Address to the reader is one of the conventions of the modern essay form, going back to Montaigne, who includes a statement of address by way of an introduction to his collected writings. A question or series of questions refreshes the direct address along the way, accentuates the sense of voice, and vitalises the connection by supposing the reader as an interlocutor, someone whose responses may be silent, but are explicitly solicited. For the reader, this necessarily carries the risk of being co-opted into a pretence of dialogue: there is an assumed complicity in the line of thought, and on the principles guiding it.
'Something is turning: The role of essays in a questioning culture' by Jane Goodall
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Jane Goodall is a freelance writer and adjunct professor with the Writing and Society Research Group, University of Western Sydney. Her work has appeared recently in Griffith Review, Inside Story, and The Conversation. She won the Calibre Prize in 2009.
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