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“All use of speech implies convention and therefore at least duality of minds. The problem of communication through language may in this light be seen as the search for the means supplied by the conventions (or code) to transmit a message from one mind to another. (This definition is as applicable to "literary" communication as it is to "non-literary.") ...Is the code exactly the same for transmitter and receiver? Indeed, can it ever be? It hardly seems likely, since in the strict sense no two people have ever acquired exactly the same code. Consequently, the correspondence between the writer's understand of his writing (I do not, of course, mean merely a conscious or reflective understanding) and the reader's understanding of it will be at least approximate. Another variable is the mental, emotional, and cultural constitution of the being who used the code to transmit a message, and of the being who decodes it. To what extent are they capable of understanding each other? To what extent will they be willing to cooperate in dealing with the inevitable problems in communication? To what extent will anticipated or actual reaction ("feedback") from the receiver affect the framing of the message? Perhaps more important than any of these variables, there is the as yet unresolved question of the very nature of language, and therefore of communication through language. What do agreed upon symbols stand for? Is it conceivable that they correspond to something objectively identifiable? Perhaps not. But even so, is it conceivable that a given message can recreate in another mind whatever it is supposed in the first place to represent in the mind of the sender? All of these questions are in the last analysis as relevant to literary studies as they are linguistics”


Robert Ellrich
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