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Leslie A. Fiedler (Leslie Aaron Fiedler) Biography

(1917–2003), (Leslie Aaron Fiedler), An End to Innocence: Essays on Culture and Politics, Partisan Review

American critic, born in Newark, New Jersey, educated at the universities of New York and Madison, Wisconsin. After war service he was, from 1947 to 1963, Professor of English at Montana State University and since then has taught at the University of New York, Buffalo. An End to Innocence: Essays on Culture and Politics (1955) showed Fiedler's polemical flair, and also included ‘Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey’ (Partisan Review, 1948) whose discussion of ‘the erotic archetype’ in Melville, Fenimore Cooper, and Twain anticipated his later approach. Love and Death in the American Novel (1960) was a critical landmark, owing as much to Freud as to D. H. Lawrence in arguing the mythic and gothic status of classic American literature (‘books which turn from society to nature or nightmare’). Fiedler's emphasis on the contexts of writing—and his energetic style, full of provocative generalizations—represented a turning away from the New Criticism. After Waiting for the End (1964), the frontier mythology was examined in The Return of the Vanishing American (1968), ingeniously linking the legends of Pocahontas and ‘Rip Van Winkle’ to the New Westerns of Barth, Thomas Berger, and Kesey. Fiedler's arrest on a marijuana charge in 1967 occasioned a partial autobiography, Being Busted (1970); he became a popular speaker often regarded, simplistically, as a spokesman for the counter-culture. The Collected Essays (2 volumes) appeared in 1971, A Fiedler Reader in 1977. Amongst the later works are What Was Literature? (1982) and Fiedler on the Roof: Epistle to the Gentiles (1991). His achievement has been to ‘define the myths which give a special character to life and art in America’. Mark Royden Winchell's Leslie A. Fiedler was published in 1985.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Sebastian Faulks Biography to Football Milieu