rewards than Gloria Steinem (nonpoetry,nthough, yes, “text”). He simplynreprints his 1980 essay on Stevens. Ifnyou’ve an appetite for poetry you’llnfind it exhilarating. If not, not.nAn Appetite for Poetry consists ofnten reprinted essays (Milton, Stevens,nEliot, Empson, other themes) prefacednby that long polemic Prologue. Polemic?nWell, the temperature stays moderate;nbut Kermode on The State ofnCriticism at the Present Time willntouch off apoplexies, if only becausenhe’s so difficult to answer. He’s notnvulnerable to such knee-jerk responsesnas that he Just Doesn’t Understand.nFor he doesn’t rest his case onnrebarbative jargon; he’s read the stuffnwidely, even finds Paul de Man andnJacques Derrida rewarding, if only fornwhat their acolytes never notice, theirnengaging sense of their own limitations.nAnd when he does take on antheoretical issue, he’ll slyly let JonathannCuller articulate it.nFor “Over the past dozen years or sonit has been Culler’s somewhat paradoxicalnmerit to say with exceptionalnclarity exactly what he means —nparadoxical because we now find himnvery lucidly complaining that certainnpersons hostile to his cause are guilty ofnencouraging students to succumb to ‘annideology of lucidity.'” One thing Cullernis lucid about is where canons (readn”curricula”) come from. They comenfrom a power structure with valuesn(read “jobs”) to hold on to, in cahootsnwith a still larger structure with a neednto keep the masses in their place.nFor Kermode, Culler is distracted bynan atavistic belief that “literature” (thencanonizable?) does somehow exist,nthough it’s risky to make lists lest younabet the inert, who’ll be happy whennstudents just nod assent to those lists.nBut Culler, he says, “has very little ideanof what a canon is, merely identifyingnthe term with a state of affairs which hisnown metanarrative or cross-fictionn(roughly, that of the revolutionarynpurge) requires him to deplore.” Hengoes on to make five observations, eachnaccorded a long paragraph. In summary:n(1) Canons exclude as well as include.n”If you include anything andneverything you naturally lose the idea ofncanon completely.”n(2) Canons are not “enclosures fullnof static monuments.” They go withncommentary, i.e., continuing discussion,nwhich “gives the contents of thencanon a perpetual modernity.” Onenparadigm is Jewish scriptural commentary,nand “it is as inapposite to say ofnsomeone’s canon that it is irrelevantnbecause written by white males as to saynthat Hebrew Bible is irrelevant becausenit was written by ancient Jews.”nThus (3) a canon, and only a canon,nensures a tradition of “the special forrhsnof attention” its contents require.nKermode aptly cites Alvin Kibel: therenare great works, like Newton’s Optics,nof which “the text can be otherwisenformulated”; there are also great worksn(Plato, St. Mark, Shakespeare) “tonwhich textual reference is always necessary,”nbecause they are “a conhnualnsource of meaning.”n(4) There is “no such necessarynassociation between canons and politicalnoppressiori as it now appears commonnto assume.” Thus in America then”academic” canon was developed “inndepartments whose first objective wasnto give immigrants a better commandnof English.”nFinally, (5) “the false notion ofnaesthetic totalities” is not pertinent tonthe existence of a canon. That “a totalnand definitive statement of the relationnof any text to a totality of texts” isnsimply not possible need embarrass nonone. It never embarrassed the rabbis;nindeed it was “the” basis of their wholenenterprise.” For “partial and temporarynsuccesses are all that could ever benLIBERAL ARTS-nexpected, which is why interpretation isnendless — why it can make sense tonspeak of texts as inexhaustible, and ofnthe ‘great’ texts as calling for continuedninstitutional inquiry.”nAt a lower level than Culler, denMan, or Derrida, we find politicalnposturing, definable as a bid for groupnapproval once a potent group can benlocated. Thus at one major universityn”the proper use of Shakespeare is tonconvey information, eternal truths perhaps,nabout the oppression of womennin the seventeenth century.” (I’ll concealnthe person that paraphrases,nthough the paraphrase seems to benaccurate.) Next comes packaging: e.g.,na book by Vincent B. Leitch, AmericannLiterary Criticism from the Thirtiesnto the Eighties, which is organizednby “schools” — Myth Criticism,nReader-Response Criticism, Deconstruction.nFeminism, Black Aestheticsn. . . and simply omits whoever doesn’tnfit. I’ll pause to record two ofnKermode’s observations, that “HughnKenner, for instance, cannot be accommodated,”nand that neither cannJohn Hollander, to whom An Appetitenfor Poetry is fitly dedicated.nTrust your own nose, ends the Prologue.nKermode has righdy trusted his.nA discussion of the ten essays wouldnentail another and very long review.nI’m grateful for them, still more gratefulnfor the Prologue they occasioned.nThe silence you’ll be hearing next willnlikely be thunderous.n<^nBUT ISN’T A POODLE NAMED LACY JANEnJUST ASKING FOR . . .nA courageous cat in Dora, Alabama,ntook a flying leap and sent a pit bullnrunning when the latter tried to beat upna poodle. Teresa Harper’s 4-year-oldnfeline. Sparky, became a local hero afternsaving her owner’s poodle. Lacy Jane,nfrom the jaws of the dog. As thenAssociated Press reported the story,nHarper let her dog out and seconds laternheard a commotion. She rushed to thendoor and was paralyzed with fear whennshe saw Lacy Jane at the mercy of a straynpit bull. But Sparky, perched 10 feetnnnabove the fray, flew into action. “Shenmade a flying leap, just as pretty as younplease, and she landed right on that dog’snhead,” said her owner. “She just clawednand scratched and clawed andnscratched.”nThe pit bull ran for cover. “Thenpoodle had a puncture wound on thenright side,” said Vicky Moorehead, annemployee at the animal clinic where thenpoodle was taken. “It would have beennkilled if it hadn’t been for that cat.”nFEBRUARY 1990/29n