Daily Archives: August 16, 2010

Robert D. Denham: “Northrop Frye and Critical Method”


Admittedly, not everyone cares that it’s Madonna’s birthday — compelling archetypes of ascent and descent notwithstanding — so we have another much more interesting treat in store.

Thanks both to Bob Denham and our very handy administrator Jonathan Cox, we have just posted Bob’s first book, Northrop Frye and Critical Method, in the Robert D. Denham Library.  We’ll have more to say about that as part of our official launch tomorrow.  But go and have a peek at it here.



Madonna at her peak with 1989’s “Express Yourself”

Today is Madonna‘s birthday (born 1959).

This entire video is starkly based (as much of the best popular culture is) upon the archetypes of descent (or katabasis) and ascent.  Here’s Frye on katabasis in Frye Unbuttoned:

To descend is to pass through the chattering, yelling, gibbering world of the demons of repression to the quiet spirit below.  As Eliot says, contradicting the Sybill, it not easy to go all the way down.  To reascend is to bind the squalling demons into a unified creative power. (157)

Madonna, in this instance, seems to be cavorting at the top of the chain of being and undermining male authority with her unabashed sexuality, while also waiting for a beleaguered lover to find his way up to her, leaving a hellish world of darkness and violence behind.  Note that the declared intent of the song is not merely to encourage women to express themselves, but to insist that men do the same in order to secure a fully requited love.  This video arguably marks the dawn of Third Wave feminism as a force in popular culture: sex positive and confidently empowered.

I couldn’t find the identical video with the superior electronic remix of the song, but you can listen to it after the jump.

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