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Northrop Frye's Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible and Other Religious Texts

Northrop Frye's Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible and Other Religious Texts

Edited by Robert D. Denham
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 768
  • Book Info
    Northrop Frye's Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible and Other Religious Texts
    Book Description:

    Northrop Frye's expansive and influential lectures on the literary symbolism of the Bible given during 1981-2 are arguably among his best and most accessible works. This thirteenth volume in the Collected Works of Northrop Frye gathers together these lectures and Frye's notebooks on the Bible, Dante, and Eastern religion. The eleven holograph notebooks and the twenty-four lectures transcribed here present new insights into Frye's personality, methods, and thought, and complement the other published editions of Frye's notebooks in this series,The Late Notebooks(2000) andThe 'Third Book' Notebooks(2002).

    The notebook material comes mostly from the 1970s, when Frye was at work on the first of his books on the Bible,The Great Code, but also includes one notebook from the 1940s, another from the 1960s, devoted to Frye's reading of Dante'sPurgatorioand the first ten cantos of theParadiso, and another from the 1980s, when Frye was at work on his second book on the Bible,Words with Power. Fully annotated, this latest volume in the Collected Works of Northrop Frye will be an invaluable addition to any literary or religious scholar's library.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7788-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Abbreviations and Shortened Forms
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Published and Forthcoming Notebooks
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xxxi-lviii)

    The full extent of Frye′s notebook writing, which began in the late 1930s, is uncertain. Some notebooks he discarded, and others disappeared. But what has been preserved is a considerable body of work—close to a million and a half words counting the typed material. Frye′s justification for this verbal torrent is that his note-taking provides the building blocks for his books: the writing itself is a matter of transforming into a continuous sequence the discontinuous entries that come to him aphoristically. The argument has already been made that Frye wrote at least a good portion of his notebooks with...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. lix-lxiv)
  9. Notebooks on the Bible and Other Religious Texts

    • Notebook 3
      (pp. 3-71)

      [1] If one translates the terms of conventional theologies into psychological terms, one gets some interesting results. Deism is psychologically the low water-mark of the religious life, with God sound asleep in the soul and the soul carrying on automatically. Two types of such Deism are theoretically possible: the Ijim or savage type, in which the organism works with automatic accuracy, as in Yeats′s Phase 2,² and the Victorian civilized type, in which God becomes an external compulsion or superego.

      [2] The religious life, then, begins with a call to this sleeping God to awake. In Isaiah & most of the...

    • Notebook 11f
      (pp. 72-139)

      [1] I think that for the opening chapter I shall have to introduce my theory of myth, setting out the contrast between mythical & displaced or realistic form. How, with the rise of writing culture, truth came to be regarded as descriptive truth, & called ″literal.″ How efforts to domesticate or make realistic the life of Jesus seem somehow injured by their relation to the O.T. The great cry on the cross seems less human when identified as a quotation from Ps. 22;² the realistic detail of Judas′ 30 pieces of silver less realistic when referred back to Zech. [Zechariah 11:12–13] &...

    • Notebook 21
      (pp. 140-260)

      [1] This is a working notebook concerned with thoughts on religion. Its immediate object is to collect notes for the Birks lectures at McGill.¹ The small book on the literary use of the Bible is also to be kept in mind, and the GI.²

      [2] One major problem is that the language of understanding religion is always a human language. That language is mythical, as we know after the failure of efforts to conceive it as historical or rational. But mythical language is just as human as the other kind. So if myth is a human language, then revelation must...

    • Notes 54-7
      (pp. 261-262)

      [1] Narrative A: dianoia. Revolutionary monotheism: Xy in a sequence of four Western religions; Western obsession with social organization as opposed to individual enlightenment. Characteristics of revolutionary mentality: total intolerance, sense of dangerous heresy and deviation, dialectical habit of mind, conception of false god, turning away from nature toward social institutions.

      [2] Narrative B: nous. The comic romance: the St. George and Dragon myth; the U-shaped narrative; the quest theme and its completion; the hinges of incarnation and resurrection; the parallels of Israel and Christ.

      [3] Imagery A: dianoia. Sacrifice and sacrament: communion and propitiation; the Frazer demonic spin-off; scapegoats...

    • Notebook 11d
      (pp. 263-269)

      [1] Chapter One is History Lost & Regained, showing through the example of Gibbon, how a work becomes existentially historical in proportion as it loses its specific reference to history.

      [2] Chapter Two is Metaphor & Knowledge. This lays out the typological scheme of the Bible, & shows how metaphor is the source of new or creative knowledge, as opposed to recognized knowledge. Of the central metaphor of ″body.″

      [3] Chapter Three begins with a study of the fallacy of presupposed belief. We find out what is believed through a phenomenological study of action. On the other side is belief informed by a...

    • Notes 54-5
      (pp. 270-310)

      [1] I′ve just got Measure for Measure straight, I think: it′s an academic comedy about the nature and structure of comedy. Comedy is a structure in which Eros smashes an irrational law. MM is a play about an irrational sexual law; everybody from pimps to governors say[s] it won′t work, and it doesn′t. It′s partly a humor comedy in which Isabella and Angelo are both humors of (moral) virtue, and are released from it at the end. The Duke is an agent of Eros, though of course he doesn′t know it, a presenter like Prospero with a very long speaking...

    • Notebook 15
      (pp. 311-317)

      [1] 9: If we take behavior as the basis of belief, we shall not solve any of the traditional problems of belief, notably the gap between what we do and what we ″believe″ we ought to do. But behavior is the basis for a study of the phenomenology of belief, as distinct from therecordingof presupposed belief. Because what we believe we ought to do is still related to action: it′squid agas, the third level, not the second (quid credas)¹ as in Dante. The latter is founded on the credo ut intelligam² fallacy.

      [2] 8 (probably): There are...

    • Notebook 11e
      (pp. 318-339)

      [1] Two metaphor-clusters: the one linked more often with ″soul″ is the invisible inside the visible. This is derived from the consciousness, which feels that it′s in but not of the body, which it doesn′t know. The other is linked with ″spirit,″ and thinks of the visible as the epiphany of the invisible. In this post-Einstein world we think of matter as the epiphany of energy. Soul, which survives & escapes its bodily prison, is the telos of the mind; spirit is the telos of the body itself. Spirit has air metaphors attached to it, because the air is the primary...

    • Notebook 11a
      (pp. 340-342)

      [1] However inconsistently used, soul & spirit do seem to point in different directions. Despite Aristotle, soul seems usually to be the telos of mind, the consciousness or awareness that feels itself ″in,″ but not of, the body. Because the mind is the nothingness at the heart of existence, it negates itself and thereby ″survives″ death. Note the close parallel to being in but not of the world. Spirit, on the other hand, seems to be a transformation of the body itself. It starts with quasi-magical notions of mana & orenda, & ends with the wind that blows where it pleases. Bodily disciplines...

    • Notebook 11c
      (pp. 343-348)

      [1] This is the notebook for Part Two of The Great Code.¹ As the footnotes are not complete for Part One, it follows that many of the first notes will be transitional, and perhaps incorporated into Part One.

      [2] At the moment it seems to me best to use Chapter Five of Part One for the skeleton of Part Two. Say twelve chapters, the first eight, divided into two sections, following the ogdoad. Third section, nine to twelve, would then be the awakening of the spectres of the dead chapter: Eros Regained, Adonis Revived, Prometheus Unbound, Hermes Unsealed. A longer...

    • Notebook 11b
      (pp. 349-360)

      [1] Typology, which differs from allegory in that both elements are equally real, implies a theory of historical process: there has to be something concealed within history that works toward an epiphany in history. External views of history, like the cyclical view, won′t fit it.¹

      [2] We got our philosophy from the Greeks, and the Greeks developed the first true alphabet—the so-called Hebrew alphabet is still a syllabary. Is there a connection between alphabetical writing and metaphysics? Something that permits of projection? In China & Japan philosophy is either political-ethical (Confucius) or psychological (Tao, Zen). Is that because all metaphysics...

    • Notes 54-6
      (pp. 361-365)

      [1] Now don′t lose or mislay these notes.

      [2] Somewhere in either myth or metaphor I should say: the literal basis of meaning is a swirling of words with no ″reality″ of any kind behind them, or nothing of what I used to call the Beulah mattress. Contemporary critics seem to regard this fact as something to be greeted with the classical gestures of despair: there is no object for criticism; the text demonstrates only the absence of a presence, etc. I regard this fact as positive and exhilarating. It makes the reader, for one thing, a primary creator, but...

    • Notebook 23
      (pp. 366-379)

      [1] There are two literary genres that have been interesting me lately. One is the science-fiction trilogy (that is, it′s usually the creation of a world, with a story that occupies three volumes). Examples are Asimov′sFoundation,¹ Herbert′sDune,² Zelazny′s Amber world,³ Farmer′s ″Riverrun″ books⁴ (not up to the others, in my view), Ursula LeGuin′sEarthsea,⁵ and a number of others. They derive, of course, from the huge success of the Tolkien trilogy, and the blurbs routinely compare them to Tolkien. But the Eddison series⁶ was written before Tolkien, to say nothing of the Morris ends-of-the earth series.⁷

      [2] These...

    • Notebook 45
      (pp. 380-412)

      [1] I have been working for some time on the difference between pre and post Romantic mythology. This has gone through, to date, the following stages:

      [2] I. a) The pre-Romantic myth is, first, an artefact myth reflecting a tool-using, male-dominated, urban society. According to it, Godmadethe world, and the process of birth & love & death followed. The Romantic myth revived the ancient sexual mother-centered myth which subordinated a male dying god.

      b) This resulted in a quite different framework of metaphors. The older myth was on four levels. First, heaven, symbolized by the stars; second, Paradise or the...

  10. Lectures on the Bible

    • Symbolism in the Bible
      (pp. 415-608)

      My part of this course is a study of the narrative and imagery of the English Bible; and to clarify what I am trying to do in it, it might be worth sketching in a background of the history of the course, to explain why I started giving it in the first place.

      It goes back to my days as a junior instructor, when I found myself saying to the head of my department here that I found some difficulty in getting my students to understand what was going on inParadise Lost, which I was trying to teach. And...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 609-688)
  12. Emendations to ″Symbolism in the Bible″
    (pp. 689-692)
  13. Index
    (pp. 693-740)