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Northrop Frye and the Poetics of Process

Northrop Frye and the Poetics of Process

Caterina Nella Cotrupi
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 158
  • Book Info
    Northrop Frye and the Poetics of Process
    Book Description:

    Challenging the dismissive view of Frye's work as closed and outdated, Cotrupi explores the implications of his proposition that the history of criticism may be seen as having two main approaches?literature as "product" and literature as "process."

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2084-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: Beyond the Great Divide: Frye and a Unified Theory of Criticism
    (pp. 3-19)

    It has often been remarked that theorists of the sublime mirror their subject matter, invariably expressing themselves in a ‘high style,’ and we may recall here Boileau’s observation that Longinus ‘is himself the great sublime he draws’ (Monk 22). In his comprehensive study of the English eighteenth-century sublime, Samuel Monk cites a passage from the 1809Elements of Artby Martin Shree that puts an ironic slant on what had, by this time, become a commonplace of the sublime:

    those who talk rationally on other subjects no sooner touch on this, than they go off in a literary delirium; fancy...

  5. one Process, the Sublime, and the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 20-35)

    When we observe that two of Frye’s intellectual predecessors and, as he would have it, ‘guides,’ William Blake and Giambattista Vico, emerged out of the intellectual turbulence of the eighteenth century, it should not come as a surprise that, for Frye, this period came to occupy a special place in the history of Western thought. Because of the profound changes in the mythological thinking of this era, Frye saw it as a threshold between modernity and pre-modernity. In the third Whidden Lecture, delivered at Mc-Master University in 1967, Frye gave a summary of this transition saying:

    It seems to me...

  6. two Against a Separate Nature
    (pp. 36-49)

    I have proposed that afterAnatomy of Criticism, Frye saw his critical task to be primarily (though not exclusively) the exploration of the process aspect of criticism rather than the objectifying and structuralist approach which he associated with the term ‘product’ and with the Aristotelian tradition. We are confronted, then, with the fact that his major works afterAnatomy, namely,The Great CodeandWords with Power, centre themselves on the Bible as the key text for critical examination. What was it that caused Frye to view the Bible as the appropriate text for exploring this zone of the critical...

  7. three Vico and the Making of Truth
    (pp. 50-75)

    The key question that fuelled Giambattista Vico’s monumental and influential elaboration of his ‘new science’ of humanity was one centrally linked to the nature/culture dichotomy; namely, How are we to understand the transition of humanity from a state of nature to a state of culture or civilization? What is implicated in Vico’s response is a notion which Frye has termed ‘creative alienation’ and which may be seen to encompass the prototypical paradigm of the sublime experience – the experience of awe, terror, and subsequent empowerment that arises from an intense awareness of the being of the world and an elevated...

  8. four Process and Freedom
    (pp. 76-89)

    In his last major publication,The Double Vision, Frye summarized his life’s work saying,

    For the last fifty years I have been studying literature, where the organizing principles are myth, that is, story or narrative, and metaphor, that is, figured language. Here we are in a completely liberal world, the world of the free movement of the spirit. If we read a story there is no pressure to believe in it or act upon it; if we encounter metaphors in poetry, we need not worry about their factual absurdity. Literature incorporates our ideological concerns, but it devotes itself mainly to...

  9. five Process, Concern, and Interpenetration
    (pp. 90-104)

    As we saw in our brief survey ofAnatomy, Frye’s claims for the function of myth are substantial: poetic mythology is nothing less than the ‘concrete, sensational, figurative, anthropomorphic basis out of which the informing concepts of discursive thought come’ (FI58; cf.AC352). In staking out this pre-eminent role for myth in the shaping of human cultural production, Frye has, some curious inconsistencies notwithstanding, acknowledged his indebtedness to Giambattista Vico, ‘one of the few thinkers to understand anything of the historical role of the poetic impulse in civilization as a whole’ (CP34). With reference to these inconsistencies,...

  10. Conclusion: The Ethics and Praxis of Process
    (pp. 105-116)

    I have been attempting to clarify the distinction to be made in Northrop Frye’s critical writings between the criticism of process and the criticism of product. The criticism of process, my main focus of interest, is that critical approach which engages literature as experience rather than literature as an object to be anatomized and analysed. Within this ‘process’ sphere of critical activity, Frye included that centrifugal and interpenetrative orientation of thought which moves between the total world of possibility that is literature and that world which may, in one sense, be seen to enclose this realm, and yet also be...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 117-132)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 133-142)
  13. Index
    (pp. 143-145)