[Milton-L] Split-Reader

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Mon Feb 23 09:52:43 EST 2004

Dear Debbie,

You might want to look at pp. 20-21 of John Rumrich's book *Milton
Unbound* (CUP 1996).  Rumrich cites his own "anecodatal evidence," drawn
from (his then) 15 years of teaching, to refute Fish's model of the
"split reader" (as you call it), or "entrapment" (as Carol prefers to
call it).  Apparently, none of John's students had responded in the way
Stanley says readers do, though John acknowledges (with tongue in cheek)
that "Maybe they were all lying."  Whatever one thinks of the question,
John's critique of Stanley does identify a major difficulty with the
latter's argument:  Stanley is forever telling us that we *have*
responded in a certain way, not persuading us that we ought to do so.
This makes him vulnerable to anyone who says "I didn't respond like
that."  On the other hand, some people must have shared at least some of
Stanley's reading experiences or Surprised by Sin would not have enjoyed
the success it has enjoyed.  Fish tries to rebut Rumrich in the preface
to his Second Edition of Surprised by Sin.  

A problem for both sides, in my view, is that there is no such thing as
a neutral observer, so it is fiendishly difficult, even impossible, to
conduct a classroom experiment.  

John Leonard

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Deborah Dale
Sent: Monday, February 23, 2004 4:37 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Split-Reader

Forgive me if the answer to this question is common knowledge, but I am
librarian and not a professor of literature.  Stanley Fish defined the
split-reader in _Paradise Lost_ as one who follows a "yes no yes no"
of thought.  I am wondering, for those of you who teach this text,
you have witnessed students exhibiting this type of thinking, or whether
have openly discussed this reading behavior in class. I am not doubting
split-reader exists.  Rather, I would like to find out how often the
behavior happens and whether there may be other texts written during the
same time period or prior to Milton that follow the same deliberate
yes no yes no.

Debbie Dale

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