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Fish, Stanley (1938–)


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


Literary critic, professor of English and law at Duke University. Originally a Renaissance scholar and New Critic, Fish has become the founding father and one of the leading exponents of American reader-oriented criticism. In the 1960s, during the heyday of S tructuralism , Fish published his Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost ( 1967 ), which today is considered the first book working within the framework of the now surging field of R eader-response criticism . For Fish, the issue “is simply the rigorous and disinterested asking of the question, what does this word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, novel, play, poem, do?” (1980, pp. 26–7) as opposed to the – more conventional – question, what does a literary T ext mean? Fish's reader-oriented theory is programmatically called “affective stylistics,” because Fish challenges the New Critics’ warning against the A ffective and the I ntentional fallacy by turning it against itself. Whereas the New Critics argue that meaning resides in the formal features of a poem, rather than in the reader's emotion or the author's intention (see N ew Criticism ), Fish holds that both formal features and authorial intention are only ever affected by the conventions the readers bring to bear on the T ext . They do not exist outside the “informed” readers’ experience. The readers’ experience, in turn, is socially constructed: the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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