Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary & Legal Studies

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In literary theory, the philosophy of law, and the sociology of knowledge, no issue has been more central to current debate than the status of our interpretations. Do they rest on a ground of rationality or are they subjective impositions of a merely personal point of view? In Doing What Comes Naturally, Stanley Fish refuses the dilemma posed by this question and argues that while we can never separate our judgments from the contexts in which they are made, those judgments are nevertheless authoritative and even, in the only way that matters, objective. He thus rejects both the demand for an ahistorical foundation, and the conclusion that in the absence of such a foundation we reside in an indeterminate world. In a succession of provocative and wide-ranging chapters, Fish explores the implications of his position for our understanding of legal, literary, and psychoanalytic interpretation, the nature of professional and institutional culture, and the place of reason in a world that is rhetorical through and through.

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Contents

Why No Ones Afraid
68
pretation in Law and Literature
87
Wrong Again
103
Copyright

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About the author (1989)

Stanley Eugene Fish, who writes on law and literary criticism and history, was born on April 19, 1938, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. Fish holds a Ph.D. from Yale. During his career, he has held major academic posts, serving as Kenan Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University from 1974 to 1985 and as Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English and Law at Duke University since 1985. He is known for his expertise in English literature and literary theory, particularly the subjectivity of textual interpretation. Fish's works include Is There a Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretative Communities, 1980 and Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies, 1989. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1969.

Fredric R. Jameson, Marxist theorist and professor of comparative literature at Duke University, was born in Cleveland in 1934. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and taught at Harvard, the University of California at San Diego, and Yale University before moving to Duke in 1985. He most famous work is Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, which won the Modern Language Association's Lowell Award. Jameson was among the first to associate a specific set of political and economic circumstances with the term postmodernism. His other books include Sartre: The Origin of a Style, The Seeds of Time, and The Cultural Turn.

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