Interpretive Communities


Reader-Response Theorist, Stanley Fish first introduced the concept of interpretive communities in his 1976 essay Interpreting the Variorum. Fish suggests that the interpretation of a text is dependent upon the subjective experience of each individual reader of the text. Fish proposes that readers form part of an interpretative community and that interpretive strategies or a set of community assumptions can influence a reader to interpret a text in a certain way.  

 Fish divided the act of reading into two categories. He suggests that a single reader can interpret different texts in different ways and that several different readers can interpret the same text in similar ways. He argues that these similar interpretations suggest that the readers follow certain reading strategies more closely than the text itself. He determines that these strategies enable the reader to interpret and find meaning in the text.  

 Fish provides an example to demonstrate his assumptions, a reading of Lycidas He proposes that if an individual agrees with his interpretation of the text they are not agreeing to the content of the text but agreeing on how to read the text. This example also indicates that reading strategies are flexible and shaped by the reader. 

Fish argues that a reader produces a literary text, with out the reader, a text would not exist. The reader has a central role in evaluating the text and giving it meaning.  A group of people who share the same strategies for interpreting a text are part of a single interpretive community. 

 To summarise, interpretive communities are groups who interpret texts similarly because they share similar social positions, experiences and ways of reading a text. 

Drink: Echo Falls Summer Berries

Song: Going Underground, The Jam