Fearful Symmetry (Frye)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake
Cover of the first edition
AuthorNorthrop Frye
CountryUnited States
GenreLiterary criticism
PublisherPrinceton University Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
LC ClassPR4147 .F7 1969

Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake is a 1947 book by Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye whose subject is the work of English poet and visual artist William Blake. The book has been hailed as one of the most important contributions to the study of William Blake and one of the very first that embarked on the interpretation of many of Blake's most obscure works.[1] As Frye himself acknowledges, Blake's work is not to be deciphered but interpreted and seen within its specific historical and social contexts.[2]

In his preface of the 1969 edition, Frye writes:

"I wrote Fearful Symmetry during the Second World War, and hideous as the time was, it provided some parallels with Blake's time which were useful for understanding Blake's attitude to the world. Today, now that reactionary and radical forces alike are once more in the grip of the nihilistic psychosis that Blake described so powerfully in Jerusalem, one of the most hopeful signs is the immensely increased sense of the urgency and immediacy of what Blake had to say".[3]


Literary critic Camille Paglia writes in Sexual Personae (1990), that Fearful Symmetry is a "pioneering study", but that Frye "optimistically promotes sexual liberation in a way that seems, a weary generation later, simplistic and naive."[4]


  1. ^ Alan Mendelson, Frye and the Word: religious contexts in the writings of Northrop Frye (University of Toronto Press, 2003) ISBN 0-8020-8813-9
  2. ^ Richard Dellamora (editor), Postmodern apocalypse: theory and cultural practice at the end, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), ISBN 0-8122-1558-3, Page 122
  3. ^ Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: a study of William Blake (Princeton University Press, 1969)
  4. ^ Paglia, Camille (1990). Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. London: Yale University Press. p. 270. ISBN 0-300-04396-1.

External links[edit]