Fish, Stanley Eugene

Fish, Stanley Eugene, 1938–, American literary critic and educator, b. Providence, R.I.; grad. Univ. of Pennsylvania (B.A., 1959), Yale Univ. (M.A., 1960; Ph.D., 1962). Fish has taught at the Univ. of California, Berkeley (1962–74), Johns Hopkins (1978–85), and Duke (1985–99). He is presently dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (and a professor) at the Univ. of Illinois, Chicago. As a young scholar, Fish wrote several books on 17th-century literature; the best known is Surprised by Sin (1967), a bold and influential study of Milton's Paradise Lost. Broad themes explored in this work were later expressed in Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (1980) and other works, in which Fish posited the reader-response theory, suggesting that readers use the value systems developed within their cultural milieus not to determine a text's meaning but to create it. He later became known as an agent provocateur and polemicist in the culture wars of the late 20th cent., attacking traditional ideological constructs in such books as There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing, Too (1994) and The Trouble with Principle (1999). Fish returned to earlier interests with How Milton Works (2001), a study of Milton's theology and method.

See H. A. Veeser, ed., The Stanley Fish Reader (1999); study by P. J. Donnelly (2000).

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