We will show how Fish's theory defeats itself by applying it to a curious fragment from Marguerite Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien, a long, imagined meditation from the dying Roman emperor Hadrian. In the original French, Yourcenar writes,
La chair elle-même, cet instrument de muscles, de sang, et d’épiderme, ce rouge nuage dont l’âme est l’éclair.
It is possible to provide a word-for-word translation with no loss of specificity:
... middle of paper ...
...through a simple misunderstanding extract such a thing as an incorrect meaning from a text. Hence we have found Fish's “disappearing” text, a thing apart from the reader. Secondly, we have used different understandings of a text to synthetically create two antagonistic interpretive communities which we have been able to judge absolutely. The feasibility of this judgment refutes Fish's argument that literary criticism should be confined to creating and grouping interpretations, but not judging them. In effect, we have shown that the tools of executive Reader Response Criticism allow us to judge the interpretive communities created by the epistemological Reader Response Theory. We have not proven that either aspect of the theory is unviable, but we have discovered that Reader Response Theory is an incoherent whole, unable to accommodate its overreaching constituents.
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