Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Stanley Fish: Interpretation and interpretive communities

Whitfield, Kelly (1995) Stanley Fish: Interpretation and interpretive communities. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Available Upon Request


This dissertation is a critique of the general theory that Stanley Fish presents in his two books, Is There A Text In This Class: The Authority Of Interpretive Communities, and Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies. The importance of the theories presented in these two books is of wider-ranging importance than just the literary and legal academy, which is, at first glance, what Stanley Fish appears to be writing about. Stanley Fish uses these fields as a starting point to discuss interpretation of the text. However, he claims that his arguments have a wider relevance, and can explain the nature of all interpretations of the world around us. Both the legal and literary academies make claims about the nature of interpretation of texts. The history of both fields is full of discussion over what should be regarded as the best method of interpretation of any particular text, with various reading strategies being proposed as being the most objective. Fish’s point of view, however, is that no interpretation can be truly objective, although he also claims that this point of view does not commit him to a position where all interpretation is subjective. He refuses the traditional dichotomy between these two terms. The key to this apparent paradox is in the use of his concept interpretive communities.

Stanley Fish proposes interpretive communities as a coherent social system of meaning which explains how interpretation, whilst not being objective in the pure sense of the term, is nevertheless not subjective. Fish’s explanation of interpretive communities has been subject to a great deal of criticism, and this dissertation will first summarize both Fish’s view, and that of some of his critics, then will discuss whether Fish’s arguments prove what he says they prove, or whether his critic’s objections prevail.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
Item Control Page Item Control Page