The Delta


When the New Critical theoretical paradigm began to dissolve in the 1980s, the theories that challenged it were, in many ways, completely antithetical to the New Critic paradigm. These new theories legitimized that which the New Critic rejected as invalid. Marxists inserted ideology into theory; Feminists added women. Some of the more acute challenges came from reader-response critics, who supplanted the text for the reader. It is the reader, they argue, who holds interpretive power, not the text. However, reader-response critics have always been susceptible to the charge of relativism. How can one avoid complete subjectivity? How can one stabilize the text, while still making room for the reader? These are just a few of the many questions reader-response critics must answer. Within reader-response theory, scholars have many different ways of dealing with this problem. One influential solution is Stanley Fish's concept of the interpretive community. It serves a vital purpose, but this purpose is very different from the one Fish gives it. This theory has been challenged and dismissed by most of Fish's critics for many just reasons. However, his critics are wrong to completely eliminate the interpretive community. The real problem with the concept is that Fish dangerously misapplies his theory, thereby embedding it in a power structure that creates a discussion about power and ideology and not truth.