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The necessary Unity of Opposites

The necessary Unity of Opposites: The Dialectical Thinking of Northrop Frye

Series: Frye Studies
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
  • Book Info
    The necessary Unity of Opposites
    Book Description:

    InThe Necessary Unity of Opposites, Brian Russell Graham contends that it was the method of Frye's thinking - his dialectic ability to see opposing concepts as a unity rather than a dichotomy - that allowed him to transcend binary constructs and formulate new conclusions and questions about literature, politics, and society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8718-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Brian Russell Graham
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    The present time is a vibrant one for Frye studies.The Collected Works of Northrop Frye, in the final stages of publication by the University of Toronto Press, is precipitating a transformation of the field. Based on the large collection of Frye’s papers in the E.J. Pratt Library of Victoria University at the University of Toronto, theCollected Worksis providing us with scholarly editions of all of Frye’s works, with a total of thirty volumes planned. The publication of these volumes means that, for the first time, Frye scholars have easy access to all of his writings, including his...

  6. 2 Mandarin and Rebel: Frye’s Secular Dialectical Thinking
    (pp. 16-23)

    For Frye one of the most striking facts about modern literature is that the social attitudes of modern writers are fundamentally antisocial. In one section ofWords with Powerhe charts the development of such attitudes from Diderot onwards. ‘An attitude of defiance as well as of self-doubt or submissiveness runs through all literature,’ he observes, but in the past two centuries literature has been characterized by an especially pronounced ‘anti-establishment’ outlook:

    Diderot’sNeveu de Rameauin the eighteenth century heralds a world in which practically every decade has thrown up some variety of anti-establishment attitude associated with the arts....

  7. 3 Beauty and Truth I: Frye’s Theory of Blake’s Poetry
    (pp. 24-42)

    In his bibliography of Blake scholarship, Frye discusses Swinburne’s contribution to the field. Swinburne, argues Frye, is responsible for promulgating the notion that Blake is best viewed as something of an aesthete:

    Swinburne’s brilliant and generous essay,William Blake, appeared in 1868 as a critical pendant to the Gilchrist life, and established Blake once for all as an important poet. The virtues of this essay speak eloquently for themselves; its limitations are unfortunately the main concern of the historian of Blake scholarship, however ungrateful the task. In the first place, Swinburne, on the authority less of Gilchrist than of his...

  8. 4 Beauty and Truth II: Frye’s Theory of Secular Literature
    (pp. 43-60)

    Frye emphasized the fact that in the twentieth century the ironic mode was in the ascendancy. Fictions, he argues inAnatomy, ‘may be classified … by the hero’s power of action’ (AC, 31). In the ironic mode the reader looks down on ‘a scene of bondage, frustration, or absurdity’ (AC, 32). His consideration of the ‘thematic poet’ (AC, 56) of this mode takes him into the heart of the modernist movement, and the observations he makes about literature in this context are of special significance for this chapter. In the ironic mode the poet dedicates his energies to his ‘literal...

  9. 5 Work and Leisure: Frye on the Individual in Society
    (pp. 61-76)

    Frye’s theory of education begins with the humanist conception of education, which can be seen as a focus for diverse figures. Overlooking the considerable differences between Arnold and Newman, differences which would dissuade many thinkers from speaking of the two within the same context, he associates this line of thinking with them, while also referring to both as ‘liberals.’ Though T.S. Eliot is better characterized as a social conservative, he espouses much the same view of education, and for this reason, despite the very obvious differences between them, Eliot can be spoken of in the same breath as Arnold and...

  10. 6 Freedom and Equality: Frye’s Political Philosophy
    (pp. 77-98)

    Writing against the backdrop of the Cold War, Frye’s political thinking is characterized by a desire to move beyond the stage where opposing political goals are understood to be mutually exclusive to one which is dialectical, suprahistorical, and post-partisan, where those goals are revealed to be compatible and simultaneously achievable. He argues the case for a political program which gives equal weight to equality and freedom, the priorities of Left and Right respectively. Before focusing upon Frye’s dialectical political thinking, I shall build up the conceptual background to it. I shall begin with an account of Frye’s view of the...

  11. 7 Belief and Vision: Frye on Scripture
    (pp. 99-114)

    Towards the end of chapter 6 I explained that in ‘Trends in Modern Culture’ Frye was prepared to state that ‘the church’ – the Protestant church – imparts a refinement and completion of the freedom fostered by the university in society. I also commented on the fact that in practice he tends to focus on the freedom fostered by the university and discount the notion that the church supplements that freedom. But while his theory of education and work provides us with an account of how vision redeems work, it does not go beyond the world of work, and so offers no...

  12. 8 Epilogue
    (pp. 115-118)

    Frye’s view that the history of secular thought is characterized by the rise and fall of radical and Urizenic forces was, as already suggested in my Introduction, borne out by developments in politics and culture in the latter part of the twentieth century. Within the cultural field the Left gained a position of seemingly unfaltering ascendancy. Those engaged in ‘theory’ represent a new Left, albeit a thoroughly disunited one (Cusset, 187). In a recent history of literary theory,French Theory, François Cusset points out that ‘the cultural “Left” of university radicals … dissipated their power in isolated communities, without succeeding...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 119-126)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 127-130)
  15. Index
    (pp. 131-137)