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Gaps and Silences

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Suzy Robertson

on 4 November 2016

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Transcript of Gaps and Silences

Gaps and Silences are forms of incompleteness in texts.
Gaps are places in the text where readers are invited to make connections by drawing on their ‘commonsense’ understanding of the world.
Places where the text keeps silent or makes no mention of certain groups or topics

Who is missing from the text?
What has been left out of the text?

For example:
Miss Smith is the second girl to be reported missing this week. She was last seen hitch-hiking along a city street late on Monday evening. Police have issued a warning to young girls not to go out alone at night.
These sentences do not say outright that there was a connection between Miss Smith’s hitch-hiking and her disappearance; it is assumed readers will make the connection. But the link is not obvious. It relies on specific cultural knowledge about the way ‘the world works’.
No text can offer its readers a complete and balanced ‘window on the world’. Texts are made up of elements selected from a cultural system, such as language.
Gender Bias
We have identified how gender bias can be seen through the construction of language - such as the specific use of pronouns.

However, assumptions about gender can also be 'read' identifying 'gaps' and 'silences' within a text.

We can read more into a text, by identifying what has been 'left out'.

In order to construct the dominant reading of the passage, readers must assume:

• that the girl was kidnapped while walking

• that she was kidnapped by a male

• that this would be less likely to happen if she was accompanied

• that she was taking a risk by hitchhiking, and so on.
If we don't fill this gap with the conventional assumptions, the text’s incompleteness becomes very obvious.

It then becomes clear that the message requires readers to reproduce ‘unconsciously’ a very strange set of assumptions about what ‘natural’ behaviour is.
The text could have said: Police have issued a warning for men not to go out at night. This would certainly make the streets safer.
The text remains silent about the behaviour and motivations of men, even though it could have been written by a woman or a man. This has the double effect of making safety on the streets a woman’s problem, and of vaguely implicating all men in the disappearance.
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