The Spirit of the Letter: American Literature and the Quest for Kerygmatic Power: Claude Le Fustec
Claude LE FUSTECUniversity of Rennes II, France
After over 40 years of influential critical writing, Northrop Frye writes in his introduction to Words with Power, his last but one book of criticism and last publication in his lifetime:1
This book continues the study begun in a book published some years ago called The Great Code, subtitled “The Bible and Literature.” The significance of the “and” was that I was not attempting to isolate the literary features of the Bible, or deal with “The Bible as Literature.” […] I wanted to suggest how the structure of the Bible, as revealed by its narrative and imagery, was related to the conventions and genres of Western literature. […] The present book puts more emphasis on critical theory, and tries to re-examine the Bible on a level that makes its connection with the literary tradition more comprehensible. (WP xi-xiii)
Approaching literature as a student of philosophy and theology but also as an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada, Northrop Frye puts forward a rather unique literary theory in that his project is confined neither to a literary analysis of the Bible nor to a theological approach to literature. In true interdisciplinary fashion, he culls from both theology and literary criticism to expose what he terms “the great code” of western literature, an expression borrowed from Blake to refer to the “principle that the organizing structures of the Bible and the corresponding structures of ‘secular’ literature reflect each...
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