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The Romance of Summer

June 24, 2008

Do you know how some literary theories seem to stick in your head? They do. No, not the dreaded French literary theorists, whose goofy notions keep leaking out of my mind as fast as I try to cram them in. I was thinking about one of my favorites, now receded into the distant past — Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism. Admittedly, I was never able to get into a lot of the book, but one section resonated and has stayed with me: Frye’s four “mythoi” or generic plots.

Frye identified these four categories of narrative literature as:

  • Comedy – the mythos of spring
  • Romance – the mythos of summer
  • Tragedy – the mythos of autumn
  • Irony and Satire – the mythos of winter

This correlation between the structure of literature and the rhythm of nature is evocative. We read the natural world as a great story, for good or ill. Then, in Frye’s view, the themes of literature echo back the cycle of the seasons.

As Jim recently noted, we are now past the solstice and into the summer. Romance, in the literary sense — which Frye defines as “a sequence of marvellous adventures” — is waiting. It might mean a movie (just saw Iron Man, liked it). It might be a festival, a journey, or even a voyage. It might be an exciting tale still in the making. You never know, and that is the romance of it.

This entry was posted by: Nancy
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