Henry with a variety of qualitiesin accordancewith what-
James) that the author "makes" or "constructs" ever problemhe is called upon to help solve.
the "outside" reader (p. 147); but surely a (Act, p. 29; Akt, p. 54)
W. Daniel Wilson 857
Iser's is undoubtedly the most serious argument term that sounds rather like a reference to the
against the ideal reader, but his own model has reader of an envelope).
drawn similar criticism, a response that is not A few other terms might be considered ac-
surprising when we recall that Iser's own implied ceptable alternatives to implied/intended reader.
reader is in fact "a fictional being"; the criticism Der addquate Leser has become somewhat es-
affects only misuses of the concept, as we shall tablished in German criticism, although in En-
see. The more pressing reason for avoiding the glish "the adequate reader" sounds odd (and is,
term (although not the concept) is that, para- moreover, not an exact equivalent). Nelson's
doxically, the "ideal reader" can be misunder- term "optimum reader," like "ideal" and "adi-
stood to refer to a real reader. If an interpreter quat," stresses normatively the implied reader's
says that the ideal reader of a certain work qualitative appropriateness for a particular text
would understand such and such, it is not im- (a judgmental basis avoided by Iser), although
mediately clear whether the interpreter means a it, like "ideal," may perhaps be taken to refer to
real reader or an abstract structure of the text; a real reader. The "virtual" or "potential
thus the term is too ambiguous to figure as a reader," as used by some structuralists,35gives
synonym for the implied reader.33Part (though us an acceptable synonym for the implied reader
not all) of Iser's criticism of the ideal reader and stresses the latency of this structure before
stems from his own confusing it with the real its actualization. The term "implied reader" it-
reader. He claims that the ideal reader is "a self has the advantages of having gained cur-
structural impossibility as far as literary com- rency and, as we have seen, of corresponding to
munication is concerned. An ideal reader would the "implied author" proposed by Wayne Booth
have to have an identical code to that of the at an earlier stage of the critical discussion.
author," and "if this were possible, communica- Robert Crosman has pointed to an important
tion would then be quite superfluous, for one misuse of the implied reader, although he per-
only communicates that which is not already ceives the problem as inherent in the concept
shared by sender and receiver" (Act, pp. itself. Crosman argues that certain analyses of
28-29; Akt, p. 53). The ideal reader, under- "the reader of Paradise Lost" have led to at-
stood in Iser's and my own sense as "a fictional tempts to prescribe our responses in what I be-
being," is not the real "receiver," however, but a lieve are two ways: one concerns the pinpointing
textual structure through which communication of implied readers in works historically divorced
occurs; the "communication" between author from the critic; the other concerns the critic's
and ideal/implied reader is precisely a fiction, a attempt to make this interpretative act abso-
potential communication. Real readers do lute.36 First, the critic postulates "the seven-
(sometimes) assimilate new attitudes in their re- teenth-century reader." It is certainly valid to
lation to the ideal reader; from their points of attribute to the implied reader of a work from
view, the ideal reader is part of the assimilated any age familiarity with the basic knowledge and
code. cultural presuppositions of that age. But the in-
Using Link's term "abstract reader" for the dividual work must determine how we evaluate
implied reader also tends to mislead: our ability such presuppositions. If there is no textual basis,
to abstract the "abstract"-or often not so say, for believing that the implied reader of
abstract-reader from the text also means that Paradise Lost unquestioningly embraces all the
this reader has been fictionalized in the first religious tenets of seventeenth-century Puritan-
place; thus, the more precise antonym for "real" ism, then we must not postulate such a conform-
is here "fictive" and, specifically, "implied," ist reader. To do so would betray "an effort to
rather than "abstract." The term essentially says impose on modern readers responses [the critic]
little; it is too abstract. Manfred Naumann, who is not certain of being able to persuade them to
examines the problem from a Marxist perspec- adopt on the evidence of their own reading of
tive, calls the implied reader the "addressee" the text" (Crosman, p. 380). Such an attempt
(Adressat),34 which, although technically cor- trivializes the implied reader into a conformist
rect from a communication-oriented point of who would probably be incapable of properly
view, introduces more jargon (in the form of a reading demanding literature. In fact, if Hans
858 Readers in Texts
Robert Jauss is correct, the extent to which a illusion of objectivity" (p. 380). The "implied
work surpasses the "horizon of expectations" of reader" is a structure of the text. But a critic
real readers of its time (i.e., the incongruity be- cannot determine the aspects or meaning of that
tween the real and implied readers) determines structure with any more absolute validity than
the quality of the work.37 Thus many of the he or she can the meaning of other structures.
best authors would seem to write "for" readers We must not claim that our interpretation of the
in the future or attempt to "create" a new type implied reader is anything more than our inter-
of implied reader. The abuse of the implied pretation. Whether one believes that absolute
reader is most widespread here, and it is prob- "validity in interpretation" is possible, as does
ably this abuse that Iser refers to in his criticism E. D. Hirsch, or that objective structures exist in
of the "ideal reader." Another example: Lowry the text but can never be totally elucidated by a
Nelson argues that "it is a duty of the reader to given interpretation,38one can still use the con-
learn and fictively embrace the code of feeling in cept of the implied reader. Properly understood,
any work of any age by the contractual exercise an interpretation of the implied reader is no
of his historical imagination" (pp. 182-83); Nel- more authoritative and restrictive on our own
son uses this principle to argue that we are to come right to establish a new interpretation than other
down on the side of Werther, the sincere senti- aspects of a work are. Each critic will believe
mental sufferer. At the beginning of Goethe's that he or she has uncovered the implied reader,
novel, the "editor" (not Goethe) does indeed and recourse to textual evidence may or may not
call for the "reader" to admire and love Wer- resolve the differences.39Critical criteria such as
ther's spirit and character and to shed tears over my distinction between characterized and im-
his fate; the "reader" who suffers like Werther is plied readers should partially resolve-for ex-
to be consoled by the hero's sufferings and the ample-the wide divergences among the (at
book is to replace the friends that this "reader" least) three interpretations of the reader's role in
does not have. The real sentimental personalities Fielding's novels.40 But all differences will never
of some Germans in the 1770s serve as a model be resolved, and a reader's role is an implicit
for a characterized reader, but whether the correlate to each interpretation rather than an
characterized reader corresponds in toto to the easy shortcut to an objectively valid interpre-
implied reader of the novel-that is, whether we tation.
are supposed to adopt the implied reader's atti- The implied reader thus ideally contributes to
tudes-is a matter of interpretation (and is, I criticism that is no more, but also no less, objec-
believe, doubtful). So in this example, the mat- tive or valid than interpretation generally. Fur-
ter can be resolved by distinguishing between the ther, the implied reader is a function of no more
characterized reader and the implied reader and, and no less than the overall meaning (that is, the
even more important, by avoiding an otherwise overall interpretation) of the text. I say "no
unjustified identification of implied and real con- more" because the implied reader is in principle
temporary readers (just as we avoid unjustifiably not identical to real readers outside the text and
identifying the fictive "editor" with the implied must not be interpreted with undue emphasis on
author or Goethe). An examination of the au- real readers and other extratextual criteria. An-
thor's relation to contemporary readers may be other example of such criteria is an author's
valuable in determining how this relation af- opinions about his or her work expressed else-
fected the creation of the implied reader (as we where than in the work; I mentioned above the
shall see), but this relation must not be confused "intentional fallacy" of taking such statements
with the relation between the author and that as authoritative (Wimsatt and Beardsley). A
same implied reader; the only "communicative further example, reference to other works of the
partner" present during the genesis of a work is same author, shows where studies of "the reader
the implied reader, who (as Ong points out) is in the works of so-and-so" often fall short: they
never identical to the unmodified real reader. generalize about the implied reader in several
The second way in which our responses car works, ignoring the unique communicative pat-
be inappropriately prescribed in criticism of the tern, and thus the unique implied reader, in each
implied reader is described by Crosman as "the work. That pattern is part and parcel of the
W. Daniel Wilson 859
overall meaning of the work. The implied reader It must be interpreted as a property of the text,
is thus also "no less" than this overall meaning. without allowing extratextual aspects to domi-
For example, a passage that implies a reader nate. At the same time, the implied reader is an
who knows, say, the works of Jane Austen might essential link in the line of communication be-
be modified by the wider sense that the expected tween the author and every (real) reader, one
response to Jane Austen's world is ironic in this that determines to a large extent the success and
text. This example points up the necessity of quality of the communication. Jauss, who is
distinguishing between characterized and im- counted with Iser as a member of the "Con-
plied fictive readers. A reader is characterized stance School" of literary theory, has given his
(perhaps by an unexplained reference to a Jane imprimatur to the concept of the implied reader
Austen character) as an Austen aficionado, but as a primary tool of the study of reception. Jauss
the interpreter must determine whether this argues that the implied reader, who can be de-
characterization constitutes the intended (im- termined more "objectively" from the text itself,
plied) response. To say that the implied reader deserves "methodological precedence" over the
is a correlate of no more and no less than our study of the real reader.43 In other words, one
interpretation of the text's meaning means that can evaluate a real reader's response to the text
the implied reader, as the author's perfect com- only after determining the implied reader's role
municative partner, is necessarily similar to the and examining the contrast between the two po-
(implied) author. Thus the implied reader is sitions. Gunter Grimm has criticized Jauss's
often described as a "brother" of the author- statement, with some justification; can the im-
for example, by Valery: plied reader's role in a text, asks Grimm, be
constructed without prior knowledge of the real
communicative relation between the author and
Tout poete se fie necessairementdans son travail a the audience? (Rezeptionsgeschichte, p. 48).
quelque lecteur ideal qui lui serve le mieux du With respect to the work's genesis, of course,
monde, et qui, d'ailleurs,lui ressembleun peu plus Grimm is correct. An analysis of the author's
qu'un frere.
perception of his or her real public at the time
the work was written will often aid interpreta-
Every poet necessarilyrelies on some ideal readerin tion of the author's relation to the implied reader
his work, who serves him as the best reader in the of a text. If, for example, the text appears to
world, and who, moreover, resembles him a bit show (perhaps by its innovative structures) that
more closely than a brother.41 the implied reader represents a reader type not
present in the author's day and therefore that the
author was writing for a reader of the future
How, then, does the analysis of the implied and/or to educate his or her real readership, the
reader relate to new trends in criticism? At least interpretation would be supported by pinpoint-
two new "paradigms" (using Thomas Kuhn's ing both the nature of and the author's (nega-
concept from The Structure of Scientific Revolu- tive) attitude toward the real readership-
tions) of critical method have been posited in without, of course, subsuming the actual textual
recent years. According to Hans Robert Jauss, evidence under any of this external evidence
the "aesthetic-formalistic" paradigm still domi- (including externally expressed authorial inten-
nant a decade ago concentrates on describing tion, toward which Grimm's attitude is am-
works of art and their objective meanings iso- biguous).44
lated from their historical settings and includes Indeed, it is difficult to imagine an author
formalism and New Criticism. The new para- whose creation (including the implied reader) is
digm that Jauss sees arising emphasizes the en- not affected in some way by his or her percep-
tire communicative pattern of literature in a tions of real readers.45 I believe that Jauss re-
historical context, concentrating especially on fers to the evaluation of responses of real read-
the reception of the literary "message."42 The ers historically removed from the genesis of the
concept of the implied reader would appear to work; if so, he would seem to claim that the
stand with a foot in each of these two paradigms. meaning of the implied reader is independent of
860 Readers in Texts
various "readings." In either case, the concept of and Jauss apparently do, that the implied reader
the implied reader is central both to the text's can be determined objectively from the text,48
meaning and to an evaluation of how real read- the concept would not fit into Bleich's new
ers relate to that meaning. In the light of the paradigm. In fact, belief in the impossibility of
dual nature of the concept, it is understandable totally objective elucidation of textual meaning
that Link has labeled Iser's model a sort of "in- (and thus the implied reader) will lead some
terference" between the two paradigms.46More critics with a delusive desire for such method-
optimistically, we can hope that the model rep- ological objectivity in literary "science" (based
resents a mediation between them and a contri- on an obsolete model of natural science) to shun
bution to each, a step toward unifying, and the concept of the implied reader in favor of
recognizing the interdependence of, what Grimm the supposedly more objective study of real
calls the produktionsdsthetisch and rezeptions- readers.49
iisthetisch points of view. From the vantage of Common to both these new "paradigms,"
the Warsaw structuralists, Michaf Gtowiiiski however-and to most other new trends of criti-
notes that the issues of "how the construction cism-is the insistence that literature is com-
of the literary work sketches the role of the re- munication. As an intermediate textual factor in
cipient" and of "how certain claims of the re- the line of communication between author and
cipients . . . influence the form of the poetic real reader, the concept of the implied reader
work and determine its structure" are really can potentially mediate between the two ex-
"complementary questions"; in this respect, the tremes of criticism that deify these respective
possible "concretizations of a work" are poles. As we saw, the study of fictive readers is
"equally a matter of poetics and literary sociol- also a logical outgrowth of investigations into
ogy" (pp. 97, 103). the "rhetoric of fiction." These critical tools thus
The relation of the implied reader to the other enjoy a certain ideological neutrality-save the
definition of a new paradigm, David Bleich's postulate of communication-oriented analysis-
more radical "subjective criticism,"47 is more that should render them useful to scholars on
elusive. Bleich feels that literary critics, like their more than just one continent.50
colleagues in other disciplines, must relinquish
the illusion of objectivity and admit that textual
meaning is a matter of "negotiation" of individ- McGill University
ual reading experiences. If one believes, as Iser Montreal, Quebec

Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago: Univ. of Modelle zur Rezeption literarischer Werke, ed. Grimm
Chicago Press, 1961), p. 71. (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1975), pp. 11-84, esp. p. 75, and
Link, Rezeptionsforschung: Eine Einfiihrung in by Horst Flaschka, "Rezeptionsasthetik im Litera-
Methoden und Probleme (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, turunterricht: Eine Einfiihrung in Schwerpunkte der
1976); on p. 2, Link speaks both of the "Auswahl, die Theorie (1. Teil)," Mitteilungen des Deutschen Ger-
der abstrakte Autor [her alternate term for "impliziter manisten-Verbandes, 24 (1977), 35-44, esp. p. 43.
Autor"] getroffen hat" and of the "Auswahl, die der 5 Harries, "Fiction and Artifice: Studies in
Autor . . . getroffen hat"; see also p. 28. Link's ties to Wieland, Sterne, Diderot," Diss. Yale 1973 (DAI, 34
Booth are Rolf Fieguth (see n. 26) and Wolf Schmid, [1973], 7191A), esp. pp. 136-46. Except for the ter-
Der Textaufbau in den Erzihlungen Dostoevskijs minology (see p. 856 of my essay), this study contains
(Munich: Fink, 1973). one of the clearest and most insightful analyses of
3 Wolff, "Der intendierte Leser:
Oberlegungen und fictive readers.
Beispiele zur Einfuhrung eines literaturwissenschaft- 6 Nelson, "The Fictive Reader and Literary Self-Re-
lichen Begriffs," Poetica, 4 (1971), 141-66; transla- flectiveness," in The Disciplines of Criticism, ed. Peter
tions in the text are mine. Demetz et al. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1968),
4 Wolff, p. 160. Wolff's criteria are
adopted uncriti- pp. 173-91, esp. p. 175. At times it even seems that
cally by Gunter Grimm, "Einfiihrung in die Rezep- Nelson's fictive reader is the real reader: "The problem
tionsforschung," in Literatur und Leser: Theorien und of the fictive reader [of Wordsworth's 'The Thorn'],
W. Daniel Wilson 861
then, is to gauge his responsibility in reading or, better, 14 "Literature in the Reader: Affective Stylistics,"
performing such poetry as 'The Thorn'" (p. 178). See New Literary History, 2 (1970), 123-62; rpt. in Fish,
Harries' criticism, p. 136. Self-Consuming Artifacts (Berkeley: Univ. of Cali-
7 Iser, Der Akt des Lesens: Theorie dsthetischer fornia Press, 1972), pp. 383-427; the quotation appears
Wirkung (Munich: Fink, 1976); The Act of Reading: on p. 409.
A Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore: Johns 15 Act, pp. 34, 37; Akt, pp. 60, 65.
Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978). Der implizite Leser: Ong, PMLA, 90 (1975), 9-21, shows a regrettable
Kommunikationsformen des Romans von Bunyan bis ignorance of the whole German critical tradition in this
Beckett (Munich: Fink, 1972); The Implied Reader: area, including Wolff, Iser, and Naumann (see p. 854
Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from of my essay).
Bunyan to Beckett (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. 17 " 'Die Facher vors Gesicht!' Leser und Erotik in
Press, 1974). Wielands Comischen Erziihlungen," Lessing Yearbook,
8 Akt, p. 59: ". . im intendierten Leser als der dem 11 (1979), 199-226.
Text eingezeichneten Leserfiktion . . ."; this is oddly 18 16-28 March 1837; quoted by J. Kamerbeek, Jr.,
translated as "a sort of fictional inhabitant of the "Drei Hypostasen des Lesers: Eine Montage," in Dichter
text" (Act, p. 33), showing the need for an English und Leser, ed. Ferdinand van Ingen (Groningen: Wal-
term like "characterized reader." ters-Noordhoff, 1972), p. 196.
9 Akt, p. 62; my translation, since Iser omitted the 19 "Formen des Lesens," Poetica, 9 (1977), 472-98,
passage in the English edition-perhaps because he saw esp. p. 478. It appears from the context that Maurer
the inconsistency. intends this statement as a criticism of Iser; I do not
10 Iser, "Indeterminacy and the Reader's Response believe, however, that Iser intends his work as a history
in Prose Fiction," in Aspects of Narrative, ed. J. Hillis of real readers' responses (but see n. 23 below).
20 See Gunter Grimm,
Miller (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1971), pp. "Einfuhrung," p. 77. Grimm's
1-45, esp. p. 43; originally Die Appellstruktur der classification of readers (p. 75) is confused and vague
Texte: Unbestimmtheit als Wirkungsbedingung litera- and is barely improved (indeed, it is contradicted in
rischer Prosa (Constance: Universitatsverlag, 1970), p. part) in his Rezeptionsgeschichte (1977), pp. 40-41,
33. where he distinguishes between readers on three levels
11 Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: within the text: (a) characters in the narrated events
Yale Univ. Press, 1967), pp. 218-19; see also p. 38. (presumably only when they are also readers or lis-
12 The Implied Reader, p. 48 (italics mine); Der teners; these would correspond to my secondary char-
implizite Leser, p. 82 ("die dem Leser des Tom Jones acterized readers); (b) on the level of narration: "the
zugedachte Rolle"). Link has argued at some length implied reader" of Iser; this includes an "intentional"
that Iser's analyses of particular texts in this study reader (intentionaler Leser-an odd formulation in
ultimately aim at the author's intention (" 'Die Appell- either language), which is more or less the same as the
struktur der Texte' und ein 'Paradigmawechsel in der implied reader, but the "intentional" reader is for
Literaturwissenschaft'?" Jahrbuch der Deutschen Schil- Grimm a larger concept and also encompasses the
ler-Gesellschaft, 17 [1973], 532-83, esp. pp. 548, 564); characterized reader (Leserfigur) (p. 275, n. 109).
Gerhard Kaiser had made the same point ("Nachruf auf Thus Grimm seems to commit the common error of
die Interpretation? Zu Wolfgang Iser, Die Appellstruk- assuming that the characterized reader represents a
tur der Texte," Poetica, 4 [1971], 267-80; rpt. in Kaiser, model for the real reader's response ("Identifikationsan-
Antithesen [Frankfurt: Athenium, 1973], pp. 51-70, gebot an den realen Leser" [p. 41]). The third level (c)
esp. pp. 54-55), and Ferdinand van Ingen lists four is the "addressee of the work," who is not on the level
more examples ("Die Revolte des Lesers oder Rezep- of narration but on the level of "the work." This con-
tion versus Interpretation," Amsterdamer Beitrdge zur cept would seem to be identical to Iser's implied reader,
neueren Germanistik, 3 [1974], 83-147, esp. p. 137). and even to Grimm's own "intentional" reader: Grimm
Iser responds to Kaiser's and Link's criticism in "Im writes that the intention of the author, embodied in the
Lichte der Kritik," in Rezeptionsdsthetik, ed. Rainer "intentional" reader, expresses "alle im Text enthaltenen
Warning (Munich: Fink, 1975), pp. 325-42. He argues Lesersignale"; the addressee, likewise, is "erschlie1bar
that Kaiser is still bound by "Darstellungsasthetik" and aus der Summe der intentionalen Leser-Signale" (pp.
that Link distorts and overemphasizes his concept of 40-41). Grimm's new terms relating to the author's
indeterminacy. Nowhere, however, does he address the conception of his reader when not embodied in a text
charge that he himself relies on authorial intention. ("imaginierter," "intendierter," "konzeptioneller Leser,"
13 W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, "The pp. 38-39) will prove useless for interpretation (his
Intentional Fallacy," in Wimsatt, The Verbal Icon alteration of Wolff's concept "intendierter Leser" is
(Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1954), pp. 3-18, especially misleading; Wolff meant his concept in rela-
esp. p. 4. See also van Ingen, p. 89, and Grimm, tion to a text).
Rezeptionsgeschichte (Munich: Fink, 1977), pp. 50- 21 Booth, p. 138; quoted by Iser, Act, pp. 36-37,
54, 280-81, but neither of these critics refers to Akt, pp. 64-65. In The Implied Reader (p. 30; Der
Wimsatt and Beardsley's original formulation of this implizite Leser, p. 58), Iser quoted most of the same
distinction. passage from Booth but failed to take exception to it,
862 Readers in Texts
thus giving the impression that he believed that the reader (outside the text) is not explicit in the same way
reader does perfectly fill this role. the "implicit"reader (inside the text) is implicit. The
22 The Implied Reader, p. 38; Der implizite Leser, p. actualization of the reader's role does not make the
68. In The Act of Reading, Iser submits the same pas- "implicit"reader "explicit."
sage to a more extended analysis (pp. 142-46), but at 32 Michelsen, Laurence Sterne und der deutsche
the basis of this variation lies the same confusion of Roman des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts (Gottingen: Van-
characterizedand implied readers. denhoeck und Ruprecht, 1962), pp. 15-16 and n. 9.
23 Iser further confuses matters by drawing a con- When Michelsen says that the "vorgestellter Leser"
clusion directly from the sociologically differentiated can be determined "direkt aus den Apostrophen des
characterizationsof readers in this passage to Fielding's Erzahlers,"he clearly refers to a characterized reader.
concern "with catering for a varied public" (Implied 33 Kamerbeek points out the various connotations of
Reader, p. 38); in other words, he identifies the fictive the term: "dans le mot 'ideal' le seme de 'perfection
characterizationswith real readers-the "variedpublic" concrete' ou bien celui d' 'idealite abstraite'est actualise"
-and these, in turn, with the reader implied in or in- ("Le Concept du 'Lecteur Ideal,'" Neophilologus, 61
tended for the work-the audience Fielding is "catering [1977], 2-7, esp. p. 5; Kamerbeektraces the use of this
to." This added confusion is not surprising, since Iser term back to A. W. Schlegel). Aleksandra Okopiein-
explicitly argues that the "imaginary" (fingiert) Stawinska uses the term "ideal" to refer to a real re-
"author-readerdialogue" gives the reader "guidelinesas cipient (pp. 143, 145).
to how he is to view the proceedings," and is thus 34 "Autor-Adressat-Leser," Weimarer Beitrdge, 17,
"explicit guidance of the reader" (Implied Reader, pp. No. 11 (1971), 163-69. The term is also used by
46-47; Der implizite Leser, p. 81). structuralistslike Okopieni-Stawiniska.
24 Maurer, p. 480; he refers to previous articles by 35 E.g., Gerard Genette, Figures, iII (Paris: Seuil,
Karlheinz Stierle and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. 1972), 265-66.
25 Gibson, "Authors,
Speakers, Readers, and Mock 36Crosman, "Some Doubts about 'The Reader of
Readers," College English, 11 (1949-50), 265-69, Paradise Lost,'" College English, 37 (1975), 372-82.
esp. p. 268. See also Harries, pp. 137-38. 37 Jauss, "Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der
26 "Die personalen Relationen in der literarischen Literaturwissenschaft," in Jauss, Literaturgeschichte als
Kommunikation" (1969); rpt. in Literarische Kom- Provokation (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970), translated
munikation, ed. Rolf Fieguth (Kronberg: Scriptor, in part as "LiteraryHistory as a Challenge to Literary
1975), pp. 127-47, esp. p. 142. Rolf Fieguth would Theory," New Literary History, 2 (1970), 7-37.
probably agree; in his analysis of a passage that does not 38 Cf. H. P. H. Teesing: "Das Absolute wird zwar
mention a reader at all, he posits an implied "dialogue" nicht erkannt, aber anerkannt";"Die adaquate Inter-
between a characterized reader and a narrator, a dia- pretation gibt es . . . idealiter, nicht realiter" ("Der
logue that is remarkablysimilar to that constructed by Standort des Interpreten,"Orbis Litterarum, 19 [1964],
Ong on the basis of the Hemingway text (p. 13), but 31-46, esp. pp. 42, 45; quoted by van Ingen, p. 93).
from which the implied reader must distance himself 39 Crosman seems at times to reject the idea of inten-
or herself ("Zur Rezeptionslenkungbei narrativen und tion altogether and at other times to embrace it. But
dramatischen Werken," Sprache im technischen Zeital- he is mistaken to identify the concept of the "ideal
ter, 47 [1973], 186-201, esp. pp. 188-89). reader" with "an attempt, ... in the wake of its demoli-
27 Prince, "Notes toward a
Categorizationof Fictional tion at the hands of Wimsatt and Beardsley, to smuggle
'Narratees,'" Genre, 4 (1971), 100-06, esp. p. 100. On 'authorial intention' back into critical discussion" (p.
"narratees"(characterized readers) see p. 856 of my 373), at least where the ideal reader is based on textual
essay. evidence. Wimsatt and Beardsley did not argue that
28 Prince, "Introduction a l'etude du narrataire," intention cannot be determined by reference to the
Poetique, 14 (1973), 178-96, esp. p. 191. text; they argued only that authorial intentions ex-
29 In his review of Der Akt des Lesens, H. U. Gum- pressed outside the text do not necessarily describe the
brecht criticizes, unreasonably to my mind, Iser's structuresof the work. They accepted internal but not
synonymous use of the terms "impliziter Leser" 'im- external manifestations of intention.
plied reader' and "Leserrolle"'reader's role' (Poetica, 40 See Sherbo; Iser (The Implied Reader, Ch. ii);
9 [1977], 522-34, esp. p. 524). and John Preston, The Created Self: The Reader's Role
30 Sherbo, "'Inside' and 'Outside' Readers in Field- in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (London: Heinemann,
ing's Novels," in his Studies in the Eighteenth Century 1970).
Novel (n.p.: Michigan State Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 41 "De la diction des verses," (Euvres, ed. Jean Hy-
35-57, esp. p. 39. tier, in (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), 1255-56; quoted by
31 Hans Robert Jauss has more recently further com- Kamerbeek, "Drei Hypostasen,"p. 204.
plicated "die gegenwartig ausufernde Typologie von 42 Jauss, "Paradigmawechselin der Literaturwissen-
Leserrollen" by calling the real reader "der explizite schaft," Linguistische Berichte, No. 3 (1969), pp. 44-
Leser" ("Der Leser als Instanz einer neuen Geschichte 56; rpt. in Methoden der deutschen Literaturwissen-
der Literatur,"Poetica, 7 [1975], 325-44, esp. p. 339). schaft, ed. Viktor Zmega6 (Frankfurt: Athenaum,
It goes almost without saying that this sort of "explicit" 1972), pp. 274-90.
W. Daniel Wilson 863
43 Jauss, "Der Leser als Instanz einer neuen Ge- Konzepts in Theorie und Praxis,"AmsterdamerBeitrage
schichte der Literatur,"Poetica, 7 (1975), 325-44, esp. zur neueren Germanistik, 3 (1974), 1-36.
pp. 339-40. Jauss takes the same position in his preface 47 See Bleich, Subjective Criticism (Baltimore: Johns
to Asthetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik, Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978), and "The Subjective
I (Munich: Fink, 1977), 13. Paradigm in Science, Psychology and Criticism," New
44 For example, on page 48 of Rezeptionsgeschichte Literary History, 7 (1976), 313-34.
Grimm gives special status to such intentions ("Die 48 Jauss: "die implizite Leserrolle [ist] an objektiven
Objektivation der fiktionalen Leserrolle laBt sich . . . Strukturendes Textes ablesbar"'the implicit role of the
nur mit Kenntnis der entstehungsgeschichtlichen reader can be determined from objective structures of
Sachverhalte, einschlieBlich der extratextuellen Autorin- the text' ("Der Leser als Instanz,"p. 339). It seems as
tention . .. approximativ erreichen" 'The objectivization if Jauss is here inadvertently reintroducing "objective
of the fictional role of the reader can be approximately meaning" of texts after having rejected it (e.g., in "An
attained . . . only with knowledge of the facts sur- Interview with Hans Robert Jauss," New Literary
rounding the genesis of the work, including extratextual History, 11 [1979], 83-95, esp. p. 84).
authorial intention'-italics mine), and on page 51 he 49 In spite of his expressed skepticism regarding ob-
(correctly) withdraws this status ("Diese textextern jectivity (Rezeptionsgeschichte, p. 54), Grimm's entire
explizit gemachten Intentionen sollten . . . mit eben system is based on a deep-seated faith in the determin-
der Vorsicht behandelt werden, die der Interpretation ability of a correct understanding of the text ("die
jedes Nichtautors entgegengebracht wird" 'These in- tjberpriifbarkeiteines adaquaten Verstehens" [p. 57]).
tentions made explicit outside the text should be . . . To turn to "history" as a philosopher's stone that
treated with the same caution as an interpretation by would render criticism objective ignores the ambiguity
any other person'). of historical evidence (one critic'sEntstehungsgeschichte
45 Michat Gtowiniskiwrites, "ein gewisser Teil der is not necessarily another's!) and the subjectivityof the
poetischen Werke entsteht entweder gegen die For- historian's point of view (to which Grimm gives token
derungen der Empfanger oder aber beriicksichtigt sie recognition-e.g., p. 59). Van Ingen, too, calls histori-
gar nicht und lai3t sich deshalb nur mittelbar als Aus- cal data "objektivierbar"(p. 134). I mean to degrade
druck jener Forderungen analysieren" 'a certain num- not historical criticism-my approach is eminently
ber of poetic works originates either in opposition to historical-but rather a naive model of historiographic
the demands of the recipients or pays no heed to them objectivity.
and can therefore be analyzed only indirectly as an 50In the year after I submitted this article, largely
expression of those demands' ("Der virtuelle Empfan- new essays appeared in a book whose title indicates
ger in der Struktur des poetischen Werks" [originally how close the authors' concerns are to mine: The
1967], in Literarische Kommunikation, pp. 97-126, esp. Reader in the Text: Essays on Audience and Interpre-
p. 98; rpt. in Weimarer Beitrige, 21, No. 6 [1975], tation, ed. Susan Suleiman and Inge Crosman (Prince-
118-43). This may be true for concrete "Forderungen" ton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1980). In her discerning
'demands'of the public but not for less obvious aspects "Introduction: Varieties of Audience-Oriented Criti-
of the writer's relation to society. But van Ingen is cism" (pp. 3-45), Suleiman touches on several issues I
wrong to assume, at the opposite extreme, that there is treat. She speaks of an "inscribed reader" (p. 14),
always a direct, positive relation between contemporary which would correspondto the characterizedreader, and
audience and the writer: "Der Autor orientiert sich perceptively criticizes Iser (pp. 23-25), although she
an den Regelkonventionen,die er beim Leser als bekannt ignores much German criticism that preceded her own.
voraussetzt" 'The author is guided by the regulative Essays that I have cited by Gibson, Prince, Iser, and
conventions he presumes to be known to the reader' Fish are now collected (in English), with others, in
(p. 131). The implied reader may represent the au- Reader-Response Criticism:. From Formalism to Post-
thor's rejection of the contemporary public (which Structuralism,ed. Jane P. Tompkins (Baltimore: Johns
means, of course, that they do influence the author). Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980). Both Crosman and Tomp-
46 Link, "'Appellstruktur'und 'Paradigmawechsel'?" kins have assembled annotated bibliographies that are
p. 539 and elsewhere ("Interferenz"). She is followed especially comprehensive for Anglo-American and
by Elrud Kunne-Ibsch, "Rezeptionsforschung: Kon- French criticism.
stanten und Varianten eines literaturwissenschaftlichen