‘The writer’s audience is always a fiction’. Walter Ong, Interfaces of the Word, 1977, p. 53. What role does the reader play in our writing? This is unlikely to be the first thing we think about when we start putting pen to paper; we are more likely to be concerned with getting words onto the page. And yet, as we will discover in this chapter, the question as to whom we are addressing in our writing is just as important as what we have to say. The reader in the writing process For Mikhail Bakhtin, speaking and writing are always acts of communication. Our words are never simply ours; they are always seeking a response. The reader or audience is always present in the utterance and contributes to its shaping (Bakhtin, 1986, pp. 126–29). Bakhtin’s colleague Voloshinov shares this view: …the word is a two-sided act. It is determined equally by whose word it is and for whom it is meant. As word, it is precisely the product of the reciprocal relationship between speaker and listener, addresser and addressee… I give myself verbal shape from another’s point of view (Voloshinov, 1973, p. 86).
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