Professor Stanley Fish receives prestigious award from alma mater

The Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, the Yale Graduate School’s highest honor, was awarded to four outstanding alumni on October 4 by the Graduate School Alumni Association (GSAA). This year’s winners were Stanley Fish (PhD 1962, English), Leslie F. Greengard (MD/PhD 1987, Computer Science), Bernice Pescosolido (PhD 1982, Sociology), and Huntington F. Willard PhD 1979, Genetics).

Stanley Fish

Public intellectual Stanley Fish is one of the most prolific and important literary and cultural critics alive today. Currently serving as a visiting professor of law and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Senior Fellow at Yale Law School, he is also the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Florida International University and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Distinguished Professor of English, Criminal Justice, and Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has previously taught English, political science, criminal justice, religion, and law at the University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Duke, and Cardozo Law School. His lively, often irreverent essays on a wide range of topics appear regularly in the New York Times and on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. He is a frequent media commentator and has appeared on CNN, Hardball with Chris Matthews, The O’Reilly Factor, NBC Nightly News, and NPR. His 1967 book on English poet John Milton, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, not only turned the field of Milton studies upside down, but became one of the most influential books of literary criticism on any subject published over the course of several decades. His work on “reader-response criticism” drew attention to the process of reading and the significance of a reader’s experience, creating an entirely new set of tools with which to approach the study of literature.

A prolific and creative writer, Fish is author of more than 200 scholarly publications and over a dozen books, including Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities; Save the World on Your Own Time; There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech, and It’s a Good Thing, Too; and most recently, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One (2011), a celebration of the craft and pleasure of the sentence.

Fish’s Wilbur Cross lecture, “Academic Freedom Studies: The Inauguration of a New Field,” presented a taxonomy of the different positions held in debates over academic freedom, arranging them on a continuum from political right to left. He argued that positions on the right of the spectrum emphasize “academic,” while those on the left emphasize “freedom.”

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