Northrop Frye and the Phenomenology of Myth

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University of Toronto Press, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 242 pages

In Northrop Frye and the Phenomenology of Myth, Glen Robert Gill compares Frye's theories about myth to those of three other major twentieth-century mythologists: C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Mircea Eliade. Gill explores the theories of these respective thinkers as they relate to Frye's discussions of the phenomenological nature of myth, as well as its religious, literary, and psychological significance.

Gill substantiates Frye's work as both more radical and more tenable than that of his three contemporaries. Eliade's writings are shown to have a metaphysical basis that abrogates an understanding of myth as truly phenomenological, while Jung's theory of the collective unconscious emerges as similarly problematic. Likewise, Gill argues, Campbell's work, while incorporating some phenomenological progressions, settles on a questionable metaphysical foundation. Gill shows how, in contrast to these other mythologists, Frye's theory of myth - first articulated in Fearful Symmetry (1947) and culminating in Words with Power (1990) - is genuinely phenomenological.

With excursions into fields such as literary theory, depth psychology, theology, and anthropology, Northrop Frye and the Phenomenology of Myth is essential to the understanding of Frye's important mythological work.

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This is a remarkable book. I've been a reader of Frye, Jung and the other mythologists discussed in this book for years, and thought I had a grasp of their theories and interrelationships; but this book takes it to a whole different level. I guess I really didn't grasp the concept that changes in our mythological thinking can transform our whole perception of reality, but that is what this book makes so beautifully clear. I also wouldn't have guessed that it was Northrop Frye that had the more radical ideas in this area. This book makes it clear that Frye's work on myth goes way beyond literary criticism to something on the far side of philosophy and religion. I would recommend this book to anyone who is really interested in exploring the power of myth.  


The Platonic Patterns of Mircea Eliade
C G Jung and the Archetypes of
Joseph Campbell and

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About the author (2006)

Herbert J. Ellison is a professor emeritus in the Department of History and the International Studies Program at the University of Washington.

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