Northrop Frye Four Essays

Northrop Frye Four Essays-84
I…I vividly remember my reaction, when as an undergraduate, I read Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism as a required text in a course I was taking.I recall feeling engulfed as Frye trotted out one network of schematization after another: modes, symbols, myths, genres, accompanied by an endless march of terminology: high mimetic, low mimetic, phases, mythoi, alazons, sparagmos, anagogical, pharmakos, agon, eiron, etc., etc.

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Striking out at the conception of criticism as restricted to mere opinion or ritual gesture, Northrop Frye wrote this magisterial work proceeding on the assumption that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge in its own right.

Employing examples of world literature from ancient times to the present, he provides a conceptual framework for the examination of litera Striking out at the conception of criticism as restricted to mere opinion or ritual gesture, Northrop Frye wrote this magisterial work proceeding on the assumption that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge in its own right.

The more he explained—backed by an encyclopedic array of allusions from the Bible as well as every period of literature imaginable—the smaller I felt.…In a (very) old movie called The Incredible Shrinking Man, the main character—as could be anticipated—becomes progressively smaller.

During an early scene—he’s on his second date with a beautiful woman—she wounds him by remarking, brilliantly, “Didn’t you used to be taller?

Employing examples of world literature from ancient times to the present, he provides a conceptual framework for the examination of literature.

In four brilliant essays on historical, ethical, archetypical, and rhetorical criticism, he applies "scientific" method in an effort to change the character of criticism from the casual to the causal, from the random and intuitive to the systematic.

That's not to say that he possesses the answer (it's literary theory, after all)--but that he has an answer.

Much like "42," though, sometimes answers arrive without any question requiring their presence.

To counter the increasing return to myth in modern fiction, Frye points out that his five modes are circular: "Irony descends from the low mimetic; it begins in realism and dispassionate observation.

But as it does so, it moves steadily toward myth, and dim outlines of sacrificial rituals and dying gods begin to reappear in it" (42).

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