THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS FREE SPEECH by Stanley Fish

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS FREE SPEECH

And It's a Good Thing, Too
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Splendid essays by Milton scholar and literary theorist Fish (Doing What Comes Naturally, 1990, etc.; English/Duke) that express his centrist, mediating, pragmatic position in the recent cultural wars over theory, politics, and the place of literature in society. The first ten essays here derive from debates that Fish participated in with Dinesh D'Souza during a tour of college campuses in which Fish assumed the liberal position defending tolerance, equality, and nondiscrimination against D'Souza's conservative appeal to transcendent values. In a clear, eloquent, personable--if relentlessly logical--style, Fish reveals the hidden and self-defeating agendas of both sides, the self-deluding coercions of liberalism especially. Essentially, he argues that liberals create what they set out to avoid: tyranny, discrimination, censorship. Fish concludes that free speech can't be legislated; instead, it's ``what is left over when a community has determined in advance what it does not want to hear.'' The rest of the text consists of the author's take on various academic issues--the impossibility of interdisciplinary studies; the ineffectualness of literary theory, especially neo-historicism, which, Fish says, is simply out of touch with the literature it's studying and the world it's trying to relate to. In a gracious lecture delivered on the occasion of an award from the Milton Society, Fish reveals his admiration for the great writers; in a cynical one, he warns of the self-defeating character of academics who are so uncomfortable with pleasure that they create the conditions for the contempt in which society sometimes holds them. The text concludes with an interview conducted by Gary Olson, in which Fish restates his pedagogical and critical principles. Fish offers here exactly what he argues for: clarity, integrity, conviction, the common place of common sense. (First serial to Harper's and the Atlantic Monthly)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-508018-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993




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