, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 227-243

Superaddressee or Who Will Succeed a Mentor?

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This philosophical essay is inspired by a four-year pedagogical relationship that continues in its altered form today. The main focus of this piece is the transformation of a mentor as an immediate addressee into mentor as a superaddressee, an influential third listener who oversees observable dialogues. I explore the mutual responsibilities of a student and a mentor in order to uncover the elements in the pedagogical chemistry responsible for the transformation of an addressee into a superaddressee. Confirmation (a perfect form of understanding) of a student’s intellectual and moral uniqueness, incarnation of a particular value deemed desirable by a student, and education of a student into the dialogic ways of being on his or her own are the necessary ingredients of the process of becoming a superaddressee. Initially a mentor engages in the pedagogy of understanding whose ideal outcome is confirmation of a student’s intellectual and moral makeup. After the dialogue is over, a mentor often moves into the domain of inner speech from where he or she continues to offer perfect understanding, especially in the absence of such understanding from an immediate addressee. Two types of superaddressees are identified and their relationship with the invoking consciousness is explored. I conclude that becoming a superaddressee is the most generous pedagogical contribution to a student’s future: a mentor thus makes his or her voice available to a student’s inner dialogue, often without receiving anything in return.

Mikhail Bakhtin is highly influential in my writing. “Superaddressee” or “a third listener” is one of his coinages. The term is treated in “The Problem of the Text” as part of the collection “Speech genres and other late essays” (1986), alluded to in Voloshinov’s (1976) “Discourse in Life and Discourse in Art” and expanded upon in Frank Farmer’s (2001) “Saying and Silence.”