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Textual Exile

The Reader in Sterne and Foscolo


Sante Matteo

An author writes with a certain type of reader in mind. Determining the identity of this «implicit reader» serves to reveal a text's strategies and meaning. Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey and Ugo Foscolo's linguistically faithful Italian translation of it have different implicit readers, and hence radically different meanings. Unlike Sterne, who could be relatively confident of the competence of his English readers, Foscolo, because of the political, cultural, and linguistic fragmentation of the Italy of his time, addressed a reader of uncertain status, both in his translation and in his own earlier novel, Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis. These works are characterized by dialogical tensions that revolve around the postulation of different implicit readers. Therefore, a reader-oriented analysis is particularly illuminating in deciphering them. Conversely, the works themselves constitute an account and an illumination of the importance of the problem of readership in literary criticism.
Contents: A reader-oriented analysis of Laurence Sterne's Senti- mental Journey, Ugo Foscolo's Italian translation of it, as well as the latter's Jacopo Ortis, reveals the presence of very different implicit readers within each text, and consequently different «meanings.»