Monday, December 24, 2012

Frye's Notebooks

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was the most influential Canadian scholar and literary critic during the twentieth century. He kept notebooks pretty much all of his life. About 75 of them have survived. Some of these have been published. It's interesting why he kept them. He claimed:
I keep notebooks because all my writing is a translation into a narrative sequence of things that come to me aphoristically.
All my work consists in translating involuntarily acquired aphorisms into a pattern of continuity. The former has something to do with listening for a Word, the ear being the involuntary sense, the latter with the spread-out performance of the eye.
The main difficulty in my writing, as I've often said, is in translating discontinuous aphorisms into continuous argument. Continuity, in writing as in physics, is probabilistic, and every sequence is a choice among possibilities. Invariable sequence is illusory, & especially in logic, where, just as q is always by u, so 'rigor' is always followed by 'mortis.'[1]
He thought that the fragmentation in knowledge and experience he experienced was characteristic of the new age. It appears to me, however, that he read just too much Jung.

1. Cited according to David Boyd and Imre Saluszinsky, Rereading Frye. The Published and Unpublished Works (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), pp. 10, 18.

No comments: