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Harry Chen

Peng Yi
Thesis Writing and Methodology

Why No Ones Afraid of Wolfgang Iser

To Fish, Wolfgang Iser as a scholar takes no side in literary theory,
and not appears on anyones list. In the beginning of his article,
Stanley Fish states that by taking no sides, Iser gets away with all
the debates and appears to be influential without
controversial(Fish 2) However, Iser doesnt consider his non-sided
situation as a way to get away debates, but as to embrace the
rightness of both sides without seeking to reconcile the
incompatible. And he also thinks his influence comes from
embracing the truth from various sides. (Iser 83)
Later in the Why No Ones Afraid of Wolfgang Iser, Fish
summarized the main idea of Isers theory and also points out how
they are essentially contradictory. One of the Isers non sided ideas
is his answer to the question of what is the source of interpretive
authority, text or reader-Iser answer both. (Fish 3) For in Isers
theory, they are both important for the concretization, and neither
the text nor the readers possess the meaning. [R]ather it
(meaning) is something produced or built up or assembled by a
process of interaction in which the two parties play quite different,
but interdependent roles.(Fish 3)Even though Iser still considers the
reader is more prominent role, because the text itself has no
meaning but a set of direction for assembling a meaning, which
makes the meaning a dynamic happening. (Fish 4)
When answering the differences between everyday languages and
literary language, he states the literary text is distinguished from
text of science because it has gaps or indeterminacies or
blanks in it. And in exactly those people can fill in with according
to their individual disposition(Fish 3) For in Isers theory, he thinks
the text is ahistorical, but remains there is differences between the
nineteenth and twentieth literary texts, which is becoming more and
more indeterminate. Under the structure and construction of text,
Iser points out that it provokes reader to an examination of their
limitations and distortions (Fish 5) the last non sided idea of Iser,
Fish picks out is the opposition between life and literature. To Iser,
literature is not mimetic or representational; but literature is
valuable because of the perspective it affords on life(Fish 5) By
saying so, Iser means that when the reader puts words together, the
texts begins exist as a gestalt in readers consciousness, and the
gestalt which is readers consciousness is altered by the structure
the text is building.(Fish 5) The readers images of virtual object
therefore have a reciprocal effect. They are both changing in the
process of reading. Later parts of the article, Fish highlights the
contradiction within Isers article
In order to explain how it works, he further develops his own

theory of given and supplied. Given ,which represents

empirical facts, to Iser is what an observer sees in the world, the
objects that one can sense, and the experience the one has. Being
different from given, Supplied represents what a reader invents
or imagines by reading the text. Examining Isers application of his
theory on Fieldinfs Tom Jones, Fish disagrees with Isers argument
that by juxtaposing perfect, later taken in by Blifil, Allworthy and
hypocritical Blifil creates gaps and blanks for readers to fill up. Fish
argues that if we perceive Allworthy as a perfect man, then we
would also assume him of not being taken in by a hypocrite. He also
points out that thinking the perfect man is inseparable from the
vulnerability shows good continuation with the result that Allworthy
later being taken in by Blifil, a hypocrite,. Either way, this
juxtaposition doesnt create gaps and blanks for reader to fill up, but
shows the good continuation of the text. And Fish further argues
that if texts cant offer clear gaps, not announce their shape but
appear in variety, and blur the distinction between given and
supplied, then it means he supplies everything.
Another example Fish points out is Isers theory on a chapter of
Vanity Fair entitled Arcadian Simplicity. To Iser that the Irony of
Arcadian Simplicity is not explicit in the sense that it announces
itself before interpretation begins; it will be ironic only in the light of
an interpretation- specification of the authors purpose-already
assumed.(8) However, Fish argues that its not necessary to be
interpreted as explicitly Ironic at all, but readers building up can
be really different from Iser and then develop the different meaning
of its title Arcadian Simplicity. Although Iser thinks who makes the
heading constitutes the determinate textual feature and lead
readers to their development, Fish disagrees and points out that one
cant perceive an interpretation before seeing and even seeing the
heading is a perception. Fish poses further concludes that
perception is never innocent of assumptions, and the assumptions
within which it occurs will-be responsible for the contours of what is
Fish also points out some mistakes that Iser makes in his theory
which he sees the world as a determinate object, and indeterminacy
is specified feature of literary experience. For Iser, dialogue in face
to face situation (perception) doesnt have the implicit meaning that
literary dialogue (ideation) functions. By doing so, he distinguishes
the perception and ideation. However, to Fish, perception itself is
an act of ideation. (10) Moreover, Fish further indicates that all the
experience and perception are under their conventional constraint,
and community interpretation, therefore indeterminate.