Frye Alert


Scott Maclemee in The National, an English-language newspaper published in Abu Dhabi, reviews Peter Sloterdijk’s Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation, and cites Frye to make sense of the unusual genre that Sloterdijk writes in.

That genre is the anatomy, a rambling prose form that now seems old-fashioned. The locus classicus is Richard Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, but the label also covers works of fiction such as Jonathan Swift’s satires and Aldous Huxley’s novels. “At its most concentrated,” writes Northrop Frye, the form “presents us with a vision of the world in terms of a single intellectual pattern” that is the product of a particular temperament or psychic state. There is always something wild and excessive about how ideas are developed in an anatomy; it’s as if an encyclopaedia were having a nervous breakdown. The anatomist – to continue quoting from Frye’s own Anatomy of Criticism – “shows his exuberance in intellectual ways, by piling up an enormous mass of erudition about his theme or in overwhelming his pedantic targets with an avalanche of his own jargon.”

The entire review can be read here.

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