frye theory of modes

In some fictions, he says, the characters are better than we are, in others worse, in still others on the same level. The high mimetic, then, occupies the center of all four. In the mythical mode scripture, literature claiming divine inspiration is prevalent. Thus Frye’s “thematic” category is a highly relative one, as indicated by the following comparative exercise: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, is a novel named after its plot; Sense and Sensibility is named after its theme. In romantic comic modes, the setting is pastoral or idyllic, and there is an integration of the hero with an idealized simplified form of nature. The purpose of the introduction is to defend the need for literary criticism, to distinguish the nature of genuine literary criticism from other forms of criticism, and to clarify the difference between direct experience of literature and the systematic study of literary criticism. The latter are based on an abstract hypothesis which assumes one element of literary works to be fundamental; this element then becomes the basis for differentiating among theoretical genres. Tragic and episodic forms are more individualistic, and comic and encyclopedic forms are more collective. In particular, Frye says, Aristotle seems to be interested in how powerful heroes are, in comparison to their environments and in comparison to the average reader or “man.” For instance, in myths, the hero is a god who is stronger than both his environment, and other men. The four essays are titled "Historical Criticism: A Theory of Modes", "Ethical Criticism: a Theory of Symbols", "Archetypal Criticism: A Theory of Myths", and "Rhetorical Criticism: A Theory of Genres.". “Oswald Spengler,” p. 86. This chapter is the shortest chapter in Anatomy of Criticism, but it provides a model for all the others. Communicating as an individual, the poet tends, he says, to produce discontinuous forms; and as a social spokesman, he tends to produce more extended patterns (AC, 55). Finally, a third stage can be seen in works where a kind of standoff results between the comic fool and his slanderous or snobbish society. His principle for differentiating the modes is the relationship of the hero both to other men and to his natural environment, a principle which yields the five categories that appear throughout Anatomy of Criticism: (1) myth, in which the hero’s superiority is different in kind from that of other men and their environment; (2) romance, in which the hero’s superiority is one of degree; (3) high mimesis, where the hero is superior in degree to other men but not superior to nature; (4) low mimesis, in which the hero is more or less equal to other men and not superior to his environment; and (5) irony, where the hero’s power of action is inferior to that of ordinary men (AC, 33–34). The reason for Spengler’s appeal, then, is the poetic imagery upon which his vision of history is constructed. That leaves the modes of the encyclopedic form, in which the poet speaks for his whole society.

. In addition, other important criteria enter Frye’s discussion; the categories of hamartia, inevitability, and incongruity, for example, are used to define high-mimetic tragedy. Mythos is the Greek word (Aristotle’s favored word) for “story” or “plot.” Frye divides stories into four categories or parts of the Cycle of Mythoi: comedy (the mythos of spring), romance (the mythos of summer), tragedy (the mythos of autumn), and irony/satire (the mythos of winter).

Journals He concedes that the following essays can only give a preliminary, and likely inexact, glimpse of the system of literature.

Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1947), p. 29. This brings literature into the realm of speech action together with the law (“You’re under arrest”) and religion (“I pronounce you man and wife.”). Marxist, Freudian, Jungian, Neo-classical, etc.) A little. In particular, Frye says, Aristotle seems to be interested in how powerful heroes are, in comparison to … Finally, in the ironic mode, the poet figures as a mere observer rather than an authoritative commentator, producing writing that tends to emphasize discontinuity and anti-epiphany. The theocentric basis of medieval thought could be closely handled, to test its bearing on romance; the courtly cult of the prince in the Renaissance could be related to the methods of high mimetic; the rationalism of modern science to the canons of low mimetic; and so on, through much subtler inquiries than these.

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