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There's No Such Thing as Free Speech
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About the Author

Stanley Fish is Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law at Duke University. A founder of Reader Response Theory, he is the author of many books, including Surprised by Sin, Self-Consuming Artifacts, Is There a Text in this Class?, and Doing What Comes Naturally.

Reviews

Head of Duke University's English Department and putative flag-bearer for political correctness, Fish here collects a lively and vigorous sampling of his cultural criticism. Notable are his textured essays written for a series of campus debates with conservative Dinesh D'Souza. Fish places such current education controversies as those over multiculturist requirements in historical perspective; scores simplistic critics of affirmative action; suggests self-segregation can be justified as an exercise of autonomy; and observes that political power and `` real political correctness'' is determined by the ``triple threat of money, media domination and governmental regulation.'' His provocative title essay argues cogently that the neat legal definition between speech and conduct breaks down in concrete examples. In more abstruse essays, Fish turns his analytic skills, honed in literarycriticism, to dissect some of the presumptions of legal thought. If the essays do range a bit, they are linked by a skeptical and probing voice. (Nov.)

Fish, the author of numerous books on Milton, literary theory, and the politics of teaching, has become in recent years famous for defending the contemporary academy in a series of debates held at various colleges and universities with the neo-conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza. In anticipation of these debates, he prepared five remarkable essays, which constitute the core of this learned and wide-ranging collection. Other essays concern the political and historical context of controversies over the notion of ``free speech,'' as well as the enduring legacy of Milton and the masochism of Volvo-driving academics. Despite his public reputation, Fish's views cannot be easily subsumed under such labels as ``deconstructionist,'' ``post-structuralist,'' or even ``leftist.'' The provocative title simply refers to the fact that, as Fish avers, ``the act of speaking would make no sense . . . absent some already-in-place and (for the time being) unquestioned ideological vision.'' Many readers will find pleasure in Fish's simultaneously literate but blunt prose style. Recommended for informed readers.-- Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York

"Often provocative, sometimes perverse--but always teeming with punchlines--this book provides enjoyable reading material."--Hindu "He revels...in an exhilarating negative capability, providing a collection of essays that delights in the wholesale slaughter of sacred cows."--Sunday Times (London) "These essays should...stimulate and provoke a reader of any political persuasion, and all will appreciate Fish's perspicuous and engaging writing style....Especially worthwhile reading."--The Review of Politics "A unicorn in the toughminded workaday world of legal education....Mr. Fish deflates anointed truths with joyful abandon, and he is at his best in exposing the often baleful effects wrought by mean-spirited defenders of traditional values."--The New York Times Book Review "Splendid essays by Milton scholar and literary theorist Fish that express his centrist, mediating, pragmatic position in the recent cultural wars over theory, politics, and the place of literature in society....Clear, eloquent, personalbe....Fish offers here exactly what he argues for: clarity, integrity, conviction, the common place of common sense."--Kirkus Reviews "Fish, the author of numerous books on Milton, literary theory, and the politics of teaching, has become in recent years famous for defending the contemporary academy in a series of debates held at various colleges and universities with the neo-conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza. In anticipation of these debates, he prepared five remarkable essays, which constitute the core of this learned and wide-ranging collection. Other essays concern the political and historical context of controversies of the notion of 'free speech,' as well as with the enduring legacy of Milton and the masochism of Volvo-driving academics. Despite his public reputation, Fish's views cannot be easily subsumed under such laabels as 'deconstructionist,' 'post-structuralist,' or even 'leftist.'...Many readers will find pleasure in Fish's simultaneously literate but blunt prose style. Recommended."--Library Journal "Contemporary culture without Stanley Fish? Without his intrepid brilliance? Without his verve? Without his zest--for controversy and for life? What a bleak, impoverished place contemporary culture would be."--Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University "Let the reader beware! Stanley Fish's new book There's No Such Thing As Free Speech will prompt liberals and conservatives alike to campaign to have this English professor named to fill the next U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. While not a lawyer, Fish's essays convince me that the nation needs his brand of historically aware, politically astute, and culturally attuned pragmatism on its highest court."--Derrick Bell, New York University School of Law "Those who know Stanley Fish will tell you that arguing with him is always an exhilarating and edifying experience, and his new book can be depended on to give its readers the same pleasures and rewards. Brilliant and audacious, There's No Such Thing As Free Speech is vintage Fish: with its swingeing wit, rapid-fire reductios, and bold turns of argument, Fish turns the 'cultural wars' inside out."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Loose Canons, and W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University "By turns funny, savage, and sly--a brilliant and devastating indictment of first amendment orthodoxy."--Richard Delgado, Charles Inglis Thomson Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law "An important book for those who wish to find some common sense, eminently argued, regarding the culture wars that presently embroil American society."--The Bloomsbury Review "This book is Stanley Fish at his best, passionately hilarious, conservatively radical, delightfully disagreeable, subversively autonomous. This deeply intelligent reflection on campus politics, political pedantry and the first amendment is sure to provoke both insight and argument, yet it avoids the main-spirited sound and fury that has characterized too much recent debate on these toughest of topics."--Patricia J. Williams, Professor of Law, Columbia University "Good sense, clarity, liveliness."--The Washington Post "Quite possibly the clearest response to the attacks on curricular reform to date."--The Boston Globe "A fine introduction to one of the greatest and most accessible minds in contemporary Western thought."--The Independent "Bracing stuff, confrontational and edgy and eminently worth grappling with....[Fish is] the Bobby Hurley of intellectuals. He's the scrappy guy from Duke who's always fun to watch--until it's your own favorite team (or idea) he's harassing. But have you ever noticed? He always seems to make your team play harder."--The Independent Weekly "This is not after dinner or just before bed reading. But if you want to know more about the debate that is about to boil off our campuses and start affecting our lives, There's Not Such Thing as Free Speech is the place to start."--Roanoke Times & World News "If you believe in tolerance, fairness, merit, free speech--you know, all the golden verities that have supposedly held Western Civilization together--meet Stanley Fish, who may well be your worst nightmare. Not only does he not believe in any of these, he argues against all of them, forcefully, wittily, and--sometimes--persuasively."--American Way "Stanley Fish is the Roseanne Barr of the professoriate, an immensely talented ham who delights in offending the pious."--Cleveland Plain Dealer "There is such a thing as Stanley Fish...and it's a good thing, too."--Globe and Mail "This is an important book for those who wish to find some common sense, eminently argued, regarding the culture wars that presently embroil American society."--Scott Vickers, The Bloomsbury Review

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