From: The Barbarian Within / Walter J. Ong, S.J. (Macmillan, 1962)
"The speaker (writer) listens, while the hearer (reader) speaks . . ."
- a partial explication of the magic that makes narrative voice work.


"Speaking and hearing are not simple operations. Each exhibits a dialectical structure which mirrors the mysterious depths of man's psyche. As he composes his thoughts in words, a speaker or writer hears those words echoing within himself and thereby follows his own thought, as though he were another person. Conversely, a hearer or reader repeats within himself the words he hears and thereby understands them, as though he were himself two individuals. This double and interlocking dialect . . . provides the matrix for human communication. The speaker listens while the hearer speaks.

"Every human word implies not only the existence -- at least in the imagination -- of another to whom the word is uttered, but it also implies that the speaker has a kind of otherness within himself. He participates in the other to whom he speaks and it is this underlying participation which makes communication possible. The human speaker can speak to the other precisely because he himself is not purely self, but is somehow also other. His own "I" is haunted by the shadow of a "thou" which it can never exorcise. "