Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Detailed Critical Analysis of Anatomy of Criticisim

 Like Wellek and Warren's Theory,  [Commonalities with Wellek and Warren's book (which Frye's never mentions) are numerous: that literary study should be self-cantered, and both is and is not scientific; that history and chronology have been the only systematic areas so far; that causal explanation is not appropriate; that literary creativity is partly unconscious, and psychology is chiefly psychoanalysis; that the literary work is a self-contained verbal structure whose truth is not factual; that poetry is the canter of literature; that the author is not the best interpreter of the work; and that sociological values diverge from literary ones.]  Frye's Anatomy was a milestone in the advent of critical theory.
Both books confront the problems of categorizing the diversity of literary issues. But whereas Wellek and Warren's types are for sorting out critical methods, Frye's types are both for methods and for literary works themselves, and are thus even more elaborately tailored to concrete instances. Classifying both methods and works exerts diverse, sometimes conflicting pressures on Frye during his spirited campaign to balance the general against the specific, or the universal against the idiosyncratic. His ambition to situate and label so many branches of literary creation and tradition without suppressing their individuality leads to more complicated schematics than any other among our sample critics has produced. He purports to present not a “system" or “theory" as such, but an “interconnected group of suggestions" concerning “the possibility of a synoptic view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism” (AC 3).
Culture, Freedom and Frye
For Frye, “the freedom of man is inseparably bound up with the acceptance of his cultural heritage,” "culture” being "provisionally defined as the total body of imaginative hypothesis in a society and its tradition” (AC 349, 127). “Criticism” is “an essential part” of “liberal education,” one without which the “public" “brutalizes the arts and loses its cultural memory” (AC 4). If “there is no real correlation between the merit of art and the degree of public response to it,” “the critic” must be “the pioneer of education and the shaper of cultural tradition.” And since “culture” “insists on its totality,” “the social task of the “intellectual"“ is “to defend the autonomy of culture” against “subordination to a total synthesis of any kind, religious or political” (AC 127). For “criticism" to be “a field of genuine learning," “no definitive positions” should be "taken": they could be “the source of one's liability to error and prejudice." (AC 19). Instead, “intellectual freedom lies in “transvaluation": "the ability to look at contemporary social values with the detachment of one who is able to compare them with the infinite vision o possibilities presented by culture” (AC 348).
Literary Criticism and Science
Frye calls for a "comprehensive view of what” “literary criticism” “actually is doing” (AC 12). “The varied interests of critics” should be “related to a central expanding pattern of systematic comprehension.” “Scholars and public critics” would then be “related by an intermediate form of criticism, a coherent and comprehensive theory of literature, logically and scientifically organized” and “fulfilling the systematic and progressive element in research by assimilating its work into a unified structure of knowledge” (AC 11). Although Frye recognizes many types of criticism, he is not content to “stop with a purely relative and pluralistic position,” but argues “that there is a finite number of valid critical methods, and that they can all be contained in a single theory" (AC 72).
As an "'ideal reader," “the critic” can “reforge broken links between creation and knowledge, art and science, myth and concept” (AC 354). Hence, "literary criticism has a central place” in the "swirl of intellectual activities" in “communication, symbolism, semantics, linguistics, metalinguistics, pragmatics, cybernetics," and “dozens of other fields" (AC 350). The other disciplines are not pursued at all.]However, Frye (again like Wellek and Warren) does not expect such “fields” to take the place of a properly literary theory. He warns against the “undertow" whereby “all the neighbouring disciplines have moved" into "the power vacuum” "created" by “the absence of systematic criticism” (AC 12). “The barriers" between various “methods of criticism” are blamed for making “a critic" “establish his primary contacts" "with subjects outside criticism” -- 'barriers” Frye proposes to “break down" with a program that “assumes a larger context of literature as a whole” (AC 341, 134). “The critic must enter into relations" with such “neighbours” in ways which "guarantee his own independence" (AC 19). Yet if “nearly every work of art in the past had a social function in its own time" that “was often not primarily an aesthetic function at all” (AC 344), a purely literary “criticism” that would not be “the application of a social attitude” (AC 22) seems problematic. Even "the question of whether a thing “is” a work of art” is decided not by “something in the      i nature of thing itself," but by “convention” and “social acceptance” (AC 34 ).
This ambivalence about what to include or exclude extends to Frye’s view (and just about everybody’s, I might add) of science. On one side, he portrays “criticism as “an art” because its “subject matter" “is an art” and because its “centre” is an “incommunicable experience” (AC 27f, 3; cf. AC 8). Thus, “the critic" “need waste no time emulating the natural sciences” (AC 19). On the other side, he reassures us that “the mental  process involved" in "seriously studying literature" is “as coherent and progressive as the study of science” (AC 19, 10f). “A precisely similar training of mind” and “sense of the unity of the subject" are entailed (AC 11). "The presence of science" “changes" “the casual to the causal,” “the random and intuitive to the systematic, as well as safeguarding the integrity of that subject from external invasions" (AC 7). Hence, the “scientific element in criticism” can “distinguish it from literary parasitism" and “superposed critical attitude."
Frye grants that this goal is not yet realized. Whereas “science begins” with naive induction” and then takes an “inductive leap" to a "new vantage ground” so as to “see its former data as new things to be explained," “literary criticism" persists in a “state of naive induction” (AC 15). "Its materials, the masterpieces of literature, are not yet regarded as phenomena to be explained,” but rather as “the framework or structure of criticism" (AC 15f). There is no “coordinating principle," no "central hypothesis," and no  “sense of consolidating progress which belongs to a science” (AC 16, 8). “Literature" is conceived as an "enumerative bibliography" and an “aggregate” of “discrete “works"; the only “organizing principle" “so far” is "chronology" (AC 16).
"A systematic study alternates between inductive experience and deductive principles”; but “in criticism,” only “some of the induction" is provided by "rhetorical analysis,” while “the deductive counterpart,” namely “poetics, the theory of criticism," is "underdeveloped” -- so that “the critic is thrown back on prejudice derived from his existence as a social being” (AC 21f). To rectify this situation, Frye vows to “proceed deductively" and “to stress “the schematic nature” of his book despite the “strong emotional repugnance felt by many critics toward any form of schematization in poetics" (AC 29).
Frye’s Criticism
Despite his professed distaste for “anti-critical criticism" (AC 3), Frye launches a cluster-bomb of further charges. Some critics are "restricted to ritual masonic gestures,” “cryptic comments and other signs of an understanding too occult syntax" (AC 4). Some dispense “sonorous nonsense" in “generalities, reflective comments," and “ideological perorations" (AC 18). Others “have" “a mystery religion without a gospel" and “communicate, or quarrel, only with one an other” (AC 14). Still others suffer from imposing a “religio-political colour-filter or "a limited historical context" (AC 7, 62). Matters seem to get worse in modern times, when “the assimilation of literature to private enterprise" has "concealed so many of the facts of criticism"; and when the "provincialism" of our "ironic age” looks only for “objectivity" in "literature" and makes "major arts" out of “advertising and propaganda" (AC 97, 62, 47; cf. AC 65f, 135, 214, 323).
Frye's reversion to classical and medieval theories indicates a determination to avoid these modern flaws. Since "the Middle Ages, when a precise scheme" "was taken over from theology and applied to literature," “criticism" “has seldom squarely faced" the idea that "a work of literary art contains a variety or sequence of meanings" (AC 72). “Today," this idea is only “established" by the “simultaneous development of several different schools of modern criticism." And this development too has a negative aspect. Whereas "scholarship" "admits the principle of polysemous meaning, “ "pedantry" “chooses one of these groups and then tries to prove that all the others are less legitimate.” In later chapters, we will see more "pedantry" than “scholarship" diagnosed among our critics (cf. Ch. 3, 20). Even Frye has favourites (especially “archetypal" criticism), though he is exceptionally syncretistic.
The greatest vehemence of Frye's invective is aimed at the very activity Wellek and Warren declared the true goal of criticism, namely evaluation. Frye's motives are far more complex than the commonplace intent to hide one's own values. His project for imposing order and categories upon criticism hinges on “separating” the whole superstructure from the "relative and subjective" (AC 18). "Value judgments" constitute “casual, sentimental, and prejudiced" bits o ,,meaningless criticism" that “cannot help to build a systematic structure of knowledge" (AC 18, 20). “Our natural likes and dislikes have nothing to do" with "working on a solid structural basis" (AC 215). “Whatever vacillates or reacts” "cannot be part of any systematic study" and belongs only to "the history of taste, where there are no facts" (AC 18).  
Motives of Frye’s Criticism
Frye's motives for excluding evaluation evidently go beyond disavowing “the limitations and prejudices" of “contemporary taste” (AC 9). He conjectures that every deliberately constructed hierarchy of values in literature” is “based on a concealed social, moral, or intellectual analogy” (AC 23). Like Fiedler and Bleich, Frye insists that criticism should not be a “moral” enterprise in the everyday sense, and that "moral" standards are inappropriate for literary works (AC 26f, 33, 50, 38, 120, 127, 156, 167, 181, 196, 211, 229). He prefers an “ethical criticism" striving for a "conception of the total and simultaneous possession of past culture" and a "steady advance toward undiscriminating catholicity” (AC 21, 240. "The real level of culture and of liberal education" is “the dialectical axis of criticism," having “as one pole the total acceptance of the data of literature, and as the other the total acceptance of the potential of those data" (AC 25). "Aesthetics” could thereby "learn to do what ethics has already done" (AC 26).
A further, closely related, motive is to rehabilitate certain traditionally devalued kinds of literature by designing more suitable categories for them. Frye laments that critics have not appreciated works of a given type, but misprized them as had examples of another. “In nearly every period of literature," for instance, "there are many romances, confessions, and anatomies that are neglected only because the categories to which they belong are unrecognized" (AC 312). "A novel-centered conception of fiction” led critics to diagnose “carelessness," "defects," and "shapelessness” in such forms (AC 310, 305, 313). Frye retorts that being “typical” or “central" for some “form of fiction" does not justify “an estimate of merit“; nor does being more "fully realized" and “distinctive" entail being "better" (AC 304, 265). However, "one great” work frequently provides the “norm" for “theories," as happened with “tragedy” (AC 212). Even works following "superficial and inorganic conventions" can be “of great value to archetypal criticism" (AC 104). Still, Frye's own values do interact with his categories, which is probably inevitable.
Using such arguments, Frye declines to remedy the situation that “no critical theory known to me takes any real account” of “different systems of valuation" (AC 280. He is content if “the theory of literature takes values for granted” and leaves them “silent," “not directly communicated," making no attempt to "establish or prove" (AC 23, 50, 20, 25). He does not try to correct the “graphic formulas" which tend to guide "value-assumptions,” for example, that “the concrete is better than the abstract," “the dynamic better than the static, the unified better than the multiple,” and so on (AC 336), though his own position on such categories is more circumspect.6 [6. Frye firmly endorses “unity” (p. 74), but does not take sides on these other pairs. “The fusion of the concrete and the abstract” is attributed to “all ages of poetry, " and the same pair is aligned with symbolism” and “allegory,” respectively, though the “mythical” is judged “abstract” (AC 281, 89, 134, 136, 139). The opposition between dynamic versus static corresponds to that between “mythos” and “dianoia” (AC 83).]  He does, however, address evaluation when he surmises that “the profound masterpiece draws us to a point at which we seem to see an enormous number of converging patterns of significance" (AC 17). Or, he says that "poetry" goes beyond being "merely incidental to various social aims, to propaganda, to amusement, to devotion, to instruction" if it attains "an objective and disinterested element" in its “vision of human life" and thus "gains" "an authority based, like the authority of science, on the vision of nature as an impersonal order" (AC 319).
Perhaps values like these are being silently applied when he refers to the greatest" "examples,” "the greatest poets" or “the most admired and advanced poets of the twentieth century," “the noblest diction,” “the chief ironic epic of our time," and so on (AC 219, 221, 273, 210, 323). Or, high values may go to the works and authors that best exemplify Frye's categories, as when Milton's “best prose” " is his most "musical" in the odd sense Frye gives the term (AC 266). In one of his most wilful terminological skirmishes, Frye ordains that “musical” shall apply to “sharp barking accents, crabbed, obscure language, mouthfuls of consonants, and long lumbering polysyllables” (AC 256). "A careful balancing of vowels and consonants and a dreamy sensuous flow” are "unmusical,” and assertions to the contrary are merely “sentimental" (AC 255).] At least, aptness for illustration must have been the standard whereby he was “rigorously selective in examples” (AC 29).
Frye as a Literary Theorist
Like most theorists, Frye both asserts the overall value of literature as an institution and offers a theoretical justification for it. Just as “art” is “central to events and ideas,” "literature” is "central to the arts" (AC 243). “The archetypal view," which we will encounter later, “shows us" the "literary experience as a part of the continuum of life” (AC 115). The “anagogical view" is even grander: “literature” "contains life and reality in a system of verbal relationships'; and "life" is "a vast mass of potential literary forms" (AC 122). Similarly, poetry unites" “unlimited social action” with "unlimited individual thought” (AC 120). “Poetry imitates" “the action of an omnipotent human society that contains all the powers of nature." "The vast encyclopedic structure of poetry” seems to be a whole world in itself" and “stands in its culture as an inexhaustible storehouse of imaginative suggestion." This "perspective is not to be confined only to works that seem to take in everything'; "any poem” “we happen to be reading” can be "the centre of the literary universe," "a microcosm of all literature, an individual manifestation of the total order of words" (AC 121). Hence, “we could get a whole liberal education by picking" "one poem" and “following its archetypes through literature” (AC 100, 121).
Though Frye concedes "we have no real standards to distinguish a verbal structure that is literary from one that is not," he proposes a division between "two modes of understanding” that “take place in all reading" (AC 13, 74). He describes them spatially as “two directions" in which "attention” "moves” (AC 73). One is "inward" or "centripetal," based on “a sense of the larger verbal pattern”; the other is "outward" or "centrifugal,” based on "the representation of natural objects and ideas” (AC 73f). He suggests that “inward" is “the final direction of meaning" in "literature, " and “outward" is "final" in “descriptive" or "assertive writing” deployed by “the active will and the conscious mind" to "say” !something" (AC 74, 76, 5).
As he often does, Frye advances this division only to attenuate it again. If " is "words in the right" "order," and “logic" is "words arranged in a grammar pattern with significance," then “assertive” or “descriptive" writing “attempts to be a direct union of grammar and logic" (AC 245). But this “direct union,” projected by “the notion that logic was the formal cause of language," 8 [8 Frye vows to “work as independently as he can” from “symbolic logic" when exploring “literary meaning” (AC 72). Tensions between speech-act logic and literary theory are discussed by lser (AR 54-62).] "does not, in the long run, exist” (AC 331). For Frye, “all structures in words are partly rhetorical, and hence literary” (AC 350). “Our literary universe" “expands into a verbal universe," evoking the prospect that “the verbal structure of psychology, anthropology, theology, history, law, and everything else built out of words" may have been “informed and constructed by the same kind of myths and metaphors we find, in their original hypothetical form, in literature" (AC 350, 352).
Still, literature has its distinctive place as “a body of hypothetical verbal structures” "standing between the verbal structures that describe or arrange actual events or histories, and those that describe or arrange actual ideas or represent physical objects, like philosophy and science” (AC 79, 71, 245). This “body of hypothetical creations” “may enter into any kind" of “imaginative" "relationship" to "truth and fact" (AC 92, 74). At one "pole" is “the mimetic tendency" toward "verisimilitude," and at the other “myth," the latter “gradually becoming attracted toward the plausible" (AC 51). Yet “mimesis" already enacts "an emancipation of externality into image, nature into art” (AC 113).
To Frye's surprise, “it has never been consistently understood that the ideas of literature are not real propositions, but verbal formulas which imitate real propositions" – “one could hardly find a more elementary critical principle" (AC 84f). “Literary works" “are not true or false": "questions of fact or truth are subordinated to the primary literary aim of producing a structure of words for its own sake, and the sign-values of symbols are subordinated to their importance as structures of interconnected motifs" (AC 74). “Literature" is thus “a specialized form of language,” consisting of "autonomous verbal structures." Although “descriptive meaning” is among its “subordinate aspects," literature conveys "ideas" that are “dull when stated as propositions," yet “rich and variegated as structural principles" (AC 82, 103). By the same token, many “phenomena,” such as “paranomasia," represent "an obstacle in discursive writing," yet “a structural principle in literature" (AC 332).
Frye’s Search for Patterns, myths and Structure
Frye follows the “authority of Aristotle" in using “poem" as a “synecdoche" for any work of literary art" (AC 71). This broad usage lends force to the claims that “the events and ideas of poetry are hypothetical imitations of history and discursive writing respectively, which are in their turn verbal imitations of action and thought'; and that "the poet never imitates life,” because “life” "becomes" “the content of his work” (AC 113, 63). But elsewhere, Frye seems to mean only poetry as the most tightly organized verbal structure: "the forms in which" "poetry organizes the content of the world” “come out of the structure of poetry itself'; "the poet" “aims" "only at inner verbal strength," rather than "morality, truth, and beauty"; “poetic ambiguity" arises because "the poet does not define his words but establishes their powers by placing them in a great variety of contexts” and by “associating words similar in sound and sense'; and so on (AC 102, 113 334). For Frye, “the lyric” “most clearly shows the hypothetical core of literature, narrative, and meaning in their literal aspects as word-order and word-pattern” (AC 271). Befitting the idea that “poetry is a disinterested use of words: it does not address a reader directly," “lyric is the genre in which the poet" “turns his back on his audience” (AC 4, 271; cf. AC 249f).
In contrast to Fiedler and the Yale group, Frye makes it clear that criticism cannot equal literature or poetry. Trying to “bring the direct experience of literature" -- "where every act is unique and classification has no place” -- "into the structure of criticism produces the aberrations of the history of taste" (AC 28f). The converse, trying to “bring criticism into the direct experience, will destroy the integrity of both.” The “experience” can't be “new and fresh" "each time "if the poem itself has been replaced by a critical view” of it. “Direct experience" is "the basis of critical apologetics" and "central to criticism, yet forever excluded from it,” and "can never" be "recaptured or included” in "critical terminology” (AC 27, 10).
Reciprocally, “criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge existing in its own right” and claiming “autonomy" and “independence from the art it deals with" (AC 50. “Criticism is to art what history is to action, and philosophy to wisdom: a verbal imitation of a human productive power which in itself does not  speak” (AC 12). “Criticism” "has to exist” because it "can talk, and all the arts are dumb” (AC 4). This self-sufficiency is further buttressed by disbarring “the notion that the poet necessarily is or could be the definitive interpreter of himself (AC 6). "The poet speaking as critic produces not criticism, but documents to be examined by critics” (AC 6).9 [9. “Anagogical criticism,” however, “is to be discovered chiefly in the more uninhibited utterances of the poets themselves” (AC 122).] The more sharply we distinguish the poetic and the critical functions, the easier it is for us to take seriously what great writers said about their work” (AC 122).
If, as Frye ordains, in “the literary universe" “everything is potentially identical with everything else," and “all poetry” "proceeds as though all poetic images were contained within a single universal body” (AC 124f), he needs a highly flexible schematics for breaking literature down into types. The reviewer (quoted on the book jacket) who pronounced it “hopeless to attempt a brief summary Mr. Frye's dazzlingly counterpointed classifications" must have felt the vertigo of the book's exuberant, encyclopedic superstructuring. In trying to assign each type or phenomenon its own place, Frye risks a diffusion the mind can no longer survey or control.
My concern will therefore be to bring out some major tactics in Frye's “anatomising,” at the obvious risk of blurring details. I believe his procedures essentially oscillate between centripetal and centrifugal movements to concentrate or disperse masses of exemplars inside mainly spatial constructs. The creation of these constructs is another such oscillation, since their proliferation is balanced against an insistent suggestion of “parallels” from one to another (AC 35, 40, 116, 152, 177, 194). “Once we learn to distinguish,” “we must then learn to recombine"; we can thereby capture “the subtlety of great literature" arising from "counterpoint" (AC 500. Such methods seem to anticipate the later urgency, expressed particularly by Jameson and Culler, of transcending the static binary oppositions so rampant in structuralism, whose practitioners Frye seems to both resemble and overreach.
One of Frye's prime tactics is to avoid static piles or pigeonholes by devising an ingenious collation of metaphoric spaces wherein categories can move about and "merge" with others (AC 284, 302, 307, 312), for instance, via “hybrids” or “insensible gradations" (AC 312, 307). Or, things get placed in a “scale," “range," or "sequence" (AC 91, 177, 49, 72, 77, 115, 18 5, 198, 22 5, 244, 270). Or, certain categories emerge as we “move toward" or "away” from others (AC 42, 285, 328; cf. AC 117, 151, 156, 284, 291, 329). For instance, “as we go down the modes," "an increasing number of poetic images are taken from the actual social conditions of life” (AC 154).
Frye’s angle of critical perception
Frye's spatial thinking goes in several directions. One is the "centripetal' As we saw, “centripetal” is a favored term for the dominant type of meaning in literature (AC 73ff). It is also used to describe “myth,” “poetry,” “the writer's intention,” “the audience's attention,” and the “high mimetic” “gaze” (AC 341, 80, 86, 112, 58, 153). 13 On “centers,” see AC 28, 91, 116ff, 121, 239, 285, 349. On “central” entities, see AC 12, 16, 22, 27, 37, 42f, 86, 95, 105, 185, 188f, 192, 209, 219, 223, 228, 243, 250, 284, 304, 315, 341, 350. !"Compare Note 10.] vision of some category positioned in the midst of its fellow constituents, rather reminiscent of the poem at hand being at the centre of the universe. His obsession with "centres" and "central” entities". On “centres,” see AC 28, 91, 116ff, 121, 239, 285, 349. On “central” entities, see AC 12, 16, 22, 27, 37, 42f, 86, 95, 105, 185, 188f, 192, 209, 219, 223, 228, 243, 250, 284, 304, 315, 341, 350. Compare Note 10.] matches his concern that criticism” must postulate “a centre of the order or words" or else be mired down in "a series of free associations” “never creating a real structure” (AC 118). Paradoxically, though, the multiplying of centers eventually reverts to dissemination.
Sometimes, Frye envisions a central point “flanked" by two comparable categories (AC 12, 243, 250, 288), in the manner of an allegorical painting. In “the humanities," "literature” is “flanked on one side by history, and on the other by philosophy” (AC 12; cf. AC 79, 83, 248, 287). In “the central area of literature," "epos and fiction” “are flanked by drama on one side and by lyric on the other” (AC 250). In “the division of “the good'," "the central” “area” of “art, beauty, feeling, and taste” “is flanked by" "the world of social action and events" and by “the world of individual thought and ideas" (AC 243). Here we add, "reading from left to right," three groupings: the “human faculties" of “will, feeling, and reason'; the "mental constructs” of “history, art, science and philosophy'; and “the ideals” of “law, beauty, and truth.” Poe suggests “Moral sense,” “taste," and “pure intellect" for these three, “taste” being "'in the middle because it is just this position which in the mind it occupies." The total result of “this admirable explanation" is one of the multiplex grids often implied in Frye's schematics, as shown in Figure 5. 1. At times, I feel reminded of a Ptolemaic or Dantesque spiritual space where each concept has its confreres above and below, and its counterpoints to the left and the right.
The complementary centrifugal vision is chiefly elicited by treating a category as a space with two opposite "poles” (AC 25, 42, 47, 51f, 148, 187, 317f, 322f). The "two poles of literature" are “verisimilitude” and “mythos,” with “plot-formulas" “moving” back and forth in between (AC 51f). In another space, “the contrast-epic," "myths accounting for the origin of law” “are at one pole and human society under the law is at the other” (AC 317). Or, “the characterization of comedy” relies on “two opposed pairs” that “polarize” the "action" and the "mood,” respectively (AC 172). Such analyses might be called “dialectic," and Frye frequently uses that name (AC 106, 151, 155, 161f, 187, 192, 195, 217, 286, 317, 333), though he dissociates it, for his purposes, from the “social dialectics" a  Marxist critic might stress (AC 24).
Another spatial contrast is a vertical polarity of high and low, or up and down     (AC 45, 161, 187, 202, 318, 32Iff, 337, 347). For example, "literature has an upper limit” where the “imaginative vision of an eternal world becomes an experience of it,” and “a lower limit in actual life” (AC 45). In parallel, the “Messiah or deliverer” “comes from an upper world” and the “demonic powers” from “a lower world," while “our world” “is in the middle” -- a conception also polarized by assimilation to the opposite poles of the cycle of nature” (AC 187; cf. AC 161, 202ff, 237, 318, 322).12 [12. The Messianic analogy seems important also for Frye's account of the “mythoi” as a “quest" (see p. 74). ] The “high” and “low mimetic modes" described later on seem to echo this arrangement when we behold “the central position of high mimetic tragedy" “balanced midway between godlike heroism and all-too-human irony" (AC 37). In another conception, this one dealing with “types of mythical movement,” “the top half of the natural cycle is the world of romance and the analogy of innocence'; “the lower half is the world of realism and the analogy of experience” (AC 162). In this space, the “downward movement is the “tragic" and “the upward” is the “comic" (AC 162).
Frye conjectures that “all arts possess both a temporal and a spatial aspect” (AC 77), and he does occasionally indulge in temporal theorizing (AC 52, 105, 108, 287, 307, 344). But elsewhere he may either negate time by appealing to “the aesthetic or timeless moment" or to “simultaneous perception” and “apprehension'; or he may reshape time by making it not a linear progression, but a “cycle," the basic model being “the natural cycle” (AC 61, 77f, 318, 105). This cycle is used, for instance, to account for the “form” of “the Classical epic” (AC 318). As the “life cycle,” it serves as an analogy for Frye's “mythoi" (p. 70ff).] Variants of the latter cycle include: “sleeping and waking life"; "life and death of the individual'; and “the slower social rhythm" of “cities and empires” (AC 105, 318). A still grander scheme accords with "cyclical theories of history" (AC 65). “Reading forward in history,” the trend was from "myth" toward "verisimilitude” until “irony" became dominant, situating us now in an “ironic phase of literature,” whereupon the trend “begins to move back” to “myth” (AC 52, 46; cf. AC 47, 62, 65f, 135, 214 323). Cyclicality may be combined with oscillation. the "general tendency" is “to react most strongly against the mode immediately preceding, and, to a lesser extent, to return to some of the standards of the modal grandfather" (AC 62).
Frye's classificatory project provokes his concern about the long-standing "problems of a vocabulary of poetics” (AC 79). He “finds particularly baffling” that the "technical vocabulary of poetics” doesn't even have a “word for a work of literary art” (AC 71). His own treatment of terminology betrays yet another oscillation, one between economizing and proliferating. He economizes by using a familiar term in an unusual or specialized sense, as is the case for “symbol," “desire,” "naive,” “literal meaning,” and so on (AC 71, 106, 35, 82, 115f, 80). Or, he makes one term do multiple duty in different senses, as is the case with “fiction” (AC 365f), “satire” (AC 224 vs. 310), and “sentimental” (AC 35 vs. 179). He defends such practices as “a compromise with the present confused terminology” so as not to “increase the difficulties of this book by introducing too many new terms" (AC 248). He is also uneasy about "cacophonous jargon” and the “abuse of ordinary language" (AC 71). But such sentiments clash with his cultivation of a luxuriant garden of technical neologisms appropriated in the manner of a “terminological buccaneer," among the most exuberant being “babble” and “doodle" as types of "subconscious association," or (borrowing from literary works) “Golux,” "high Ydgrunism," and "deipnosophistical” (AC 275, 197, 232, 312). Also, his introduction of precise shadings between related words tends to terminologize, as when he pinpoints a difference between “enmity” versus “hatred," or between “skepticism” versus “cynicism" (AC 167, 230).
Frye diagnoses a theoretical lethargy in traditional criticism that used the ideas and terms devised by the ancient Greeks and showed little initiative to standardize any more (AC 13f, 65f, 206, 248). Though he has no qualms about coining new devices, he follows suit here in using a welter of Creek terms (thankfully transcribed into the Roman alphabet), such as "alazon," “eiron,” “lexis,” “melos,” and “opsis” (AC 39f, 244). His treatment of “characterization in comedy,” which he carries over to “romance” and “tragedy” (AC 172ff, 197, 216ff), is couched mainly in Greek terms. How closely he is following the original usage is not always made clear. The Greek may be kept distinct from its English counterpart, as with “epic" versus “epos” (e.g. AC 54f vs. 248, 263, 320), or with “myth" versus "mythos” (AC 33, 136 vs. 162), though Frye eventually decides the latter pair are “ultimately" the same (AC 341). Some terms have two technical senses, such as "archetype" (AC 99 vs. 291) and “rnythos” (AC 53 vs. 162). Others have a technical sense alongside the everyday one, such as “myth" (AC 341 vs. 33) and “pathos” (AC 187 vs. 38).
All these cases suggest that Frye adapts his terms freely according to the context where he uses them. A comparable point might be made about his mania for enumeration. He keeps delivering parallel numbers of things, like the true love in the carol of the Twelve Days of Christmas except that he doesn't relish sending more than six or less than two. His favourite numbers are twos, threes, and fours, though he has an assortment of fives and sixes too, the latter typically breaking down into two sets of three. Twos and fours are good for making oppositions, for example, the centrifugal pairs of "poles," whereas threes and fives offer an convenient “centre,” for example, a centripetal point “flanked" by two confreres. Throughout, Frye is less concerned to fixate exact numbers than to show that literary forms and concepts are not monolithic units, but scales or sequences in which a given exemplar may be more or less typical, explicit, emphatic, and so on.
A few examples should suffice. On one occasion, he announces “three stages" of the "quest," matching the “threefold structure" “repeated in many features of romance,” including the “three-day rhythm” of “Easter”; yet after his analysis, he decides “there are” “not three but four," this time matching the “four mythoi" ('comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony') he wants to incorporate inside "a central unifying myth" (AC 187, 192). Another time, he wants “four periods of life" to go with “the four seasons of the year," “four periods of the day,” and “four aspects of the water cycle'; To get four, he counts “snow" with “sea" rather than with “rain” (AC 160), God knows by what logic.] Later, he wants “five stages” of “life” to go with his “five phases of comedy” (AC 160, 185). As his motives for creating or aligning patterns change, so do his enumerations.
Frye's point, reconfirmed in a letter to me, is that although “the demand for order in thought produces a supply of intellectual systems,” “no one system can contain the arts as they stand" (AC 231). Frye champions “a comprehensive view of criticism,” subsuming “the archetypal or mythical critic, the aesthetic form critic, the historical critic, the medieval four-level critic," and “the text-and-texture critic” (AC 341). He lists the types of criticism in several other ways as well. At one point, he whimsically enumerates three types of "learning” as “the most conspicuous”: “fantastical” (= “mythical') “contentious" (= “historical'), and “delicate" (= "new” critical") (AC 72). At another, he distinguishes between "biographical criticism” concerned with the author, and “tropical criticism" (unlike this chapter, not written near the equator) “concerned with the contemporary reader” (AC 200. "The true dialectic of criticism" combines these latter two, uniting the “historical" with the “contemporary" (AC 24).
The outcome is “ethical criticism,” wherein “ethics" is not the “rhetorical comparison of social facts to predetermined values,” but “the consciousness of the presence of society” and of “the total and simultaneous possession of past culture." This view ensures that historical criticism will not be merely biographical or “documentary," "dealing entirely with sources" (AC log).16 [16. Frye can't decide himself how important the sources should be. He sometimes declares them irrelevant, at least as historical facts (AC 109, 148, 163f, 173, 188f), but he cites them frequently.] However, it becomes harder to justify the exclusion of "the history of taste” from “the structure of criticism," and the banishment to a non-theoretical limbo of "the public critic" whose “task” is “to exemplify how a man of taste uses and evaluates literature" (AC 18, 8).
Frye’s Typological Criticism
Frye's most prominent typology of criticism is the "modern parallel" into which he transforms the “four-level critic's" "medieval” scheme and which he places entirely under the heading of “ethical criticism" in the broad sense just expounded (AC 116, 341, ix, 71). Again changing numbers, he converts the four into five “levels" or “phases" that form “a sequence of contexts or relationships in which the whole work of literary art can be placed" (AC 115f, 73). This "sequence" is not meant to go from “elementary" “first steps" toward “More subtle” ones, nor is it “a series of degrees of critical initiation” (AC 72fi. But the Anatomy doesn’t give a full-scale demonstration of the levels on a specific work to show what the exact nature of the “sequence" is.
Frye's first or “literal” level deals with the “simultaneous pattern of meaning" (AC 115f, 244),  roughly a formalist approach. “Rhetorical" criticism ties in here by “returning us to the “literal” level," though it is "illegitimately extended" if value-judgments” result (AC 244, 21). The “rhetorical" is in turn associated with “New" Criticism, "based on the conception of a poem as literally a poem” (AC 82, 86, 140, 273).
His “second or descriptive level” includes "everything that influences literature from without" (AC 116, 75). This definition, which sounds very broad and vague, suggests a more “centrifugal” scope than the “centripetal” first level's, matching his already described division between two "directions of attention” (cf. AC'73ffl.
The old “allegoricaI” level. On the one hand, “allegory is a structural element in literature” and “cannot be added by critical interpretation alone” (AC 54). On the other hand, “all commentary is allegorical interpretation” (AC 89). Any great work of literature may carry an infinite amount of commentary," and “no structure of imagery can be restricted to one allegorical interpretation” (AC 341f, 120). Contrast this indecision with his “sliding scale” “from the most explicitly allegorical consistent with being literature at all” over to the most "anti-allegorical" (AC 91).] of the Middle Ages" is Frye's "third" or “formal” level, where “criticism" dispenses “commentary and interpretation" by “attaching the imagery to the central form of the poem" and "rendering an aspect of the form into discursive writing” (AC 116, 86). This phase is “conceived of” “as aesthetic," since “art” is "an object of aesthetic contemplation” (AC 116, 349, 155). This phase also integrates the first and second by moving from literal to descriptive (AC 82, 86), again illustrating how Frye's distinctions flow back together. The main focus remains centripetal, the “final direction" in “literature" (AC 74): “good commentary naturally does not read ideas into poems," but only translates what is there," the "evidence" coming from "the study of the structure of imagery” (AC 86). "Criticism" should “grow in the understanding of the work itself, not in the number of things one can attach to it" (AC 72).
The “medieval” “moral” "level" becomes the fourth, the “mythical," devoted to “the study of myths, and of poetry as a technique of social communication" (AC 116). Since its “symbol" is the "archetype,” it is also called the “archetypal phase," defined as "social and part of the continuum of work” (AC ix, 95, 116). “The aesthetic" is thus not "the final resting place”; the tendency of the “formal phase" to “isolate the individual poem" can be transcended by considering how the “work of art" "participates” “in the vision of the goal of social effort” (AC 348f, 95). “Archetypal criticism” “comes to our aid" by projecting a “sense of the total form” that "art” possesses as “an ethical instrument participating in the work of civilization” (AC 349). Despite the warnings just aired against reading things into the work, Frye concedes that in our “copyright age," "most archetypes have to be established by critical inspection alone" (AC 101). But he implies they are "unconsciously" there all the time (cf. AC 17, 100, 271f).  “In archetypal criticism, the poet's conscious knowledge is considered only so far as the poet may allude to or imitate other poets” or “make a deliberate use of convention"; “beyond that, the poet's control" “stops with the poem" (AC 100). Frye makes no distinction among "sub-,” “pre-,” “half-,” or “unconscious'; and says he is “reluctant to explain literary facts by psychological clichès” of this kind (AC 88), though he sometimes does anyway.]
Finally, the old "anagogic” “level” or “phase” keeps its name and yields the still grander vista of “literature as existing in its own universe," “containing life and reality in a system of verbal relationships” (AC 122). "Literature" "imitates the thought of a human mind which is at the circumference and not at the centre of its reality" (AC 119). Whereas in the “formal phase the poem is still contained by nature, and in the archetypal phase the whole of poetry is still" so “contained,” in the “anagogical,” “nature becomes" “the thing contained" “inside the mind of an infinite man" (AC 119). Thanks to the, vast scope of the two final “levels” or "phases," “the structural principles of literature are to be derived from archetypal and anagogic criticism, the only kinds that assume a larger context of literature as a whole" (AC 134). The Anatomy is partly an attempt at such a derivation, as signalled by the thesis that we must “accept the archetypal" "element" in order to get “any systematic mental training out of the reading of literature” (AC 100).
Frye’s handling of models: Structure of
Anatomy of Criticism
Frye's Table of Contents marks a further breakdown of the field of criticism that he doesn't justify by discursive argument. “Historical criticism" gets the “modes, ”ethical" gets the “symbols,” “rhetorical" gets the “genres," and “archetypal” gets the “myths" (AC ix). “Historical criticism” is partitioned into “thematic and fictional modes,” the latter further cut into “tragic” and “comic." “Ethical criticism" is divided into five “phases” paralleling the five-level typology adapted from the medieval scheme. Each “phase” has its special kind of “symbol." In the "literal and descriptive phases," the "symbol" is “motif” and “sign,” respectively; in the "formal phase,” it's “image'; in the "mythical phase," it's “archetype”; and in the "anagogic phase," it's “monad.” "Archetypal criticism” is cut into three kinds of “meaning," “apocalyptic," “demonic," and "analogical"; and into four types of “mythos” named for the four seasons (I shall return to these) Finally, "rhetorical criticism" is chopped into four “rhythms" fitted to genres: “association" to “lyric," "recurrence” to “epos," “continuity” to "prose," and "decorum" to “drama”'; and into “specific forms”: "lyric and "epos” go together as “thematic,” " is "continuous,” “drama” gets no name, and "encyclopedic” gets no prose genre (maybe the “satire," AC 322). I have tried to situate the types of criticism summarized so far in Figure 5.2. Even more than in Figure 5.1, we get a multiply loaded grid whose untidiness reflects Frye's oscillation between dividing and recombining.
Frye includes no such figures in his book, evading rigidity but also clarity. He feels no obligation to make his various schernatics tally exactly, though his "postulate of total coherence" (AC 16) inspires him to propose “counterparts" of every sort (AC 16, 22, 44f, 150f, 194ff, 216ff, 228, 233, 284, 298, 300). The apparent “lack of ingenuity” (AC 29) in his organization conveys the insight that, depending on one's perspective, the various areas subdivide into diverse orders. Just as Frye asserts that “no set of critical standards derived from only one mode can ever assimilate the whole truth about poetry" (AC 62), he declines to devise a single, complete, all-purpose frame for critical methods.
Modern Schools of Criticism, Psychoanalysis and Northrop Frye
“Modern criticism" has its own set of “schools," “each making a distinctive choice of symbols in its analysis" (AC 72). Some bear the names of their inspirers or originators: “Aristotelians, Coleridgeans, Thomists, Freudians,Jungians, Marxists," and the like (AC 72). Some reflect their source disciplines: “rhetoric, “history," “psychology,” “anthropology,” “theology, philosophy, politics," or ”science" (AC 72, 7). “Moral criticism” tends to be “harnessed to an all-round revolutionary philosophy of society," as in “Marxism” and “Nietzsche” (AC 346).
Frye is generally sceptical about all these schools. They are “determinisms" "substituting a critical attitude for criticism” and “proposing" “to attach criticism" to “frameworks outside” “literature” (AC 6). They use "causal relationships” to “explain one's subject while studying it.” If “mimesis” is to be the “emancipation of externality into image, nature into art,” “art” “can never be ultimately related to any other system of phenomena, standards, values, or final causes” (AC 113). However, Frye's resolutely eclectic and erudite mind cannot ignore all these frameworks nor forego all ambitions regarding “science" and a “central place” for "literary criticism” in the “activities" of a host of other disciplines (p. 46).
One unmistakable influence comes from psychoanalysis, which, like many colleagues, Frye calls “psychology. " This domain offers a means to reintegrate the author and the process of literary production, both of which archetypal criticism tends to marginalize. The “biographer” is to regard “his subject's poetry" as a record of “private dreams, associations, ambitions, and repressed desires” (AC 110). Such criticism should include only "serious studies which are technically competent both in psychology and in criticism," as opposed to those which “simply project" the critic's “own erotica, in a rationalized clinical disguise, onto the author" (AC 110), though in practice, this distinction may be slippery. As the mutations in Holland's career demonstrate, even a fully competent psychoanalyst is constitutionally disposed to project.
In literary production, the division between “conscious” and "unconscious” becomes prominent, as it did in Wellek and Warren's “modern treatment of the creative process" (TL 88). For Frye, “poetry is the product, not only of a deliberate and voluntary act of consciousness, like discursive writing, but of unconscious" “processes" (AC 88). "Poetic technique" is “an increasingly unconscious skill” whereby “great poetry" "overcomes" all “difficulties” “at a subconscious level" (AC 88, 277). “Poetic creation” is “an associative rhetorical process, most of it below the threshold of consciousness, a chaos of paronomasia, sound-links, ambiguous sense-links, and rnemory-links very like that of a dream” -- especially if “verbal association" "is subject to a censor," namely “the “plausibility-principle,” the necessity of shaping itself into a form acceptable to the poet's and his reader's waking consciousness” (AC 271f, 276, 51f)
Such analogizing is put to multiple uses. “Plausibility” acts within a range from being a "perfunctory concession in a myth” to being a “censor principle in a naturalistic novel” (AC 52). “Elements of subconscious association" are diagnosed as the basis for “the associative concentration of poetry" that "prose” can hardly attain (AC 275, 277). Two such "elements" are "babble" and “doodle," "the basis for lyrical melos” ('musical" quality) and "opsis" ('visual" quality) respectively (AC 275, 255, 258). The most striking move occurs when the absurd quantum formula" that “the critic should" "'get out” of a poem exactly what the poet may be vaguely assumed to have been aware of “putting in"“ is exploded with the thesis that “the poet unconsciously meant the whole corpus of his possible commentary” (AC 17, 342).
On the side of “reading," Frye diagnoses an omnipresent “unconscious” process of “expanding images into conventional archetypes of literature” (AC 100). Though we need not insist that “latent content is the real content," it remains a “factor which is relevant to a full critical analysis” and “which lifts a work of literature out of the category of the merely historical" (AC 158). “If we are reading the story for fun, some murky “subconscious” factor in our response will take care of the association,” such as between "hero” and "sun” (AC 188). But if "reading" "as critics, with an eye to structural principles, we shall make the association" explicitly.
Various uses of psychoanalysis are proposed for criticism. Frye's recommendations are detailed: “the literary critic finds Freud most suggestive for the theory of comedy, jung for the theory of romance,” and “the psychology of the will to power, as expounded in Adler and Nietzsche," for the theory of “tragedy" (AC 214). The “ternary action” of “comedy” is “psychologically" comparable to “the removal of a neurosis or blocking point and the restoration of an unbroken current of energy and memory'; the "last phase” of "the comic” can be "connected psychologically with a return to the womb" (AC 171, 186). The "archetype" is cited "in Jung's sense of an aspect of the personality capable of dramatic projection" (as compared to Frye's sense of “typical or recurring image') (AC 291, 99). "In the romance,” “we find Jung's libido, anima, and shadow reflected in the hero, heroine, and villain, respectively" (AC 304).
As usual, the "parental origin” of “sinister figures" is assumed, such as the "antagonists" in "the quest-romance" (AC 193). “The “terrible mother" is “the witch” or the "black" "queen," “associated" by Jung with "the fear of incest" (AC 196). And of course, “the hated father-figure” makes his obligatory appearances (AC 158, 164f, 172, 180), getting "baited and exploded from the stage" (AC 165). He often figures in the “Oedipus situation," though Frye suggests it “would involve less anachronism to assume that the “myth” “informed and-gave structure" to the “psychological investigations" of Freud, rather than the other way around (AC 181, 353).
This move of appropriating psychoanalysis while placing it on a mythical or archetypal basis is characteristic of Frye's procedures. A similar trend pervades the many analogies he draws to the “dream. “19 [19. AC 37, 45, 57, 100, 105-112, 118, 120, 159, 183f, 186, 193, 206, 214f, 226, 243, 250, 272, 277f, 354.] The notion of "displacement," in "psychoanalysis a shift to make repressed content more acceptable, becomes  'the adaptation of myth and metaphor to canons of morality and plausibility” (AC 365; cf. AC 52, 136ff, 155, 188). If the myths themselves are “less displaced” or “undisplaced” (AC 190, 139ff, 151, 181, 185, 203, 223), they needn't resemble the actual story or content of literary works very closely. Also, "rituals” are placed alongside “dreams" as “two symbolic structures analogous to same thing" (AC 193; cf. AC 105, 107, 119, 179, 193, 243, 250). "Myth” is “the union of ritual and dream in a form of verbal communication" -- precisely the definition later offered for “the work of literary art" “in the archetypal phase” (AC 106, 118).
Frye's conception of “desire” is ostensibly derived from the Freudian conception of “the work of the dream": “not simply the fantasies of the sleeping mind, but the whole interpenetrating activity of desire and repugnance in shaping thought" (AC 105, 359). The “dream” leads into "the world of fulfilled desire, emancipated from all anxieties and frustrations” (AC 119). We glimpse a Jungian, reassuring shift in Freud's darkly pessimistic view of the psyche when Frye eulogizes “the psychological discovery of an oracular mind “underneath” the conscious one” and of "the nightly awakening of a titanic self” (AC 353, 105, 159). Frye's optimistic and allegorising outlook precludes any "limiting” of "desire" to “a simple response to need” or “want,” including that for “sexual fulfilment” (AC 105f, 156). Nor is he sympathetic to the attempts of “civilization” to "make the desirable and the moral coincide"; "literature" "owes much of its status as a liberal art" to being “less inflexible than morality” (AC 156). Indeed, the “ribald, obscene, subversive, lewd, and blasphemous have an essential place in literature” (AC 156). Fiedler has a similar view, though he does not stipulate that “they can achieve expression only through ingenious techniques of displacement” (AC 156).]  Instead, Frye views “desire" broadly as "the energy that leads human society to develop its own form"; "the form of desire" is “liberated and made apparent by civilization, " the latter being “the process” of “making a total human form out of nature.” He can then construe “the conflict of desire and reality" as the “significant content” of "literature in its archetypal aspect" (AC 105). Although "desire” “tries to escape from necessity,” “the archetypal function of literature" is to visualize the world of desire not as an escape from “reality,” but as the genuine form of the world that human life tries to imitate" (AC 156, 184). “Poetry" expresses, as a verbal hypothesis, a vision of the goal of work and the forms of desire” (AC 106). It is thus logical to “begin our study of archetypes” “with a world of myth," since "in terms of narrative, myth is the imitation of action near or at the conceivable limits" of “human desire” (AC 136). More specifically, "the apocalyptic world, the heaven of religion, presents” "the categories of reality in the forms of human desire” (AC 141).
Frye’s handling of Religion and Myth
This last speculation is one among many signals of the pervasive presence of another major and obvious source for Frye, namely religion or theology. He postulates “the theological origin of critical categories" and owns that the Anatomy started from a decision "to apply the principles of literary symbolism and Biblical typology” (AC 76, vii). To his dismay, "the absence of any genuine literary criticism of the Bible in modern times” “has left an enormous gap in our knowledge of literary symbolism" (AC 315). Critical projects, such as "comparing Bunyan and Spenser," are “perverse” if done "without reference to the Bible” (AC 194). "Historical scholarship is without exception “lower” or analytic criticism"; "higher criticism" would construe “the Bible” as “a typological unity," "a definitive myth, a single archetypal structure," its “two testaments" being “metaphorical identifications of one another" (AC 315; cf. AC 56, 325, and Bloom's opposite view, CCP 13). Frye pursues precisely that vision when he insists that the Bible" is "probably the most systematically constructed sacred book in the world," "presenting an epic structure of unsurpassed range, consistency, and completeness" -- not “the scrapbook of corruptions, glosses, redactions, insertions, conflations, misplacings, and misunderstandings revealed by the analytic critic” (AC 315, 325). Even "its editorial and redacting process must be regarded as inspired" (AC 315).
Yet in the Anatomy at least (The Great Code may be another matter), Frye wants to avoid any semblance of a Christian apologist. “The critic” “has nothing to say for or against the affirmations” of any “religion,” but must “treat” it as “a human hypothesis” (AC 126). "In literary criticism, theology and metaphysics must be treated as assertive, because they are outside literature"; and "typological constructs” "are simply reference tables” (AC 75, 359). “Every age of literature" has "some central encyclopedic form, which is normally a scripture or sacred book” -- 'in our culture," "the Christian Bible" (AC 315). Similarly, “nearly every civilization” sees one "particular group of myths" as “closer to fact and truth" and hence as “canonical" rather than "apocryphal" (AC 54). Yet for “literary criticism," “the Bible and Classical literature are equally mythological.”
Frye's tactic for incorporating religion is thus much the same one he used for psychology: relating it to myths and treating the mythical version as more basic. "The informing” of "theological constructs by poetic myths is even more obvious" than that of “psychological" ones (AC 353). “The priority of myth to fact is religious as well as literary" (AC 325). “Historical fact” "in the Bible" "is there not because it is “true” but because it is mythically significant.” This tactic maintains the freedom of Frye's own position. He can hail “the transcendental and apocalyptic perspective of religion" as “a tremendous emancipation of the imaginative mind," while asserting that no "religious" “myth is either valuable or valid unless it assumes the autonomy of culture” (AC 125, 127). “Religions” “cannot as social institutions contain an art of unlimited hypothesis" (AC 127). “Culture" must "destroy intellectual idolatry, the recurrent tendency in religion to replace the object of its worship with its present understanding and forms of approach."
In this spirit, Frye avers: even “the loftiest religion" "gives" “the poet" “only" metaphors for poetry" (AC 125). What is "existential” in a “religious” context is merely “metaphorical" in a "poetic" one (AC 142; cf. AC 120). The “physical world" is set in opposition by “religion" to “the spiritually existential,” but by “poetry” to “the hypothetical" (AC 148). Still, by arguing that “the structural principles of literature are as closely related to mythology and comparative religion as those of painting are to geometry," Frye can “use the symbolism of the Bible” "as a grammar of literary archetypes," the “Bible” being “the main source for undisplaced myths in our tradition" (AC 134f, 140).
On a small scale, individual works are interpreted this way, At times the interpretation seems to me tenuous, as when the supposed historical times of King Lear and Cymbeline are aligned with events of the “Old Testament” and the New (AC 222, 219)  as when “the first book of the Faerie Queene” is taken to be “the closest following of the Biblical quest-romance theme in English literature"; or when "the paradisical garden and the tree of life" are made "parallel” to "symbols in Comus and Tannhäuser (AC 194, 152). On a larger scale, whole genres are affected, as when we learn that romantic encyclopaedic forms use human or sacramental imitations of the Messianic myth"; or that "the crudest of Plautine comedy formulas has much the same structure as the central Christian myth" of “a divine son appeasing the wrath of a father and redeeming” both “a society and a bride" (AC 317, 185). On a very grand scale, Frye attains the ultimate logocentric position: “anagogically, the symbol is a monad, all symbols being united in a single infinite and eternal verbal symbol," "the Logos” (AC 121). Thereupon, “Christ” himself becomes "the Word that contains all poetry."
Frye's relation to sociology is far more tenuous than to psychology and theology. As U have noted, he sees the “work of art” “participating" in “social effort” (AC 348), but he is rather sketchy about how this process functions. He links his favoured "ethical criticism" directly to "the consciousness of the presence of society" and to “a broad estimation of social values,” but wants the critic to be under no obligation to sociological values, which might conflict with those of great art" (AC 24, 348, 19). Marxism is slighted when Marx gets tossed together with Plato of all people,22 [22. For Jameson, “vulgar Marxism" "presupposes” “Platonic ideas” that "leave out" “the unique historical situation” (MF 193). But he doesn't blame Marx for this.]  for having propounded "a revolutionary way of looking at culture” and suggested that "the artist ought to assist the work of society by framing workable hypotheses" (AC 346, 113), which sounds to me like what Frye also says. For another link, Frye is confident that “a Marxist or Platonic state would" "impose limitations on the arts” (AC 127). The stark contrast between the timelessness of Platonic concepts and the historicity of Marxist ones (cf. pp. 365, 386) is suppressed; anyway, “Marxists” are spurned for their "muddled version of some quasi-organic theory of history" (AC 343f). Nonetheless, Frye's thesis that “criticism has to look at art from the standpoint of an ideally classless society" (AC 22), though conflicting with the current core of Marxist criticism, points toward the utopian function of art expounded by Marx as well as Jameson.
Frye does express a strong interest :In "primitive and popular" "literature” for possessing the ability to “communicate in time and space respectively" (AC 107). He comes close to Formalism and structuralism by proposing to "extend the kind of comparative and morphological study now made of folktales" into “the rest of literature" (AC 104). He weighs "the possibility of seeing literature as a complication of a relatively restricted and simple group of formulas that can be studied in primitive culture," but keeping in mind that "complication” “is by no means" the only trend (AC 17). His main motive for favouring “popular literature” seems plain: it affords an unobstructed view of archetypes" and is "most deeply influenced by the archetypal phase of symbolism” (AC 116, 108) -- much the same as Fiedler's motive (cf. WL 129; NT 232). “Archetypes are most easily studied in highly conventionalised literature: this is, for the most part, naive, primitive, and popular" (AC 116). “In a popular tale,” "logical construction” “is a matter of the linking of archetypes" (AC 362). Similarly, "legend and folktale often contain" a “great concentration of mythical meaning,” equal to that of such “canonical myth” as in the “Bible" (AC 188). Frye concludes that "archetypal criticism seems to find its centre of gravity in romance, when the interchange of ballads, folktales, and popular stories was at its easiest" (AC 116). And in fact, his scheme of "modes," to which we now turn, centres on romance.
Frye’s invention of Typologies
Frye derives his typology of "fictional modes" from a remark of “Aristotle” that has “not received much attention from modern critics" (AC 33). “Fictions" are to be "classified” “by the hero's power of action" as compared to “Ours." Five categories result, three of “superiority,” one of equality, and one of “inferiority.” “If superior in kind both to other men [23. “Men” are clearly those ones identifying with the hero, who represents the “libido,” has “fun with the distressed damsels” “tied naked to rocks or trees," and in his “triumph” gets "mistresses” or a “girl” as “a stage prop” (AC 304, 195f, 173, 164). No comment needed here.] and to the environment," "the hero is a divine being and the story a myth in the common sense." “[24 Which is of course not Frye's sense. Fiedler would call this “mythology" (NT 328; WL 131).] If Superior in degree to other men and to his environment, the hero” is “human” and the story a ”romance" (including “legend" and “folktale"). “If superior in degree to other men but not to his natural environment, the hero is a leader" “of the high mimetic mode, of most epic and tragedy” (AC 330. “If superior neither to other men nor to his environment, the hero is one of us" and “of the low mimetic mode, of most comedy and realistic fiction" (AC 34). Finally, “if inferior" “to ourselves,” “the hero belongs to the ironic mode.” Frye cautiously debars “comparative value” from the designations "high” and “low,“ though he makes the “high” the “central” “sense" of “tragedy” (AC 34, 37).
The form of his definitions reveals several inconsistencies, even after I have made them more parallel here than they were in the book. The first two name one text type each, the second two name “modes” with two text types apiece, and the fifth names a mode with no specified text type. When the hero loses his “superiority,” terms change: he doesn't get a label (later, "heroic” is used as the opposite of “ironic,” AC 44, 219), “natural” is added to “environment," “other men” are replaced by “ourselves,” and "power and intelligence" appear as standards in place of “authority, passions, and power of expression." We are left to wonder if the points of orientation have also shifted (and with what consequences) or merely been renamed.
Again in his characteristic way, Frye superposes a barrage of further criteria onto his "modes." He says "a distinction" between "naive and sophisticated literature" “will be useful in each mode," but he fully uses it just for “romance" and "irony"; only the “naive” is noticed for “high mimetic tragedy” and “melodrama,” and only the “sophisticated” for “pathos” in the “low mimetic” (AC 35, 37, 41, 38, 47, 39). He also establishes a binarism of "pity and fear" as “two general directions in which emotion moves, toward and away” (AC 37). In “romance”, these two "become modes of pleasure, usually the beautiful and the romance, sublime respectively'; “in high mimetic tragedy," they “become, respectively, favourable and adverse moral judgment'; “in low mimetic tragedy," they are communicated externally, as sensations” (AC 301, 38). What happens to them in myth or irony we aren't told. In comedy, though, they turn up in nicely corresponding” forms as “sympathy and ridicule".
A historical criterion is added by taking the sequence as the order of phases of literature overall. “Looking over our table, we can see that European fiction, during the last fifteen centuries, has steadily moved its centre of gravity down the list” (AC 34). We have “the pre-medieval period" of “myths," followed by the romance” of “chivalry” and of "legends of saints.” The "high mimetic" takes “the foreground” in the “Renaissance,” and “the low mimetic” "predominates in English literature from Defoe's time to the end of the nineteenth century." [25. In “French literature,” this stage is dated "about fifty years earlier” (AC 34).] Our own time is the “ironic age” (AC 46f, 52, 62, 65f, 135, 214 323), as we have heard. However, “the return of irony to myth,” in “modern literature" and possibly in "sacramental philosophy and dogmatic theology," shows how “our five modes evidently go around in a circle” (AC 42, 65, 48; cf. AC 135, 140, 151). Frye detects “the same progression of modes in Classical literature,” though with an unmistakable strain he blames on "religion': he can't get the "the mythical, romantic, and high mimetic” to “separate," and admits the "low mimetic and ironic" were "abortive” (AC 35). So the “classical parallels” must reflect Frye's drive to reuse his patterns even when the fit is problematic.
A further criterion for defining “modes” is the role of the central figure in relation to society. In "tragedy," this figure is “isolated from society" (AC 37, 41, 54, 208, 218). The “high mimetic” uses “the fall of the leader"; the “low mimetic " uses the "pathos” of “the exclusion of an individual on our own level from a social group”; “irony” focuses on “the sense of arbitrariness" in the “isolation'; and so on (AC 37, 39, 41). “The theme of the comic,” in contrast, is "the integration of society, which usually” “incorporates a central character” (AC 43, 218). In “mythical comedy" “the hero is accepted by a society of gods"; in “high mimetic comedy” “the central figure" “constructs his (or her) own society"; in “low mimetic comedy" “the hero" is “incorporated" "into the society that he naturally fits,” “frequently” with a "social promotion"; and so on (AC 43fo. In the "ironic" mode, the main character tends to become a “pharmakos or scapegoat” (AC 41, 45). On the tragic side of irony, the “pharmakos" is "guilty" by being “a member of a guilty society," and his fate moves between “the opposite poles" of “the incongruous and the inevitable" (AC 42). The space measured by these poles is peopled with Adam on one end, Christ on the other, and Prometheus in the centre (AC 42).] On the comic side, the “poles” are "melodrama" that “defines the enemy of society as a person outside that society," and “satire" that "defines the enemy of society as a spirit within that society” (AC 47). Fig. 5.3 shows the whole scheme as best I could fit it together.
For “thematic literature" (the opposite of “fictional"), this whole scheme of “integrate" versus "isolate" gets carried over to the author, who may "write” either "as an individual, emphasizing the separateness of his personality," or as “a spokesman of his society” that “needs" his “expressive power” (AC 54). The separatist attitude is said to yield “most lyrics and essays," plus "satires, epigrams," "eclogues," and such "episodic” forms; the spokesman stance is said to yield “educational” “poetry” of the “epic," "didactic,” or “encyclopaedic” kinds (AC 54f). We see again how Frye strives to get maximum mileage out of the schemes he draws up, such that division within them oscillates with unification among them.
A still more striking case of this striving is the “forbidding piece of symmetry” when Frye goes from "modes" to “mythoi" (AC 177), where “mythos” chiefly means, in the Aristotelian tradition, "generic plot" and “structural organizing principle of literary form" (AC 162, 341; cf. AC 52, 82, 107). Of the six “modes" we saw, the “mythical" disappears because it in effect swallows all the others, which suggests that myth didn't really “return" after “irony,” because it never went away. To match the seasons of the year, Frye compresses and reorders to get “four” "narrative categories of literature broader than, or logically prior to, the ordinary literary genres" (AC 162). “Romance” fits “the mythos" of “summer,” “comedy” that of “spring,” “tragedy" that of "autumn,” and "irony” and "satire” that of “winter” (AC ix).
This temporal arrangement is then spatialized into an elaborate system of parallel phases" shared by “neighbouring mythoi” (AC 177). Frye “recognizes six phases of each mythos,” split into two “threes" shared with the “mythos" right before or after it, as shown by the arrangement in Figure 5.4. This scheme may be read temporally, as the narrative sequence of actions within each form, roughly mirroring the cycles of seasons or human lives. Or, it might be a spatial array of different types of tragedy, comedy, and so on. Frye seems to intend both readings. The scheme of parallel phases drawn in Figure 5.4 yields intriguingly mixed forms requiring “tenuous" romance," or the like (AC 177). "Innocence” and “experience"
each cover two blocks of three; this order is reversed for comedy, leaving irony positioned to borrow both its blocks from “experience,” represented in “mythical patterns" that "attempt to give form to the shifting ambiguities and complexities of unidealized existence” (AC 181f, 201, 2211 223, 237). The fifth phase is twice made a more “experienced” correlate of the second (AC 202, 222). Also, the first and sixth phases at either end are areas of high intensity. The "first phase” of “comedy” is the "most ironic,” and that of “tragedy” involves “the greatest possible dignity” (AC 177, 219). The first phase of "irony” is of “nightmare," and the sixth is of "the demonic,” "madhouses," and the "inferno” (AC 226, 238). But generally this scaling is sketchily executed.
“Romance" is subdivided such that its "first three phases are parallel to the first three phases of tragedy,” and "the second three to the second three phases of comedy” (AC 198). “The first phase is the myth of the birth of the hero." “The second phase is the innocent youth" (AC 199). “The third phase is the normal quest theme," itself having “three stages": “perilous journey” ("agon”), “crucial struggle" ("pathos”), and "exaltation" ('anagnorisis”) (AC 200, 187). “The fourth phase” focuses on “maintaining" "the integrity of the innocent world against the assault of experience" (AC 200). “The fifth phase" gives “a reflective, idyllic view of experience from above” (AC 202). "The sixth or penseroso phase” shows "the end of a movement from active to contemplative adventure.” This sequence runs roughly parallel to the hero's life as he is born and matures, finally figuring as an “old man”; the boundary between "innocence” and "experience" falls exactly at the centre (AC 201). This progress is also “erotic": “the rivalry of the son and a hateful father for possess-ion of the mother'; “maternal sexual imagery" and “chaste love”; then "true love" placed "on top of a hierarchy"; and finally "lust and passion” ending in “perversion" (AC 202). "The natural cycle" is also close by, though Frye gives it special “prominence" in the fifth phase, as he does again for "irony" (AC 202f, 237).
Comedy is dissected with comparable manoeuvres. "The first three phases of comedy are parallel to the first three phases of irony,” and "the second three to the second three of romance" (AC 177). “In the first or most ironic phase of comedy, a humorous society triumphs." In “the second phase,” “the hero does not transform a humorous society but simply escapes" from it (AC 180). In "the third phase," “the normal one,” a "humour” (a "character dominated" by an “obsession') “gives way to a young man's desires" (AC 180, 168). In “the fourth phase," the action "moves from the normal world” to the “idealized green world27 [27 In this “green” world, “life and love" “triumph" "over the waste land," and “summer over winter” (AC 182f). Compare this with the "green and golden” colouring of the second phase (“youth”) in romance and tragedy (AC 200, 220).]   and back again" (AC 182). In “the fifth phase," the "world" is “more Romantic," "less festive," and “more pensive," almost to the point of “containing” "tragedy" (AC 184). In “the sixth phase," "the collapse and disintegration of comic society" occur (AC 185). This time, the two groups of three move from "experience” toward “innocence” (AC 182), which seems odd with the last phase being so grim.
To match up with the patterning of romance after the life of the hero, the “first five phases” here are made to allegorize "a sequence of stages in the life of a redeemed society”': "infancy," “adolescence,” "coming to maturity," "being mature and established," and “settled order" (AC 185). This leaves “death” to parallel the sixth phase, though Frye's reversal of the romance-pattern and his cyclical plan oblige him to end with "a return to the womb” from where "the embryo" came in the “first phase” of "romance" (AC 186, 198). This life-allegory may be another foray to squeeze extra mileage out of a pattern better motivated elsewhere. I can't see why "infancy" is the most ironic stage in the life of anybody, "redeemed” or not; why “coming to maturity” is "ironic" and "experienced," whereas "being mature" is “romantic" and "innocent'; and so on. As we might predict by now, "the first three phases" of "tragedy” "correspond to the first three phases of romance," and “the last three to the last three of irony"; and we're back to the progression “from innocence to experience” set up in “romance" and reversed in "comedy" (AC 219, 211). In "the first phase," "the central character is given the greatest possible dignity" by virtue of “courage and innocence” (AC 219). “The second phase” is “the tragedy of innocence,” “usually involving young people" (AC 220). “The third phase" “emphasizes” "the success” of “the hero's achievement." “The fourth phase" is “the typical fall of the hero through hybris and hamartia" (AC 221, 213), though not necessarily of the conventional sort (AC 36, 38, 41, 210). “The fifth phase" centres on “the tragedy of lost direction and lack of knowledge" (AC 222). “The ironic increases” and "the heroic decreases," with “the character" entering “a state of lower freedom than the audience” (AC 221). "The sixth phase of tragedy" is "a world of shock and horror" (AC 222). The parallel to the hero's life seems to work fairly well this time. A tragedy often centres on one phase, though the hero's whole life might be covered in the course of the plot.
By the time he gets to irony, Frye hopes we are “accustomed to our sequence of six phases" (AC 22 5). “The first three are phases of satire, 28 [28. “Satire” is distinguished from “irony" in having "clear” “moral norms” and “standards" (AC 223).] and correspond to the first three or ironic phases of comedy"; and the last three to those of “ironic tragedy” (AC 22 5, 2 36), so that, as I said, the whole sequence goes with "experience” (consult Figure 5.4). “The first phase” is "the satire of the low norm," with a “permanent and undisplaceable world" of “anomalies, injustices, follies, and crimes" (AC 226). In “the second phase," “the sources and values of conventions" are "objects of ridicule” (AC 229). “The third phase" is “the satire of the high norm,” "letting go even of ordinary sense as a standard" (AC 234). “The fourth phase looks at tragedy from below, from the moral and realistic perspective of the state of experience” (AC 237). In "the fifth phase," the "irony" has its main emphasis on the natural cycle, the steady unbroken turning of the wheel of fate." "The sixth phase presents human life in terms of largely unrelieved bondage” (AC 238). "On the other side of this," "satire begins again" (AC 239). This stipulation of cyclical motion within the mythos may remind us of the merging of death into rebirth suggested at the end of comedy and romance (AC 186, 192), though like tragedy, irony ends with a counterpart, that is, "demonic epiphany” (AC 223, 239).29 [29. “Epiphany" is elsewhere expressly connected to rebirth (AC 215, 316). On the "Messianic” implications of such a cycle, see AC 317.]
As if all this uniting and paralleling of the modes were not enough, Frye decides that all “four mythoi,” “comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony," can “be seen as four aspects of a central unifying myth” (AC 192, 215). This myth follows the “quest," which as we saw, was “the third phase" of "romance"  -- 'romance” being in turn "the centre of gravity" for "archetypal criticism" (AC 220, 116). The "three stages" of the quest now become four to fit the mythoi: “agon” for “romance,” “pathos” for “tragedy,” "sparagmos" for "irony," and "anagnolisis” for “comedy" (AC 192).30 [30 “Agon" originally meant "conflict," “pathos” “death struggle,” “sparagmos” “tearing apart of the sacrificial body," and "anagnorisis" "discovery" (AC 187, 148, 52). This scheme here abstracts and allegorizes the terms for the occasion: “pathos" becomes “catastrophe”; "sparagmos" becomes “the sense that heroism and effective action are absent"; and “anagnorisis" becomes "the recognition of a newborn society rising in triumph around a still somewhat mysterious hero and his bride” and later recognition as God's son” (AC 192, 316). Within this configuration, “comedy can contain a potential tragedy" just as "resurrection” requires "death" (AC 215; cf. AC 184).]
This argument is claimed to show how "myths explain the structural principles behind familiar literary facts": “to make a sombre action end happily is easy, and to reverse the procedure almost impossible" (“our natural likes and dislikes can't be the explanation because they're not “structural") (AC 215). But the incisive motivation for putting romance and its “quest" at the centre of the mythoi may be Frye's interest in "the heroic quest of the Messiah from incarnation to apotheosis," the "cycle of pre-existence, life-in-death, and resurrection” (AC 316f, 215). This parallel casts Christ in the role of a “dragon-killer," the emphasis of the New Testament falling on "the Book of Revelations” (AC 189f). It also pushes the stages back to three so as to fit “the three-day rhythm of death, disappearance, and revival" in "myths" of "dying gods" like "our Easter" (AC 187).
My bare outline of Frye's scheme with four six-phase mythoi is unfair in leaving out the clusters of examples and special cases he situates in nearly every phase. But we can at least see how Frye's elaborate architecturing of theoretical categories serves his plea for an “assumption of total coherence" in literary theory (AC 16). One traditional literary value he shares without reservation is "unity" (AC 11, 77, 80, 82, 125, 246, 314). The diffuseness of forms and variations is mastered by the sheer will for order, and any signs of stress or discrepancy we may detect are hardly surprising. The patterns of sequences and parallels work better in some areas than in others. Sometimes the structure seems to have a life and motivation of its own, so that the correspondences are not so much found as urged.
Perhaps the variegated, complex, and sometimes conflicting procedures in Frye's book might best be appreciated by relating its title to his admonition that “a clearer understanding of the form and traditions of the anatomy would make a good many elements in the history of literature come into focus” (AC 312). As a “literary form" -- Frye's “favourite," according to Bloom (CCP 12) -- the “anatomy” is a “dissection or analysis" with an “intellectualized approach" (AC 311). It pursues an "encyclopaedic” and “creative treatment of exhaustive erudition," and a “comprehensive survey of human life." Its “verbal exuberance" "piles up an enormous mass of erudition” about its "theme" (AC 236, 311). “At its most concentrated,” it “presents a vision of the world in terms of a single intellectual pattern" (AC 310). Its “unity" may be "built up from an intricate scheme of parallel contrasts” (AC 314). All these characteristics belong to Frye's book just as much as to the works he is addressing in the passages just quoted, such as Burton's (1628) Anatomy of Melancholy (AC 236, 311) (curiously, also the model for one Fiedler's books, WL 34). And any "appearance of carelessness” or of “violent dislocations” of “customary logic” (AC 310) may simply reflect the pressures of seeking an “ideal order among" "the existing monuments of literature” (AC 18).
This reading of Frye's title would make him essentially a satirist in the learned tradition of Menippus and Varro (cL AC 309). In some ways, his depiction of satire could indeed apply to his own book. “Satire” “continues encyclopaedic tradition"; "the containing form" of the "satiric epic" is "the pure cycle" of the “quest" being "made over again" (AC 322). “The satiric attitude" is “an expression of the hypothetical form of art” (AC 231). “Intellectual satire defends the creative detachment in art" (AC 233, 231). “The satirist" can "break down customary associations, reduce sense experience to one of many possible categories, and bring out the tentative” “basis of all our thinking" (AC 235) (a goal extolled by Iser for all literature). The outcome is “to prevent any group of conventions from dominating the whole of literary experience," and even to “break up” “all things that impede the free movement of society” (AC 233). Such intents sound like Frye's own “goal" of “intellectual freedom': “the ability to look at contemporary social values with the detachment of one who is able to compare them with the infinite vision of possibilities presented by culture” (AC 348). This “response to culture is, like myth, a revolutionary act of consciousness" (AC 344).
His range, depth, and complexity make Frye's presence on the theoretical scene hard to ignore, even many years later. He is cited expressly in the works of all the other critics I review except Millett. His conception of reading by expanding one's frames of reference is widely shared, notably by Iser, jauss, Bleich, Holland, Hartman, Hirsch, and Jameson (who even views his own scheme of “semantic horizons” as “dialectic equivalents” of Frye's “phases,” PU 75). The fearful symmetry in Frye's balanced oppositions, his exhilarated schematising and taxonomising, his accumulation of generic parallels and contrasts, and his bristling terminology, anticipate the methods of structuralism; and Frye's work might well be saluted as the more comprehensive and insightful. He deploys “deliberate shifts in context” (letter to me) as part of his design to include everything without reducing its individual status or dissolving its uniqueness. This ambition anticipates deconstruction as well, especially his tendencies to remain in oscillation, to invert hierarchical oppositions, and to assign centres to marginal forms. So even if his terms and schemes may not reappear intact very often within more recent critical theory, his total achievement might be seen as one of the spatial models he likes so much, one with limitless room to expand, absorb, and integrate.

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