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Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Collected Works of Northrop Frye)

4.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0802089830
ISBN-10: 0802089836
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A magnificent, extraordinary book. . . . Several great poets have written of Blake, but this book is the first to show the full magnitude of Blake's mind."--The Spectator

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

This book offers an explanation of Blake's thought and a commentary on his poetry. No effort has been made to deal at all adequately with Blake's biography or with his work as painter and engraver: a study of his relation to English literature is primarily what has been attempted. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Collected Works of Northrop Frye (Book 14)
  • Hardcover: 625 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802089836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802089830
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,368,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
One disadvantage of browsing online bookstores is that you can't simply skim the cover blurbs; sometimes you just have to settle for the opinions of strangers like me. So it may be helpful to read the quotes on the back cover of my copy of 'Fearful Symmetry.'
"To say it is a magnificent, extraordinary book is to praise it as it should be praised, but in doing so one gives little idea of the huge scope of the book and of its fiery understanding . Several great poets have written of Blake, but this book, I believe, is the first to show the full magnitude of Blake's mind, its vast creative thought." -- Edith Sitwell, 'The Spectator'
"According as we agree or disagree with Mr. Frye's contention we shall decide finally on the supremacy of his book. In following the structure of Blake's total vision and relating it to the thought of his age he has triumphantly carried out a task which, given the giant shape of the material, cannot help being immense. His cadences, by sheer explanatory devotion, approach the sonorities of Blake's own." -- 'Times Literary Supplement'
"Frye conducts his ambitious study with unflagging energy, great enthusiasm, and immense erudition." -- 'Poetry'
"An intelligent and beautifully written critical interpretation of the poetry and symbolic thought of William Blake..." -- 'New Yorker'
My opinion: Northrop Frye's literary criticism manages to shift the ground underfoot in the same rare way Blake's poetry does. Frye was the first to crack Blake's code, remove from him the labels of Mystic and Nutcase, and reveal him as a poet who systematically recreates the world. Frye taught Blake to Jesuits, Communist organizers, deans of women, and angry young poets.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a much clearer sense of Blake's writings now that I've read this book. I took a long time in finishing it, reading some major poems by W.B. at the same time. This is really an exciting book; it brings to life a whole universe - that lived in the poet's imagination. Blake is alive today (in the spirit of his artistic creations) I am convinced. William Blake had a great gift for describing aspects of real life in a way that was inspired by the Bible, and some other imaginative or visionary artists and poets; he was also highly opinionated. It's impressive how well Frye understood Blake's gift, and his personal life, which also makes a strand of this effort, which is a literary effort in it's own right. Anyone with an interest in Blake ought to read this book. It's a tool that allows one to approach Blake's creations of writing and visual artistry with an active (as well as open) mind.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some time ago I reread Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry before having another read through of the poems of William Blake including the longer poems The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem. Despite my appreciation of Frye's book I was struck by the disconnect between many of Frye's well-expressed and coherent ideas and the poems themselves. I noticed also that Frye barely quoted from any of the poems or analyzed any passage specifically. At that point I started to look around for other texts which offered a different viewpoint from Frye to see if my dissatisfaction was justified or not. The more I read the alternative views the more convinced I became that Frye's account was seriously deficient. I do not think he is entirely wrong or that there is nothing of value in his book. However, I strongly recommend that readers interested in Blake's poetry read alternative views. The ones I have found most useful and interesting include the following: The Four Zoas (Photographic Facsimile (Magno & Erdman), Narrative Unbound (Donald Ault), The Dialectic of Vision (Fred Dortort), Dark Figures in the Desired Country (Gerda Norvig), The Traveler in the Evening (Morton Paley), Rethinking Blake's Textuality (Molly Rothenberg),Blake's Critique of Transcendence (Peter Otto) and some of the articles in Blake's Sublime Allegory (Curran & Wittreich Eds.) I might note that after doing all this reading of the poems and about Blake I am convinced that the unpublished The Four Zoas is the central and most significant poem Blake wrote and that both Milton and Jerusalem suffer in comparison with it. The problem that Blake may have realized with the Four Zoas was that it could never be published in its authentic form due to the graphic (for the time) psychosexual content of the illustrations (the subtitle of the poem is The Torments of Love and Jealousy).
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By A Customer on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Blake sets us in the middle of a rich mythological structure. This is the best book for explaining what that structure is and how Blake will come to an element and illuminate sometimes inconsistent characteristics of that element if viewed in a limited selection. And yet when Blake's work is examined as a whole an encompassing structure is revealed where each part has been carefully delineated and accurately described throughout. Since Blake's collected works are rather massive it is very helpful to have an overview of Blake's view of man when examining how any one particular image is dealt with in a poem. Else, one might think that Blake's portrayals are incongruent from poem to poem, while his vision is actually quite cohesive. Frye wrote another excellent essay on Blake, the title has something to do with the Fourfold Key. It shows the structural similarity between Blake, Marx and Freud.
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