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What is reader positioning?

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The notion of "positioned" in reader positioning is metaphorical, describing the positioning as the shaping of a reader's point of view or perspective. Reader positioning describes how readers' thoughts and feelings may be shaped by :

  • Writers
    Writers shape their texts using a range of techniques designed to encourage readers to endorse their (the writers) ideas, values and attitudes, and engage sympathetically and unsympathetically with the characters and action of their stories.

  • Context
    Readers may also be positioned in their understanding of any text as a result of their own context, and any knowledge of the context of the text and of the writer.

The readers own circumstances and background influence how they make meaning (how it positions them in certain ways). In addition, what the reader knows about the circumstances of the the time in which the text is set and of the author will also influence and position the reader in relation to the ideas etc of that text.


Techniques used by writers to position readers.

Readers are positioned to respond to a writer's
themes
to endorse or support the writer's views

through a wide range of techniques which include :
• point of view
• writer's style
• characterisation;
• juxtaposition;
• foreshadowing;
• irony;
• narrative structure;
• construction of setting.

characters
to sympathise with / be antagonistic towards them
plots
to engage with / keep on reading / be

The syllabus states : “The emphasis of this study will not be on content but on attitudes and values, structure and styles.” Do not lose sight of the fact that you need to understand the course concepts before discussing textual content.

READERS WILL BE POSITIONED IN RELATION TO :

  • PLOT (that is the action or what happens). Will we become engaged, grabbed, held, suspended? Will we question, accept, be required to predict, be given hints, required to think for ourselves? What will our responses be to the events and action?

  • CHARACTERS are constructed using a range of techniques encouraging readers to find them sympathetic, believeable, identifiable or otherwise, thus endorsing or challenging the attitudes these characters possess and the values they stand for;

  • IDEAS (themes, issues) put forward by the writer through the characters and the action will manipulate and shape the reader’s perceptions, positioning readers to respond in certain ways, agreeing with or disputing the ideas arising from the text. In essence, this is the most significant, generally the larger purpose behind the writer creating the story.

TECHNIQUES USED BY WRITERS TO POSITION READERS

  • Dialogue - specifically how the characters talk and interact;

  • Figurative and evocative language (includes imagery); also called descriptive language;

  • Foreshadowing - providing a hint of what is to come;

  • Irony - the contrast or disjunction between appearance (the way things seem) and reality (the way things are);

  • Juxtaposition, that is putting one thing next to the other for reasons of comparison or contrast ;

  • Mood / atmosphere, that is the feeling attached to or associated with a scene or a situation

  • Narrative structure – the narrative may be structured chronologically (linear), be circular, fragmented, have parallel narratives, contain flashbacks, start in the middle of the action (in media res), involve dreams, multiple viewpoints (ie different people tell the same story in per chapter) etc.

  • Point of view - that is the author’s choice of point/s of view from which the events are seen. Main points of view to consider are

first person- major or minor;


third person objective;


third person limited omniscient;


third person omniscient. 

  • Style (see also figurative and evocative language etc above) Style involves the totality of how the writer uses language – word choice, sentence and paragraphs structure etc  to engage the reader in characters, settings and action;

  • Symbolism – something which stands for or represents something else. Symbolism works through cultural coding, where certain meanings become commonly associated with certain thing. Author’s use of symbols can position readers’ by means of this association of meaning.

 


 

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Feel free to access these resources for study purposes or classroom use. However where they have been directly dowloaded for distribution or copied and provided as notes, please acknowledge as a courtesy. John Watson