Tyranny of the Normal by Leslie Fiedler
Essays on Bioethics, Theology & Myth

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This is a bold new collection of essays from Leslie Fiedler, one of America's most brilliant literary and social critics. Wound together by the common thread of bioethics, they encompass such issues as abortion, the removal of life support (or as Fiedler says, "permitting the imperfect to die"), the role that doctors play in our society, the trend back to herbal medicine, and how we confront (or try not to confront) old age and Eros.

Fiedler speaks of bioethics not as a health-care professional, but as a passionate, well-informed amateur. A literary critic, he brings particular breadth to the topic, using it as a window through which to examine the mythology of abnormality in our society. His examples are culled from history, from personal experience, and from those works that have most penetrated our culture, our attitudes, even our collective subconscious: whether acknowledged literary classics (Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the works of Dickens and Shakespeare) or more popular entertainments, such and Ken Kesey's "youth novel" One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest and the enormously successful television shows Marcus Welby, M.D. and E.R.

As in his earlier book, the bestselling Freaks, Fiedler's concern here is with the Other, the individual who does not fit within society s parameters of "normalcy" and so becomes the Outsider - even as that individual uncomfortably challenges many of our cherished assumptions about our capacities for civilization and tolerance. Frequently controversial, at times infuriating, these essays will anger parties on all sides of these debates. But they will also appeal to anyone who appreciates the unorthodox insights of an inquisitive and voracious mind.

About Leslie Fiedler

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Leslie A. Fiedler, a literary critic, was a professor of English at the State University of New York, at Buffalo. His well-known preoccupation with social and psychological issues emerged with Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), which became a major critical text of the 1960s. In this book he argued that American writing has been shaped by an inability to portray mature sexual relationships and by an underlying fear of death. Fiedler admonished critics, teachers, and readers of literature to connect text and context-to consider a poem, for example, as the sum of many contexts, including its genre, the other works of the author, the other works of his time, and so forth. Fiedler's notions of moral ambiguity echo Matthew Arnold's focus on art as criticism of life, but with an energy and style peculiar to himself. Fiedler depended greatly on generalizations (usually unexpected), making his critical remarks reflect broader considerations.
Published October 1, 1996 by David R Godine. 176 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Commenting on Coming Home, Jane Fonda's hit movie about a disabled Vietnam veteran, he brushes aside its veneer of sanctimonious politics to suggest less attractive reasons for its popularity: What moved audiences, especially women, ``were certain genuinely mythic elements, long familiar in women...

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Publishers Weekly

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Combative, opinionated, sometimes belabored, these thought-provoking original essays confirm Fiedler's reputation as an intellectual maverick, an erudite critic, an irrepressible explorer of humanity's darkest impulses.

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