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The ideal narratee and the rhetorical model of audiences

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rhetorical narrative theory, author, narrator, narratee, ideal narratee

Abstract (summary)

This article proposes to revise rhetorical narrative theory's model of audiences in fiction (actual, authorial, narrative, ideal narrative, and narratee) by replacing the term/concept of the ideal narrative audience with that of the ideal narratee, defined as the audience the narrator wishes they were addressing. This revision calls attention to the various ways that authors can handle the relations between the actual narratee and the ideal narratee (the actual may—or may not—coincide with the ideal), and such variety, in turn, points to the need for a more general taxonomy of authorial uses of the narratee. This taxonomy identifies three recognizably distinct ranges along a single broad spectrum of degrees of alignment between actual and ideal narratees: (1) clear alignment, (2) uncertain alignment, and (3) non-alignment. The taxonomy also identifies two main variants within each category, based on how an author's handling of the degree of alignment guides their readers’ focus: is it primarily on the narrated, the narrating, or both? The essay demonstrates the interpretive payoffs of the taxonomy through its analysis of a wide array of case studies including Mohsin Hamid's Reluctant Fundamentalist, Andrew Marvell's “To His Coy Mistress,” Sandra Cisneros's “Barbie-Q,” and Albert Camus's Fall.

Publication Information

Copland, Sarah, and James Phelan. “The Ideal Narratee and the Rhetorical Model of Audiences.” Poetics Today, vol. 43, no. 1, 2022. pp. 1-26.


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