Positioning: In the Church and University but Not of Either
In the introduction to Doing What Comes Natural/y: Change, Rhetoric, and
the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies (Durham, N.
Duke Univer-
sity Press, 1989), Fish identifies himself as "white, male, a teacher, a literary
critic, a student of interpretation, a member of a law faculty, a father, a son,
an uncle, a husband (twice), a citizen, a (passionate) consumer, a member of
the middle class, a Jew, the oldest of four children, a cousin, a brother, a
brother-in-law, a Democrat, short, balding, fifty, an easterner who has been a
westerner and is now a southerner, a voter, a neighbor, an optimist, a depart-
ment chairman" (p.
Though I cannot confirm all of these self-descriptions,
since I live next door I know he is a neighbor and on the whole a good one. I
do, however, think it pretentious for him to claim to be a southerner, since he
will never know how to "talk right."
This series of self-identifications Fish uses to make the important point
that his critique of foundationalist claims for transcontextual rationalism
should not be taken to invoke an alternative totalizing structure. He names his
membership in the various interpretative communities to indicate his enter-
prise is not "pure" and to note that conflict can occur between these various
"roles." I mention this because my identification as "Christian" can invite a
far too monochromatic account of what it means to be Christian. I certainly
think being Christian has a distinct character, but the lives of the saints make
clear that there are many ways to be Christian. That does not mean I am
in agreement with Fish's way of putting the matter, since I know being a
southerner should never be described as a "role." You can never play at being
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