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The Author-Reader Contract

The Author-Reader Contract

(p.1) Introduction The Author-Reader Contract
Aggressive Fictions
Kathryn Hume
Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter discusses the author-reader contract in addressing reader expectations and approaches to contemporary American novels. Horace opined that poetry, and by extension all fiction, is properly dulce (entertaining) and utile (useful, informative), and this notion has since come to form a reader's expectations of a novel. Yet for a surprising number of recent American novels, this long-standing author-reader contract has been broken. Consequently, modern novels may come across as “attacking” the readers, which may in turn cause the readers to stop reading. Yet the chapter argues that the challenges these authorial aggressions impose on the reader is meant to be a rewarding experience for the reader, in place of the usual feelings of pleasure and instruction derived from the Horatian definition of the author-reader relationship.

Keywords:   author-reader contract, author-reader relationship, dulce, utile, Horace, contemporary American novels, reader expectations

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