northrop frye four mythoi


A typical character for Frye is a “stock type,” though this expression is not meant to imply the antithesis of the lifelike character. In defining this theme, Frye draws upon two terms from the Tractatus Coislinianus, the fragmentary Greek treatise in which, he says, are set down “all the essential facts about comedy in about a page and a half.” The terms are pistis (opinion) and gnosis (proof), and they “correspond roughly to the usurping and the desirable societies respectively” (AC, 166). The organization of the Third Essay therefore rests upon the formulation of the now-familiar distinction between dianoia and mythos. The technical comic hero or heroine is frequently a rather undeveloped, neutral type, especially in those works where the ethical interest centers on the blocking characters. The question of dramatic resolution, then, lies at the heart of Frye’s analysis of comic structure; his discussion keeps returning to the issue of what the comic action moves toward: the new society created al the end. Characters must fall on one side or another of the conflict of comedy and of the quest of romance. At this point the undisplaced commedia, the vision of Dante’s Paradiso, moves out of our circle of mythoi into the apocalyptic or abstract mythical world above it. But these categories largely disappear in his analysis of the last three phases, where the social plane of comedy is less displaced. William Righter maintains that the criteria for Frye’s definition of the comic phases “differ considerably from one phase to another.” He observes that “some phases are distinguished by the relational elements of plot, others by character type, others (perhaps especially the fifth) by a quality of tone, others such as the sixth by special psychological criteria as ‘oracular solemnity’ for is this tone?) The elaborateness of its design results chiefly from the theory of phases, the word referring in this context to the variety of literary structures which can be isolated in any one mythos.4 Frye is able to discover six phases for each of the pregeneric mythoi; this yields, of course, twenty-four separate structures. A final and important principle of comic action is that what we actually see presented in a given work is but a part of the total mythos of comedy, an idea which Frye compares to the ternary form in music. Conceptually, however, the Third Essay treats principles long familiar in the history of criticism—principles such as imagery, plot and its various parts, character, theme, and mood. Third-phase comedy is the typical form. and the desire to return to {241} the womb” (“Myth and Interpretation,” New Literary History 3 [1972]: 336). In the sixth stage we see that the total comic mythos has now come full circle. Agon or conflict is the basis or archetypal theme of romance, the radical of romance being a sequence of marvellous adventures. Frye consciously omits all specific and practical criticism, instead offering classically inspired theories of modes, symbols, myths and genres, … Foulke and Smith reduce Frye’s five modes to four: the romantic (Frye’s mythic and romantic combined), the formal (Frye’s high-mimetic), the natural (Frye’s low-mimetic), and the ironic. Frye was educated at the University of Toronto, where he studied philosophy and … Phone: The eiron, for example, may be partly an alazon, or “mental runaway,” in which case “we have either a hero’s illusion thwarted by a superior reality or a clash of two illusions” (AC, 180). His own recapitulation of this grand scheme is as follows: {80} Purely ironic comedy exhibits this society in its infancy, swaddled and smothered by the society it should replace. Thus we find apocalyptic imagery, representing the world of unlimited desire and projected as Paradise or Eden, opposed by demonic imagery, symbolizing the world of existential hell, “the world of the nightmare and the scapegoat, of bondage and pain and confusion; the world as it is before the human imagination begins to work on it and before any image of human desire, such as the city or the garden, has been solidly established; the world also of perverted or wasted work, ruins and catacombs, instruments of torture and monuments of folly” (AC, 147). The one difference is that Blake conceives of only four levels of vision (Eden or Paradise, Beulah or Innocence, Generation or Experience, and Ulro or Hell), whereas in the Anatomy there are five. Email: The individual aspect of the innocent world, Frye says, is the allegory of temperance, based upon continence, in Book II of Spenser’s poem; its social aspect is the legend of justice, based upon power, in Book V. He concludes his discussion by calling attention to several of the primary fourth-phase images: the beleaguered castle, the monster tamed by the virgin, the Gorgon’s head on Athene’s shield, among others. From formal English to slang. Indeed, both are present. Frye first shows how the seven categories of imagery, viewed in the previous section from the static perspective of dianoia, can also be seen as process. We can observe in passing that these first three stages of comedy—its ironic phases—correspond to the first three (or the satiric) phases of irony. The best account of Frye’s relationship to the Structuralist movement is Geoffrey Hartman, “Structuralism: The Anglo-American Adventure,” Yale French Studies, nos. You might find the original interesting. Thus {66} Frye has made two claims about the value of seeing displacement as moral plausibility. This form shows, among other things, that man’s acceptance of inevitability is a displacement of his bitter resentment against the obstacles that thwart his desires. The parallel phase of tragedy, corresponds to the youth of the romantic hero, and is in one way or another the tragedy of innocence in the sense of inexperience, usually involving young people. The criteria can extend, moreover, from something as particular as imagery or the age of the hero to something as general as the vision of society embodied in a literary work. And there are variations, even, on these types: “Occasionally a character may have the dramatic function of [a senex] without his characteristics,” like Fielding’s Squire Airworthy (AC, 172). The general pattern of Frye’s discussion, however, is not linear, as the outline in Figure 7 implies. The four mythoi that we are dealing with, comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony, may now be seen as four aspects of a central unifying myth. Frye argues that the four central types of criticism—the historical, the ethical, the archetypal, and the generic—examine different aspects of literature that can nevertheless be reconstructed by the theorist as a unity. NORTHROP FRYE IN RETROSPECT The publication of Northrop Frye's Notebooks troubled some of his old admirers, myself included. His chief categories are much broader: the happier society, the world of innocence, and the individual and social aspects of fourth-phase allegory. . Frye’s starting point in the Third Essay is the principle that archetypal patterns are most clearly discernible in myth, for in mythical stories we are in a world of pure and abstract literary design. An alazon, for example, is distinguished from an eiron on the basis of the separate roles they play in achieving a given narrative structure. His first essay in. This, however, is but half of Frye’s argument. Mythos. Here I'll be bringing my formulations in Part 1 and Part 2 into line with some of my observations regarding audience-conviction. We have already encountered a rudimentary form of the dialectical part of this design in the First Essay, where Frye uses “comic” and “tragic” in a similar pregeneric sense to describe aspects of mythos in general. To illustrate the procedure he uses in denning these types and their variations, we turn once again to his analysis of the comic and romantic mythoi. There can be complex variations, however, on this simple pattern. For He makes the additional and even more paradoxical claim that, at the apocalyptic level, a relation of identity also exists among the seven different categories of reality (divine, human, animal, vegetable, etc.). Or a free and equal society may be symbolized by a band of robbers, pirates, or gypsies; or true love may be symbolized by the triumph of an adulterous liaison over marriage, as in most triangle comedy; by a homosexual passion (if it is true love that is celebrated in Virgil’s second eclogue) or an incestuous one, as in many Romantics. The most consistently employed analogies, however, come from the dream-ritual opposition, derived in turn from psychoanalytic theory and anthropology. A scan of … In other words, his question now becomes: What is the nature of this integrated world which must be defended against the assaults of experience? As we have seen in Frye’s discussion of comic plot and character, the normal pattern shows the triumph of the eiron over the senex iratus or other blocking character, a victory which creates, in the anagnorisis, the beginnings of the new society. . . Whereas Frye explicitly calls attention to some of the correspondences, others exist only by implication. The procedure used to define each of the mythoi—comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony and satire—follows a similar pattern throughout and derives from Frye’s attempt to answer three questions: What is the structure of each mythos? {83} Having identified the fourth-phase theme as “the integrity of the innocent world,” Frye then turns to specify its social and individual characteristics. . Based on the background above, the aims of this study are (1) … Or, to put the matter differently, in apocalyptic symbolism human lust and ambitions are projected onto the gods and thereby identified with them. The mythoi of romance, comedy, tragedy, and irony/satire can be depicted as forming a circle, with the mythos of tragedy at the bottom and romance at the top. The human figures of this phase are the dispossessed, the destitute and mad-ogres, witches, Baudelaire’s black giantess and Pope’s Dullness. The theory of myths that forms the third essay in Anatomy of Criticism, has possibly been Frye’s most influential contribution. Both character and plot figure importantly in his definition of the third comic phase. This is one form of process. But for those unfamiliar with Northrop Frye, it might be a bit daunting to step into books like Northrop Frye and the Phenomenology of Myth or Northrop Frye and American Fiction. His purpose is to give an account of the structural principles of literature, and he has assumed that these principles cannot be derived except as literature is conceived as a total order of words. His categories seem arbitrary, and many works of art do not fit neatly into any category. “In looking at a picture,” Frye says, we may stand close to it and analyze the details of brush work and palette knife. … At the level of radical metaphor, there is no correlation between what is desirable or undesirable and what is moral. . Thus to the agon, the pathos, and the anagnorisis Frye now adds the sparagmos or the tearing to pieces of the hero—which is the form his disappearance frequently takes (AC, 190–92). Collected Works of Northrop Frye; vol.5. Structure and mood, in other words, determine character; and since for Frye each of these is seen as dialectical, there must be a double bipolar distribution of character types. 9. Northrop Frye: The most influential contribution to archetypal criticism has been made by the Canadian mythologist Northrop Frye (1912-91), who places structures of myth at the heart of the main literary genres. Something similar, he points out, occurs in music. This permits him to isolate certain types of works. Northrop Frye, in full Herman Northrop Frye, (born July 14, 1912, Sherbrooke, Que.,Can.—died Jan. 23, 1991, Toronto, Ont. Frye’s answers come by way of The Faerie Queene, which serves him throughout as the classic example of the quest romance in English literature. 3: 12: Notes on: From Ritual to Romance and The Golden Bough The Dianoia of Archetypal Imagery The result is that the humorous society, rather than the one that should replace it, wins out; and the eiron—technically the comic hero—either fades into the background or joins forces, at the end, with the alazons. “Standing back” from the Anatomy, as Frye urges us to do when looking at a literary work, reveals that his theories of myths and genres are extensions of the last two phases of his theory of symbols. The chief features in Frye’s discussion of each of the six comic and romantic phases are indicated in Figure 12. Northrop Frye, né le 14 juillet 1912, à Sherbrooke, au Québec, et mort le 23 janvier 1991, est un critique littéraire canadien, considéré comme l'un des plus importants théoriciens de … A different classification that has claimed the interest of students of literature is one elaborated by the critic Northrop Frye in the third essay of his Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (1957): tragedy, comedy, romance, and satire. AC, 140. Northrop Frye’s Radical Ideas on Power, Ideology and Myth. According to Frye we can understand any single work from all four perspectives. Sparagmos, or the sense that heroism and effective action are absent, disorganized or foredoomed to defeat, and that confusion and anarchy reign over the world, is the archetypal theme of irony and satire. Northrop Frye asserts in Anatomy of Criticism (1957) that all narratives fall into one of four mythos. The alazon type includes such characters as the senex iratus, the obsessed pedant, the learned crank, and the miles gloriosus. Twenty years after the Anatomy, Frye says: “Romance is the structural core of all fiction: being directly descended from folktale, it brings us closer than any other aspect of literature to the sense of fiction, considered as a whole, as the epic of the creature, man’s vision of his own life as a quest” (SeS, 15). While such a literal charting makes Frye’s thought appear simpler and more rigid than it in fact is, the diagram has the advantage of providing a quick overview of the categories he uses to distinguish archetypal images. Tuesday, April 4th, 2017, 4:30 pm at George Ignatieff Theatre University of Toronto, 15 Devonshire Place, M5S 2C8. Jesus, like his prototype Jonah, descends into hell. This phase, “less festive and more pensive” than fourth-phase comedy, can be called “Arcadian.” In it, says Frye, “the reader or audience feels raised above the action.” We look down on the plotting “as generic or typical human behavior: the action, or at least the tragic implication of the action, is presented as though it were a play within a play that we can see in all dimensions at once.” And what is seen is not merely the movement from winter to spring, as in green-world comedy, but one from “a lower world of confusion to an upper world of order” (AC, 184). Yeats, Pound and Eliot employ the myths of history, rebirth and fulfillment through sacrifice, as do other poets. Free Notes on Cultural Studies. one piece of literature is better than another, beyond of course understanding the larger picture. Sometimes Frye distinguishes the phases from each other in terms of the total plot pattern; at other times it is chiefly in terms of plot ending. Yeats, Pound and Eliot employ the myths of history, rebirth and fulfillment through sacrifice, as do other poets. Phases of the Four Mythoi. On the one hand, it can show us that literature is more flexible than morality, and thus we are prevented from making easy equations between the two. In order to tell the myth we simply follow the temporal sequence of the story. ( Log Out /  A {68} diagrammatic representation of these movements is found in Figure 10. . Or, to put the matter in different terms, it will represent a human form of myth. Frye proceeds to identify the four poles of characterization in the tragic and ironic mythoi as well. This phase can be seen as operating on two social planes: one is realistic, which explains the proximity of this kind of comedy to the ironic phase; the other is idealistic, which explains why this stage is seen as romantic. Hamlet, for example, is often seen as the reluctant hero who must sacrifice himself to purify a Denmark made diseased by the foul and unnatural murder of its king. We are suggesting that the resources of verbal expression are limited, if that is the word, by the literary equivalents of rhythm and key, though that does not mean, any more than it means in music, that its resources are artistically exhaustible. Once the four main categories have been established, he relies chiefly upon the method of illustration, calling on a vast range of examples to define the various subtypes. In actual practice, Frye’s method was certainly more inductive than implied by this outline. Dialectically, it produces an upward and downward movement between innocence and experience, apocalypse and nature, the ideal and the actual, the comic and the tragic. Characters in romance, to turn now to the second mythos, are seldom subtly drawn, since, in relation to the quest, they tend to be either for it or against it. Located along the other axis are the “categories or levels of reality,” metaphorically referred to as “worlds.” There are seven of these, forming a kind of paradigm of the Great Chain of Being. Just as Shelley … 11. . Apocalyptic imagery, because it recreates a visionary or divine world, is associated with myth. “The reason why it is schematic is that poetic thinking is schematic. Achetez neuf ou d'occasion NF's greatest achievement, and a book deeply relevant to fantasy, is his Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays ( 1957 ), where he attempts to establish a structure to incorporate and analyse all works of literature. The term “romance” does not refer here, as it {60} did in the First Essay, to a historical mode. (AC, 171–72). Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your account. The degrees of variation, however, are determined by a number of criteria, which is why the term phase is difficult to define precisely. (AC, 185). It took a long time, but I finally finished reading Northrop Frye's 1957 classic, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, from cover to cover. There are, in fact, some striking similarities between the framework Frye uses to analyze archetypal forms and the one Lévi-Strauss has developed for the study of myth.15 These similarities also take us back to beginnings—to the principles of mythos and dianoia. In the fifth it is part of a settled order which has been there from the beginning, an order which takes on an increasingly religious cast and seems to be drawing away from human experience altogether. Schematically, the cyclical paradigm is located within the order of nature, whereas the dialectical one moves from the order of nature toward or into the higher apocalyptic realm. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Since both a society of gods and one God are, anagogically, symbolic forms of the same unlimited human desire, they can be said to be identical. Robert Denham's typescripts of mandalas in Frye's 1948 notebook. In a similar fashion Frye establishes a parallel between the buffoon of comedy and the Golux of romance. Northrop Frye asserts in Anatomy of Criticism (1957) that all narratives fall into one of four mythoi. Our concern is to determine the principles which underlie their similarity. Here the affinity is based on several distinctions. (AC, 140), Similarly, if we “stand back” from works of literature we can observe their archetypal shapes and mythopoeic designs.2. Although the Tractatus seems to figure importantly in Frye’s discussion, his own schema does not necessarily derive from what the author of this brief treatise says about comic character. Moreover, unlike Freud’s concepts, myths are collective and communal, and so bring a sense of wholeness and togetherness to social life. In the third phase it comes to maturity and triumphs; in the fourth it is already mature and established. . Let us return now to the question of Frye’s method of definition. His discussion of this draws heavily upon illustrations from the Bible, where metaphorical identifications are readily observed because of its highly mythopoeic form. Figure 10, showing the quadrantal and cyclic pattern of the four mythoi and the dialectical arrangement of the mythical and realistic worlds, provides only the skeletal outline for Frye’s taxonomy. 10. Skills in IELTS is very important for pass this testI.E.L.T.S Test mythology. Moreover, the most complete forms of romance show a successful conclusion to the plot, which is typically represented in three stages: “the stage of the perilous journey and the preliminary minor adventures; the crucial struggle, usually some kind of battle in which either the hero or his foe, or both, must die; and the exaltation of the hero” (AC, 187). We conceive of reality, according to Frye, as existing on various levels: the divine world, the human world, the animal world, and so on. The first might be called simply “types of imagery.” Although he divides archetypal imagery into three basic kinds—apocalyptic, demonic, and analogical—there are in effect five basic categories, since analogical imagery is further divisible into three types. 2. In the sixth, or penseroso, phase of the two mythoi, the similarity is in the nature of the comic society; in both phases, society is shown as having broken up into small, occult units, the smallest of which is the contemplative individual himself (AC, 185–86, 202). Frye’s analysis of archetypal meaning is organized along two axes of reference. The first three phases of one mythos are always related {77} to the first three of an adjacent mythos, but the relation is seen as occurring only within opposing halves of the major dialectic, whereas the relation between the last three phases of any two mythoi occurs only within the same half of the innocence-experience dichotomy. Such characters therefore follow the dialectical pattern of the plot structure they serve. Or, to take a more displaced version, Tom Sawyer climbs down into the cave. The contexts and themes of romance are given much fuller treatment in SeS, chapters 2, 4, and 5. Structure The following analysis of the archetypal structure of the mythoi is based on two of the four typical patterns that Frye isolates: his treatment of comedy and romance. 5. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, work of literary criticism by Northrop Frye, published in 1957 and generally considered the author’s most important work.In his introduction, Frye explains that his initial intention to examine the poetry of Edmund Spenser had given way in the process to a broader survey of the ordering principles of literary theory. 36–37 (1966), pp. The cyclical pattern underlies the second half of this theory, whereas the dialectical rhythm organizes the first. Frye’s earliest account of the dragon-killing theme is his discussion of Blake’s Orc symbolism in FS, 207–26. Frye can thus establish the parallel relations between the phases by appealing either to a single criterion, like the size of the social unit in sixth-phase comedy and romance, or to a wide range of criteria like those just mentioned. But this kind of displacement is typical only of poetry which is closely associated with religion, as in Dante. Its heraldic colors are green and gold, traditionally the colors of vanishing youth. . Frye is one of the first critics to conceive of literature as a single, organically related whole, with an overarching framework by which we can understand it. We are most familiar with these kinds of stock characters in comedy, yet in each of the other mythoi Frye locates types which correspond generally to the two basic oppositions: alazon (impostor) versus eiron (self-deprecator), bomolochos (buffoon) versus agroikos (churl, rustic).9. 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