Stanley Eugene Fish (born 19 April 1938) is an American literary theorist and legal scholar. He was born and raised in Providence. He is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, as well as Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the author of 12 books.
- The structure of a fully articulated profession is such that those who enter its precincts will find that the basic decisions, about where to look, what to do, and how to do it, have already been made.
- as cited in Historics: Why History Dominates Contemporary Society, p. 135
- Literary interpretation, like virtue, is its own reward. I do it because I like the way I feel when I'm doing it.
- Interview by Mark Bauerlein, "A Solitary Thinker," The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 15, 2001
How To Write A Sentence And How To Read One (2011)
- Before the words slide into their slots, they are just discrete items, pointing everywhere and nowhere.
- Chapter 1, Why Sentences?, p. 2
- We marvel at them; we read them aloud to our friends and spouses, even, occasionally, to passersby; we analyze them; we lament our inability to match them.
- Chapter 1, Why Sentences?, p. 4
- No word floats without an anchoring connection within an overall structure.
- Chapter 2, Why You Don't Find The Answer In Strunk And White, p. 17
- It may sound paradoxical, but verbal fluency is the product of many hours spent writing about nothing, just as musical fluency is the product of hours spent repeating scales.
- Chapter 3, It's Not The Thought That Counts, p. 26
- Know what makes a sentence more than a random list, practice constructing sentences and explaining what you have done, and you will know how to make sentences forever and you will know too when what you are writing doesn't make the grade because it has degenerated into a mere pile of discrete items.
- Chapter 3, It's Not The Thought That Counts, p. 33
- People write or speak sentences in order to produce an effect, and the success of a sentence is measured by the degree to which the desired effect has been achieved.
- Chapter 4, What Is A Good Sentence?, p. 37
- Sentence writers are not copyists; they are selectors.
- Chapter 4, What Is A Good Sentence?, p. 38
- What we know of the world comes to us through words, or, to look at it from the other direction, when we write a sentence, we create a world, which is not the world, but the world as is appears within a dimension of assessment.
- Chapter 4, What Is A Good Sentence?, p. 39
- Language is not a handmaiden to perception; it is perception; it gives shape to what would otherwise be inert and dead. The shaping power of language cannot be avoided. We cannot choose to distance ourselves from it. We can only choose to employ it in one way rather than another.
- Chapter 4, What Is A Good Sentence?, p. 42
- Just as you can practice three - word sentences or sentences that travel across time zones, so can you practice writing sentences that breathe unshakable conviction.
- Chapter 5, The Subordinate Style, p. 48
- The word "essay" means to try out, test, probe. In the essay style, successive clauses and sentences are not produced by an overarching logic, but by association; the impression that prose gives is that it can go anywhere in a manner wholly unpredictable.
- Chapter 6, The Additive Style, p. 62
- The category of first sentence makes sense only if it is looking forward to the development of thematic concerns it perhaps only dimly foreshadows.
- Chapter 8, First Sentences, p. 99
- They are their own monuments, as is this quietly thrilling sentence.
- Chapter 9, Last Sentences, p. 130
- "The idea — the core idea of humanism — is that the act of reading about great deeds will lead you to imitate them,.."
- Chapter 10, Sentences That Are About Themselves (Aren't They All?), p. 137
- Sentences can save us. Who could ask for anything more?
- Epilogue, p. 160
Quotes about Stanley Fish
- Fish has raised careerism to a worldview. In this way, he is a man for our time.