Sentences and Sardines

What is the relationship between forms of writing and forms of thought? This question has preoccupied the literary critic and legal scholar Stanley Fish for decades. In the 1970s Fish was among a group of thinkers interested in what is called “Reader-Response” criticism and he was a significant theorist of the idea of “interpretive communities” that we were working with a couple of weeks ago.

A professor and a public intellectual, Fish also writes for a non-academic audience. In fact, I recommend that you read a three-part essay that Fish wrote for the New York Times in 2009 titled “What Colleges Should Teach.” Among the more interesting things about these articles is the comment stream. Fish has a way of framing questions and problems that provoke people–startling them like a school of sardines. The three pieces make a case for an approach to teaching writing in colleges and universities.