Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Institutional, Pedagogical, and Interpretive Rhetoric

From Stanley Fish's essay "What Makes an Interpretation Acceptable?" in his book Is There a Text in This Class?:

"Disagreements cannot be resolved by reference to the facts, because the facts emerge only in the context of some point of view. It follows, then, that disagreements must occur between those who hold (or are held by) different points of view, and what is at stake in a disagreement is the right to specify what the facts can hereafter be said to be. Disagreements are not settled by the facts, but are the means by which the facts are settled. Of course, no such settling is final and in the (almost certain) event that the dispute is opened again, the category of the facts 'as they really are' will be reconstituted in still another shape." (338-9)

"The shape of [interpretation] is determnined by the literary institution which at any one time will auhtorize only a finite numbere of interpretative strategies. Thus, while there is no core of agreement in the text, there is a core of agreement (although one subject to change) concerning the ways of producing the text. Nowhere is this set of acceptable ways written down, but it is a part of everyone's knowledge of what it means to be operating within the literary institution as it is now constituted." (342-3)

"Change is not random but orderly and, to some extent, predictable. A new interpretive strategy always makes its way in some relationship of opposition to the old, which has often marked out a negative space (of things that aren't done) from which it can emerge into respectability...

Rhetorically the new position announces itself as a break from the old, but in fact it is radically dependent on the old because it is only in the context of some differential relationship that it can be perceived as new or, for that matter, perceived at all." (349)

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