WORDS WITH POWER: Being a Second Study of ""The Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye
Kirkus Star

WORDS WITH POWER: Being a Second Study of ""The Bible and Literature

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Frye follows up his classic The Great Code (1982) with a second revelatory study of the Bible and literature. Note the ""and"" in the subtitle: Frye is miles away from critics who, uncomfortable with the Bible as religious text, prefer to discuss ""the Bible as literature""; he also distances himself from fundamentalists who deny the importance in the Bible of mythology and metaphor. Steering his middle course with consummate skill, Frye explores how mythology and folklore give to literature its ""central structural principles."" He does this first by asking ""What is the basis of the poet's authority[?], ""answering that ""it is bound up with the authority of poetic language,"" a language that finally points toward ""a peace infinite in both its source and its goal."" Having laid his theoretical foundation, Frye then scrutinizes four key poetic images in the Bible and literature: the mountain (including ladders, pyramids, stairs, and trees); the garden; the cave (with some superb remarks on the relation of higher to lower worlds); and the furnace. He thus masterfully demonstrates how the Bible is ""a work of literature plus""--the plus being its access to true, especially the truth of what Frye calls the ""rhetorical mode"" of literature, the wisdom of poetry and the imagination. Splendid on all counts.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich