Talk:Anatomy of Criticism

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Observations (in reversed order)[edit]

I've been re-reading the 4th essay, rhetorical criticism, and now I finally feel I'm getting an understanding of the material. I've done an overhaul of the section, and it should be more helpful. As I'm becoming more familiar w/ wikipedia, I'm gaining a better sense of how this article can be improved by simplification or even modularization by making some new pages. I'd like to make a glossary of literary terms as used by Frye and suggested by Han below. This would probably be best as a separate page since I imagine it could easily grow to a list of around a hundred terms. Still more to be done on the 4th essay, but this is a start. (btw I don't think I was logged in when I posted the overhaul... oh well.)--JECompton 03:16, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

Northrop Frye uses different definitions for several words. The page should give mention of this. I don't have a copy of the book in front of me, but some examples would be "pity" and "apocalypse" where "apocalypse" means a kind of singularity. --Han 04:16, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

Thanks Han, it is true that Frye introduces a number of terms and uses seemingly familiar terms in unusual ways. I'm not sure how we could fit it in, but a glossary of Frye's terminology would certainly be helpful to me. I've recently been re-reading the 4th essay on rhetorical criticism, and it's starting to make some sense. Hopefully I can flesh that section out a bit. Also, I've been toying with ways of making this article less verbose by summarizing and using lists/tables/other schema to re-present Frye's ideas in a sort of thumbnail view. Hamilton's Anatomy of His Criticism gives several quotes from Frye himself on how he had made a conscious effort to make a graphical scheme for literature. If I remember correctly, Frye made many diagrams of his theories in the process of writing the book, and it makes me curious if these are extant and useful for understanding the work. Finally, thanks to the various people who have been editing the page by fixing typos, broken links, and also some contribution of content. Hopefully we can get more...

--JECompton 21:23, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

I added a very rough version of the 4th essay today (a few days ago I added the section on the 3rd essay), but I need to study this quite a bit more. Once I finish giving a decent abstract of each essay, I hope to condense the article down to a more concise size using diagrams suggested (and at times used elsewhere) by Frye himself. I also hope to balance my perspective with monographs and journal articles on the Anatomy. I've come across a very nice monograph titled Northrop Frye: Anatomy of His Criticism that is an extensive and fairly recent (from the 90s I think) criticism of the entire work. I'd also like to find specific unfavorable criticism and put the biblio info for those that would like to look at those further. --JECompton 08:01, 15 October 2005 (UTC)

Tonight I wrote up paragraphs on the symbolic phases of the 2nd essay. The anagogic phase is highly abstract and I'll need to study it at length in order to understand and represent it well. The archetypal could use some work, too, and as always, I hope to find ways to express the same ideas concisely without losing the most important points. --JECompton 08:31, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

I revamped the First Essay I had done earlier, adding a table to illustrate Frye's modes and reworking the paragraphs to parallel the text more clearly. This seems to be a definite improvement, but I still feel it could be more concise without losing much in representation. Also, I had some difficulty giving a good representative name for the modes in the table, mainly with ironic comedy and thematic romance. These are particularly abstract sections of the essay, so suggestions...? I also added a stub for the second essay and hope to review it thoroughly. If I can just resist the compulsion to perfect the intro and first essay! --JECompton 10:34, 14 September 2005 (UTC)

Tonight I added a long abstract of the Polemical Introduction. It is 6 or 7 fairly developed paragraphs, but it should be much shorter. I hope to reduce it to 1 or 2 succinct paragraphs in the near future. --JECompton 05:43, 10 September 2005 (UTC)

I corrected some of the style and developed information regarding the First Essay. More significantly, I essentially deleted the existing final paragraph for reasons stated below.

Information regarding the 2nd-4th essays is still needed (and articles about the intro and conclusion wouldn't hurt either). --JECompton 21:18, 6 September 2005 (UTC)

Text of deleted final paragraph[edit]

It lays out Frye's theory on comedy. He presents names for common comic steorotypes. He lays out his Green World Theory. His theory deals mostly with classical drama, and some philosophers say his character types have no bearing on modern times. Yet we see them everyday. Modern sitcoms are full of Frye's 'alazon,' the braggart. Even as young children we are presented with the quintessential example of Frye theory, cartoons. A lot of Frye's theory can revel the strong roots of comic running through Western Civilization. Also read Bergson's Laughter; their theories work well together.

Reasons for deletion[edit]

- The uses of "it" and "he" in the first sentences are indefinite pronouns.

- The paragraph seems to apply to the entire work, but tragedy, comedy, and especially the alazon are covered mainly in the first essay.

- The paragraph is a little too polemic without being informative. Negative criticism of Frye is mentioned but not supported by any citation. The reaction to this negative criticism (e.g. "Yet we see them every day") is likewise unsupported and does not, in my opinion, provide an informative aid to the text.

- The mention of "Green World Theory" is undeveloped and uninformative, at least in the way done so here.

- The examples of sitcoms and cartoons to support the modern pertinency of the concept of the alazon are undeveloped and would be better placed under a separate section.

- The sentence beginning "A lot of Frye's theory..." contributes little to the article.

- Mention of Bergson's Laughter would need more development to be of use.

--JECompton 03:32, 8 September 2005 (UTC)

Ironic comedy and ironic tragedy[edit]

Ironic tragedy

shows the death or suffering of a protagonist who is both weak and pitiful compared to the rest of humanity and the protagonist's environment; Kafka's works provide many examples.

Ironic comedy

borders on savagery, the inflicting of pain on a helpless victim (whereas in ironic tragedy the victim endures the pain). Some examples of this include tales of lynch mobs, murder mysteries, or human sacrifice. (In our time we might recognize ironic comedy in the absurdist type, such as Monty Python.)

Could someone please clarify this? --Han ([User talk: Tshase|Talk]) 14:39, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

What is ironic is that I have not checked or edited this page for some months (years?). I didn't even see that you had posted this question--on a whim I decided to see if anyone had improved the article! Anyway, I can see that my description is informal and confusing, to say the least. My examples were poor, and I can see that I did not have a firm grasp of what Frye was saying in this section. I am amending the section as best as I can for now, but I would caution people to be wary of my representation of Frye's ironic comedy as I am grasping to understand and articulate it. Even better, it would be nice of some other Frye critics would refine the article. Let me know if those points make more sense now. JECompton (talk) 04:18, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Thanks JECompton, I understand the two concepts better now. --Han (talk) 13:54, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Kudos and caveats[edit]

To summarize Frye's argument is a noble project, but I suspect that this article in its present state leaves much to be desired. Just looking at the synopsis of the first essay, I see that it confuses mood and mode. Specifically, it presents Frye talks of the tragic, the comic, and the thematic as modes, when in fact Frye's modes are literary categories corresponding to the hero's nature and powers. In his Glossary, he defines Mode as: "A conventional power of action assumed about the chief characters in fictional literature, or the corresponding attitude assumed by the poet towards his audience in thematic literature." For example: fictional literature in the Mythic mode consists of poems whose heroes are gods. Thematic literature in the Mythic mode is prophecy: i.e., the poet assumes the attitude of an interpreter of the divine will, as in much of the Bible. I will correct the chart to reflect this, but much more needs to be done. pmr (talk) 15:25, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

In the process of revision I observed that the term Mode was used properly further on in the page, so my contribution at least has the merit of removing inconsistency!

pmr (talk) 16:13, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks pmr, your edits are a substantial improvement. The grammar, usage and consistency are markedly better. It would be nice if others joined in! Perhaps my only question regards a section where you removed the "Ages of Man" idea. Although not the most important point in the essay, Frye's identification of the modes with the Classical Ages is explicit. Other than that, I hope that you or others will come along and improve the content of the theory of genres section. Also, I hope we'll see more references to external criticism of Frye's work. Many critics evaluate Anatomy very differently than, say, a critic like Harold Bloom did... Thanks again, and keep editing!JECompton (talk) 01:15, 15 July 2008 (UTC)


I'm just not up to contributing to Frye scholarship, but I can't help but wonder if the article section titled 'Miscellaneous' wouldn't be better placed here, in the Talk page; in their current form, the contents of that section just dont add up to much. Indeed, the very notion of a 'Miscellaneous' section suggests incomplete organization (as has been said of 'Trivia' sections in other articles.) (talk) 20:27, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

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