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From the earliest traces of etchings on stone tablets to the emergence of Kindles and e-readers in contemporary society, humans have invented platforms for the creation and dissemination of text. Implicit in each textual object are the figures of the reader and writer and their differing engagement with the work. But what does it mean to be a reader or a writer, and how does each role play a part in the shaping of a text?
In 1967, Roland Barthes famously proclaimed the death of the author, arguing that it was for the reader to instil meaning in a text. Barthes’ essay questioned the existing hierarchy of writer above reader, and initiated new discussion on their roles. Reader response critics such as Hans Robert Jauss have also considered the impact of an individual’s experiences on textual interpretation. What effects have such theories had on previous understandings of the reader/writer relationship? How can we conceptualise these roles in an increasingly complex literary and textual environment?
It is not only the experiences of the individual reader and writer that are interrogated. We can now ask what role the market plays in redefining these two figures. Robert Darnton’s Communication Circuit draws attention to socio-political and commercial forces that impact the creation, production and distribution of a book. How do such models complicate the dialogical relationship between reader and writer?
How do literary devices alter our perception of the reader/writer figure? Those such as frame narratives and epistolary forms place readers and writers at the centre of the text, while the found manuscript and false document conceit in fiction work to remove the presence of the author in order to foster verisimilitude. What do these metafictions say about the changing social, cultural and intellectual nature of reading and writing?
In this issue, we aim to engage with the broadest possible understandings of readers and writers. We are seeking submissions from a range of disciplines relating to the arts, culture or social sciences that consider the topic of READERS AND WRITERS for Issue 23 of FORUM. Submissions may relate, but are not limited to: