What is an Implied Author?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In reading, an implied author is the version of a writer that a reader constructs based on the text in its entirety. Also called a model author, an abstract author, or an inferred author.

The concept of the implied author was introduced by American literary critic Wayne C. Booth in his book The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961): "However impersonal [an author] may try to be, his reader will inevitably construct a picture of the official scribe who writes in this manner."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "[I]t is a curious fact that we have no terms either for this created 'second self' or our relationship with him. None of our terms for various aspects of the narrator is quite accurate. 'Persona,' 'mask,' and 'narrator' are sometimes used, but they more commonly refer to the speaker in the work who is after all only one of the elements created by the implied author and who may be separated from him by large ironies. 'Narrator' is usually taken to mean the 'I' of the work, but the 'I' is seldom if ever identical with the implied image of the artist."
    (Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction. University of Chicago Press, 1961)
  • "Too often in my early work I suggested a total communion between two utterly confident, secure, correct, and wise human beings at the top of the human heap: the implied author and me. Now I see an implied author who is manifold."
    (Wayne C. Booth, "The Struggle to Tell the Story of the Struggle to Get the Story Told." Narrative, January 1997)

    Implied Author and Implied Reader

    • "A classic example of mismatching in kind is The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. The implied author intends that the implied reader will react to the horrifying account of the Chicago meatpacking industry by taking socialist action to improve the workers' lives. In other words, the implied reader of The Jungle already cares about workers in general, and the implied author intends that, building on that old value, the reader will primarily be motivated to adopt a new value--socialist commitment to helping Chicago meat workers. But, because most actual American readers lacked sufficient concern for workers, a mismatch occurred, and they failed to react as intended; The Jungle ended up moving them only to agitate for improved sanitation in meatpacking."
      (Ellen Susan Peel, Politics, Persuasion, and Pragmatism: A Rhetoric of Feminist Utopian Fiction. Ohio State University. Press, 2002)

      Controversies

      • "As our study of implied author reception will show, there is no consistent correlation between the contexts in which the concept has been used and the opinions that have been put forward regarding its usefulness. In interpretive contexts, both supporting and opposing voices have made themselves heard; in descriptive contexts, meanwhile, the implied author has met with near-universal hostility, but even here its relevance to textual interpretation occasionally attracts a more positive response."
        (Tom Kindt and Hans-Harald Müller, The Implied Author: Concept and Controversy. Trans. by Alastair Matthews. Walter de Gruyter, 2006)
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      Your Citation
      Nordquist, Richard. "What is an Implied Author?" ThoughtCo, May. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/implied-author-reading-1691051. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, May 8). What is an Implied Author? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/implied-author-reading-1691051 Nordquist, Richard. "What is an Implied Author?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/implied-author-reading-1691051 (accessed January 20, 2018).