A STUDY GUIDE TO THE CRITICAL
PERSPECTIVES OF NORTHROP FRYE
THE FOLLOWING BRIEF OUTLINE IS BASED ON THE STUDIES BELOW, BOTH BY FRYE:
FRY, NORTHROP. ANATOMY OF CRITICISM. PRINCETON: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1990.
FRY, NORTHROP. FABLES OF IDENTITY--STUDIES IN POETIC MYTHOLOGY. NEW YORK: HARCOURT, BRACE AND WORLD, 1963.
PLEASE OBTAIN COPIES OF THESE BOOKS; WHAT FOLLOWS IS A BRIEF OUTLINE WHICH IS NOT MEANT TO REPLACE THEM...
AS YOU READ THE CHAPTERS IN FULL, NOTE ESPECIALLY WHAT IS OUTLINED HERE, AND BE PREPARED TO CORRELATE FRYE'S CRITICAL THEORIES WITH WHAT WE STUDY:
(I have augmented Frye's examples to correlate with materials assigned for this course).
A PERSPECTIVE ON LITERARY CRITICISM:
1--"Sciences normally begin in a state of naive induction..."
2--"In the history of taste where there are not facts..."
3--"I suggest that it is time for criticism to leap to a new ground from which it can discover what the organizing or containing forms of its conceptual framework are. Criticism seems to be badly in need of a coordinating principle, a central hypothesis which will see the phenomena it deals with as parts of a whole."
4--"We need an inductive movement toward the archetype."
5--What influence seems especially to be at work here?
ART AND THE THEORY OF CAUSALITY (ARISTOTLE)
2--formal cause--the idea behind the work--its actualization depends on the genre
3--material cause--the social conditions that produced the work
4--final cause--what do you believe to be the final cause of art?
HISTORICAL CRITICISM--THEORY OF MODES...(heros power of action)
1--MYTH--hero is superior in kind to other men, a divine being, story about a god--Athena
2--ROMANCE--hero is superior in degree--laws of nature slightly suspended-legend, folk tale
3--HIGH MIMETIC MODE--Hero superior to other men-but subordinate to nature--epic--tragedy--Lear
4--LOW MIMETIC MODE--common humanity--hero is one of us--comedy--The Wife's Lament
5--IRONIC MODE--hero inferior to us, bondage, etc--Belinda (MOCK EPIC), and SWIFT. (Note the importance of the persona in the ironic mode.)
TRAGIC FICTIONAL MODES:
1--The central position of high mimetic tragedy...
a--catharsis and pity and fear
b--does (a) depend on the moral status of the hero?
c--ghost: awful and mysterious--above us--study Richard III and Hamlet for varying perspectives
2--Tragedy and low mimetic--What do you think of Anglo-Saxon elegiac poetry from the low mimetic perspective?
b--whatever happens to the hero should be causually out of line with his character--paradox?
c--finding this out is Aristotle's recognition
1--HIGH mimetic--society is centered around the court and the city--rulers
2--LOW mimetic----the individualized creation of romanticism (The Seafarer)--romantic agony--us
1. "A symbol usually an image which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as an element of ones [literary] experience as a whole..."
a--myth--"...the imitation of actions near or at the conceivable limits of desire"--how the gods behave: recall the Iliad and the Odyssey
b--how LIKE that is to what we know--hence epic simile
c--following myth is romance and then naturalism--displacement occurs
2. What archetypes do you notice in Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales?
3. Check Tolkien and Joseph Campbell's views
ORGANIZATION OF MYTHS AND ARCHETYPAL SYMBOLS IN LITERATURE.
1--Undisplaced myth--world of gods and demons that is undesirable and desirable--What tragedies of Shakespeare seem to stress the undesirable? What happens when Odysseus descends to the underworld? What is the outcome?
2--Romantic--myths in the world associated with our own experience--consult Coleridge
3--Realism--content rather than shape of the story--ironic literature begins here and suggests the demonic myth of #1
THEORY OF ARCHETYPAL MEANING--APOCALYPTIC IMAGERY
1--Role of desire leads to the creation of:
a--vegetable world of garden, forest, park--the poetry of Wordsworth, Keats
b--animal world-usually the sheep--Wordsworth
c--mineral world-the stone and the city--A Midsummer Night's Dream
2--The emergence of a hierarchical order:--the Greek poet Hesiod (Theogony) would be worth checking.
a--divine world = society of gods = One God
b--human world = society of men = one man
c--animal world = sheepfold = one lamb
d--vegetable world = garden or part = one tree of life
e--mineral world = city = one building, temple, stone
3--From these come the macrocosmic / microcosmic imagery common in Shakespeares plays
a-classical = triangle diagram of the three elements of the soul (Republic)
b-church = Jesus
4-- Look at a comedy of Shakespeare called A Midsummer Night's Dream
5--For the chain of being, consult Lovejoy (The Great Chain of Being) and Tillyard (The Elizabethan World Picture)
THEORY OF ARCHETYPAL MEANING--DEMONIC IMAGERY
1--This is the world rejected by desire--do you think we are ever attracted to the dark side? Check the GOTHIC web page
2--Vast, menacing powers of nature in a pre-scientific culture
3--The hero confronts 'tragic dilemmas' such as Hamlet
4--"The demoniac erotic relation becomes a fierce destructive passion that works against loyalty or frustrates the one who possess it."
a--symbolized by a harlot, witch , siren...an object of desire--Macbeth
b--marriage is parodied--incest or homosexuality--the Byronic hero
c--an examination of Macbeth would prove interesting here
5--The demoniac and the animal world:
a--Monsters, beasts of prey, wolf (the enemy of the sheep), the dragon--see of course Beowulf
b-evil is paradoxically in the Christian universe a fact--Milton's Paradise Lost
6--The demoniac and the vegetable world:
a--Nature devoid of life, a tree without life
b--The scaffold, gallows, stocks whips etc; what do you think of Lear in this context?
7--The demoniac and the mineral world:
a--cities in destruction, the ruined temple
b--the prison and the dungeon--see Lewis' The Monk
c--weapons, armor, devices of torture
d--the wheel of fortune-check Boethius
8--The demoniac and the world of fire:
a--hell and demons
b--contrast to the fire of purgatory--Lear speak of being bound on a wheel of fire
9-The demoniac and the world of water:
a--death, spilled blood
b--the biblical image of the leviathan
c--examine the Rime of the Ancient Mariner
THEORY OF ARCHETYPAL MEANING --ANALOGICAL IMAGERY / THE QUEST-MYTH
1-heaven and hell as archetypal images -- the desirable and the undesirable (the romantic agony)
2--high mimetic--love and form--see Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Poetics
3--low mimetic--analogy of experience (Wordsworth) / garden is the farm of painful labor
4--romantic--the idealized world / figures are usually parental / animals are sheep / nature is the garden
5--ironic--the ribald, obscene, lewd, blasphemous (demonic modulation)-see Lewis' The Monk
THEORY OF MYTH: INTRODUCTION
1-"Innocence and experience--the cyclical movement of success and decline...looking for rhythm--how to capture a lost rapport with nature--the will is to synchronize human and natural energies (HEART OF DARKNESS)--"All the important recurrences in nature, the day, the phases of the moon, the seasons, and solstices of the year, the crises of existence from birth to death, get rituals attached to them, and most of the higher religions are equipped with a definite total body of rituals suggestive...of the entire range of potentiality significant actions in human life."
2-"The myth is the central informing power that give archetypical significance to the ritual and archetypical narrative to the oracle. Hence the myth is the archetype..."
a--the divine world, the process is that of death and rebirth of disappearance and return --vegetation myths
b--fire world of heaven --cyclical rhythms of the sun and moon
c-the human world--between the spiritual and animal cycle of life and death
d--animal lives--subject to nature--sheep in comedy; wolf in tragedy
e--vegetable world--cycle of the seasons--Prosperine--garden in comedy; forest in tragedy
f--mineral world / civilized life--growth, maturity, decline of a civilization--ubi sunt--city or temple in comedy; deserts, rocks in tragedy
g--water symbolism--rain to spring to fountain to rivers to snow etc. comedy--the river; tragedy is the sea
THE MYTHOS OF SPRING; ROMANCE
1--The birth of the hero
2--Birth--revival--resurrection--creation--defeat of the powers of death / winter (thus a cycle)
3--study Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
THE MYTHOS OF SUMMER; ROMANCE, COMEDY, PASTORAL
1--The hero embarks on a quest
2--The journey, the struggle, the exhultation of the hero (discovery / recognition)
3--Archetype of Adam and Eve--the sacred marriage
4--Elements of the comic vision from the human perspective
a--hero represents the wish fulfillment of the reader
b--order, communion, friendship, love
5--Elements of the comic vision from the animal world: the sheep--see Wordsworth
THE MYTH OF AUTUMN; TRAGEDY and ELEGY
2--Concentrated on a single individual--Oedipus
3--Hero compared to the Gods, fate, fortune, ghosts etc,--the hero is confronted with something from beyond the sense world--source of their strength and their fate
4--The most common motif is revenge--can happen via ghosts, oracles etc. (Shakespeare again!)
5--The righting of the balance is called NEMESIS--from God, a ghost, fate etc.
6--Tragedy exhibits the omnipotence of an external fate--man the gods / fate and choice (Oedipus)
7--The tragic process must be a violation of a moral law--human or devine; the flaw of Aristotle must have a connection with a kind of wrongdoing. Discuss whether the flaw of Oedipus is the same as Macbeth. What would Aristotle say?
8--The innocent suffer in tragedy--Cordelia, for example
9--An important issue is the freedom of the protagonist / hero--Recall Paradise Lost III (Frye's example)
a--God knew Adam would fall, but did not compel it
b--God : Adam :: tragic poet : protagonist
c--"The tragic poet knows his hero will be in a tragic situation, but he exerts all his power to avoid the sense of having manipulated that situation for his own purposes. He exhibits his hero to us as God exhibits Adam to the angels..."
10--The hero must have the strength to withstand the onslaught of fortune, fate etc. Does Hamlet? Othello?
11--Tragedy nonetheless narrows a comparatively free life into a process of causation by fate and the actions of the hero
12--Freedom vs. the consequences of losing it
13--Tragedy is a mimesis of sacrifice--paradoxical combination of a fearful sense of rightness (The hero must fall), and a sense of wrong paradoxically (It is too bad that he did fall). Which one of Shakespeare's protagonists most readily illustrates this paradox? Does not...?
14--see Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy
THE PHASES OF TRAGEDY:
1--Central character is given greatest possible dignity--compare Oedipus and Macbeth
2--Central character lacks due to age or a narrow vision the proper experience to make correct decisions
3--The hero embarks on a quest and is capable of great achievement
4--Fall of the hero due to hubris and harmatia--check especially Oedipus
5--The hero decreases as the ironic element increases--this is especially true in Hamlet--see Harold Bloom's comments in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
6--The final phase is shock and horror, mutiliation etc.
THE MYTHOS OF WINTER: IRONY AND SATIRE:
1--"Satire is militant irony"
2--"Satire needs wit and humor and an object of attack", SWIFT