To me, the most extraordinary (and provocative) sentence in James Phelan's essay, “Authors, Resources, Audiences: Toward a Rhetorical Poetics of Narrative,” is the statement that “the audience does not just react to the teller's communication; instead, the audience and its unfolding responses significantly influence how the teller constructs the tale” (2). Since this idea contradicts normal temporal sequence—the writing of a text must precede a reader's reading of that text—I wondered if I misread or missed something. But no: Phelan reiterates continually the concept that “tellers frequently rely on the unfolding of readerly dynamics in their construction of textual dynamics” (14).

To make sense of Phelan's repeated emphasis on the presence of a reader's responses at the writing of a text, we have to assume that Phelan is talking about an author's imagining of how a reader would respond to the sequence of events he is constructing. Phelan's focus on...

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