Lit Theory Corner: “Interpretive Communities” Explained

In discussions of literary interpretation, one controversial issue has been the question of where meaning comes from, and who or what decides what that meaning is. In his essay, “Interpreting the Variorum”, Stanley Fish maintains that “Interpretive communities are made up of those who share interpretive strategies not for reading (in the conventional sense) but for writing texts, for constituting their properties and assigning their intentions” (Fish 219). In other words, Fish believes that meaning in a text comes from the perception of the reader and their various interpretive communities, or predisposed ideas about the world. This radical suggestion celebrates the fact that every piece of literature has no meaning on its own; the reader holds supremacy as their experience with a text determines its truth.

Interpretation strategies are what Stanley Fish argues “…are the shape of reading, and because they are the shape of reading, they give texts their shape, making them rather than, as it is usually assumed, arising from them” (Fish 218). In making this comment, Fish refutes the claim that one reads a text before interpreting it. Instead, he believes that the act of reading and the act of interpreting are one in the same; he creates the concept of interpretive communities to show where our preconceived notions of meaning are drawn from. These communities are characterized by the fact that they can be shared with other people, and that they are constantly being changed and shaped by conventions such as one’s education, family, friends, or religion. Interpretive communities explain why two people can read a text in the same way: for example, two students in an English class could agree that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has a theme of love, but this is not because the theme can be located within the text itself, but because the readers have been shaped by similar instruction to look for themes within literature.

New critics, such as Matthew Arnold, believe that literature has important things to teach us, and because of its spiritual comfort “…we must turn to poetry to ‘interpret life for us’” (Bertens 6). However, Stanley Fish would disagree that any interpretations or assumptions are found within a text themselves. One of his view’s main proponents is that “meanings are not extracted but made and made not by encoded forms but by interpretive strategies that call forms into being” (Fish 220). The essence of Fish’s argument is that significance cannot be pulled from the words written on a page by an author, but it is created by the way a reader understands a text using their individual interpretative communities, or “writes” it.

Fish does not deny that his radical ideas imply a world with no pure perception of truth. The standard way of thinking about interpretation is that every person can have their own ideas about a piece of literature as long as they can provide proof from the text. In contrast, Fish explores the notion that there is no need for said “proof” because meaning does not lie within the text but within the reader. The problem with this conception is that there is no ultimate truth to abide over all of the interpretations to be made. In a world where any piece of text is up for interpretation, the difference between literature and vernacular no longer exists. One is left with questions such as: What constitutes literature? What is “good”? What is “bad”? Fish squashes this fear of “interpretative anarchy” through the explanation that by being in an interpretive community with others, one can rest in the comfort that others agree with them. Whether or not this justification is enough to forget the ambiguous implications of Fish’s theory is the issue for most critics.

Although some might object that Stanley Fish’s idea of interpretive communities is too radical to be applied in the real world, it is still important to consider his implications in the realm of literary interpretation. Fish’s essay is significant because it criticizes other literary theories’ tendency to place meaning within the author’s intentions, rather than what the text means to its audience. If one were to disregard the more far-reaching parts of his claims, their perceptions about the world would still govern the way they read any piece of writing.

Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics. 3rd ed. Routledge, 2014. Print.

Fish, Stanley. Interpretive Communities. Print.


Creative License to Kill

I hated that painting. The one on the left wall. It was so cliché, and every time I passed it, I wanted it gone. A rage came up in the pit of my stomach as I imagined the oils of the painting smearing and melting as its canvas slowly peeled off from the frame corner by corner. The longer I stared at the awful painting, the more ways I invented to destroy it.

A jackhammer.

A backhoe.

Matches could work.

A steak knife.

A hungry pit-bull.

I could even try throwing it so hard that it landed in the bowels of the arctic tundra and disappeared forever.

My hate grew stronger with every passing glance at the thing, but I could never tell anyone about it. That would ruin my dastardly plan to destroy it! I would be the only single person with known motive to murder the so-called work of art; I had to figure out its weakness, and then when it was least expecting it, make a surprise attack.

Among all of this planning something occurred to me; why did I hate the stupid painting so much? It was the colors, the concept, the perspective…it was all just wrong. Totally wrong in my eyes.

But that’s when it hit me: both the idea and the backhoe I had not so intelligently left running without the brake. It was only wrong in my eyes. Who was I to critique a fifty year old painting when I knew nothing about art? (The medical bills from the backhoe accident also helped me come to this conclusion.)

So I just watched it hang there and occasionally gave it a glance. I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy it, so I returned the jackhammer to the construction site that had unknowingly let me borrow it, and I finally fed Sparky, my pit-bull. What if, by chance, some nutball found worth or beauty in the loathsome picture? It was just going to have to stay on the wall.

Old People Leave Me Speechless

I’ve had a lot of conversations at work with the elderly lately. I’ve learned two things: they love frozen yogurt, and they’ll say things that surprise you! I’m not pointing out their age to be rude, but there’s just something about my wrinkly friends that I find necessary to share. They sure can teach you a lot!
(Except Bob* from the nursing home. All he ever taught me was to not wake him up when he won bingo or he’d throw the prize at my face.)


Playing Dead

Me: (To Roshandala) So how are your dogs doing?

-She’s single and her six large doggies are like little kids who keep her busy. Every morning she goes downstairs and makes them go outside and run around for a little bit and go to the bathroom. Their beds are nice and warm and cozy though, so they don’t really like getting up early and going into the cold. –

Roshandala: Mitzy was being especially lazy this morning, even after all the other dogs went outside. So I said, “quit playing dead like a lazy bum, Mitzy!” Mitzy would not budge. I walked over to her doggie bed, “C’mon!!” But it turns out Mitzy wasn’t playing dead. She must have passed away in the night.

Sassy Granny
Me: That’ll be $5.32.

Sassy Granny: What! Can I put some of this yogurt back??

Me: Uhh.. I don’t think that’s possible. *chuckles*

Sassy Granny: Well that sucks ass. *hands me a twenty dollar bill*


Fabio: *looks down at tip jar* I’ll give ya a tip!

Me: Ohhh great here we go. 

Fabio: Don’t play leapfrog with a unicorn!! *cackles*

Me:..good advice sir


A Kind Word 
Me: *stressed out, trying to keep a rush under control*

MaryLou: I can see that you’re working hard, great job!

Me: *speechless*…thank you!

Try talking to an older person today! Or any person for that matter; they all have a story to tell that will surprise you, and make you laugh, cry or smile unexpectedly.
*names have been changed for the purpose of anonymity

Pinterest Challenge: Watermelon Sculpture

b3973eafccfa8259459e32eb986c1bcbThe Challenge: To make the turtliest turtle in the watermelon turtle club. In other words, make something similar to this pin.

Your Part: To decide if I FAILED IT 👎  or NAILED IT 👍

This challenge is especially exciting because it came with no instructions whatsoever. The picture is all I had to work from, so I had to bring in some extra creative watermelon juices to get the job done. And it was hard work! Please do not call me to make one of these for your party tomorrow because I just can’t do it. Too much pressure. Well, maybe I will because I like you and you mean a lot to me. But I’d prefer if you asked a few days in advance. Sorry to be so slow in getting to the challenge. Slow and steady wins the race. Tortoises. Turtles. Watermelon sculpture. Okay, moving on.


First I grabbed a watermelon from the supermarket; I tried to pick one that looked as green as a turtle. Selecting the perfect color and shape, while keeping in mind ripeness for the taste factor, was a hard job. Which is why I made my sister carry it back to the car.


Once I got it home, I realised that I don’t have any fancy sculpture tools. So I just grabbed a bunch of sharp stuff from the kitchen.

I wasn’t really sure how to start, so I just decided to cut the watermelon in half, and start digging! I usually just cut it up into cubes or slices, but I tried the fancy melon balling technique. It did not go as well as expected. In fact, the watermelon came out more like chunks and less like the fancy spheres I was hoping for. bloggif_558a25a169df6


                                      I could feel my biceps growing by the second as I scooped out the fruit. This is not a job for the weak!

After both sides were emptied, I trimmed pieces of the rind off to use for the turtle’s legs and head. There’s no easy way to do this, and I didn’t really know what I would use for what, but the scraps seemed like they had potential.IMG_2535

IMG_2537                                                               Carving the design into the shell was definitely the hardest part. I could not find any good way to do this. I tried a knife, a carrot peeler, a shish kabob stick, an orange peeler, and my fingernail. The edge of the carrot peeler not meant for peeling did the trick. Also, I’m not great with geometric patterns so it didn’t turn out symmetrically.

Now it’s time to put it all together! I shoved the watermelon back in the bottom, and used toothpicks to attach the turtle’s appendages to the lid.IMG_2540IMG_2545

So what do you think?



How to Build the Perfect Froyo

If you’ve ever been to a self-serve frozen yogurt shop, you’ve probably had a pretty good dessert. But what if I told you, you could have the most delicious sundae ever? And you’d get the satisfaction of creating it with your own two (assuming you have two) hands?! Well you’re talking with an expert here, and I’ve seen a lot of amateur mistakes in my time at work. If you’d like to be a *Super Swirler* like me, read on:

1. Check out the available toppings before you even sample the yogurts, so that way you can begin building your creation in your head. Toppings rotate and change frequently, and if you know what’s there ahead of time, you won’t be disappointed.

2. Sample. Sample. Sample! I’m not saying that you should stand in front of the machines for twenty minutes like a freeloader on their lunch break from The Omnivore Burrito. No, but I’m surprised by some people’s apprehensiveness when it comes to trying before they buy. You’ll only be hurting yourself if you don’t like what you get. Plus, you could be missing out on a great flavor that you didn’t know you would like!

3. Pull gently on the froyo lever, and rotate your cup in a small circle, allowing a hole in the middle of the cup. This handy little crevice is for toppings! I have to admit, this skill does take work. But I guess having froyo eight times a week helped me. Calm yourself down, okay? I only have it six times a week now.

4. Don’t forget to layer! After you fill up the middle with toppings, add more yogurt on top of that. This is when your sauces, whipped cream, and sprinkles come into play. You want to make sure to have a taste of all your delicious toppings in every bite.

Expert tip: gummy bears & chewy candies go on top of the whipped cream so they don’t freeze and break your teeth.

5. Do not rush the process. Especially if you’re with a group of friends. Kids have a lot of energy and tend to do this a lot. If you do end up mastering my techniques thus far, and get done early, there are a few things you should not do while you wait. I know you’re excited, and the music is poppin’, but this is not the time for a dance party. I have seen too many cups of yogurt dumped on the floor that way. Also, please do not interefere with anyone else’s magical experience by telling them to hurry up, or I don’t know..shoving a spoon up their butt! I’m not getting into that one tonight. Finally, try your best to remember that the toppings bar is not an all you can eat buffet.

6. The biggest secret in all of frozen yogurt history! Just kidding. That’s it for now. I can’t give away all my secrets!

If you’re like me, you’ll end up mixing everything together anyway. After posting a pic of your perfect froyo on Insta, that is.

Hannah out. 🍦

Pinterest Challenge: Coffee Shop Muffins

chocolate-chip-muffins-2The challenge: to follow this recipe exactly, and create chocolate chip muffins that look and taste super fancy and expensive.

The fun part: deciding whether I failed it or nailed it!

I’m not new to baking. In fact, I’m known for a few signature recipes, including a delicious homemade chocolate cake. But I decided to leave my preconceived baking notions aside, and Amelia Bedelia it up (AKA not stray from the words of the written recipe).



    I started off by preheating the oven to 475°, and by preheating, I mean breaking the oven knob off accidentally. I panicked a little bit, thinking these muffins would be harder than I thought. Second time’s the charm, though. Woo this is going to be exciting, I can tell.


Next, the recipe said to grab a large bowl, and “toss together” flour, chocolate chips, baking soda, and some other stuff. So I followed the recipe, and I tossed it like it was my job. Trust me, that is how the professionals do it.

Now another bowl, this one full of wet ingredients, was about to get involved. The eggs, milk, and vanilla were no problem, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about “cooling” the melted butter before adding it. I decided to stick it in the fridge, and that seemed to do the trick real fast.


Once the butter was adequately (Joe) cool, I was told to “fold” both bowls of ingredients together. That was hard work. No wonder Starbucks charges so much for these things!


At this point, I was getting pretty tired out. But with the promise of muffins, I ate a few M&Ms and pressed on!

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that this only makes 12 muffins.     IMG_2454

But when I took a peek, it was totally worth it!


Of course I had to pull the muffin top off and eat that first. It was delightful with a cup of caramel vanilla cream coffee!



So what do you think?


Journey to the Outside

We sit here waiting. Wanting to be wanted. Behind the glass, things are not so clear. We stand tall next to each other separated by our individual compartments. We are evenly lit up in glory. People stand around and stare. Children press their noses against the glass and peer in. Contemplating which one of us will be chosen.

We’re each assigned a code when we enter the unit. Mine is B4. This code is my identity, it determines my freedom. And when I am gone, one of my own kind will fill my spot and take my code. So we wait for someone to enter our cypher on the keypad, and pray that their fingers didn’t slip and press the wrong plastic buttons. We’re here to please. We want to be chosen.

I’ve watched many fall and be taken. Some get stuck on their journey to the outside. A7 is constantly replaced. It’s sought after. I have been here for forty seven days. I don’t even know if I’m still able to fulfill my duty without harm. I just wish I could’ve been an A7. Those darn Doritos. No person can eat just one Dorito.

It’s tough being Juicy Fruit. Who buys gum out of a vending machine anyway? Desperate people that’s who. At least I have the drink machine across the room to admire while I wait for my destiny. D9 is a tall glass of water if you know what I mean.

Pizza is Life

It came in a box, as all pizzas do. But this box was unlike all others. It wasn’t sweaty or greasy at the bottom. It was simply, warm. It wouldn’t burn your lap if you got roped into riding to the pizza place to pick it up with the driver who didn’t want to go alone. No. This pizza was even perfect before I had opened the lid covering its beauty.

I looked up awestruck at my roommate, Brooke as I opened the box and wafted the savory, wonderful aroma that is dominos delivery in the middle of the night. I had a coupon for deep dish so I went with that, but it had been God’s plan all along. This was the Krusty Krab pizza for you and me.

The cheese was not overbearing, but it was plentiful. The crust was soft, but a nice crunch was a gentle surprise around the rim. I barely had time to get a plate before I had finished the first slice. This is what I had needed to finish my paper that night. That’s the fun part about being an English major; at any given point during the semester, I will be working on several papers. And they’re probably due tomorrow morning.

One Tuesday night, Brooke and I were working on a paper that was due the next morning. It was a really rough assignment, and I was in tears while she tried to pull herself together to keep us both strong. She seemed to be typing away at the essay, but she was really ordering dominios online. What a smart woman. Turns out it was cheaper to buy two large pizzas instead of one medium one. I don’t know how that worked, but I wasn’t about to complain. Our mini fridge was full of pizza the entire week. And the papers got done that night, our tears sopped up by the loving hankies of crust and velvety cheese.

Pizza can get you through just about anything though. Think about it. When clubs don’t have enough people coming to the meetings, they have a pizza interest meeting! Want kids to do better in school? Pizza party incentive! No one wants to cook? Do you want to call or will I?

And the comfort of the most glorious slice I ever had shall never be forgotten.

The Embarrassing Picture of Me at the Christmas Party

The only people allowed to make fun of you, and get away with it, is your family. In my case, my sisters especially. I am now the middle child. So you know, that’s pretty rough. I used to be the youngest, and that was a good time. My oldest sister watched me, dressed me up, and treated me like the angel I was. She vacuumed up an entire bottle of baby powder I decided to shake all over the living room, played school with me, and almost saved me from chipping my tooth on a water fountain (it’s okay, Elizabeth, I forgive you).

One of the most embarrassing things that can happen to you is if someone takes a picture of an embarrassing moment. You see, the moment goes away. And as I’m sure you know from experience, the picture does not. You wouldn’t know that I got my arm caught in an exhibit at a zoo trying to pet a goat unless I told you. But as soon as you meet one of my sisters, you’re sure to see some humiliating pictures of me. Naomi likes to keep her favorites as the background on her phone. The infamous hot dog picture has been leaked to anyone standing next to her. Sigh.

And let’s not forget her camera’s impeccable timing when I’m angry at her. She just loves to pull out her phone and click click click click until I’m so agitated, she’s laughing hard enough to wet herself. But she doesn’t. I’m the embarrassing one. So when I was granted a little sister, I found it my duty to give her little bouts of torture as I was given. Let’s call them torturini’s ooh like tortellini. Yum.

Torturini #1 I wanted to try out the flash feature on my new digital camera that I got for Christmas. And what better time than the middle of the night? I sneakily pulled it off the dresser by the strap, and giggled to myself. With me being on the top bunk, she would have no warning. I held my arms over the edge of the railing, with the camera upside down. I didn’t even look at the screen or the viewfinder, just dangled my arms and held down the button. The flash bounced off the walls of our room with the brilliance of a thousand suns.

“Hannah?!! Did you see that? What was that?” She was so scared. I pulled my camera up as quickly as I could so she wouldn’t notice what I’d done.

“See what?” I asked nonchalantly, as I scrambled to look at the picture I had taken.

“That flash!! Lightning…” at this point I have absolutely no idea what she actually said because I was laughing so hard to myself. Of course it was a completely silent, painful laugh. Until I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Her eyes were WIDE open and her arms were reaching out as if a feral cat were about to attack her face. I wasn’t even looking, and I had taken the perfect shot! This was it. Forget the ballerina idea. I was going to be a photographer.

Unfortunately, when Lydia finally found out why I was laughing, she cried and my mom made me delete it. I wish I still had it today. Now if you’re feeling bad for my little sister right now, it’s okay. Here comes my turn.

I’m good at making a fool of myself. The worst times are when I’m not planning it, though. Like the time I was warming up for track, and accidentally tripped over a bunch of equipment, doing a backflip/cartwheel as the entire varsity lax team was coming on to the field. Another time I wasn’t planning it, was when I was very young, and apparently too trusting. We were renovating our upstairs bathroom, which meant that there was a big hole when we took down the old drywall, where a window used to be. We had all promised each other that we weren’t going to peek through said window when somebody was using the bathroom. It was a sacred trust.

As I mentioned earlier, Elizabeth, the responsible eldest has always been like a second mother to me. So when we had a bunch of people at our house, and the downstairs bathroom was occupied, I asked her to make sure no one would come up and peek at me while I was in there. The room on the other side of the window was completely dark, and I was trying to be quick because I was already scared of being upstairs alone, not to mention in a bathroom I didn’t have privacy in! Just as I went to pull up my pants, I almost had to pull em back down again so I didn’t wet them. Elizabeth popped up in the window with her camera!

“Say cheeese!!”

A blood curdling scream left my mouth as I tried to understand what was going on. I TRUSTED YOU. I was so mad, but of course she couldn’t stop laughing. DELETE IT COME ON ELIZABETH PLEEEEASEEE. She just kept giggling and ran downstairs to tell everyone what was going on. Before I could even tell my side of the story, she had the picture developed and placed nicely in a photo album. That situation is still a bit traumatic for me, but I’m hoping that writing about it will help.

I guess what I need is a new embarrassing moment to void out these old scars. Oh well, I’m sure it will happen any second. Get your cameras ready.

10 Useless Things You Love (to Hate)

I know it may seem hard to admit that there are socially accepted items and ideas in our life that are completely ridiculous when thought about in great detail. But I’m going to ask you to please lower your pointer finger and set aside your objections. There are so many things that we are priveleged to have living in developed countries, and it’s a blessing and a shame that these inventions even exist. Let’s take a walk down reality check lane, shall we? 

1. Stuffed Animals I have a monkey from the hospital giftshop from getting my tonsils out, a bear I got for Christmas, even a little sheep that used to sleep next to my pillow. But what’s important to ask yourself of your own stuffed animals is where are they right now? Be honest. Attic, basement, or under your bed? I suppose they’re comforting for children, but what do you do with them after age 10? You can’t display them unless you’re an old lady with an avon perfume scented living room who spends her time grooming them with a brush and caring for her cat Mitzi. We also need to take a quick moment to talk about girls whose dream it is to get a large stuffed animal from their boyfriend. Why? How will that benefit you in any way? I don’t have room for an oversized, beady eyed creature. You know what I do have room for? A Taco Bell giftcard. *wink* *wink* boyfriend. Lol jk that’s what I would say tumblr_m7jtqwiQle1r1w7af

Anyways moving on…

2. Sprinkles – They’re colorful, they’re small, they go on ice cream…and that’s about it.

3. Dumps It surprises me that we’re really still throwing our garbage in a dump. Who came up with that idea in the first place? Or maybe the better question is, why did no one stop them? So we have all this nasty waste, or perfectly good stuffed animals that were thrown out, and what should we do with it? Let’s take alllll the garbage, and push it someplace else. Throw it in a pile! Somewhere we don’t have to look at it! Oh, wait. I do the same thing in my bedroom. Maybe I should stop here. 

4. Forks – Unnecessary. I can always tell who the dignified people are who come into the froyo shop. They’re the ones who hold up the sample cups with a puzzled look, and ask how they’re supposed to eat their sample. Preferably with your mouth, ma’am. Sticking my tongue in a sample cup doesn’t bother me. And neither does eating meatloaf with my hands. 

5. Conversation Heart Candies – This is the snack that you found in the bottom of your backpack, along with some pencil shavings. These candies are somehow a staple for Valentine’s Day, but taste like nothing and have the consistency of chalk.

6. Awards A personal, “You did a good job” or “Thank you”, means so much more to me than a trophy somebody else cried or fought over. Everybody deserves recognition for something. Let’s bestow honor upon others with our kind words. 😉

7. Paperclips – I have a lot of paperclips that I thought I would need in college for some reason. I was wrong. Anytime I use one, I end up taking it off, and stapling my papers together.

8. Birthday Cards – Unless it makes you laugh so hard you spit birthday cake out your nose, or it’s from your grandma, it will get thrown away. You buy somebody a present, and then you have to rush back to the store when you remember to buy a piece of paper for $3.65. I’m not saying I don’t parttake in this social ritual, I just think it’s important to point out that every party involved knows the uselessness of the card before it has time to get its birthday suit on.

9. Diet Soda – Seems like an oxymoron to me. Ha Ha Ha we all know the joke about the guy who orders a plate full of bacon and a diet soda. You might as well guzzle the tastier stuff if you’re going to do that to your teeth and gut and every major organ.

10. Black Licorice – I feel like they only make this flavor because they feel like they have to. It just makes people gag and spit. Maybe it does have a use after all! DNA testing! Throw out the cotton swabs, Doc. 

I could go on, but I won’t. You probably have something else to do now. Like eat pizza! Ooh, yes do that please. There’s never a wrong time for pizza. Pizza is a wonderful thing for so many reasons. Reason #1: We eat it from the inside out. Don’t judge a pizza by its crust.

Hannah out. ✌

It sounded cool in my head, ok?