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Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities

3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674467262
ISBN-10: 0674467264
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Editorial Reviews

Review

These essays demonstrate why Fish has become the center--as both source and focus--of so much intellectual energy in contemporary American critical theory. For brilliance and forcefulness in argumentation and for sheer boldness of mind and spirit, he has no match. (Barbara Herrnstein Smith)

It is a great...pleasure these days to find a critic willing to discuss language, literature, reading, writing, and the community of readers on the understanding that the reader plays a real part in the production of his experience. (Denis Donoghue Times Literary Supplement)

No bare summary of his conclusions can do justice to the brilliance of his analyses...Is There a Text in This Class? is a substantial achievement which deserves the serious consideration of all students of literature. Its arguments are cogent, forceful and engaging, its style witty, personable and unpretentious, and its analyses are just, incisive and economical. Most important, the theory it advocates is provocative, comprehensive and, I believe, true. (Criticism)

Review

These essays demonstrate why Fish has become the center--as both source and focus--of so much intellectual energy in contemporary American critical theory. For brilliance and forcefulness in argumentation and for sheer boldness of mind and spirit, he has no match.
--Barbara Herrnstein Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (June 25, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674467264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674467262
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #805,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Fish provides an originally shocking, but now almost taken-for-granted, argument: there is no such thing as meaning sitting around in a book waiting to be mined like a physical object. Rather, everyone who comes to a book finds exactly what they were looking for in the first place. And the rules for what they find, and what is considered "acceptable" interpretation, comes not from some magic rule for all time but from particular groups of readers at particular times and places. Using Milton, Shakespeare, the students from his history as a literature professor at Johns Hopkins, and various other texts of all kinds, Fish makes a remarkable and witty argument for the stable but temporary interpretation of literature. There is no literature except what you call literature.

So, the text doesn't tell you what it means. The reader doesn't decide what it means. The meaning in reading anything comes from the act of reading itself, shaped by the rules of the interpretive community.
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Format: Paperback
ITTTC continues Fish's trend towards self-consuming. He admits that he has considerably altered his views toward reader-response. Now not only does he take back what he just wrote, he adds that his words have no practical use or relevance. His new paradigm is that there is no such thing as a text since the reader subsumed it into his own world-view. Second, there is also no such person as a reader either since the individual reader was now to be seen as a very small cog in a very big wheel called an "interpretive community." The reader is like a Borg drone from Star Trek; he exists physically but his mind is part of an all-encompassing Gestaltic hive mind. It is the act of interpretation by an interpretative community that creates any text. Without interpretation of a text to give that text meaning, there is no text just characters and symbols printed on paper. An unread and uninterpreted series of pages with words printed on them is not a text since it has no meaning. It is here that Fish runs into trouble with his interpretative community. He is vague about what it really is, how one may join, how one may leave, how one may qualify to join, how the individual drones smooth over their interpretive differences (if indeed they have any), why some interpretative communities may not agree with one another, and why it must even be necessary for one drone to persuade another if both have access to the same interpretive strategies. This concept of an interpretive community makes Fish seem like a relativist, but he asks his readers to take his word for it that he is not.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
SF is a pragmatist and basically follows John Searle, J.L. Austin, and P.F. Strawson regarding philosophy of language. One aspect of this is to move away from an interpretive stance to the view that there is a clear effect of the reading of a passage on fluent speakers of the language and secondarily an interpretive effect dependent on each speakers (readers) point of view. (There is a nice Paul Ricoeur quote.) SF critiques relativism using it in the sense that is untenable. What makes an interpretation acceptable? "Interpretation is the only game in town." "There are no moves that are not moves in the game, and this includes even the move by which one claims no longer to be a player."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Turns out I didn't need the book for a paper I'm writing, but it's good information nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback
I am amused to read reviews of this book which praise Fish's brilliance, sensitivity, nuanced critical abilities, etc., given that Fish does not believe in authorial intention and thinks the meaning of the text is co-created by the reader. Perhaps, though, these reviewers are praising their own genius, brilliance, etc. Or that is my reading of their texts ...
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