Northrop Frye quotes:

  • The metaphor of the king as the shepherd of his people goes back to ancient Egypt. Perhaps the use of this particular convention is due to the fact that, being stupid, affectionate, gregarious, and easily stampeded, the societies formed by sheep are most like human ones.

  • Just as a new scientific discovery manifests something that was already latent in the order of nature, and at the same time is logically related to the total structure of the existing science, so the new poem manifests something that was already latent in the order of words.

  • The Book of Revelation, difficult as it may be for "literalists," becomes much simpler when we read it typologically , as a mosiac of allusions to Old Testament prophecy.

  • Culture's essential service to a religion is to destroy intellectual idolatry, the recurrent tendency in religion to replace the object of its worship with its present understanding and forms of approach to that object.

  • The entire Bible, viewed as a "divine comedy," is contained within a U-shaped story of this sort, one in which man, as explained, loses the tree and water of life at the beginning of Genesis and gets them back at the end of Revelation.

  • In our day the conventional element in literature is elaborately disguised by a law of copyright pretending that every work of art is an invention distinctive enough to be patented.

  • Read Blake or go to hell, that's my message to the modern world.

  • It is clear that all verbal structures with meaning are verbal imitations of that elusive psychological and physiological process known as thought, a process stumbling through emotional entanglements, sudden irrational convictions, involuntary gleams of insight, rationalized prejudices, and blocks of panic and inertia, finally to reach a completely incommunicable intuition.

  • I see a sequence of seven main phases: creation,revolution or exodus (Israel in Egypt), law, wisdom, prophecy, gospel, and apocalypse.

  • We have to look at the figures of speech a writer uses, his images and symbols, to realize that underneath all the complexity of human life that uneasy stare at an alien nature is still haunting us, and the problem of surmounting it still with us.

  • Americans like to make money; Canadians like to audit it. I know no other country where accountants have a higher social and moral status.

  • The traveler from Europe edges into it like a tiny Jonah entering an inconceivably large whale, slipping past the straits of Belle Isle into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where five Canadian provinces surround him, for the most part invisible... to enter Canada is a matter of being silently swallowed by an alien continent.

  • I soon realized that a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads: The most conscientous student will be continually misconstruing the implications, even the meaning.

  • Characters tend to be either for or against the quest. If they assist it, they are idealized as simply gallant or pure; if they obstruct it, they are characterized as simply villainous or cowardly. Hence every typical character...tends to have his moral opposite confronting him, like black and white pieces in a chess game.

  • Literature is conscious mythology: as society develops, its mythical stories become structural principles of story-telling, its mythical concepts, sun-gods and the like, become habits of metaphoric thought. In a fully mature literary tradition the writerenters intoa structure of traditional stories and images.

  • Literature as a whole is not an aggregate of exhibits with red and blue ribbons attached to them, like a cat-show, but the range of articulate human imagination as it extends from the height of imaginative heaven to the depth of imaginative hell.

  • Advertising - A judicious mixture of flattery and threats.

  • The pursuit of beauty is much more dangerous nonsense than the pursuit of truth or goodness, because it affords a stronger temptation to the ego.

  • Separatism is a very healthy movement within culture. It's a disastrous movement within politics and economics.

  • Literature encourages tolerance-bigots and fanatics seldom have any use for the arts, because they're so preoccupied with their beliefs and actions that they can't see them also as possibilities.

  • The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book.

  • Nobody is capable of of free speech unless he knows how to use language, and such knowledge is not a gift: it has to learned and worked at. [p.93]"

  • We have revolutionary thought whenever the feeling "life is a dream" becomes geared to an impulse to awaken from it.

  • The poet, however, uses these two crude, primitive, archaic forms of thought (simile and metaphor) in the most uninhibited way, because his job is not to describe nature, but to show you a world completely absorbed and possessed by the human mind.

  • In literature, questions of fact or truth are subordinated to the primary literary aims of producing a structure of words for its own sake, and the sign-values of symbols are subordinated to their importance as a structure of interconnected motifs.

  • A snowflake is probably quite unconscious of forming a crystal, but what it does may be worth study even if we are willing to leave its inner mental processes alone."

  • Tendintele autoritate ale conservatorismului trebuie corectate prin mituri ale libertatii, in vreme ce un simt conservator al ordinii trebuie sa tempereze tendintele liberalismului spre iresponsabilitate sociala. Revolutionarul nu este decat un critic nepregatit, care confunda mitul libertatii cu realitatea, la fel cum un copil confunda actrita cu o printesa de basm reala.

  • For the Bible there is nothing numinous, no holy or divine presence, within nature itself. Nature is a fellow creature of man.

  • [Science fiction is] a mode of romance with a strong inherent tendency to myth.

  • A person who knows nothing about literature may be an ignoramus, but many people don't mind being that.

  • A public that tries to do without criticism, and asserts that it knows what it wants or likes, brutalizes the arts and loses its cultural memory. Art for art's sake is a retreat from criticism which ends in an impoverishment of civilized life itself.

  • A reader who quarrels with postulates, who dislikes Hamlet because he does not believe that there are ghosts or that people speak in pentameters, clearly has no business in literature. He cannot distinguish fiction from fact, and belongs in the same category as the people who send checks to radio stations for the relief of suffering heroines in soap operas.

  • A snowflake is probably quite unconscious of forming a crystal, but what it does may be worth study even if we are willing to leave its inner mental processes alone.

  • A writers desire to write can only have come from previous experience of literature, and he'll start by imitating whatever he's read, which usually means what the people around him are writing.

  • Beauty and truth may be attributes of good writing, but if the writer deliberately aims at truth, he is likely to find that what he has hit is the didactic.

  • Even the human heart is slightly left of centre.

  • Every human society possesses a mythology which is inherited, transmitted and diversified by literature.

  • Everything that happens in the Old Testament is a "type" or adumbration of something that happens in the New Testament, and the whole subject is therefore called typology, though it is a typology in a special sense.

  • Failure to grasp centrifugal meaning is incomplete reading; failure to grasp centripetal meaning is incompetent reading.

  • Historically, a Canadian is an American who rejects the Revolution.

  • Horace, in a particularly boastful mood, once said his verse would last as long as the vestal virgins kept going up the Capitoline Hill to worship at the temple of Jupiter. But Horace's poetry has lasted longer than Jupiter's religion, and Jupiter himself has only survived because he disappeared into literature.

  • I don't see how the study of language and literature can be separated from the question of free speech, which we all know is fundamental to our society. [p.92]

  • In the world of the imagination, anything goes that's imaginatively possible, but nothing really happens.

  • It is of the essence of imaginative culture that it transcends the limits both of the naturally possible and of the morally acceptable.

  • It seems clear that the Bible belongs to an area of language in which metaphor is functional, and were we have to surrender precision for flexibility.

  • It seems to me that Canadian sensibility has been profoundly disturbed, not so much by our famous problem of identity, important as that is, as by a series of paradoxes in what confronts that identity. It is less perplexed by the question "Who am I?" than by some such riddle as "Where is here?

  • Literally, the Bible is a gigantic myth, a narrative extending over the whole of time from creation to apocalypse, unified by a body of recurring imagery that "freezes" into a single metaphor cluster, the metaphors all being identified with the body of the Messiah, the man who is all men, the totality logoi who is one Logos, the grain of sand that is the world.

  • Literature begins with the possible model of experience, and what it produces is the literary model we call the classic.

  • Literature is a human apocalypse, man's revelation to man, and criticism is not a body of adjudications, but the awareness of that revelation, the last judgement of mankind.

  • Literature is not a subject of study, but an object of study.

  • Literature speaks the language of the imagination, and the study of literature is supposed to train and improve the imagination.

  • Man creates what he calls history as a screen to conceal the workings of the apocalypse from himself.

  • Man lives, not directly or nakedly in nature like the animals, but within a mythological universe, a body of assumptions and beliefs developed from his existential concerns.

  • Metaphors of unity and integration take us only so far, because they are derived from the finiteness of the human mind.

  • Most of my writing consists of an attempt to translate aphorisms into continuous prose.

  • My subject is the educated imagination, and education is something that affects the whole person, not bits and pieces of him .

  • Myths, as compared with folk tales, are usually in a special category of seriousness: they are believed to have "really happened,"or to have some exceptional significance in explaining certain features of life, such as ritual. Again, whereas folk tales simply interchange motifs and develop variants, myths show an odd tendency to stick together and build up bigger structures. We have creation myths, fall and flood myths, metamorphose and dying-god myths.

  • Nature is inside art as its content, not outside as its model.

  • No human society is too primitive to have some kind of literature. The only thing is that primitive literature hasn't yet become distinguished from other aspects of life: it's still embedded in religion, magic and social ceremonies.

  • No matter how much experience we may gather in life, we can never in life get the dimension of experience that the imagination gives us. Only the arts and sciences can do that, and of these, only literature gives us the whole sweep and range of human imagination as it sees itself

  • Nobody is capable of of free speech unless he knows how to use language, and such knowledge is not a gift: it has to learned and worked at. [p.93]

  • One doesn't bother to believe the credible: the credible is believed already, by definition. There's no adventure of the mind.

  • Our country has shown a lack of will to resist its own disintegration .. . Canada is practically the only country left in the world which is a pure colony; colonial in psychology as well as in mercantile economics.

  • Physics is an organized body of knowledge about nature, and a student of it says that he is learning physics, not nature. Art, like nature, has to be distinguished from the systematic study of it, which is criticism.

  • Poetry can only be made out of other poems; novels out of other novels.

  • Poetry is the most direct and simple means of expressing oneself in words: the most primitive nations have poetry, but only quitewell developed civilizations can produce good prose. So don't think of poetry as a perverse and unnatural way of distorting ordinary prose statements: prose is a much less natural way of speaking than poetry is. If you listen to small children, and to the amount of chanting and singsong in their speech, you'll see what I mean.

  • Popular art is normally decried as vulgar by the cultivated people of its time; then it loses favor with its original audience as a new generation grows up; then it begins to merge into the softer lighting of

  • Real unity tolerates dissent and rejoices in variety of outlook and tradition, recognizes that it is man's destiny to unite and not divide, and understands that creating proletariats and scapegoats and second-class citizens is a mean and contemptible activity.

  • Science begins with the world we have to live in, accepting its data and trying to explain its laws. From there, it moves toward the imagination: it becomes a mental construct, a model of a possible way of interpreting experience. The further it goes in this direction, the more it tends to speak the language of mathematics, which is really one of the languages of the imagination, along with literature and music. Art, on the other hand, begins with the world we construct, not with the world we see. It starts with the imagination, and then works toward ordinary experience.

  • Teaching literature is impossible; that is why it is difficult.

  • The bedrock of doubt is the total nothingness of death. Death is a leveler, not because everybody dies, but because nobody understands what death means.

  • The Bible is not interested in arguing, because if you state a thesis of belief you have already stated it's opposite; if you say, I believe in God, you have already suggested the possibility of not believing in him. [p.250]

  • The Bible should be taught so early and so thoroughly that it sinks straight to the bottom of the mind where everything that comes along can settle on it.

  • The book is the world's most patient medium.

  • The disinterested imaginative core of mythology is what develops into literature, science, philosophy. Religion is applied mythology.

  • The fable says that the tortoise won in the end, which is consoling, but the hare shows a good deal of speed and few signs of tiring.

  • The fact that creative powers come from an area of the mind that seems to be independent of the conscious will, and often emerge with a good deal of emotional disturbance in their wake, provides the chief analogy between prophecy and the arts...Some people pursue wholeness and integration, others get smashed up, and fragments are rescued from the smash of an intensity that the wholeness and integration people do not reach.

  • The first thing that confronts us in studying verbal structures is that they are arranged sequentially, and have to be read or listened to in time.

  • The human landscape of the New World shows a conquest of nature by an intelligence that does not love it.

  • The kind of problem that literature raises is not the kind that you ever 'solve'. Whether my answers are any good or not, they represent a fair amount of thinking about the questions.

  • The objective world is the order of nature, thinking or reflection follows the suggestions of sense experience, and words are the servomechanisms of reflection.

  • The operations of the human mind are also controlled by words of power, formulas that become a focus of mental activity.

  • The primary and literal meaning of the Bible, then, is its centripetal or poetic meaning.

  • The simple point is that literature belongs to the world man constructs, not to the world he sees; to his home, not his environment.

  • The simplest questions are the hardest to answer.

  • The supremacy of the verbal over the monumental has something about it of the supremacy of life over death.

  • The twentieth century saw an amazing development of scholarship and criticism in the humanities, carried out by people who were more intelligent, better trained, had more languages, had a better sense of proportion, and were infinitely more accurate scholars and competent professional men than I. I had genius. No one else in the field known to me had quite that.

  • The ups and downs of this cosmos may sometimes be acknowledged to be metaphorical ups and downs, but until about Newton's time most people took the "up" of heaven and the "down" of hell to be more or less descriptive.

  • The world of literature is a world where there is no reality except that of the human imagination.

  • There is a curious law of art...that even the attempt to reproduce the act of seeing, when carried out with sufficient energy, tends to lose its realism and take on the unnatural glittering intensity of hallucination.

  • There is only one way to degrade mankind permanently and that is to destroy language.

  • This story of loss and regaining of identity is, I think, the framework of all literature.

  • Those who are concerned with the arts are often asked questions, not always sympathetic ones, about the use or value of what they are doing. It is probably impossible to answer such questions directly, or at any rate to answer the people who ask them.

  • Those who do succeed in reading the Bible from beginning to end will discover that at least it has a beginning and an end, and some traces of a total structure.

  • To bring anything really to life in literature we can't be lifelike: we have to be literature-like

  • War appeals to young men because it is fundamentally auto-eroticism.

  • We are always in the place of beginning; there is no advance in infinity.

  • We are being swallowed up by the popular culture of the United States, but then the Americans are being swallowed up by it too. It's just as much a threat to American culture as it is to ours.

  • We do not live in centred space anymore, but have to create our own centres.

  • We find rhetorical situations everywhere in life, and only our imaginations can get us out of them.

  • We must reject that most dismal and fatuous notion that education is a preparation for life.

  • We notice as the Bible goes on, the area of scared space shrinks.

  • What if criticism is a science as well as an art? Not a pure or exact science, of course, but these phrases belong to a nineteenth-century cosmology which is no longer with us.

  • Wherever illiteracy is a problem, it's as fundamental a problem as getting enough to eat or a place to sleep.

  • Work, as we usually think of it, is energy expended for a further end in view; play is energy expended for its own sake, as with children's play, or as manifestation of the end or goal of work, as in "playing" chess or the piano. Play in this sense, then, is the fulfillment of work, the exhibition of what the work has been done for.

  • Writers don't seem to benefit much by the advance of science, although they thrive on superstitions of all kinds.

  • Writing: I certainly do rewrite my central myth in every book, and would never read or trust any writer who did not also do so.

  • The tricky or boastful gods of ancient myths and primitive folk tales are characters of the same kind that turn up in Faulkner or Tennessee Williams.

  • Man is constantly building anxiety-structures, like geodesic domes, around his social and religious institutions.

  • For the serious mediocre writer convention makes him sound like a lot of other people; for the popular writer it gives him a formula he can exploit; for the serious good writer it releases his experiences or emotions from himself and incorporates them into literature, where they belong.

  • Between religion's this is and poetry's but suppose this is, there must always be some kind of tension, until the possible and the actual meet at infinity.