Study Guide

Northrop Frye - Major Arguments

Major Arguments

I feel like my seminal book Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake hasn't received enough attention here, so I just want to touch on some of its profound thinking on all things Romantic—that's with a capital R, silly. My book was groundbreaking, pioneering—a real barn burner, as they say. So here are some highlights:

  • I open my opus with the remark that "The whole purpose of this book [...] is to establish Blake as a typical poet and his thinking as typically poetic thinking," but by "typical" I don't necessarily mean ordinary—I mean that Blake represented a lively era of intellectual thought in England, 'kay?
  • You may know that a lot of people thought Blake was a visionary, a mystic. Well, I did, too, but I think there was a whole lot more to it. Blake had a message to deliver to the people. His message was: the reader's interpretation matters.
  • My fave thing about Blake: he had a system. Some people think that because he was a mystic, he was wacky. Not so, I say. This guy was a mystic with a logical system to back him up.
  • To Blake, the artist was the be-all, end-all. He or she is a profound interpreter for the people—it's kind of like how the Bible is supposed to interpret God for the people. That's how important artists are—I called them geniuses with divine insight. They simply have more life force than we do.
  • I made no claim that Blake was easy to read. Get ready to work—and to be rewarded. Your assignment is to get the whole vision, to be like a hawk soaring above the scene. Don't worry so much about the little details, or Blake will pass you by.
  • In case I haven't mentioned it, Blake's work is just a little reminder, to those of us in love with hard-and-fast knowledge, that imagination will always be superior. So get your spiritual on.

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