NORTHROP FRYE developed archetypal approach in his study of Blake in a book entitled fearful symmetry: a study of William Blake and later in his book, anatomy of criticism .Frye wants that criticism should “acquire something of the methodological discipline and coherence of the sciences”. This, he feels, can be achieved by assuming a total coherence in criticism based on a hypothesis about literature itself. And the primary source of this coherence, according to Frye, is the recurrence, with various degrees and displacement of certain archetypes in literature of all periods and cultures.
The term archetype signifies ‘narrative designs, character types, and images which are found in a variety of works of literature’. Archetypal criticism owes its origin to JAMES.G.FRAZER’S ‘THE GOLDEN BOUGH’ and to the depth psychology of C.G.JUNG who applied the term to what he called ‘the primordial images’, ‘the psychic residue’. This type of criticism was first experimented by Maud bodkin in his archetypal patterns in poetry.
Frye argues that criticism has every characteristic of a science. Hence, meaningless, value Based, pseudo Judgments should be done away with. To Frye ‘criticism as a science is totally intelligible’ but literature as the subject of a science is an inexhaustible source of new critical discoveries.
“Poems, like poets, are born and not made”. A poet task is to deliver the poem in as uninjured a state as possible. Frye argues that criticism cannot be systematic unless there is a quality in literature. If many poets use the same images and symbols, the problem cannot be biographical. This is why Frye searches for a pattern in literature. An archetype, therefore, becomes a unifying category of criticism as well as a part of a total form. Literature should be read in its totality – from the primitive to the sophisticated. This search for archetype is a kind of literary anthropology.
The main disagreement between Freud and Jung was over the ‘LIBIDO’ which Jung believed to be more than ‘sexual’. Jung postulated their existence of collective unconsciousness, that is: racial memory inherited by all members of the human family and connecting modern man with his primitive roots.
The ‘collective unconscious’ is manifested in the recurrence of certain images, stories and figures called ‘archetypes’ – the psychic residue of numberless experiences of the same type.
Psychological maturity, or ‘individuation’ entitles the individual’s recognition and acceptance of archetypal elements of his own psyche, for which Jung coined the descriptive terms ‘shadow’, ‘persona’ and ‘anima’ .
Jungian psychology has been in many ways more congenial to literary mind than Freud’s. Freud always has regarded himself as an empirical scientist, and science has been seen as a threat to literary values from the romantic period onwards.
Jung, much more sympathetic than Freud towards visionary, religious and even magical traditions, readily endorsed the claims of literature to embody knowledge of a kind particularly vital to alienated, secularized modern man; and his assertions that “it is his art that explains the artist not the insufficiencies and conflicts of his personal life” is obviously nearer in spirit to Eliot’s tradition and individual talents than Freud’s creative writers and day dreaming.
Jung’s theory of collective unconscious tied in neatly with the anthropological study of primitive myth and ritual, initiated in England by Sir James Frazer’s “golden bough”. Out of this fusion of literature, anthropology and psychology evolved a kind of literary criticism in which the power and significance of works of literature or of national literatures, or of the whole of literature is explained in terms of the recurrence of certain archetypal themes, images and narrative patterns.
“Man is a symbol making animal and the only such animal”. There has been an increasing respect for the symbolism of primitive man and Specially for the myths and legends through which he characteristically expresses himself. Then the symbolizations of primitive man are not necessarily childish and absurd but make their contribution to ‘truth’. G. VICO had elaborated the theory that myth was a kind of poetic language. VICO is unable to distinguish poetry from myth. They may be “diverse shoots from the same parent stem” springing from the same impulse of symbolic formulation. Primitive man knew no difference between “object” and “image”. This kind of synthesis also accounts for archetypes. The modern myth critics have been powerfully influenced and impressed by the evidence that primitive man still lurks within each of us. To these critics, the connection between myth and literature provides a new key to criticism. The critics who hope to find in myth the key to artistic creation make much of the number of aspects that poetry shares with dream. The process that Freud calls the “dream – work” shows similarities with “poetic work”. In both poetry and dream, logical relationships are frequently evaded or transcended by the mere juxtaposition of images.
According to Frye, the poet is only the efficient cause of the poem, but the poem, having a form, has a formal cause that is to be sought. Frye finds this formal cause to be the archetype. What Frye calls “total” literary history moves from the primitive to the sophisticated. So Frye glimpses the possibility of envisaging literature as the “complication of a relatively simple group of formulas that can be studied in a primitive culture. In the light of this possibility, the search for archetypes becomes a kind of literary anthropology, concerned with the way that literature is formed by pre – literary categories such as ritual, myth and folk tale”.
Frye has suggestions for bringing about a production – line technique. The literary specialists who will deal the text in question are disposed as follows; first the editor then the rhetorician and philologist, the literary psychologist, the literary social historian, the philosopher and the historian of ideas, and finally at the end of the line, the literary anthropologist. Frye consistently refers to the work of art as a “product”, an “organic commodity” that is capable of being sorted, classified, and graded – a notion that receives some support from the way in which Frye chooses to suggest how a poem comes into being:
“The fact that revision is possible, that the poet makes changes not because he likes them better but because they are better, means that poems, like poets are born and not made. The poets’ task is to deliver the poem in as uninjured a state as possible, and if the poem is alive, it is equally anxious to be rid of him and Screams to be cut loose from his private memories and associations, his desire for self – expression, and all the other novel strings and feeding tubes of his ego. The critic takes over where the poet leaves off”.
- NORTHROP FRYE.
“In this lively analogy the poem is evidently the babe, the poet, the mother, and the critic, the midwife and nurse, who ties off the cord, tells the mother the infant is a boy or girl, washes it up for presentation to the outside world, and presumably gives it an anthropological classification” and “takes its measurements”.
“Yet Frye’s analogy fails to cover what must analogy finally be the crucial question of whether the poem is still – born and inert, or alive. He merely alludes to this question with the cautionary “if the poem is alive”, or is it merely a document, wooden, dead, lifeless, a mere “exhibit”, without literary merit?”
Richard chase says in his the quest for myth, the term “myth” is clearly a value term. A poem that is vibrantly alive is mythic and vice versa; for chase absolutely identifies poetry and myth. He writes “myth” is only “art”. A poet may use a myth more “artistically” or more “powerfully” than another. Or, one may argue that some myths are more powerful than other myths and therefore yield greater poems. Considerations such as this suggest that “mythic” and “archetypal” criticism provides no way of circumventing the basic problems of traditional criticism.
INCEST AND MYTH
Ø Archetypal approach to literature is connected with abstractions at one end with the concept of the “collective unconscious” of Jung and at the other end with the studies in social anthropology. Claude – Levi – Strauss’ essay incest and myth establishes the links between archetypal criticism and anthropology. The incest prohibition is the basis of human society. Prohibition of incest creates bonds of alliance between non – consagineal groups. This conclusion was reached by establishing the systematic nature of each kingship terminology and its corresponding set of marriage rules.
Ø Though the author is a social anthropologist his work on myth and mythologies impriges on literary studies. His intellectual aims and methods have found wider application in the field of literary criticism. There is something attain to “structuralism” in these aims and methods. Structural linguistics goes beyond the description of any particular language to purpose the “deep structures” that are common to all languages. Levi Strauss tries to analysis the various manifestations of the incest taboo in the same way. He pursues the incest than into mythology and succeeds in uncovering a remarkable structural relationship between south American folklore, the Oedipus myth and the grail legend structuralism, therefore, is concerned to discover universal truths about the human mind. This kind of study tends to become algebraic.
Ø Anthropologists cannot easily prove the universality of these rules in the totality of human societies including the present ones. In the end we would have done nothing but elaborate a language whose only virtues would reside in its coherence and its ability to account for phenomena thought to be very different until recent times.
Ø Problems like incest prohibition can be approached in the form of a theme for mythical thought. Here again the anthropologists concern for myth is similar to that of the archetypal critic. Levi Strauss takes up a story from the folklore of the IROQUOIS and ALGONQUIN Indians for discussion. It is the story of a young girl subjected to the amorous leanings of a nocturnal visitor whom she believes to be her brother. Everything seems to point to the guilty one physical appearance, clothing, and the scratched cheek which bears witness to the heroine’s virtue. Formally accused by her, the brother reveals that he has a counterpart or “a double”, for the tie between them is so strong that any accident befalling the one is automatically transmitted to the other. To convince his incredulous sister, the young man kills his double before her, but at the same time he condemns himself, since their destinies are linked. By way of misleading the mother of the victim, a sorceress, the sister has to marry her brother, the latter passing for the double he has killed. Incest is so inconceivable that the revengeful old woman never suspects the hoax. The theme of this story is similar to that of the Oedipus legend.
Ø The very precautions taken to avoid incest in fact make it inevitable. A sensational turn of events arises from the fact that two characters, originally introduced as distinct, are identified with each other. The incest between brother and sister of the Iroquis myth would constitute a permutation of the oedipal incest between mother and son.
Ø The Indians myths describe clowns who set riddles to the spectators as having been born of an incestuous union. They also associate owls with riddles. The correlation between riddle and incest seems to obtain among peoples separated by history, geography, language and culture.
Ø A riddle may be defined as a question to which one postulates there is no answer. If we invert the terms of this definition we produce an answer for which there is no question. There are myths based on this inversion. The holy grail legend depends upon the hero not asking the expected question. In a semantic system, chastity is related to ‘the answer without a question’ as incest is related to “the question without an answer”.
Ø In short the archetypal approach to literature is an approach which looks in poetry for echoes a “mythical identification; it finds general types implicit in the specific elements of a given poem, and then interprets those types as symbols of human desires, conflicts and problems. It thus emerges as a kind of symbolic approach. One may trace the image of “the decent into hell”, for examples, from early myth and ritual, to homer, Virgil, medieval romance, Dante and upto hart crane’s subway section of the bridge and to T.S. Eliots’ “THE HOLLOW MEN”, with one’s own repressed guilt. Such mythical identifications need not depend upon the explicit and conscious presence in a work of actual names , places and events from mythologies – the procedure rests rather upon finding more or less unconscious similarities and resemblances.
Ø Many critics have questioned the soundness of the theory and of the archetypal approach. In many poems symbols are primarily personal and to interpret them archetypal is to over read them, if not to misread them altogether. Even if a poem does contain universal symbols, they may not symbolize those kinds of depth meanings which archetypal critics are looking for. This approach tends to be reductive in its view of particular and unique works of art. It tends to blur the essential distinctions between good poems and bad poems.