Important Quotes from Frye's "The Critical Path"

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These are quotations from Northrop Frye’s essay “The Critical Path” that I thought were important or interesting and that could help with class discussion.


"Literature is a part of a social process; hence that process as a whole forms the genuine context of literature.” page 282

“I was led to three conclusions in particular.  First, there is no private symbolism…There may be private allusions or associations that need footnotes, but they cannot form a poetic structure, even if the poet himself is psychotic…Second…every poet has his own structure of imagery, every detail of which has its analogue in that of all other poets.  Third, when we follow out this pattern of analogous structures, we find that it leads, not to similarity, but to identity.” page 283

“It is identity that makes individuality possible: poems are made out of the same images, just as poems in English are all made out of the same language.” page 283

“And yet convention, within literature, seemed to be a force even stronger than history.” page 283

“A scholar, qua scholar, cannot think for himself or think at random: he can only expand an organic body of thought, add something logically related to what he or someone else has already thought.” page 284

“This total body of literature can be studied through its larger structural principles, which I have just described as conventions, genres, and recurring image-groups or archetypes.” page 284

“Criticism, like religion, is one of the sub-academic areas in which a large number of people are still free to indulge their anxieties instead of studying their subject.” page 287


Back to my summary of Frye's "The Critical Path"

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