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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Northrop Frye and the intuition of literature


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Harry Palmer


Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was a Canadian literary critic best known for his systematic approach to literary criticism and his analysis of William Blake. Literary critic Terry Eagleton said,


"What was needed was a literary theory which, while preserving the formalist bent of New Criticism, its dogged attention to literature as aesthetic object rather than social practice, would make something a good deal more systematic and 'scientific' out of all this. The answer arrived in 1957, in the shape of the Canadian Northrop Frye's mighty 'totalization' of all literary genres, Anatomy of Criticism." (Literary Theory: An Introduction, 1983)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Frye.




"It is clear that all verbal structures with meaning are verbal imitations of the elusive psychological and psychological process known as thought..." (Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, 1957)


"There is a curious law of art... that even the attempt to reproduce the act of seeing, when carried out with sufficient energy, tends to lose its realism and take on the unnatural glittering intensity of hallucination." (The Critical Path and Other Writings on Critical Theory, 1962-1975)


"We have to look at the figures of speech a writer uses, his images and symbols, to realize that underneath all the complexity of human life that uneasy stare at an alien nature is still haunting us..." (The Educated Imagination, 1963)




"I give the impression of elusiveness sometimes, and rightly, because I really do have an inner chamber in my temple I'm not mature enough to open." (Late Notebooks, 1982-1990)


"At the level of ordinary consciousness, the individual man is the center of everything, surrounded on all sides by what he isn't." (The Educated Imagination, 1963)




"One should have bigger and better conversions every day, like a mechanized phoenix." (Notebooks)


"Man is born lost in a forest. If he is obsessed by the thereness of the forest, he stays lost and goes in circles; if he assumes the forest is not there, he keeps bumping into trees. The wise man looks for the invisible line between 'is' and the 'is not' which is the way through." (Late Notebooks, 1982-1990)