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Reviews435 Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and tL· Practice ofTL·ory in Literary and Legal Studies, by Stanley Fish; ? & 613 pp. Durham: Duke University Press, 1980, $35.00. You don't read Fish for die point, but for the performance—which is precisely his point. Not diat he is merely a deft and witty performer (which he is). What Fish argues is diat no point can be considered apart from die context of its performance, for all utterances and interpretations are limited, perspectival, and interested. This position he labels "anti-foundationalism," and its far-reaching consequences he enumerates in his introductory chapter. But if the simple exposition of the anti-foundationalist stance were the only point of the book, one would hardly need to read further. In the ensuing twenty essays, however, Fish performs his point in a number ofspheres—literary criticism, composition theory, legal studies, speech-act theory, Frankfurt School critical theory, professionalism , Freudian analysis—and foUowing him through these context-specific arguments is well worth the effort. Readers famUiar with Fish's Is There a Text in This Class? (1980) wUl recognize the shape ofhis basic contention that "interpretation is a structure ofconstraints, a structure which, because it is always and already in place, renders unavaUable the independent or uninterpreted text and renders unimaginable the independent and freely interpreting reader" (p. 98). Texts are never directly given, but always perspectivally read and hence open to reinterpretation. Yet foundationalists need not fear that reading is therefore prey to rampant subjectivity, for readers themselves are limited by die language, ideas, conventions, and institutions that form them. That which regulates die production of text and reader Fish caUs an "interpretive community," a structure of constraints yet also "an engine of change," for it "is always engaged in doing work, the work oftransforming the landscape into material for its own project; but diat project is then itself transformed by the very work it does" (p. 150). The interpretive community, in short, is a self-regulating teleonomic system whose membercomponents are, in a certain sense, along for the ride. Fish himself is an astute and perspicuous reader. He dexterously extracts and problematizes the foundational distinctions diat ground the arguments of such literary critics as Iser (chap. 3), Booth (chap. 9), and Bate (chap. 10), and such legal scholars as Dworkin (chaps. 4, 5, 16), Fiss (chap. 6), and Posner (chap. 13), occasionally mounting critiques of devastating power (see especiaUy his remarks on Bate and Posner). He also offers pointed readings of several left-wingtheorists, such as Ohmann (chap. 11), Unger (chap. 18), and Habermas (chap. 19), chaUenging dieir claim that critical self-consciousness frees one from constraints (which Fish insists are not lifted through self-reflection, but simply 436Philosophy and Literature replaced by new constraints). Perhaps die finest moments in this book come in Fish's history of postwar MUton criticism (chap. 12) and in his rhetorical reading of Freud's case history of the Wolf Man (chap. 22). Here Fish offers the most compeUing demonstrations ofhis thesis and die most striking instances of his interpretive skUls. If there are limitations in Fish's analyses (and according to his position there must be limitations), they arise from his adoption of the linguistic turn. For Fish, interpretation is ubiquitous and persuasion fundamental in human interaction . Fish rightly insists that interpretation and persuasion rule the discourse of foundationalists and anti-foundationalists alike, but he faUs to note diat both groups are masters ofthe word whose power arises from their abUity to convert the nondiscursive relations and assumptions ofodiers into language. Nor does he fuUy appreciate the power specific to interpretive communities, which aUow bodi rational argumentation and rhetorical persuasion to take place by holding at bay die pressures of nonlinguistic forces. Persuasion may reign in interpretive communities, but there are plenty ofother communities in which nonrational and nondiscursive forces rule the day (witness contemporary China). Perhaps it is to this point—the relation between linguistic and nonlinguistic forces—that Fish wUl turn his future insightful performances. University of GeorgiaRonald Bogue Meaning and Being in Myth, by Norman Austin; xi & 239 pp. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990, $28.50. Though die jacket promises a Lacanian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 435-436
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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