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Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays With a New foreword by Harold Bloom Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691069999
ISBN-10: 0691069999
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Simply overpowering in the originality of its main concepts, and dazzling in the brilliance of its applications of them. Here is a book fundamental enough to be entitled Principia Critica."--Commonweal

"An attempt to give a synoptic view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism ... the book is continuously informed by original and incisive thought, by fine perception, and by striking observations upon literature in general and upon particular works."--Modern Language Review

"Does literary criticism need a conceptual universe of its own? Professor Frye has written a brilliantly suggestive and encyclopedically erudite book to prove that it does; and he has done his impressive best to provide a framework for this universe. His book is a signal achievement; it is tight, hard, paradoxical, and genuinely witty. . . . [Professor Frye] is the most exciting critic around; I do not think he is capable of writing a page which does not offer some sort of intellectual reward."--Hudson Review

"This is a brilliant but bristling book, an important though thoroughly controversial attempt to establish order in a disorderly field.... Mr. Frye has wit, style, audacity, immense learning, a gift for opening up new and unexpected perspectives in the study of literature.... It would be hopeless to attempt a brief summary of Mr. Frye's dazzlingly counterpointed classifications."--The Nation

From the Back Cover

Striking out at the conception of criticism as restricted to mere opinion or ritual gesture, Northrop Frye wrote this magisterial work proceeding on the assumption that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge in its own right. In four brilliant essays on historical, ethical, archetypical, and rhetorical criticism, employing examples of world literature from ancient times to the present, Frye reconceived literary criticism as a total history rather than a linear progression through time.

Literature, Frye wrote, is "the place where our imaginations find the ideal that they try to pass on to belief and action, where they find the vision which is the source of both the dignity and the joy of life". And the critical study of literature provides a basic way "to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in".

Harold Bloom contributes a fascinating and highly personal foreword that examines Frye's mode of criticism and thought (as opposed to Frye's criticism itself) as being indispensable in the modern literary world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; With a New foreword by Harold Bloom edition (September 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691069999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691069999
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Whether you agree with him or not, there's no denying that Northrop Frye is the most important literary critic from North America-- and quite probably the most influential English- language critic of the 20th-century. His influence, I should add, is not limited to literary scholarship, but has been felt in other disciplines as well (e.g. Hayden White's classic historiographical study "Metahistory").
Although he's written many books on a host of specific subjects, "An Anatomy of Criticism" is Frye's magnum opus. In it, he outlines a general theory of literature-- what it is, how it is structured, and how it "works". These questions are answered in the volumes four essays, each of which approaches the subject from a different theoretical perspective: (1) a theory of modes", (2) a "theory of symbols", (3) a "theory of myths", and (4) a "theory of genres". Although these theories are not 100% unified into a larger structure, they are interrelated and complementary-- and, taken together, they do form what I believe can be called a (multifacted) "general theory of literature".
The book begins with a "Polemical Introduction". Here, Frye makes an argument that is at once simple and profound. For too long, he claims, literary criticism has revolved primarily around matters of taste, with critics pronouncing judgement on the relative merits of different authors and works. Frye believes that this has prevented literary criticism from really coming into its own as a serious scholarly activity-- and he wants to make literary scholarship a genuinely scholarly subject.
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Format: Paperback
As any student of English literature knows, a life without reading Frye is a life with eyes closed to a multitude of possibilities. References to Frye drove me to him; Why else would the world of critical analysis place him in such high esteem by quoting him if not for his ability to make sense of literature? But for all his ability to codify and characterize modes, symbols, myths, and genres, his text seems calls upon the scientific efforts of new criticism. This seems particularly ironic since Frye often demurs the new critical effort. His call for a universal criticism also seems farfetched, primarily because a multiplicity of individual approaches prevents a singular opinion from emerging. However, for the most part, Frye's work both stuns and astounds, forcing the reader not only to understand literature in terms of proto-generic forms, but also to pursue Frye's conjectures into the realms of literature beyond his 1957 publication date. An extensive reading list (from the Greeks to the early twentieth century) assists Frye in his pursuit of the illusive patterns of literature, as well as an encyclopedic concern for definitive examples. Previous definitions of generic categories fall victim to Frye's ruthless pursuit of new possibilities, splitting drama and poetry into more easily digestible shards of subtlety. Frye's use of archetypes proves particularly fruitful, infusing the every-day (or perhaps modern-day) interpretations of lifeless texts with an alternative possibility of generative renewal for the observant, critical thinker. All in all, Frye's text proves well worth the time and effort.
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Format: Paperback
In seven years of graduate school and six years of working on problems related to those touched upon by Frye, I have not encountered any texts written in this century that surpasses its usefulness. Frye's insights have served me well in circumstance after circumstance, in case after case. They are applicable to and illuminate virtually any kind of text. I have never encountered an effective objection to them, or been let down by conclusions reached on the basis of Frye's insights. Anyone working in critical theory in general or structuralist theory in particular would be foolish not to study this text.
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Format: Paperback
You're in the bookstore and you've pulled this book off the shelf when the lights go out. You call out, "Anybody here read 'Anatomy of Criticism?' Clerks and customers volunteer opinions, some of them informed and well-meaning. Still, you wish you could read the darn blurbs.
These are from the back cover of my copy of 'Anatomy of Criticism:'
...simply overpowering in the originality of its main concepts, and dazzling in the brilliance of its applications of them. Here is a book fundamental enough to be entitled 'Principia Critica.' -- Vivian Mercier, 'Commonweal'
...an attempt to give 'a synoptic view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism,' ...the book is continuously informed by original and incisive thought, by fine perception, and by striking observations upon literature in general and upon particular works. -- 'Modern Language Review'
Does literary criticism need a conceptual universe of its own? Professor Frye has written a brilliantly suggestive and encyclopedically erudite book to prove that it does; and he has done his impressive best to provide a framework for this universe. His book is a signal achievement; it is tight, hard, paradoxical, and genuinely witty... [Frye] is the most exciting critic around; I do not think he is capable of writing a page which does not offer some sort of intellectual reward.' -- Robert Martin Adams, 'Hudson Review'
This is a brilliant but bristling book, an important though thoroughly controversial attempt to establish order in a disorderly field. ...Mr. Frye has wit, style, audacity, immense learning, a gift for opening up new and unexpected perspectives in the study of literature... It would be hopeless to attempt a brief summary of Mr. Frye's dazzlingly counterpointed classifications.
Read more ›
Comment 43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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