More Frye ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll: “This is exactly the spread that I want”

“What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?” from the Mothers of Invention‘s We’re Only in it for the Money (above), their absurdist parody of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (“What’s the ugliest part of your body? / Some say your nose / Some say your toes / I think it’s your mind”)

Frye in “The Only Genuine Revolution”:

Mickleburgh: What about modern ballads and film criticism? Some people quite strongly argue that the English department should assume a major responsibility for film criticism and for teaching such things as the Beatle records. Some people think it helps to make Beowulf contemporary if you relate the Beowulf themes to some of the Beatle records.

Frye: I think that I’d actually prefer to let the student make those connections himself, because this is where the student can find an immediate sense of discovery on his own. If he can find that the kind of rock and roll records which he is going to be listening to anyway really have a family likeness in their symbolism and their imagery to the kind of literature he’s learning about at school, this creates a personal discovery which I wouldn’t want to take away from him and put into the regular curriculum. I teach a graduate course in university on literary symbolism, and I tell my students that they are to write essays on anything in literature that happens to interest them. One year I picked up two essays side by side: one was on the Gilgamesh epic of ancient Sumeria—about 3,000 years older than the Bible; the other was on the rock and roll group called The Mothers of Invention. And I thought, “Oh boy, this is it—this is exactly the spread that I want.” Naturally most of the other essays fell somewhere in between those two extremes. (CW 24, 165)

Earlier post, “Frye ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll

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One thought on “More Frye ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll: “This is exactly the spread that I want”

  1. Prof. Mondo

    First of all, great link — I’ve probably listened to WOIIFTM 1000 or so times over the years — no exaggeration. I also think this goes back to something Michael and I have discussed elsewhere, that one reason for the decline in Frygianism is the effort it takes to achieve that spread. Our graduate schools seem to encourage hyperspecialism, and given human limitations, the time spent reading narrowly is time not spent building breadth. For fear of dilettantism, we abandon efforts at the synoptic.

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