Piecing Frye’s and Keesey’s Articles Together

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I liked most of Frye’s article, I thought he had a good sense of humor, and I liked how he carefully went through and pointed out what the other types of criticism were lacking that his school of criticism provides.  I really liked his point about not assuming that a good poem must be a projection of an interesting man.  As Frye comments, “It often happens that interesting literature is produced by an uninteresting man…” (281). I think that Frye makes a very good point here.  We should not rely on giving a poem value because of an author’s biographical information.  As Eliot stressed, poets can write about emotions they have never felt personally. 

I was a little confused though by something Frye wrote and how it fits in with intertextualism as a whole.  Northrop Frye stated in his article, “The Critical Path” that:

“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” (284).

The quote itself makes sense to me, after all, anything we are likely to think or come up with will have already been thought.  We can say it differently, more clearly, or add something to it, but coming up with a completely new idea is not very likely.  However, if we can only build off of things that “someone else has already thought,” I am confused about something Keesey said in his introduction.  Keesey said that, “The question of how much Shakespeare could have known about Sophocles’ drama is, on this view, less important than the reciprocal illumination that results when the plays are compared” (267).  But, if this is the case, then Sophocles obviously could not have expanded on anything that Shakespeare thought or wrote, since he wrote before Shakespeare.  So if that is the case, how exactly does one write a paper comparing the two?  After having read Shakespeare we will certainly view Sophocles differently, but how do we transfer this into some sort of thesis?  Isn’t this more reader-response than anything else, since the readers’ perception of the two works is what has changed, and not the works themselves?    

Read more on Frye’s “The Critical Path.” 

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