The Educated Imagination Essay
Northrop Frye (1912-1991) read his Massey Lectures over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC radio) in 1962. First published by Indiana University Press in 1964, the six lectures present key concepts from Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton University Press, 1957).
Chapter One. “The Motive for Metaphor.”
Frye begins by exploring the relation of language and literature. “What is the relation of English as the mother tongue to English as a literature?” he asks (p. 16), and before he can give an answer, he has to explain why people use words. He identifies three different uses of language, which he also terms types or levels of language.
1. “The language of consciousness or …show more content…
The major conventions of Western literature–tragedy, comedy, satire, and romance–are “typical ways in which stories get told” (p. 49). Frye suggests that they represent “episodes” in the story of literature itself (p. 52). As he view it, all literature tells a large cyclic story–”the story of the loss and regaining of identity” (p. 55). It can be seen in the hero’s quest, where the hero leaves the safety of his society to face a monster and returns, or in the lover’s plight, where the man is attracted to a woman, and marries her and is buried by her. But it’s most complete representation in the West is the Biblical story of the Fall of man from his original home and the eventual return to a promised land or a heavenly kingdom.
Chapter Three: “Giants in Time”
Moving from metaphor and myth, Frye turns to literary symbolism, where he finds his answer to the question, “What kind of reality does literature have?” (p. 61). The “correspondence of the natural and human” deriving from the impulse to draw analogies “is one of the things that the word ‘symbol’ means” (p. 66).
Paraphrasing Aristotle’s Poetics, he argues that literature is concerned with universals and thus with general examples and thus invites an impartial response. “The poet’s job is not to tell you what