Fiedler, Leslie A(aron) 1917-2003
FIEDLER, Leslie A(aron) 1917-2003
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born March 8, 1917, in Newark, NJ; died January 29, 2003, in Buffalo, NY. Educator, critic, and author. Fiedler was both celebrated and castigated for the provocative criticism through which he analyzed American literature to uncover the secrets within. In that regard he reportedly described himself as a "literary anthropologist." He had outspoken opinions on what constitutes "literature" and what makes it distinctively "American." In What Was Literature? Class Culture and Mass Society, Fiedler postulated that the products of popular culture are as qualified for inclusion in the "literary canon" as works of greater artistic merit. He was as likely to read a comic book as a work of Shakespeare. In his well-known and controversial Love and Death in the American Novel, Fiedler declared that American literature is preoccupied with death, with the (male) outsider, and with male bonding experiences that are uncannily, if unintentionally, homoerotic in nature. Fiedler was a colorful figure in the turbulent and rebellious 1960s, his companions of the stature of Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, and other Jewish-American authors like himself. Many of his writings explore the themes of Jewish-American literature, notably The Jew in the American Novel and Fiedler on the Roof: Essays on Literature and Jewish Identity. Fiedler's career spanned several decades overall. He taught English at Montana State University for more than twenty years before moving in 1964 to the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was Samuel Langhorne Clemens Professor of Literature. He was a visiting professor at many prestigious institutions in the United States and abroad. Among many honors bestowed upon Fiedler were the Hubbell Medal of the Modern Language Association of America and the Ivan Sandroff Award of the National Book Critics Circle. Fiedler was a prolific author of both fiction and criticism. His critical works include The Stranger in Shakespeare and Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Winchell, Mark Royden, Too Good to Be True: TheLife and Work of Leslie Fiedler, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2002.
Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2003, obituary by Mary Rourke, p. B20.
New York Times, January 31, 2003, obituary by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, p. C11.
Times (London, England), February 5, 2003.
Washington Post, January 31, 2003, p. B6.