Anatomy of Criticism Essay

Anatomy of Criticism Essay

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Anatomy of Criticism   Introduction


In his Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye offers a complex theory that aspires to describe a unifying system for literary criticism. It can be argued, however, that in attempting to delineate such an all-inclusive structure, Frye's system eliminates identity in literature. The present essay takes up this argument and offers examples of how identity is precluded by Frye's system as outlined in Anatomy of Criticism. Structure Vs. Identity

In Frye's system, the organizing principles that give literature coherence and structure are derived from the myths of ancient Greece and the archetypal imagery found in the Bible. In his Third Essay, Frye suggests that all literature is based on displacements of these myths. In postulating this, however, Frye denies the individual identity of a work of literature: it becomes merely another abstraction of an axial symbol, an embellished copy of an archetypal myth. This tenet essentially annexes the identity of the writer as well, for every work of literature is seen by Frye as being based on or derived from all other works. The originality of a writer's ideas is denied, and the author's identity is therefore negated. There is no such thing as an 'original' literary identity in Frye's system. For Frye, literature must lead back to the Garden, to mythical symbolism; if a literary work does not displace an archetype, then it is not considered to be literature. Although it seems that Frye is able to find axial imagery in almost any work, we must ask what his theory of myths excludes. If we look at the works cited in the Anatomy, we see that Frye concentrates much of his discussion on the classics of Western literature (Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, T.S. ...


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...y in this quote by removing the individual from the question: the immediacy of "Who am I?" is replaced with the more disinterested and impersonal "Where is Here?" But the questioning of identity is central to the Canadian imagination, and is perhaps an axiom of our identity. In decontextualizing and desocializing literature, Frye denies the Canadian literary identity. Conclusion Northrop Frye's theory of literary criticism attempts to include all literature in a structure that totalizes. In doing so, however, identity is excluded: the identity of the writer, the reader, and individual works ofliterature is denied; in denying these identities, Frye perhaps precludes the identity of literature itself.   List of References Used Frye, Northrop (19 ). The Bush Garden.

Works Cited:

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957.

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