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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 3, summer 2004 ROBERT D. DENHAM >Vision= as a Key Term in Frye=s Criticism Mythos and dianoia, and all the associations these two terms have in Northrop Frye=s criticism, are central to the way he thinks, as he conceives of literature as either moving in time or forming a pattern in space.1 The other two key Aristotelian terms, for Frye, are melos and opsis. Frye was a pianist, and he wrote a good deal about music,2 but of the second pair of terms, opsis is far more important when we look at the broad contours of his work.3 >Doodle= is more important than >babble,= the eye more important than the ear. Thus, imagery becomes a central category in Frye=s poetics. >If there is such a thing as a key to my critical method, it is that I look at the image as revealing or illustrating the essential shape of the author=s thought. I never think of it as purely decorative, & this means, of course, that I find any author who does deficient in his sense of reality. ... if I were a creative writer, say a novelist, I should adopt the same principle to a technique of studying character. Character is revealed in the images we choose; in the concreteness of our thinking, never in the generalities we 1 An extended version of the present essay will appear in my Northrop Frye: Religious Visionary and Architect of the Spiritual World, forthcoming from the University of Virginia Press. Abbreviations used in the notes and in the text are given in their alphabetical locations in the Works Cited list. References to Frye=s yet unpublished notebooks give the notebook number followed by a period and the paragraph number (e.g., Notebook 10.21). The unpublished notebooks are in the Northrop Frye Fonds, Victoria University Library, University of Toronto. 2 See, for example, >Romanticism, pt. 3, in Northrop Frye=s Student Essays, 1932B1938, 1997), 53B65; >The Relation of Religion to the Art Forms of Music and Drama,= ibid, 313B43; >Bach Recital=; >Hart House Quartet=; >Music and the Savage Breast=; >Music in Poetry=; >Music in the Movies=; >The World as Music and Idea in Wagner=s Parsifal=; >Introduction: Lexis and Melos.= Notebook 5, as yet unpublished, is devoted to Mendelssohn, Schumann, Haydn, Mozart, et al.; as early as 1934 Frye was planning to write an Emmanuel College thesis on >The Development of the Christian Tradition in Music,= and Notebook 5 appears to date from that period. Notebook 17 is devoted to William Byrd, and Notebook 20 also contains notes on music (both notebooks are unpublished). Frye=s letters to Helen Kemp and his diaries are filled with references to music. See NFHK and D. 3 The other two categories in Aristotle=s list of the qualitative parts of dramatic tragedy, ethos and lexis, figure importantly in the way Frye=s organizes Anatomy of Criticism, but they generally have less significance in his other work as critical terms. In his later work, ethos expands into existential and social concern and lexis expands into his general theory of language. 808 robert d. denham university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 3, summer 2004 pack around them like excelsior= (Notebook 34.1). The emphasis on what the eye >sees= means that Frye is not primarily a >singing= critic but a visionary one. Although visionaries can hear, and many have reported experiences in which words or the Word issued audibly from elsewhere, the word >visionary,= as the Latin root indicates, has primarily to do with seeing. But the word, as I am using it here, expands in many directions, characterizing, on the one hand, the extraordinarily visual way in which Frye thinks (he can hardly put pen to paper without a schematic diagram in his head); and, on the other hand, the content of what the expanded consciousness >sees= in its most heightened moments, as in the >panoramic apocalypse.= Frye says that for Blake vision >meant the capacity to live with one=s eyes and ears in what he calls a spiritual world= (Cayley, 54). But in the Book of Job, which represents the epitome of...


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