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The Annual MLA Disaster

John Sutherland, 16 December 1993

The Modern Language Association of America: Program for the 109th Convention, Vol. 108, No. 6 
November 1993Show More
The Modern Language Association: Job Information List 
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... from one room to another. There is, of course, more trooping to some destinations than others. Stanley Fish, Elaine Showalter or Hillis Miller can fill a ballroom. Other speakers (particularly those consigned to unsocial hours) will address half-empty partitioned areas the size of broom cupboards. Time for all but keynote speakers is strictly rationed ...


Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John Skelton, 14 December 2006

John Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... years later. Although an increasing number of critics have turned their attention to him, a young Stanley Fish among them, one still had the feeling that the code had not been cracked, that he was a poet who had not yet found his critic. In the event, there has been no single great breakthrough: just a series of books and articles that have, little by ...

Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland, 15 August 1991

ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... and Maxine Hong Kingston. Literature and history now worked exclusively ‘from below’. Stanley Hauerwas’s pronouncement that ‘the canon of great literature was created by high-Anglican assholes to underwrite their social class’ was paraded as a commandment of the PC movement. Hauerwas is a professor of theological ethics at Duke. Also cited ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... the defeated peasant and the suffering Christ). The 13 remaining essays, whose authors include Stanley Fish, Louis Montrose, Stephen Orgel and Robert Weimann, concentrate on Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. A number of these essays are concerned with representation in a fairly strict sense of the term – representations of the self, of gender, of ...

The Divine Miss P.

Elaine Showalter, 11 February 1993

Sex, Art and American Culture 
by Camille Paglia.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, March 1993, 0 670 84612 0
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... paper on Divine, Gilbert and Gubar’s antiphonal lectures, the jab-and-parry pronouncements of Stanley Fish, Marge Garber’s study of transvestites, brought a humour and imagination to the lecture and essay from which Paglia profits, although these are among the rivals she most detests. Paglia is fun to read, especially in small doses. Her blasts at ...


James Wood: The ‘TLS’, 27 June 2002

Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... control of his material crumbles a little as he covers the theory wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Stanley Fish is oddly linked to something called ‘pragmaticism’. But May does deliver the piquant information that the TLS was for a while so mistrusted by literary theorists that Martin Walker of the Guardian was dispatched in the hope of writing a ...

The Things about Bayley

Nicholas Spice, 7 May 1987

The Order of Battle at Trafalgar, and other essays 
by John Bayley.
Collins Harvill, 224 pp., £12, April 1987, 0 00 272848 6
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... person will take for granted. To make matters worse, he uses favoured terminology inconsistently (Stanley Fish claimed to find 17 different meanings for the word ‘division’ in Bayley’s book The Uses of Division). Meanwhile, Bayley’s belief in the role of the critic as a judge is derided as antediluvian, and the scale of values by which he judges ...

In theory

Christopher Ricks, 16 April 1981

... Hartman is not a theorist himself, not even a theorist malgré lui, but an advocate of theory. Stanley Fish is both advocate and theorist. The blurb to Is there a text in this class?† dubs him ‘one of America’s most stimulating literary theorists’: the advertisements have upped this to ‘one of the world’s most stimulating literary ...
Modernity and Identity 
edited by Scott Lash and Jonathan Friedman.
Blackwell, 448 pp., £45, January 1992, 0 631 17585 7
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Fundamentalisms Observed 
edited by Martin Marty and Scott Appleby.
Chicago, 872 pp., $40, November 1991, 0 226 50877 3
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The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial 
by Margaret Rose.
Cambridge, 317 pp., £35, July 1991, 0 521 40131 3
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Under God: Religion and American Politics 
by Garry Wills.
Simon and Schuster, 445 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 671 65705 4
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... that a fundamentalist may (paradoxically) be as much a ‘card-carrying anti-foundationalist’ as Stanley Fish. All of which suggests that the characteristically post-modern assumption that (to quote Fish) ‘questions of fact, truth, correctness, validity and clarity ... are intelligible and debatable only within the ...

Culler and Deconstruction

Gerald Graff, 3 September 1981

The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction 
by Jonathan Culler.
Routledge, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 7100 0757 4
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... they are changeable. This view would seem to align Culler with the most recent work of Stanley Fish (only Fish’s earlier views are taken up by Culler here), who argues influentially in Is there a text in this class? that interpreters have no recourse to ‘independent evidence’ in disputes over ...


Alexander Nehamas, 22 May 1986

Contest of Faculties: Philosophy and Theory after Deconstruction 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 247 pp., £16, November 1985, 0 416 39939 8
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Philosophical Profiles 
by Richard Bernstein.
Polity, 313 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7456 0226 6
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Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism 
edited by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 146 pp., £12.75, November 1985, 0 226 53226 7
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... the fact that texts mean what their author intend.’ This astonishing statement is echoed by Stanley Fish, who writes that the attack against theory ‘says nothing about what we can now do or not do, it is an account of what we have always been doing and cannot help but do’: that is to say, ‘act in accordance with the standards and norms that ...

Return of the real

A.D. Nuttall, 23 April 1992

Uncritical Theory: Post-Modernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War 
by Christopher Norris.
Lawrence and Wishart, 218 pp., £9.99, February 1992, 0 85315 752 9
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... or even nihilist in tendency. The villains in this book are Jean Baudrillard, Richard Rorty, Stanley Fish, Jean-François Lyotard and Michel Foucault, closely followed, as we shall see, by Presidents Reagan and Bush, Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The heroes are – well, Derrida, of course, but above all Noam Chomsky, here exalted especially ...

The spirit in which things are said

Arnold Davidson, 20 December 1984

Themes out of School: Causes and Effects 
by Stanley Cavell.
Scolar/North Point, 288 pp., £16.95, January 1985, 0 86547 146 0
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... Since the publication of Must we mean what we say? in 1969, it has been said that Stanley Cavell’s books are unreviewable, a remark that will no doubt again be applied to his latest work. This remark has been repeated too often, by too many distinguished and distinctive philosophers, to be simply false, but neither should it be taken as flatly true ...

Theory and Truth

Frank Kermode, 21 November 1991

Minor Prophecies: The Literary Essay in the Culture Wars 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Harvard, 252 pp., £23.95, October 1991, 0 674 57636 5
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Spinoza and the Origins of Modern Critical Theory 
by Christopher Norris.
Blackwell, 240 pp., £30, July 1990, 0 631 17557 1
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What’s wrong with Postmodernism: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy 
by Christopher Norris.
Harvester, 287 pp., £40, October 1990, 0 7450 0714 7
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... with this false doctrine. Accordingly Derrida is defended against the strictures of Habermas and Stanley Fish; neither he nor de Man can properly be accused of this Post-Modernism wickedness. What’s wrong with Postmodernism has long polemical essays on Habermas, Fish, Baudrillard and others; Baudrillard in ...

Talk about doing

Frank Kermode, 26 October 1989

Against Deconstruction 
by John Ellis.
Princeton, 168 pp., £13.70, February 1989, 0 691 06754 6
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The New Historicism 
by H. Aram Veeser.
Routledge, 318 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 415 90070 0
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Rethinking Historicism: Critical Essays in Romantic History 
by Marjorie Levinson, Marilyn Butler, Jerome McGann and Paul Hamilton.
Blackwell, 149 pp., £22.50, August 1989, 0 631 16591 6
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Towards a Literature of Knowledge 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 138 pp., £16.50, May 1989, 9780198117407
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The Stoic in Love: Selected Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 209 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 7450 0614 0
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... so that there already seems to be more theory than practice, which is, after all, the trend. As Stanley Fish remarks in a magisterial afterword to Veeser’s collection, most of these people are not doing New Historicism but only talking about doing it, often in prose that has taken on that self-important semi-illiteracy of which I have already ...

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