The Return of the Self, or Whatever Happened to Postmodern Jurisprudence


Postmodern jurisprudence was all the rage in the 1990s. Two of the most renowned postmodernists, Stanley Fish and Pierre Schlag, both persistently criticized mainstream legal scholars for believing they were modernist selves—independent, sovereign, and autonomous agents who could remake the social and legal world merely by writing a law review article. Then Fish and Schlag turned on each other. Each attacked the other for making the same mistake: harboring a modernist self. I revisit this skirmish for two reasons. First, it helps explain the current moribund state of postmodern jurisprudence. If two of the leading postmodernists could not avoid embedding a self in their respective writings, then what was the point of criticizing mainstream legal scholars for doing the same? Second, an understanding of this conflict between Fish and Schlag can help suggest a path forward for postmodernism. Since 2000, when Fish published his attack against Schlag, feminist theorists have developed intertwined concepts of a relational self and relational autonomy. These feminist concepts provide a springboard for launching postmodern jurisprudence into new territory.


Stanley Fish, Pierre Schlag, Postmodern Jurisprudence, Feminism, hermeneutics, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Interpretation, Textual Interpretation, Autonomy



Stephen M. Feldman (University of Wyoming)



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