ENGLISH 1022E October 19 , 2010
ENGLISH – Lecture 11
Giambattista Vico Northrop Frye
AGE OF GOD HIGH MIMETIC
AGE OF HEROES
AGE OF MEN LOW MIMETIC
IRONY: “A mode of speech in which the meaning is contrary to the words” – Samuel Johnson
“Analysing humour is like dissecting a frog… [T]he frog dies.” – E.B. White
o Universe with its own grammar, syntax, rules. We all share it, as it separates from the outside
o Thought all human history happens in cycle:
1. First is Age of Gods (mythology of religions, great Greek creatures)
2. Age of Heroes (Arthurian legends, romance stories, heroic stories)
3. Age of Men (ordinary people like us, literature of everyday lives, like the novel) Frye would
argue that all literature since the Renaissance has become the age of men.
SENSE OF DOOM…
o Western culture is destined to go down, to fall. Turn back to a primitive life, a primitive belief.
o He talks about literature in two “modes”
o The first is the High Mimetic mode: literature of gods, kings, queens, people we look up to ENGLISH 1022E October 19 , 2010
o The second is the Low Mimetic mode: characters beneath us, people we image to be beneath
us. We as readers sit between these two.
o All literature is in the ironic mode
o Romance mode: distinguish between Romantic writer, and the romance novel. Main characters
are gods, demi-gods, etc.
o Tragedy – takes us from looking up at characters, to looking down at them.
o Lord Byron said that every tragedy ends in death.
o CATHARSIS: getting rid of strange combination of emotions, pity and fear. When tragedy works,
we are held in suspension in between pity and fear.
o COMEDY: begin in chaos, but end in marriage (symbolizes