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The Devil Gets His Due

The Uncollected Essays of Leslie Fiedler

List Price: $26.00

April 1, 2008 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 336 Pages | ISBN 9781593761882
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"[O]ne of the most daring skinny-dippers in U.S. literary and social criticism." —TIME

For more than fifty years Leslie Fielder played a crucial role in the development of American literary culture. Despite his often unacknowledged influence, the academy, intellectuals, and the general audience in America and abroad still read his work and draw on its concepts. The Devil Gets His Due collects his previously uncollected writing and, in so doing, tells us the novelties and the flaws of the American canon Fiedler tried to establish and open up, encompassing “high” and “popular” literature, cinema and history, navigating with the same agility Dante, Pound, Mary McCarthy, Rambo, Iwo Jima and Jerry Lewis. Finally the project re-presents and re-positions Fiedler’s role in light of the contemporary crises in the humanities.

With the exception of three essays —“Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck Honey,” “Introduction to The Star Rover,” and “Who’s the Cowboy, Who’s the Indian? The Slowest Gun in the West”—none of these pieces have been previously collected. They are either essays or brief, extraordinarily poignant reviews of books such as Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City, Mary McCarthy’s Groves of Academe, Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side, and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. They cover a time period that spans almost fifty years of Fiedler’s career, from 1943, the year of his first publication, an “Explication de Texte” in verses of Dante’s Inferno XXVI, to 2002, the year in which his last essays, “Introduction to The Deerslayer” and the mostly autobiographical “Getting’ It Right: The Flag Raisings at Iwo Jima” were written and/or appeared.

In spite of their thematic differences, all sections revolve around a unifying theoretical notion, which Fiedler makes explicit in the 1972 essay “Who Really Died in Vietnam?” In it, he writes that “we endure the pangs of a society that has outlived a value system whose mythological foundation remains firm.” Thus, these essays are presented as a way to close the gap between society and ideology and to project culture and society beyond that mythological foundation in order to overcome it. In turn, they are posed as the framework for the articulation of a radical project for a democratic program of intellectual action.

LESLIE FIEDLER was one of the leading literary and cultural critics of his generation. Author of twenty books, his early criticism was published in the Partisan Review and the Kenyon Review. After a stint as a Fulbright lecturer in the universities of Rome and Bologna lasting from 1951 to 1953, Fiedler became the Chair of the Department of English in the University of Montana. On January 30, 2003, a month before his 86th birthday, Fiedler died in Buffalo.

SAMUELE F. PARDINI (editor) holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from SUNY Buffalo, where he studied under Leslie Fiedler. He was a visiting Lecturer at UCLA and presently teaches at Vanderbilt University.

Praise

“Leslie Fiedler… was the last—or rather the first—of the wild-man literary critics. We’re used to the type now: Harold Bloom with his sprawling, egomaniacal tomes and kitschy sad-Falstaff routine; Stanley Fish with his ‘subversive’ provocations produced on cue for the op-ed page; Frank Lentricchia in his muscle shirt. But Fiedler was the original chest-thumping extrovert of American criticism, and no one ever did it better.” —Slate

“Leslie Fiedler is the BEST fucking thing that ever happened to American literature.” —Saul Bellow, author of Herzog

“[O]ne of the most daring skinny-dippers in U.S. literary and social criticism.” —TIME

“Once upon a time, literary critics mattered — if the most renowned among them were not quite household names, they were close to it. Those days are gone, but one of the last of the giants lives on in both real life and reputation. You might have caught Meadow Soprano explaining Leslie Fiedler’s famous theory about the homoerotic subtext of Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd” to her mother Carmella on a certain hit HBO series recently…” —Salon.com

“Fiedler created an American intellectual style that was truncated by the invasion of faddish French theory in the 70’s and 80’s. Let’s turn back to Fiedler and begin again.” —Camille Paglia, author of Break, Blow, Burn

 

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