anyone in this TV age. Actually, Fiedlernshould be hailed, not reviled, for bringingnNatty Bumppo to those tuning in tonhear about 2sa Zsa Gabor’s diamondsnand husbands. Fiedler answers detractorsnwho accuse him of “selling out” by correctlynsaying, “By the last decades of thentwentieth century . . . those critics, oncenable to think of themselves as the allpowerfulnlegislators of the invisiblenRepublic of Letters, have themselvesnbeen co-opted by the university, as completelynas the hucksters they despise havenbeen by the marketplace.” The unsettlingnthing is that Fiedler, a learned man,nthinks it necessary to oppose “academicnaccounts” by knocking down any restraintsnthat stand in the way of, as hentides the second half of his book, “OpeningnUp the Canon. “Just as the flasher innthe park gets a quick and easy thrill,nFiedler thinks that the reader of “ournliterature” should get one, too. Thrillhnan operative term in Fiedler’s definitionnof “our literature.” Middle initial or no,nFiedler is still a Doctor of Philosophy,nso he trots out an authority to lend himna hand:nAnd what is incumbent on us now, itnseems to me as I reach the end ofndefinition and move on to advocacy,nis to take a cue from Longinus andncreate an approach to literature innwhich we will, if not quite abandon,nat least drastically downgrade bothnethics and aesthetics in favor ofn’ecstatics.’nTo Fiedler’s mind the problem in thenuniversities (the source of standards ofnliterature) today is that his former colleagues,nthose who deal with Pound andnEliot—or Pynchon, Earth, and othernpostmodernists, for that matter—are, inn”with-it” lingo, “hung up” on thingsnlike instruction and delight; they are stillnfollowing the uncool Horace.nIt’s not that Fiedler has anythingnagainst ethics and aesthetics; they haventheir place in his revised curriculum,nalbeit a small, out-of-the-way locale. Butnworks to which those standards are appliednand which meet the requirementsntend to be boring: no one outside of anuniversity, he thinks, would want to readnthem. Which ultimately leads to bookbrowsingnat K-Mart. According tonFiedler, “It is indeed an essential fanctionnof literature to release in us unnaturalnimpulses—including the neednfrom time to time to go out of our headsn—which we otherwise repress or sublimatenfor the sake of law and order, civilization,nsweet reason itself.” This is rathernmore than Aristotle’s katharsis; indeed,nFiedler says what readers are redly lookingnfor in “mythic art” is “privileged insanity.n” Thus the before-mentionednwhite-jacketed professionals. Fewnreading, say. The Portrait of a Ladynwould feel inclined to go out of theirnheads. Wonder Woman comics, Fiedlernthinks, supplies that urge for some. Thatnmeans they are good.nJTiedler correctly points out thatnmuch “classic” American literature was,nin its day, “popular” literature. CriticsnDementia in an Advanced StagenUnder a particularly idiotic title—“IsnSex Dead?”—New York magazine, thenagitprop sheet for mass-produced herdninstincts (which its editors call trends),nponders the contemporary amorphousnessnof mores. Asking whether sexnis dead amounts to asking whethernthere’s still life on this planet, or if thenand scholars entrenched in the universities—hisnold pals—deal with popularnculture in a condescending manner:nthose neoelitists would never complainnin a book about their “favorite copnshows, including Baretta, Kojack andnStarsky and Hutch, ” being driven fromnthe air by those who don’t understandnthe shows’ “ecstatic” function. Fiedlerncontends that Conan Doyle, BramnStoker, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and similarnauthors who have created charactersnthat have a “mythic” quality should benconsidered top-drawer material, notnsecond-rate. Eventually this leads to thenapproach that can be formulated thus: Ifnit’s popular, it’s undoubtedly mythic; ifnit’s mythic, it’s got to be good; if it’sngood, it’s got to be literature. Fiedlernspends nearly half of What Was Literature?narguing that Uncle Tom’s Cabinnshould be considered one of the classicsnof American literature because of its undyingnpopularity, the root of which hendiscovers in its mythic quality. (FiedlernLIBERAL CULTURE^nnnsupply of oxygen necessary for breathingnis still around; nonetheless, blithelynunaware of her own blockheadedness,nthe “observer” of modern sexualia onnbehalf of New York opines on the “sexualnrevolution”:nLike all revolutions, this one leavesna long casualty list. But the list of itsnaccomplishments is lengthy as well.n. . . Premature ejaculators andnnonorgasraic women poured by thenthousands into sex clinics andntherapy workshops, where thendefinition of normality wasnchanged dozens of times, until itnfaded altogether. The borders thatndefined sex roles blurred.nSo now, we do not know any longernwhat’s normal and what is not. And NewnYork sees that as very, very good indeed.nAs the wise old Greeks used to say: thosenwhom the gods would destroy, they firstntake their brains away. Dnwmmm^ 9nMarch 1983n