Reading Notes for “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy” by Ede and Lunsford

Reading Notes:   Ede and Lunsford                                               Ed Lessor    

Key Terms and Concepts

We begin with a discussion of  ”audience addressed”—the students are familiar with thinking about an audience as having a concrete reality that includes values and beliefs that are both important to the conversation and “knowable” to some degree. We work with specific magazine audiences during the early phases of audience analysis, so they have a concrete model for conceptualizing this. We then discuss some of the weaknesses of this model: the lack of attention to the notion of invention, the over-emphasis on the role of the audience at the expense of understanding the role of the writer (even when the writer becomes the de facto audience during drafting), and concerns about the ethics of language use (style as value free).

We then turn to a discussion of the “audience as invoked,” in which the audience is posited as a creative construction of the writer. This seems a bit more difficult for my students to grasp. One way that I attempt to bridge that gap is to turn back to the example of the target audience for a given magazine. We look over some of the particular demographic information that we have gathered for a magazine and put some pressure on the “actuality” of the information. It soon becomes clear that a male gendered magazine will often have female readers, for example, and that many of the aspects that denote the magazine as “male” are cultural fictions to begin with. We then turn to a discussion of the primary weakness of this way of understanding the audience—the tendency to overstate the importance of the writer and downplay the creative role of the reader.

I do not offer my students a simplified compromise to this situation, but rather use the diagrams from pages 96 and 100 ofART to demonstrate the complexities involved in keeping elements of both understandings of audience in play throughout the drafting process. I try to stress these as theoretical concerns to keep in mind. I think it would be very difficult for students to demonstrate a practical application of a fully realize model of the audience that was able to keep the tension between these concepts alive!

Student Reception
This is a tough essay for the students to get through. It is so clearly aimed at a professional audience that it is sort of ironic that we teach it to our undergraduates—given that they are neither the audience invoked or addressed for this writing! With that said, the essay is a useful tool for giving students a glimpse into the bigger and more complex picture of how audience is conceived of in the practice of constructing discourse. I don’t expect my students to immediately enact changes to their academic writing based on the reading of this essay, but it is nice to challenge them conceptually with ideas that may occur to them as useful as they progress in their academic careers.

Unit Goals
I teach “Audience Addressed/ Audience Invoked” as a theory text that actually complicates our pragmatic work of bringing the audience into the equation when drafting arguments. This comes up at the beginning of the third unit when we are beginning to work on our Targeted Convincing Arguments. The kernel of what I would like my students to get from a reading of this essay is that there are two distinct manners of understanding what an audience is, that these should not be considered in isolation, and that an effective understanding of audience in composition processes requires a dynamic understanding of the relationship between the two concepts.

Coarse Goals: This reading aligns with several of the larger course goals for CO 300:

Extend knowledge of rhetorical concepts, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Read and discuss theoretical texts from rhetoric, discourse studies, communication, and related disciplines
  • Analyze texts reflecting disciplinary/professional/specialized discourse
  • Compose effective arguments in different genres (such as academic and public media) and different modes (such as alphabetic, auditory, and visual modes, as well as multimodal texts that combine these strategies) designed to achieve multiple and specific purposes for multiple and specific audiences

Extend mastery of argumentative conventions, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Adapt genre, mode, and other compositional choices to meet audience and purpose
  • Use audience appeals, including pathos, ethos, and logos
  • Anticipate and address audience questions and objections

Extend the application of advanced rhetorical concepts, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Compose arguments in different modes for specific audiences and purposes
  • Adapt content and style to respond to the needs of specific audiences and rhetorical situations