Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Year


Just taking a break from the VH1 “Top 100 One Hit Wonders of the 80s” marathon to wish you a happy new year and to announce our latest additions to the Denham Library.

But, first, for the record, Flock of Seagulls were not one hit wonders.  Everyone remembers their megahit “I Ran” but tend to forget that they charted again with “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)”, the Pachelbel’s Canon of New Wave pop tunes.  Besides, even if they really were just one hit wonders, they’d still be revered and remembered because nothing, absolutely nothing, says 1982 like Mike Score’s waterfall haircut.  It captures the time, like Beatle boots.

Okay, so happy new year.

Also check out our newest acquisitions at the Denham Library, two sets of class notes from the mid-1950s: Nineteenth Century Thought and Modern Poetry.

After the jump, Pachelbel’s Canon, the Flock of Seagulls’s “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” of Baroque music.

Continue reading

Religious Knowledge, Lecture 13

Blake's Behemoth and Leviathan

Blake's Behemoth and Leviathan

The complete Religious Knowledge class notes can be found in the Robert D. Denham library at the link above right.

Lecture 13. January 13, 1948

Ritual embodies the ceremonial aspects of the law.  The teaching of Jesus is a commentary on the law. He transforms the action to the understanding of the action; that is, myth explains the ritual.  In the conception of ritual you act according to the law.  In this aspect, sin is a positive act of breaking the law.  But for the Gospel, law is the foundation of the human act, not the super–structure.  Sin is the failure to transmute the law into human life.  All theories of law, justice and judgment are expressed by Jesus in spiritual terms.  The Gospel is not a new law.

The law supposes a judge and a person as prisoner.  The Last Judgment is usually seen as God “up there” with the people below as sheep and goats.  But the sheep and goats are not human, and Jesus does not judge; he casts out devils, and the swine go over the cliff into the “deep,” which is the Hebrew word “tome,” meaning nothingness.  The arena of the Last Judgment is the human soul.  God enters into the human soul and with His help we cast out the goats, the devils within us,

The apocalypse of personality is God’s descent into the human soul.  The Gospel does not bring peace, but a sword.  It discriminates and divides.  It brings the principle of absolute separation of good and bad in the world.  The sheep are the pure, those who have used their talents.  The bad are those who have not used their talents, but have buried them.

The myth of the Gospel is the explanation of ceremonial cleanliness.  The white sheep are separated from the black goats, the light from the dark, the human from the monstrous.  The image to sum up Jesus is the act of casting out devils, the forgiveness of sin.  The power of God descending into the human soul to cast out evil even as Jesus descended into the human and fallen world to cast out devils.  It happens in man.  It is the descent of divine power into man.  You cannot make a sheep out of a goat.  The sheep is a sheep no matter if it has strayed and been lost. Jesus will find the lost sheep.

Sin is the negative act which fundamentally does not exist since all action is positive and good.  The driving out of goats is driving “nothing” out to achieve the complete reality of unfallen man.  I know this sounds like a riddle, but play with it for a while . . . .

If casting out devils is the symbol of Jesus’ activity, then we see the relation between prophet and hero more clearly.  The prophet is the observer, the watcher, the interpreter of the hero’s action.  For the hero or king, what is the heroic act?

Fundamentally, it is the destruction of the powers of darkness.  The Gospel tells you the spiritual aspect of the physical act.  The religious experience is crystallized in the dragon-killing myth.

The Saviour withdraws man from the dragon so that he can see it is not alive after all.  The fairy tale of St. George and the dragon, or the Perseus and Andromache legend, are not just “stories.”  St. George is the symbol of the sun, of life, hence his colour is red.  The dragon and the old man are the same; winter, waste, sterility.  In medieval drama the old king is dressed up inside the dragon.  In most variations of this story there is a sinister old woman to balance off the young daughter.  In the same way, Perseus has to kill Medusa before he can get cracking on the dragon.

Continue reading

Unpublished Notes Now Posted


Our latest addition to the Robert D. Denham Library (live link in the upper right of the Menu column)  is a set of previously unpublished notes on miscellaneous subjects, including Jung, Jung and Blake, Shakespeare, Milton, the Providence of God, The Great Code, and William Morris.  (These notes can be found in the Previously Unpublished Material section.)

We are still getting a handle on working our new library wing.  There are some minor formatting issues to resolve which we will address first thing in the new year once our tech adviser is available.  For example, the unpublished letters of Elizabeth Fraser to Northrop Frye should soon include her original drawings that appear in them.  We’ll keep you updated.  But, in the meantime, everything posted is readable, so browse away.  There is already an extraordinary wealth of previously obscure material in there that any Frye scholar will want to see.

“Allah Akbar”


If you’re following events in Iran, you know that what may soon be referred to as the Ashura Revolution is underway throughout the country and particularly in Tehran, with crowds of protesters out in the streets daily in numbers that haven’t been seen since June and July.  Young people especially continue to be targeted for beatings, rape and murder by regime thugs, the basij militia.  Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is now openly reviled.  There is talk of a general strike, beginning as early as Monday.  This illegitimate regime may finally be losing its grip.  One telling sign is that the fraudulent “president” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nowhere to be seen and is not mentioned even in state media.

The video above features a nightly phenomenon: people at their windows or on their rooftops shouting “Allah akbar” en masse.  Andrew Sullivan calls it the “cry of freedom,” and it is, as Frye would say, as primary as it is primal.  Sullivan’s site is easily the best raw news source anywhere at the moment — his Iranian contacts are pouring in reports hourly, and he’s blogging around the clock on developments.  If you want to know what’s happening in Iran in real time, then Sullivan’s Daily Dish is the place to go.  Be warned, some of the video he posts is disturbing.  As Sullivan himself has put it, this revolution may not be televised, but it will be YouTubed.  Welcome to the new world of New Media.  It’s why CNN is withering on the vine and newspapers are hemorrhaging readers.

Saturday Night at the Movies: “The Great Dictator”


Completing our look at Frye’s “The Great Charlie” published in The Canadian Forum in August 1941 (previous posts here and here and here).

Frye says of Chaplin’s little tramp in Modern Times that the character takes us back to our “primitive belief” that “the lunatic is especially favoured by God,” a theme he carries on in his discussion of The Great Dictator (1940):

This, of course, is not fully intelligible without some reference to religion, and it is in this that The Great Dictator shows its chief advance on Modern Times. To the Nazi the Jew sums up everything he hates: he is of a different race, he is urban, he is intellectual, he is often undersized, he has a sense of humour and tolerance. For these reasons he is also the perfect Chaplin hero: besides, a contempt for this big-happy-family racialism is the first principle of American anarchism. Imagine Huckleberry Finn without Jim or Moby-Dick without Queequog, and you can soon see why Chaplin had to be a Jew. But the picture itself is not Jewish, but Christian to a startling degree. The parallel between the dictator who gains the world but loses his soul and the Jewish barber on one hand, and Caesar and a Jewish carpenter on the other, is very unobtrusive but it is there. Chaplin knows well enough what the Jew Freud and the Christian Pope Pius agree on, that anti-Semitism is a preparation for, and a disguised form of, anti-Christianity. But his conception of Christianity is one conditioned by his American anarchism. What attracts him about Christianity is that something in it that seems eternally unable to get along with the world, the uneasy recurrence, through centuries of compromise and corruption, of the feeling that the world and the devil are the same thing. Hence the complement to his Jewish barber is a dictator who is also an antichrist. The picture opens with a huge cannon pointing at Notre Dame. ‘Oh, Schultz, why have you forsaken me?” [c.f. Mark 15:34] Hinkel blubbers at one point, and when his counsellor whispers ‘god’ to him he screams and climbs a curtain. At probably the same moment Hannah says that if there is no God her life would be no different, which recalls Thoreau’s remark that atheism is probably the form of religion least boring to God. The horrible isolation of the will to power makes its victim not superhuman but subhuman: ‘a brunette ruling a blond world.’ When Hinkel explains that he is shaved in a room under the ballroom with a glass ceiling, it sounds like a very corny gag, but it is quite consistent with his scurrying up the curtains, mangling nuts and bananas, and dashing about in the futile restlessness of a monkey. Hinkel may not be the historical Hitler, but he is, perhaps, the great modern Satan Hugo and Gide and Baudelaire longed to see, though he would have disappointed them, as Satan always does. Opposite Hinkel is the inarticulate, anonymous, spluttering Jewish barber, who hardly speaks until a voice speaks through him, and with that voice the picture ends. How anyone can imagine that it could have any other end is beyond me. (Northrop Frye on Modern Culture, 101-2)

Unfortunately, YouTube has no complete version of the movie posted.  However, there are a number of clips of famous sequences, such as the one above (Adenoid Hinkel giving a speech in mock-German as an imperturbable translator offers a coolly inadequate translation), and those after the jump.

Continue reading

Stocking Stuffers


For the naughty and nice alike: check out our latest additions to the Denham Library (hit that link in the upper right corner, hit it like you mean it).  There’s hours of browsing in there now, and there’s more coming.

Meanwhile, featured above is an arrangement of “O Come All Ye Faithful” by California online band, Pomplamoose.  “Online band” means they only perform on the internet, and it’s quite an experience.  Their most recent YouTube hit, “Hail Mary,” after the jump.

Continue reading

The Chorus of Bethlehem Angels


Correggio's Nativity

Frye writes:

If I had been out on the hills of Bethlehem on the night of the birth of Christ, with the angels singing to the shepherds, I think that I should not have heard any angels singing.  The reason why I think so is that I do not hear them now, and there is no reason to suppose that they have stopped.  (The Critical Path, 114)

History tells the reader what he would have seen if he’d been present, say, at the assassination of Caesar.  But what the Gospels tell us is rather something like this: if you had been present on the hills of Bethlehem in the year nothing, you might not have heard a chorus of angels.  But what you would have seen and heard would have missed the whole point of what was actually going on.  Thus, the antitypes of history and of prophecy as we have them in the gospel and the apocalypse give you not what you would have seen and heard, or what I would have seen and heard, but what was actually going on which we don’t have the spiritual vision to reach to.  (“Kerygma,” in Northrop Frye’s Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible and Other Religious Texts, CW 13, 588)