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Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake…
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Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Collected Works of Northrop… (urspr publ 1947; utgåvan 2004)

av Northrop Frye, Nicholas Halmi (Redaktör)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
447341,301 (4.16)8
This brilliant outline of Blake's thought and commentary on his poetry comes on the crest of the current interest in Blake, and carries us further towards an understanding of his work than any previous study. Here is a dear and complete solution to the riddles of the longer poems, the so-called "Prophecies," and a demonstration of Blake's insight that will amaze the modern reader. The first section of the book shows how Blake arrived at a theory of knowledge that was also, for him, a theory of religion, of human life and of art, and how this rigorously defined system of ideas found expression in the complicated but consistent symbolism of his poetry. The second and third parts, after indicating the relation of Blake to English literature and the intellectual atmosphere of his own time, explain the meaning of Blake's poems and the significance of their characters.… (mer)
Medlem:momomom88
Titel:Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Collected Works of Northrop Frye)
Författare:Northrop Frye
Andra författare:Nicholas Halmi (Redaktör)
Info:University of Toronto Press (2004), Hardcover, 625 pages
Samlingar:Augusta's Books
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Taggar:Ingen/inga

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Fearful Symmetry av Northrop Frye (1947)

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"There is only one false religion as there is only one true one; and it has two infallible marks. First, it postulates some kind of God who is unknown and mysterious because he is not inside us but somewhere else: where, only God knows. Second, it preaches submission, acceptance and unquestioning obedience. The sting is in the tail. Religion of this kind being invented only to buttress the status quo, it is always 'State Religion, which is the source of all Cruelty.'....
"In the unfallen world objects of perception are alive and intelligent; and a faint echo of the animation of that world survives in the animism of primitive religion. The nymphs, satyrs and fauns of Classical mythology are older and more authentic than the Olympian hierarchy. With the separation of existence and perception, however, the natural object became attached to the latter and its spirit or Genius to the former, so that gradually a belief in invisible deities grew up. The eleventh plate of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the paragraph beginning 'The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses,' traces this process with a clarity that might impress even a modern student of the subject. In the later poems Blake contrasts the 'fairies' of the more original belief with the 'heathen gods' who succeeded them. These gods were invariably selfish and cruel, as a God whose interests do not run counter to those of man cannot be invoked in support of a tyranny. Ovid shows them particularly interested in stifling and suppressing the artists who attempted to rival them (i.e., create better gods), as in the stories of Marsyas and Arachne." pp. 60-61

"... art is neither inferior nor equal to morality and truth, but the synthesis of civilized life in which alone their general laws have any real meaning. Art is neither good nor bad, but a clairvoyant vision of the nature of both.... Art is neither true nor false, but a clairvoyant vision of the nature of both....
"....
"Now just as the poet is brought up to speak and write one particular language, so he is brought up in the traditions of one particular religion. And his function as a poet is to concentrate on the myths of that religion, and to recreate the original imaginative life of those myths by transforming them into unique works of art. The essential truth of a religion can be presented only in its essential form, which is that of imaginative vision....
"The artist qua artist neither doubts nor believes his religion: he sees what it means, and he knows how to illustrate it. His religion performs two great services for him. It provides him with a generally understood body of symbols, and it puts into his hands the visionary masterpieces on which it is founded: the Bible particularly, in the case of Christian poets. Many of these latter have petrified into sacred Scriptures supposed now to impart exclusive formulas of salvation rather than vision. It is the business of a poet, however, to see them as poems, and base his own poetry on them as such." pp. 117-119
  Mary_Overton | Jul 19, 2012 |
This book was Northrop Frye's first, and probably his best. If he had never written another word, it would have been enough to make him a titan of English literary criticism. As a comprehensive study of William Blake's writings and art, it is so far-reaching and so penetrating as to make the reader suspect that no one had ever succeeded in reading Blake before Frye did so.

While Fearful Symmetry is trained on Blake, its consequences go far beyond him: "We cannot understand Blake without understanding how to read the Bible, Milton, Ovid and the Prose Edda at least as he read them, on the assumption that an archetypal vision, which all great art without exception shows forth to us, really does exist. If he is wrong, we have merely distorted the meaning of these other works of prophecy; if he is right, the ability we gain by deciphering him is transferable, and the value of studying him extends far beyond our personal interest in Blake himself" (418). Accordingly, in the final pages of Fearful Symmetry there is a clear adumbration of the project Frye was later to execute in his magisterial Anatomy of Criticism.

Frye's own prose is routinely beautiful. For example: "Jerusalem is Blake's contribution to the struggle between the prophet and the profiteer for the soul of England which is England's Armageddon: it is a burning-glass focusing the rays of a fiery city on London in the hope of kindling an answering flame" (392). But the book is not a fast read by any stretch; each page demands considered thought. Frye has so fiercely developed a sense of critical sympathy for his subject that he often continues for pages as though possessed by Blake, expressing the earlier man's views in the words of the later, "mentally fighting" the divide between the reader's situation and the transcendent imagination that is the prize for Blake and his ideal audience.

It is possible, despite Frye's indisputable intimacy with Blake's work, that there are inaccuracies involved with Frye's attempted representation of Blake's intentions and views. Even if that were the case, however, the fact remains that what Frye offers as "Blake" is a dynamic perspective removed from the conventional epistemes of Blake's 18th century, Frye's 20th, and our own 21st, and that it therefore has its own sovereign value. It exhibits genius, no matter whose.
6 rösta paradoxosalpha | Mar 27, 2011 |
No, I am not reviewing Fearful Symmetry by Northrop Frye. For this book is so foundational, so pivotal to Blake studies that to review it now would be not only superfluous, but indeed impudent.

But I do want these reviews to stand as a record of the books in my library that I consider most basic to my life as a reader. Hence, I could not omit Fearful Symmetry, for it was influential not only on me as a professional, a teacher, critic, and reader of William Blake, but also as a person, as a believer and thinker.

It was not the book that initially led me to my commitment to the British Romantic poets; that would have been Earl Wasserman’s The Finer Tone ( q.v.). It was not even the book that introduced me to the study and teaching of Blake’s innocence and experience; that would have been Robert Gleckner’s The Piper and the Bard (q.v.). Nor was it a book that I understood completely upon first reading, or even yet! It does not explicate the poetry of Blake; later books by the hundreds would undertake that task. No, instead, in this discourse, Frye entered the mind of Blake, the world of his fourfold vision.

One might almost say that, as the Apostle Paul was to the historical Jesus, so was Northrop Frye to the literary Blake. Having read the Pauline epistles, one can never read the aphorisms and parables of Jesus without being influenced by Paul’s theology. Having read Frye’s Fearful Symmetry, one can never read the songs and prophecies of Blake without being influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by Frye’s commentary. Before I formally met Blake’s four zoas, I had become well acquainted with Frye’s four zoas; and I daresay I am not the only reader of Blake to enter their temple through that side door. One may modify Frye’s recapitulation; one may extend or expand his analyses; one may reread and reinterpret individual poems or the Blake canon as a whole. One may pay more attention to Blake the painter, to Blake the engraver, to Blake the person, to Blake the believer. But, as a reader of Blake, one can never not be influenced by one’s reading of Frye.

Other books by Frye that I treasure I may presume to review. Fearful Symmetry, I can only venerate.
4 rösta bfrank | Jun 30, 2007 |
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Fearful Symmetry was a hard book to write, not only because it was my first, and not only because of its subject. Every major poet demands from his critic a combination of direction and perspective, of intensive and extensive reading. The critic must know his poet's text to the point of possession, of having it all in his head at once, as well as knowing whatever aspect of the poet's "background" is relevant to his approach.
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This brilliant outline of Blake's thought and commentary on his poetry comes on the crest of the current interest in Blake, and carries us further towards an understanding of his work than any previous study. Here is a dear and complete solution to the riddles of the longer poems, the so-called "Prophecies," and a demonstration of Blake's insight that will amaze the modern reader. The first section of the book shows how Blake arrived at a theory of knowledge that was also, for him, a theory of religion, of human life and of art, and how this rigorously defined system of ideas found expression in the complicated but consistent symbolism of his poetry. The second and third parts, after indicating the relation of Blake to English literature and the intellectual atmosphere of his own time, explain the meaning of Blake's poems and the significance of their characters.

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