ERIC Number: ED390040
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Jul
Reference Count: N/A
Fish's Constructions of the Interpretive Community, the Parol Evidence Rule, and the First Amendment.
Cauthen, Cramer R.
Despite Stanley Fish's assertion that the interpretive communities basic to his theory of literary and legal interpretation are "engines of change," it seems clear that in Fish's conception of change, "plus ca change, c'est plus la meme chose." In particular, Fish denies that the legal profession can achieve the more fundamentally egalitarian practices advocated by legal scholars. His fatalistic attitudes toward change are based in his essentialized construction of interpretive communities; these attitudes constitute a fundamental departure from the pragmatic rhetoricism that he extols. A minor adjustment, however, in Fish's conception of how interpretive communities function will retain the explanatory rigor of his theories while purging them of their essentialism. The point is not to deny the power of social conditioning in the formation of viewpoints from within an interpretive community but rather to deny that social conditioning is ultimate, that interpretive communities are inescapable or impervious to fundamental change. A new and more rhetorical way of thinking about interpretive communities might begin with Fish's analyses of the First Amendment and the parol evidence rule, a provision of contract law that demands that judges consider only the written language and agreement and not the context surrounding it. Fish suggests that when the First Amendment is honored in the breach, it nonetheless functions to "slow down outcomes." Similarly, interpretive communities might be seen as constraints on thinking that can be breached but which guide, to some degree, the act of breaching itself. (Contains nine references.) (TB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Contract Law; Essentialism; First Amendment; Fish (Stanley); Interpretive Communities; Legal Writing; Social Constructivism
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition (14th, University Park, PA, July 12-15, 1995).