Quote of the Day: “History repeats myth”


All of the Ned scenes from Groundhog Day

I’ve been keeping my eye out for the source of this quote from Frye: “History doesn’t repeat itself; history repeats myth.”

Thanks to Bob Denham’s Northrop Frye Unbuttoned, I now have the complete quote, which comes from one of the late notebooks and appears in Collected Works 5, 164:

Why do people call me “anti-historical”?  I talk about myth, and it’s myth that’s anti-historical.  It’s the counter-historical principle, just as metaphor is the counter-logical principle.  History doesn’t repeat itself; history repeats myth.  (It’s not simple repetition, though: it’s not a da capo aria but a theme with variations.)  As I’ve often said, you never get logic in literature: what you get is what Susanne Langer would call virtual logic, a rhetorical illusion of logic.  Similarly you never get history in literature: you get virtual history, history assimilated to myth.

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