“Frye was Different”

Northrop Frye

Responding to Merv Nicholson:

Isn’t it the case as well that Frye is different in the attention he devoted to Spirit, especially during the last decade of his life, when he wrote about hardly anything else? There’s a pulsating drive in his late work to get beyond the poetic. The social function of both literature and criticism is, to be sure, a part of his “difference,” and this is an area that younger people interested in Frye might well investigate, as it has not been comprehensively examined. Another area, which relates to Frye as a religious thinker, is his theory of metaphor. As I’ve snooped around in the various writings on metaphor from Aristotle to I.A. Richards, Max Black, and Paul Ricoeur, I don’t find anyone who bases a theory of metaphor on the principle of identity. They all fall back on theories of resemblance or substitution, theories that are founded on the principle of analogy (Blake’s similitude). Frye is different in insisting on what he calls in The Double Vision “imaginative literalism.” Frye on metaphor is another area of his thinking that deserves systematic exploration.

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