Fish, Stanley Eugene

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Stanley Eugene Fish was born April 19, 1938 in Providence, Rhode Island. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1959. He did graduate work at Yale University, from which he received a Master's Degree in 1960 and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in 1962. His dissertation was entitled The Poetry of Awareness: A Reassessment of John Skelton .

Fish taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1962-1974, at Johns Hopkins University from 1974-1985, and at Duke University from 1985-1998. He was chair of the Department of English at both Johns Hopkins (1983-1985) and Duke University (1986-1992). In January 1999 he was appointed Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a position in which he continues to serve as of 2003 and where he also holds a professorship in English and Criminal Justice.

Fish is widely known for his work in a variety of areas: Milton, reader-response criticism, professionalism, political correctness, legal theory, and literary theory more generally. Throughout his career Fish has focused on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, particularly poetry. This is the area in which Fish has taught and published the most, beginning with his dissertation on the poet John Skelton, and continuing through his earliest book publications--including John Skelton's Poetry (1965), Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost (1967), Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth Century Literature (1972), and The Living Temple : George Herbert and Catechizing (1978)--to his latest collection of essays, How Milton Works (2001).

From 1980 onwards, with the publication of Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities, Stanley Fish's work took a much more explicitly theoretical turn. He is frequently acknowledged as one of the founders of reader-response criticism, a reference to his work beginning in the 1970s. The question of interpretation has been central to his scholarly interests, from early reader-response work focusing on the text, to a more reader-centered position and the theory of interpretive communities, to the problem of theorizing interpretation in legal studies.

Note: Much of the information in this summary of Stanley Fish's work was drawn from an article on Fish by Reed Way Dasenbrock in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).


  • 1938: Born April 19 in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • 1959: B.A., University of Pennsylvania.
  • 1960: M.A., Yale University.
  • 1962: Ph.D., Yale University (dissertation: The Poetry of Awareness: A Reassessment of John Skelton).
  • 1962 - 1963 : Instructor, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 1963 - 1967 : Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 1965: John Skelton's Poetry (Yale University Press).
  • 1967: Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost (Macmillan/St. Martin's); reprinted, with a new preface and appendix, 1971 (University of California Press); second edition, 1997 (Harvard University Press).
  • 1967: Visiting Associate Professor, Washington University.
  • 1967 - 1970 : Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 1969 - 1970 : Guggenheim Fellowship.
  • 1970 - 1974 : Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 1971: Editor, Seventeenth Century Prose: Modern Essays in Criticism (Oxford University Press).
  • 1971: Visiting Professor, Johns Hopkins University.
  • 1971: Visiting Professor, Linguistics Institute, State University of New York, Buffalo.
  • 1972: Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature (University of California Press).
  • 1973 - 1974 : Visiting Bing Professor of English, University of Southern California.
  • 1974 - 1978 : Professor of English, Johns Hopkins University.
  • 1976 - 1985 : Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland Law School.
  • 1978: The Living Temple: George Herbert and Catechizing (University of California Press).
  • 1978 - 1985 : William Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and Humanities, Johns Hopkins University.
  • 1980: Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Harvard University Press).
  • 1983 - 1984 : Visiting Professor, Columbia University.
  • 1983 - 1985 : Chairman, Department of English, Johns Hopkins University.
  • 1985 - 1998 : Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law, Duke University.
  • 1986 - 1992 : Chairman, Department of English, Duke University.
  • 1989: Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies (Duke University Press).
  • 1989: Fellow, Humanities Research Institute, University of California, Irvine.
  • 1993 - 1998 : Executive Director, Duke University Press.
  • 1994: There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing, Too (Oxford University Press).
  • 1995: Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change (Oxford University Press).
  • 1995: Distinguished Visiting Faculty Fellow, Center for Ideas and Society, University of California, Riverside.
  • 1995: Adjunct Professor of Law, Columbia University.
  • 1999: The Trouble with Principle (Harvard University Press).
  • 1999 - : Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor of English and Criminal Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • 2001: How Milton Works (Harvard University Press).

From the guide to the Stanley Fish papers, 1921-2001, bulk 1960-1998, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn News Service Biographical Files, ., circa 1930s - 2004 University Archives, Duke University.
referencedIn Papers, 1920-1995. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Stanley Fish papers, 1921-2001, bulk 1960-1998 University of California, Irvine. Library. Department of Special Collections
referencedIn Joel Fineman Papers, ca. 1974-1989 Bancroft Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Duke University. News Service. corporateBody
correspondedWith Fineman, Joel. person
associatedWith Levin, Harry, 1912-1994 person
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1938-04-19





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SNAC ID: 30914772