Monday, October 31, 2011

Intertextuality - Author vs. Audience

In my previous post I noted Hays key foundation in claiming an intertextual echo. 
The concept of allusion depends both on the notion of authorial intention and on the assumption that the reader will share with the author the requisite “portable library” to recognize the source of the allusion…
For an intertextual echo to be affective and effective, the audience must be able to the following successive mental steps: they must be able to recognise, recall, connect, assess and trust  an intertextual reading.  Without these successive steps, the echo/allusion is missed, and the communicative intent of the author is potentially mistaken.  Like Virgil's phrase, Audentes Fortuna iuvat, misunderstanding the context and the communicative intent could lead to serious misrepresentation and misunderstanding. 
Fortune favors the bold is one of those phrases that are quoted so frequently that they bear none of the weight of their original contexts. The appeal of its underlying message — luck is not something that merely happens to people, but rather the other way around — ignores the fact that it was originally written, by the Roman poet Virgil, as the battle cry of a fool whose boldness shortly leads to his death.
One strategy around this herculean boulder of what the audience would have understood or picked up on, is to pass the audience and focus solely on the author. Thus Stanley Porter,

Although investigation of an audience-oriented approach has merit in establishing the shared assumptions and biblical knowledge of the audience (in fact, much more could and should be done in this area), it is questionable whether it provides the proper basis for establishing the author’s use of the Old Testament. If one is interested in establishing a given author’s use of the Old Testament, it would appear imperative to orient one’s discussion to the language of the author, rather than supposed, reconstructed “knowledge” of the audience.
Why would an author go to so much trouble to allude to a text, knowing the audience would probably not pick up on the allusion or echo?  Thus, in response to this it must be noted that rhetors in the ancient world would be aware of the audience to whom they were speaking, and would speak accordingly.  Thus to ignore the problem of the audience's ability to recognise, recall, connect, assess and trust an intertextual reading, could seriously undermine the integrity of the proposed intertextual echo.  And it would not pass Hays' criteria noted before.   What we need is a better model for understanding the audiences to whom NT authors wrote.  And thankfully, such a model exists and provides us with helpful insights and a way of carefully assessing the validity of such claimed echoes. 

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