New Horror Anthology Release – Terror Train

Proud to say I have a story in this anthology (‘One Way Ticket’) – in fact, one of the more complex stories I’ve written and one that I hope operates on a few different levels. The Terror Train Anthology, published by the good folk at James Ward Kirk Fiction, includes both stories and poetry about murder, madness, mayhem, monsters, and the macabre on the rails! The stories take us on a train ride that begins in New York and ends in California, with a little time in Europe, and includes over forty stops in between. Included in this magnificent collection is one by the legendary William F. Nolan titled “Lonely Train A Comin’.” The old west, a character that travels back in time, a tale from the future – they are all there. We have stories full of evil, revenge, love, lust, and mystery. We even have a little noir and, of course, a whole lot of Horror! Trust me, it’s a ride you won’t soon forget. The anthology has been getting lots of positive reviews, so be sure to check it out via the links at the end of this article.




All aboard theTerror Train

From NYC to New Orleans, through winding paths and cityscapes, it grinds the rails and shatters the dead of night. It comes, stopping at stations along the way, to steal the screaming souls of the living and the dead and transport them to hell…  The Terror Train rides, from city to city, from village to village, through states, across rivers and mountains. If only it could tell its tales of grisly murder, of demonic pacts, black holes into different dimensions and portals to other realms where the ghosts of train robbers hunt in perpetuity for that elusive bullion filled carriage that cost them their immortal souls. Behold the terrors the train has witnessed, see firsthand the horrors it has lived through and when you get on board, pray, pray you’ve entered the right one, on the right track, the one that does not lead to oblivion… 

Terror Train contains stories by new and established authors, with a special guest story by William F. Nolan. All aboard!

Grab your copy now!



Cover art by Stephen Cooney

Full author list:
Roger Cowin
Charie D. La Marr
Michael Thomas-Knight
Mark Rigney
Stephen Alexander
Mike Jansen
Justin Hunter
Mary Genevieve Fortier
Jeremy Mays
Murphy Edwards
Dennis Banning
Brigitte Kephart
Brian Barnett
Mathias Jansson
Abdul-Qaadir Taariq Bakari-Muhammad
Aaron Besson
Stephen Alexander
Jim Goforth
Dona Fox
Tony Bowman
Rie Sheridan Rose
Dale Hollin 
David S. Pointer

Stuart Keane
William Cook
Shenoa Carroll-Bradd
Stephen Alexander & Roger Cowin
A. P. Gilbert
Shane Koch
William F. Nolan
Teri Skultety
E.S. Wynn
Lori R. Lopez
Thomas M. Malafarina
Leigh M. Lane 
Alex S. Johnson
Plus Dedications and Appreciations by Keene and Grabowski


 Terror Train is a wonderful collection full of great stories and poetry. You’ll be happily frightened as you ride the rails. As one of the author’s recently said “It’s a ride that’s to die for”.


Terror Train is the creative brainchild of A. Henry Keene. The train leaves the station noir-style in New York and travels across the country until it stops in a California of the future. In between it stops in several states including Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana. At every stop there is a different tale of murder, ghosts, demons, and other horrors. There are tales of love gone wrong, twisted demon-possessed trains, a vampire story that is nothing like any vampire story you’ve ever read, and many other fun terrors. And the legendary William F. Nolan has humbled us with his gracious contribution. Along with the stories there are wonderful poems spread throughout this collection by some truly talented poets. Trust me, this is a ride you won’t soon forget.




Music for Writing Dark Fiction

Recently I asked my author pals on Facebook for recommendations of “creepy, haunting classical music.” The following list is the best of the recommendations I received, along with some of my own favorites. While some have operatic elements, it was mainly the haunting melodies and invocation of atmospheric qualities I was looking for to inspire the writing of a ghost story. That story ended up being 'Dead and Buried' which is included in my collection 'Dreams of Thanatos.'  I usually have some music in the background when writing, especially atmospheric classical tunes with a gothic flavor. Hopefully you will find some new music here you have not heard before. Hell, it may even inspire you to write something suitably dramatic and haunting. Enjoy.

Camille Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre

Mozart - Requiem

György Ligeti - Requiem

Le'rue Delashay - Through The Valley Of Death

Liszt/Leibowitz/London Philharmonic - Mephisto Waltz


Mussorgsky - Night on the Bare Mountain (Original Version)

Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki - Symphony No 3

God of War II - Complete Soundtrack

Beethoven - 7th Symphony/2nd movement

Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique, 4/5

Frederic Chopin - Piano Sonata No. 2, 3/3

Chopin - Nocturne op.9 no.1

Liadov - Babi Yaga

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No.7 in E-minor - II, Nachtmusik

Sibelius - The Swan of Tuonela 

Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave) (Abbado)

Mahler - Symphony No.2 in C minor "Resurrection"

Franz Liszt - Totentanz (piano and orchestra)

Jerry Goldsmith - The Haunting Suite

Sibelius - Tapiola ( Full ) - BPO / Karajan 


Prokofiev: Suite Scythe - 2. The Evil God and the Dance of the Pagan Monsters 

Rachmaninoff - Isle of the Dead

Camille Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Jerry Goldsmith, Franz Liszt, Mendelssohn, Horror, Writing, Dark Fiction, William Cook, Dreams of Thanatos, Gustav Mahler, Liadov, Frederic Chopin, Berlioz, György Ligeti, God of War, Mozart, Le'rue Delashay, Mussorgsky, Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, Beethoven, Classical, Gothic, Music

Serial Killer Quarterly - a new magazine from Grinning Man Press

Whatever you might think about serial killers and the vile deeds they do, there is no denying the morbid fascination they induce with their repugnant personalities and the bizarre (and often quite ordinary) reasons behind their abhorrent actions. The thing that continues to fascinate readers of true crime and global media networks is that these criminal monsters are on the outside everyday people like you and I. It is the mystery and the perversity of their inner worlds that marks them as objects of interest to amateur 'arm-chair' psychologists and detectives. 

As an author who has dealt with this subject matter in my own work ('Blood Related') I did countless hours of research into both real true-crime cases and fictional accounts of serial killers. With the publication of my book and the subsequent interest in it from the reading community at large, I have also had occasion to rub shoulders with other authors who share the same morbid curiosity about these creeps. Indeed, the archetypal serial killer protagonist has become a common trope across Thriller, Action and Horror genres with no signs of abatement to date. I met Lee Mellor, the co-creator of the magazine - Serial Killer Quarterly, online through a mutual project and have stayed in touch ever since. Lee is an interesting chap and has some intelligent and profound insights into his chosen fields of study. Before you read the interview below that Katherine Ramsland has kindly given me permission to share, here is some information about Lee Mellor - a talented writer and musician and the creator of Serial Killer Quarterly.


Lee Mellor is a published author, musician, and doctoral student currently based out of Montreal. Lee's books, Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder (2012) and Rampage: Canadian Mass Murder and Spree Killing (2013) focus on the underexplored topic of multicide in Canada. Both are available in the True Crime section of most Canadian bookstores, and in hard copy and e-book form through (USA), (Canada), and (United Kingdom).

Until his career as an author took off, Lee devoted a great deal of time to writing, performing, and recording storytelling music. He was voted among the Top Ten Singer-Songwriters in Montreal three years in a row, and in 2008 ranked #3 next to Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright. His first album Ghost Town Heart (2007) was considered one of the best “country” albums of the year by numerous indie publications and reviewers, and is notable for the songs “Liberty Street” and ”Nowhere, Manitoba.” After some soul searching, in 2011, Lee recorded ten more tracks for his second album Lose - a low key release, with the title track and “Suzy Blue Eyes” being two of the more popular tunes. 


Lee also conducts historical and criminological research for several television programs.


After obtaining his Bachelor of the Arts in 2009, Lee relocated back to Brighton, ON, where he began work on his second album and first book.  Originally, he had intended to write a fictional novel about a criminal profiler who tracked serial killers in Canada.  Upon realizing that he was only aware of three Canadian serial murderers, Lee began researching the topic in order to avoid unintentionally copying a real life Canadian killer in his novel.  Along the way, he became so fascinated by the secret history of serial homicide in the great white north that Lee decided he would write a non-fiction book about the subject. 

In 2011, Lee's book Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder was picked up by Dundurn Press, and published in March 2012. Dundurn asked him to write a second, Rampage: Canadian Mass Murder and Spree Killing, which he completed in early October. Both books are available to purchase through most major book retailers and Amazon.


Recently, Lee has entered a PhD program at Concordia University to pursue his academic interest in multiple murderers and sex offenders. Stay in touch with Lee and his various ongoing projects via the links below.

Contact Lee 
Facebook Cold North Killers  
Facebook – Lee Mellor’s music  

Lee Mellor interview by Katherine Ramsland.

A new digital quarterly on serial murder promises to entertain but also educate. 

One of my colleagues, Lee Mellor, got it into his head that someone needed to create a quarterly magazine devoted exclusively to serial murder. So, he did it, and it’s a stunner. Beautifully designed, this debut issue features case histories written like short stories of such people as Col. Russell Williams and the enigmatic Israel Keyes. Lee, the editor-in-chief, even wrote a feature about the final words and meals of these offenders.

I asked Lee some questions, which he graciously answered below:

1. Please describe the concept for Serial Killer Quarterly and tell us what's in the first issue.

Serial Killer Quarterly is an e-magazine, the first publication by Grinning Man Press. This issue includes the killers you named above, plus the DC Snipers and the Internet's first serial killer, John Edward Robinson. We've also included some lighter sections to break things up, such as “Killer Flicks,” where we review films featuring real or fictional serial murder cases. Mr. Brooks is in the hot-seat this quarter.

2. What motivated you to found this magazine?
I was inspired by the true crime/detective magazines of the twentieth century. Though popular in the first half of the century, by the 1970s, most had been forced out of print due to the high overhead costs of printing and distribution, along with competition from television and cinema. With the advent and increasing popularity of electronic books, Grinning Man Press wants to take advantage of the lower cost of e-publishing to resurrect the genre. We’re focusing exclusively on serial murder cases due to the immense and enduring public interest in the topic. Research has shown that 40% of true crime publications feature cases of serial killing.

That said, there were some elements of earlier true crime magazines that we do not wish to replicate. One example is the ubiquitous cover illustrations of scantily clad women being bound and gagged by hulking males. Not only are these images dangerously misogynistic and insulting to our female readers but many serial killers have admitted to having used them pornographically in late childhood and adolescence.

The last thing Grinning Man wants to do is foster a new generation of Ted Bundys, so we take a more subtle, ominous approach to our illustrations. For example, “21st Century Psychos” features an image of Alaskan serial killer Israel Keyes unearthing his “hit kit” on a moonlit night. We've also replaced the earlier magazine's tacky bright colors with a grittier more noir aesthetic. 

3. What’s your vision for it? 

Artistically, we aim to bring our readers nail-biting true life page turners that make for compelling reads without resorting to sensationalism. For readers who are interested in criminal psychology or criminology, we have also included a number of sidebars with descriptions of concepts such as psychopathy, sexual sadism, victimology, etc. However, this content is supplementary, and readers who are simply interested in a gripping story can ignore it. So the magazine is both entertaining and educational.

Also, I think there is a certain unwarranted stigma attached to reading true crime publications. Where I personally don't mind sitting on the subway thumbing through a paperback on Richard Ramirez (great way to stop people from sitting beside you), I feel that a lot of curious readers are very self-conscious about how this would be perceived. By bringing true crime to our readers' tablets, laptops, cell phones, and e-readers, they can enjoy this genre in public without having to worry about being unfairly judged by workmates or fellow commuters. 

4. You're laying out some issues by themes. What can we expect in the near future?

This year's line-up is already finalized, and I am incredibly excited about it. Following our Winter 2014 issue “21st Century Psychos,” will be “Partners in Pain.” This issue focuses on serial murderers who kill in teams, including male-male couples (Burke & Hare/Duffy & Mulcahy/Lake & Ng), male-female (Clark & Bundy/Bernardo & Homolka), female-female (Golay & Rutterschmidt), and murderous teams of three or more people (Corll, Henley, and Brooks).

Issue #3, “Unsolved in North America,” will be published in the summer of 2014, with features on the "Servant Girl Annihilator" by the legendary Harold Schechter, with whom I had the pleasure to dine in NYC last summer, and Michael Newton's look at the compelling case of the "Cleveland Torso Murderer," which left a black stain on the career of the celebrated detective Eliot Ness. 

The year will end with Fall 2014's “Cruel Britannia” – an issue devoted to British serial killers. Burl Barer will write a feature piece on the infamous “Yorkshire Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe, Carol Anne Davis returns with a story about the grotesque Robert Napper ripper-murders, and you’ll be there with the horrific crimes and philosophies of “Moors Murderers” Ian Brady and Myra Hyndley. 

5. What fresh angle on the topic does your publication bring?
As Serial Killer Quarterly is an electronic publication which can reach the world, we're striving to build a magazine which truly reflects and respects our international readership. By the end of the year we will have featured killers from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Russia, and Mexico. So we're hoping to broaden our reader's knowledge of multiple murder as a truly international phenomenon.

We will hold off on the more notorious cases until at least 2015, as Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, Gein and Jack the Ripper have already been done to death (no pun intended). Serial Killer Quarterly will present cases that are equally as fascinating, but have, for whatever reason, flown under the radar of the general public.


About Grinning Man Press:

Grinning Man Press is an e-publishing company founded in 2013 by Lee Mellor (author of Cold North Killers and Rampage) and his long-time friend, Aaron Elliott. Through the advent of .PDF publications, we seek to resurrect popular fiction and detective magazine formats from the early-mid 20th century, allowing a new audience to enjoy them on their computers, tablets, smartphones, or Kindle readers.

We are proud to feature articles and stories by world-class authors such as Harold Schechter, Katherine Ramsland, and Michael Newton.

Grinning Man operates on one principle: if it’s creepy, dark, disturbing, outlandish, macabre or unsettling, we print it. Currently, Grinning Man’s sole publication is the nail-biting Serial Killer Quarterly – a gripping True Crime e-mag featuring real cases of serial killing from around the globe. Our 2014 line-up consists of:

Winter 2014: 21st Century Psychos – Katherine Ramsland, Michael Newton, Lee Mellor

Spring 2014: Partners in Pain - Cathy Scott, Katherine Ramsland, Carol Anne Davis

Summer 2014: Unsolved in America – Harold Schechter, Michael Newton

Fall 2014: Cruel Britannia – Burl BarerCarol Anne Davis, Katherine Ramsland

In the near future, GMP plan to launch magazines on the paranormal, along with fiction mags featuring serials in the genres of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, mystery and erotica. For more info, please contact them.



Katherine Ramsland, Peter Vronsky, Michael Newton, Lee Mellor, Grinning Man Press, Serial Killer Quarterly, Serial Killers, Serial Killer, True Crime, Interview, Article, Harold Schechter

Academic review of Stanley Fish's 'Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change'

In his book, Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change[1], Stanley Fish argues against the epistemological and political agendas of cultural studies, as being without justification and understanding in their treatment of the discipline of literary studies and ‘interdisciplinarity’. The strength of his critique is apparent in his internal knowledge and defence of the discipline of literary studies, as being essentially different and distinct as a discipline, from that of cultural studies. While there is great strength to his critique, there are also weaknesses. One of those weaknesses, I will argue, is his refusal to acknowledge the growing influence of external forces outside and increasingly inside the discipline of literary criticism.
Fish argues in favour of a return to the practice of literary criticism in and for itself, free from the political concerns associated with cultural studies. The political or cultural studies approach, in his opinion, is founded upon the mistaken belief that truth is elsewhere and not in the text. The critique is primarily against those cultural studies proponents who see theory as possessing the capacity for revolution and social change. Their aspirations stemming from the ‘mistaken’ belief, that their revised theoretical and epistemological procedures are capable of influencing important political practices. Fish rejects the sense that theoretical debate and discourse causes change; however, he does acknowledge the possibility of ‘theory talk’ as being a catalyst in other areas outside the discipline of origin. His point is essentially that once it becomes part of something other than its origin, theory loses its claim to that discipline e.g., literary theory used for cultural studies, becomes cultural theory. Intent governs content.
The relationship between discourse and belief, interpretation and practice, and the pursuance of truth, are the driving ideological forces behind Fish’s critique of cultural studies aspirations. The interaction and differences, that characterise disciplinary activity between these theoretical relationships, give Fish his definition of a discipline. This, in turn, provides the basis for his argument against criticism that comes from academic fronts that are not as definable (e.g. cultural studies).
Fish’s argument against interdisciplinarity rests on his notion of ‘difference’ as being not just a characteristic of disciplines, but an essential and necessary part of a discipline’s distinct identity. It is that which distinguishes theory as unique and self-defining, as part of a disciplinary practice, that resists its incorporation into appropriated roles within other disciplines. The purpose of literary theory and its internal facts, vocabularies, objects, values, and other ‘’various discursive formations . . . will of course always be a particular one’’(72). This particularity of specifics, and the ‘job’ of disciplinary practices (and) or theory, is what makes it different (and therefore distinct because of its differences).
That essential nature and intent, according to Fish, makes disciplinary function ‘’useful and appropriate for purposes and what is good for one purpose may not be so for another’’(73). The assertion is logically strong and well defended against interdisciplinary demands. However, it also (as cultural studies critics see it) supports the interpretation of an underlying agenda of autonomy, exclusiveness, and therefore a certain amount of unintentional stagnancy in its presentation and justification to the outside world.
A weakness of this kind of critique is that it seems to assume full understanding of the human condition. The constrictive and analytic discourse implies that only lesser understanding of an ‘unintelligible’ kind exists, other than that of the author. His uncompromising authorial tone borders on the verge of sounding ‘autonomous’ unto itself. Fish defines an enterprise that can ‘’make good’’ on its claim that it is ‘’uniquely qualified to perform a specific task’’(19), as being ‘autonomous’. This autonomy is however ‘’not autonomous in the sense of having no affiliations with or debts to other enterprises’’. Because, for Fish ‘’that would be an impossible requirement, which if met, would result in a practice wholly lacking in interest and human intelligibility’’(20).
Rather, he suggests, an enterprise will be ‘’autonomous in the sense of having primary responsibility for doing a job that society wants done’’. Here he makes a claim about disciplines that contradicts his own defence, and is non-affiliatory in nature, refusing to be in allegiance with any discipline other than literary criticism. It also presumes that respect for the discipline, is presently valued by society. I feel that Fish does not convincingly justify the discipline of literary criticism to a public audience, because of this presumptuousness that seems to remain unchecked throughout his critique. Even in his summary of his lectures (and Professional Correctness), he still maintains no need to justify literary criticism’s place amongst the growing public (as opposed to private) academies:

"Justifications, however, are never available from the outside . . . when all is said and done, there is no reason for any discipline or enterprise to exist except for what is brought into the world by the possibility of its practice. What you gain by maintaining an enterprise is the very special and specific pleasures and consolations it affords. They should be thought of neither as the vehicles of our salvation nor as obstacles to it; they are what they are and so are we (140-141)." 

While I agree that there are ‘pleasures and consolations’ gained from maintaining disciplines as they are and have been, I disagree that we can dismiss the changing nature of the world outside, and its effect upon, the institution of education. Society’s ever increasing reliance on tertiary qualifications, as an entry into the world of employment, negates the statically staunch position of academics such as Fish. If his only justification for the discipline of literary criticism, to continue operating as such, is that it is for personal and consolatory purposes, then this in my opinion is a weakness in his critique of other disciplinary aspirations that do take these factors into account.
      Within Professional Correctness, there is a definite feeling of reproachfulness, toward cultural studies critique that appears to disrespect, or resent, literary studies as a distinctive and socially viable discipline. Through the power of persuasion, Fish subtly uses this apparent lack of respect, to mark those proponents of cultural studies, as without integrity and principles of true cultural tolerance toward other disciplines and therefore other cultures. This affront, that Fish consistently emphasises, has the effect of rendering the project of ‘true’ cultural studies potentially null and void. This insight into the core and guiding principle of cultural studies, being that of tolerance, provides Fish with the ammunition to fortify the integrity and validity of his own discipline. His position is validly strong and poignantly essential to his critique, of the epistemological and political aspirations of cultural studies, as a distinct discipline. While there is obvious strength and logic, to this underlying critique of cultural studies fidelity to itself, it also shows how analytically devoid of moral principles literary criticism can be.   

Stanley Fish
Fish weakens his critics by asserting his strength as a literary critic. This effectively deprives them of a vocabulary through which they might lodge their objections or reservations to his arguments. To refute a critic’s claims, Fish discovers the term or concept the critic is using as the foundation for their assumptions. He then implies that the term or concept has been unjustifiably privileged (or appropriated) and accorded, a normative status that it can not possess outside of its discipline. The cultural studies critic, who uses literary terms to criticise Fish, or the discipline of literary studies, soon falls prey to the strength of this destabilising technique Fish employs. He uses his authority as a master of language and literary technique to silence the critic, making them seem ignorant of their own linguistic and theoretical arguments and positions within a given cultural context. Their silence is left to be construed (there are not many options) as the result of unfounded presuppositions and assumed knowledge concerning the nature of disciplines. While this technique of Fish’s is strong as a critical manoeuvre, it has the weakening effect of giving him an air of arrogance and elitism. It also implies that if there is to be any criticism directed at him, then it must come from within his own camp, from those who are able to battle with words as effectively and mercilessly as he. 
To justify and assert the strength of his discourse (and discipline) in opposition to cultural studies criticism, Fish pulls rank and reinforces his positions with a bombardment of literary critique. This manoeuvre is tactical in that the use of language and rhetorical skill forcefully shows the power and distinct nature of literary criticism (contrasted with the essentially non-specific ‘discipline’ of cultural studies). We, the reader, are forced to participate in the complex, and differently distinct, practice (from that of cultural studies) of literary interpretation. Before we know it, we are nodding our heads to the beat of Fish’s ‘game’. His arguments lead us to the end of each chapter, reduced to agreement or disagreement about literary theory’s viability as a discipline. This tactic places the reader as an ally or an enemy, intelligent or illiterate. It is hard not to be persuaded by the sound logic of Fish’s reasoning, after all, who wants to think of themselves as an enemy of anything or an illiterate? More often than not, agreement is our intended and skilfully pre-planned destination.
In my opinion, Fish’s position is consistent and logically strong, his only weakness so far found is when he leaves the realm of literary criticism and academic rhetoric, to assert (however subtly) his qualification of ‘professional correctness’.  Contradictions are few, but when they do occur, they show Fish’s human imperfection in almost a sacrificial manner. Sacrificial in the sense that it feels almost deliberate in light of the strength of the rest of the work. His critique shows this weakness in his apparent indifference to modern literary practice and academic teaching (e.g. the influence of cultural studies). He makes no attempt to convince cultural studies critics of his sincerity and honesty in criticising their cause, even after he has allied his ‘professional correctness’ with their ‘political correctness’: ’’do not read this as a repudiation of cultural studies, black studies, feminist studies, gay and lesbian studies, and other forms of activity that have reinvigorated the literary scene’’(x, preface). Fish, essentially, allows no compromise on his ideal of the discipline of literary criticism.
 As he approaches the climax of his argument, Fish explains the title (of chapter V) as follows: "literary interpretation, like virtue, is its own reward. I do it," he says provocatively, "because I like the way I feel when I'm doing it" (110). There is no doubting Fish’s passion for his craft, but the intent behind his self-justification is immediately questionable. The confessional tone, at first, seems only to convey an insight into Fish’s conviction and faith to his discipline. However, there is also another effect produced, which I feel was Fish’s intention behind his justification: to pitch legitimating talk at the level of personal enjoyment serves to differentiate between subjects of belief and conviction.
Displaying one’s personal preference and reason(s) for disciplinary practice, implies that those who do not have the same emotional involvement with their respective disciplines (cultural studies for example) are not as committed due to their lack of public faith in what they pursue. This tactic of Fish’s questions the strength of the beliefs of those who don’t exhibit the same apparent pride in their given professions. It is as if by not confessing their allegiance and patriotism to their discipline, they are less than qualified to pass judgement (and justification) on their own profession, let alone criticising literary interpretation and theory.
        Both the tone and the introductory last line that seems (contextually) as much a question as it is an answer: ‘how difficult it is to tell the difference between devils and deities’ (110). When combined, with Fish’s emotional and ‘self-referential’ tirade in the following paragraph, makes the reader reel in shock and moral incredulity at an intimacy bordering on the verge of eroticism. This tone of almost aloof expressionism and romantic semantics betrays (seemingly) overwhelming modesty and confidence, potentially frightening and somewhat radically strange to prospects of the discipline. There is a sense of ‘been there, done that’ in the paragraph, that would seem totally foreign to a younger academic whose literary aspirations and skills are just developing. A definite love of poetry would also seem to be a pre-requisite of a prospective literary interpreter, judging from the lasting impression of Fish’s desideratum.           
I do not suggest that expressing and maintaining faith and personal preference is a non-essential ingredient, in the continued and deliberate participation of literary criticism (or in any field of interest, academic or otherwise). However, Fish’s position as a repudiated literary theorist and critic, and the professionalism of the work in question, makes me ask why has he so provocatively posed and adopted this confessional rhetoric? Is he merely giving a reason as to why he does what he does? Is he trying to convince prospective members of his discipline (students) to join in the fun; does he use this rhetoric to make him more human and us more sympathetic to his views? Is he petitioning solidarity from comrades in arms fighting the common good fight? To these questions, there seems no concrete answer and we can only assume that what Fish tells us is sincere. In light of the weight of the rest of Fish’s discourse, the effect of this seemingly deliberate abatement places the astute reader in the position of questioning the intent behind it.
As someone who agrees with the emotions and experience that literary criticism gives, as related by Fish, I can also say that the reasons he gives do encourage me to continue within the discipline. As a form of ‘public justification’, I am unsure as to whether Fish has effectively used this part of his discourse to do so, or whether it is just to provide the reader with a topic of conversation. Whether it portrays an eccentric whose fetishistic leanings point to an unnatural desire to fornicate with words, seems too base a thought to even consider. Although I must admit, I entertained the idea with a certain amount of unintended and perplexed imagination.
As a form of ‘public justification’, Fish contradicts his assertion that the public or “those not of our party’’(115), do not have anything to gain from literary criticism. If there is such an obvious pleasure principle, involved in practicing criticism, that is only ‘internal’ to itself, then it would follow that it cannot also be relevant to any ‘external’ public justification. So why then, does Fish waste time justifying it as such? Moreover, if it were relevant, externally to the discipline, then it would mean that the public does have something to gain from literary criticism. This weakness in Fish’s argument seems to me to be a direct result of his overuse of rhetoric in order to persuade or justify his position to a public audience.
In Aristotle’s Rhetorica, he (Aristotle) states that “we must use, as our modes of persuasion and argument, notions possessed by everybody . . . when dealing with the way to handle a popular audience’’ (I.I.26-29). Fish subtly dismisses the need to justify literary criticism to the public with his argument against interdisciplinarity and his definition of a discipline, as essentially no less than ‘a law unto itself’. His argument does not leave us (as the judge of his work) with many matters of decision; he uses the principles of rhetorical persuasion in such a way that we are lead to conclusions almost involuntarily. The ease by which he establishes apparently watertight statements of fact, lead us to agree (in most instances) that the truth of his critique is as he maintains it is. This is one of the greatest strengths behind his arguments against cultural studies aspirations. Similarly, it can be interpreted in a negative way, as being manipulative and beguiling in nature, in order to bring the reader around to a point of agreement with the author.       
In summary, due to the strength of Fish’s critique of the epistemological and political aspirations of cultural studies, I agree that literary criticism is essentially non-causal toward political and social change. However, the fact that literary criticism has generated so much debate within the academies, seems to me an example of how a discipline can influence and generate changes within the institution and therefore within the discipline itself. Due to the apparent weaknesses that I have pointed out, I have to conclude that I am not fully convinced of the strength of Fish’s ‘public justification’ of literary criticism as a discipline.


[1]  Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change, by Stanley Fish   (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.)                                                   

(C) William Cook. 2014. 

Stanley Fish, Literary Criticism, Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change, Academic Essay, Essay, Rhetoric, University, William Cook

New Release - Psychological Horror Stories: A Collection of Psychological Horror Fiction for Adults

Greetings. This post marks the end of three months of writing, editing, and formatting a new collection that brings together old and new sto...