Responsibility and Respect in Audience/Reader Awareness

Two words stood out to me in Ede and Lunsford’s “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition and Pedagogy”: responsibility and respect.

Early on the in their argument, the authors address ethical responsibilities and consequences, noting that to prioritize audience “in its extreme form becomes pandering to the crowd, tend[ing] to undervalue the responsibility a writer has to a subject” (82, emphasis mine).

The albeit brief (but I think quite necessary) discussion about the troublesome overemphasis on unethical audience promising in marketing (82) sets a tone for responsibility for the rest of the essay.

A writer needs to be aware of her audience; however, that awareness should not lead to irresponsibility with the subject at hand.

Additionally, I felt that Ede and Lunsford respectfully ended their essay with describing their “audience thought process” to their audience: “As we read and reread their [authors to whom they are responding] analyses and developed our responses to them, we felt a responsibility to try to understand their formulations as fully as possible, to play fair with their ideas, to make our own efforts continue to meet their high standards” (91, emphasis mine).

Reading as a writer and (perhaps more importantly) as a writer/teacher, I appreciated their documentation and analysis of their “audience thought process” in writing this essay. They “pulled back the curtain” to show how they applied their ideas directly to something that every one in their audience (Or readership? Readers? What would Ong say? Readers.) had read—unless, of course, a reader only skipped to the end: the very essay itself.

As a teacher, I give my students examples of different writing genres and often talk through them; however, perhaps this would be an excellent strategy to employ: a written (so students can revisit the comments unlike in class) analysis of the thought process that went into the writing.

However, this strategy only works if teachers are writing beside their students and are willing to actively “pull back the curtain” of their own writing process. This conjures up the idea of mentors as a way to access discourse communities a la Gee.

This can be a scary prospect, but specific and concrete examples of the thought process itself can be ever-so-enlightening for students. We are not simply teaching an end product, but a way of approaching situations that call for writing, situations that are ever-changing. One cannot respectfully and responsibly simply teach a model of a genre; one must model (as a mentor) sustainable strategies, and understanding the complexities of audience is one aspect of that process.

A question semi-unrelated to the previous content, but it intrigues me:

Both Ong and Ede and Lunsford use the metaphor of a recipe. While Ong observes, “Nashe gives a foretaste of other trial-and-error procedures by which recipes were to be developed for the reader of the narrative prose works we now call novels. Such recipes were being worked out in other languages, too […]” (68).

While Ede and Lunsford note, “One of the factors that makes writing so difficult, as we know, is that we have no recipes: each rhetorical situation is unique and thus requires the writer, catalyzed and guided by a strong sense of purpose, to reanalyze and reinvent solutions” (87).

Recipe seems to be used in Ong as genre conventions, while Ede and Lunsford are reacting against a set-form of writing. What benefits and limitations are there to using “recipe” as a metaphor that conjures up cooking?


One thought on “Responsibility and Respect in Audience/Reader Awareness

  1. I’m not sure Ede and Lunsford’s recipe metaphor is helpful, unless they’re imagining a baking recipe. As I understand it (I’m no chef), baking requires very specific measures, ingredients, and procedures. Indeed, this seems unhelpful as a concept for writing, especially considering that shifts and varieties of audiences. That said, I’m intrigued by fancy cooking shows on TV in which the contestants are given a cooking situation, including certain limitations of ingredients, and then asked to invent. The recipe is free flowing, but it’s not without conventions, norms, steps, and some aesthetically-measured outcome.


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