This amounts to saying that Frye installs and re-installs (i.e. he legitimizes) modern literature as a revered ( both modern and traditional), form of belief; he maps the whole of literature not only four times over, i.e., from four different perspectives, but he does so by employing and reviewing practically all the traditional and numerous recent philological means, literary criticism archives and cultural analysis methods; for, in his recurrent presentation of the literary whole (which he reviews from four perspectives and to make four major points, in the four essays) he is both recent and ancient.
He is so because he perceives the unity of literary being, as have, before him, many writers of vision and talent ; which is why he see(k)s continuities where other people see/ saw / have seen only differences.
Frye's master narrative develops as a whole, made up of new, understandable articulations and revealing constitutive continuities: this is why it is called an Anatomy, among others. Analytically we can discover the core, or noumenon, of Frye's anatomical i.e., critical, thinking in a schema or algorithm valid for the whole book presented in principle on pages 69, 70 and 71 in your Reader in Contemporary Critical Theories, under the heading "The archetypes of literature".
But in fact the core is not a schema, but a story, which transforms the oppositions, as shown, into a new, ad-hoc continuum; this continuum reconciles oppositions and heals the world, by re-connecting the notions of an intense, entire literary experience held in isolation, to such an extent as to be potentially turned into oppositions. In short, Frye's story works exactly like a myth.
On the other hand, just as myths do, the resulting anatomy or story makes manifest its own nuclear, or archetypal meanings, in a process of public legitimation, or a ritual/rite of passage. Frye recalls primitive man's tendency of attaching important rituals to the key moments of existence with a view to synchronizing himself with the cyclical life of nature and deliberately striving to belong to it in essential ways.
At the core of Frye's narrative is situated the important, observable opposition between life and death, in man as in nature. In his book, Frye transfers from a man-nature level the reconciliation effected by myth between the potential polarities combined in the unity of archetypal meanings to the realm of culture as a whole and to the particular domain of culture that literature represents.
This transfer and transformation is typically effected, or performed, by putting on the same footing the old and the new, namely by feats of analogical thinking. The Anatomy oscillates between Aristotelian terms, lifted from the time-honoured Poetics and the more modern formations of thinking, mixing the critical notions of modern formalist stylistics and theory of genres, with the major theory of the philosophers Plato and Aristotle about traditional literary genres (this is what he does in the fourth essay of the Anatomy, where the makes "the theory of genres", or, as Radu Surdulescu translates it into Romanian, in Retorica sa, in English, however, "rhetorical criticism" ).
(and we could also recall the beginning of TSEliot's The Waste Land, where memory and desire, the two archetypal themes of the entirely ironic whole, are enunciated "April is the cruelest month, mixing memory and desire//, Stirring dull roots with a spring rain"; and it is thanks to Northrop Frye that one can distinguish the ironic, not satirical vein of the grand, high-modernist epic song defining an entire age, the epic song a rebours.
For from the first essay, this time, not the last, of the Anatomy of Criticism we learn that the literature of the current age is written in the ironic mode, the last in a historical cum typological sequence of five literary modes, just as, in the third essay of the Anatomy, we learn the difference between satire and irony within Fyre's mythos of winter - irony and satire, of course, in a sequence of four seasons ( not five! and please observe the numerology of the present course, for it is magical and ritual - and it can take you very very far! As far as the wheel of being, like fate can !) .
Nothing is random in the welter of such literary-like, mythomorphic critical writing, for repetitions are the tokens of deliberate, ritual operations meant to bring forth, artistically, the figure in the carpet. Frye teases meaning(s) out by teasing us with his repetitions with endless variations.
But without this kind of deliberate torture, submitting ourselves to his work, we cannot succeed, we cannot accede to his thrones and powers at work over and inside our heads!
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