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398 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 which he read at the University of Western Ontario and which appeared previously in The Prison and the Pinnacle. The next essay, on Blake, shows how Blake's illustrations to the Book of Job proceed from a 'powerful· critical analysis' not only of that book but 'of the whole Bible of which it forms a microcosm: The essay on Yeats prompts one to observe that at this stage of scholarship the world does not desperately need another elucidation of A Vision. Nevertheless it is not unenlightening to see Yeats's system dealt with in terms of Frye's. It is also reassuring to be told that 'Yeats knew much more about poetic symbolism than his instructors did' and that A Vision 'is to the student of Yeats what De Doetrina Christiana was to Milton: a nuisance that he can't pretend doesn't exist: Frye seems intermittently fascinated in these essays by the relation of man to an otherness. He reflects on it at the end (previously quoted) of 'The Times of the Signs: At the close of the essay on Samson he suggests that 'when catharsis dissipates, for an instant, the clouds of passion and prejudice and anxiety and special pleading, some of us may also catch a glimpse of a boundless energy which, however destructive to social establishments, is always there, always confronting us, and always the same, and yet has always the power to create all things anew.' Of Stevens Frye says that he 'polarizes the imagination against a "reality" which is otherness, what the imagination is not and has to struggle with.' Frye, like many of us, is naturally drawn to Stevens, the supreme poet of literary theory. What he underlines in Stevens however is not the creative or redeeming force of the imagination but the poet's awareness of the imagination's limits. 'When the imagination is used as part of an attempt to make over reality, it imposes its own unreality on it: Yet the imagination is also rooted in that with which it quarrels. 'The imagination is a product of reality, its Adam, so to speak, or exiled Son: Frye therefore sees Stevens as continually returning to the sense of the 'wholly other' as 'not only the object but the origin of the sense of identity.' The essay fittingly closes a book which, like all Frye's books, is the work of a mind both distinguished and wide-ranging and which rewards attention by stimulating thought. (BALACHANDRA RAJAN) Anthony G. Petti. English Literary Handsfrom Chaucer to Dryden Harvard University Press. x, 133; 67 facsimiles. $22.50 English Literary Hands from Chaucer to Dryden admirably succeeds in providing a comprehensive and lucid introduction to the study of literary manuscripts. Directing his book specifically towards the palaeographical neophyte, Professor Petti has approached the complexities of his subject through a process of limitation, division, and illustration. First, he has substantially restricted his work to an investigation of HUMANITIES 399 literary manuscripts, thereby avoiding the quite different problems peculiar to diplomatic documents. Second, he has subdivided the enormous - and often very technical- volume of conventions and principIes which constitutes the.historical study of handwriting into clear, manageable, and sensible categories. Finally, he has illustrated the general material of his introduction through the example of sixty-seven facsimiles ranging in date from the late fourteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, each accurately transcribed and annotated. In this way, Petti has achieved in his discussion a welcome synthesis between the contents of a literary manuscript and its physical form and technical apparatus, thus managing a middle course between those editors whose chief concern is to examine and schematize the script of a document while avoiding the significance of its message, and those who impose on texts subjective interpretations-which cannot be supported by a palaeographical or codicological investigation. Petti has also recognized that not all literary manuscripts are bookhand codices. Accordingly, he has included in his study a number of examples of private hands (as well as Latin, Anglo-Norman, and musical documents ). Wisely, he has made evident the potential value of searching strictly non-literary sources for material which might provide information of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 398-400
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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