Stanley Fish (Stanley Eugene Fish) Biography
(1938– ), (Stanley Eugene Fish), John Skelton's Poetry
American critic, born in Providence, Rhode Island, educated at the University of Pennsylvania and at Yale. He subsequently held a succession of posts including Professor of English at the University of California and at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English and Law at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. John Skelton's Poetry (1965) was widely admired for its reading of Skelton's verse as a record of the poet's psychological and spiritual development. Surprised by Sin: The Reader in ‘Paradise Lost’ (1967) examined the centrality of individual responses in evaluating the poem; Fish's emphasis on the essentially subjective nature of literary interpretation was sustained in Self-Consuming Artefacts: The Experience of Seventeenth Century Literature (1972) and The Living Temple: George Herbert and Catechizing (1978). Is There a Text in This Class: The Authority of Interpretive Communities (1980) formed a wide-ranging critique of literary theory, which, Fish argued, offered an inflexible and reductive basis for critical discourse by discounting a reader's personal experience of a text; the book was equally provocative in challenging the traditional assumptions of liberal humanism, and gained Fish an international reputation. In Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies (1989) Fish's exposition centres on his belief that ‘the troubles and benefits of interpretive theory … disappear in an enriched notion of practice’; the book's twenty-two essays are unified by the view that judgements in literature, law, philosophy, and psychoanalysis remain objectively valid while being necessarily subject to determination by their contexts. There's No Such Thing as Free Speech: And It's a Good Thing Too appeared in 1993; and Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change in 1995. See also reader-response theory.