Thursday, February 05, 2004

Northrop Frye, Lectures on the Bible, reprinted in Northrop Frye's Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible an Other Religious Texts, volume 13 of the Collected Works of Northrop Frye.

I've read--a couple of times--Frye's books on the Bible. Despite knowing his ideas fairly well, it's quite neat to look at these lectures, to try to piece together what changes he makes both when he's presenting the material orally, and when he's talking to students rather than to a (presumably) better educated audience, via the books.

Imre Salusinszky has talked about Frye's career as a spiral curriculum, and anyone who has read much Frye at all realises that NF returns and returns to certain specific concerns--statements like "the function of the metaphor is to release the imagination by paralysing the discursive reason" (468). These lectures are no exception, and they're certainly far from being as detailed an excursion into the world of the Bible than one finds in, say, The Great Code, or Words With Power. Yet they're intriguing in and of themselves to see the manner in which NF shapes his argument. And the conclusion is as good a bit of explanation about how to read the Bible as one can find anywhere in anyone's writings:
You can't argue the poetic statement because it is not a particular statement. It's not subject to verification. So that is why, I think, the Bible presents what it has to say within a narrative and within a body of concrete images which present a world for you to grasp, visualize, and understand. The end that it leads you to is in seeing what it means rather than accepting or rejecting it..." (607)