Although Northrop Frye's first book, Fearful Symmetry (1947),
elevated the reputation of William Blake from the status of a minor
eccentric to that of a major Romantic poet, Frye in fact saw Blake
as a poet (and, consequently, himself as a critic) not of the
Romantic period, but of the Renaissance. As such, Frye's
meditations on the Renaissance are particularly valuable. This
volume collects six of Frye's notebooks and five sets of his typed
notes on subjects related to Renaissance literature.
Michael Dolzani divides these notes into three categories: those
on Spenser and the epic tradition; those on Shakespearean drama
and, more widely, the dramatic tradition from Old Comedy to the
masque; and those on lyric poetry and non-fiction prose. The
organization of this volume reflects 'a comprehensive study of
Renaissance Symbolism' in three volumes, which Frye proposed to the
Guggenheim Foundation in 1949. Frye received a Guggenheim
fellowship, but never wrote the book; nevertheless, his
application, part of which is also included here, is an important
document. The Guggenheim application not only reveals the outlines
of Frye's thinking about literature, it also uncovers his plans for
his future creative life during the crucial period between his
completion of Fearful Symmetry and his absorption in the writing of
Anatomy of Criticism.
In addition to providing insight into Frye's thinking process,
the material collected into this key volume in the Collected Works
is of particular importance because much of it has no direct
counterpart in any of Frye's other published works.
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