An Appetite for Poetrynby Frank KermodenCambridge: Harvard University Press;n242 pp., $22.50n*^ |_i’ew people,” we find FranknX Kermode saying by page 42 ofnhis 46-page Prologue, — “Few peoplencan take much pleasure in modernnacademic literary criticism except itsnpractitioners, who do not mind that annintelligent outsider would surely find itnboth arcane and depressing.” Thatnmeans, the practitioners deem “intelligentnoutsider” an oxymoron, like “wisenfool,” for which the Greek is “sophomore.”nThe thing to do with sophomoresn(the college kind) is to pumpnthem as rapidly as possible full of intelligence.nUnderstanding that there is non”literature,” they will then sleep better.nHugh Kenner’s most recent book isnMazes, reviewed in the Novembernissue.n28/CHRONICLESnOPINIONSnBrave Theory Puffingnby Hugh Kennern”As civilization advances, poetry almost necessarily declines.”n— T.B. MacaulnynSome may hope for jobs talking aboutnhow there is no literature.nFor instance, here’s Robert Scholes,nsemiotician (a “meaning-specialist”).nScholes wants to “open up the waynbetween the literary text and the socialntext in which we live” — I’m quotingnScholes, not Kermode—since “everything”ncries out to be interpreted, notnjust what’s miscalled “literature.”nScholes is, he says, “a teacher of languagenand literature — or, better, ofntextual ity.”nHaving set that up, with more detail,nhence more fairness, than a summaryncan pretend to, Kermode next pulls thenstring of the guillotine. We now know,nhe says, what literature has become fornRobert Scholes: “a semiotic sample,nconvenient because more portable thannthe entire social environment. On thisnview the redemption of the literary textnseems to require its relegation to thenposition of one among an inexhaustiblenand indiscriminate array of other texts:nin short, to save it is to destroy it. Suchnnnare the contradictions in which we findnourselves when we lose confidence innthe existence and value of ‘literature asnsuch.'”n(I’m reminded of a long-ago professornwhose view of Chaucer’s work wasnthis, that it provided the largest availablensample of one Middle-English dialect.nHe was the same man who once lecturednto a genteel audience on ThenElizabethan Stage. It was so many feetnwide, he said, so many feet deep, wasnfashioned of deal planking, wasnequipped with one or more trap doors.nThe lady required to move the vote ofnthanks found herself speechless.)n”Confidence in the existence andnvalue of ‘literature as such'” is entailednin Kermode’s title. An Appetite fornPoetry. If you’ve an appetite for kumquats,nkumquats must exist, and benidentifiable by you. You needn’t feelnobliged to delimit the Essence of thenKumquat. Nor does Kermode feelnobliged to demonstrate that WallacenStevens (“poetry”) can offer richern