Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism



‘Anatomy’ may be defined as a dissection carried out to determine the structure of an organised body. This book is a dissection of literature in an attempt to give ‘a synoptic view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism’. The primary aim, Professor Frye tells us, is to give his reasons for believing in such a synoptic view; the secondary aim to provide ‘a tentative version’ of such a view to convince readers that ‘a view is attainable’. And the whole group of suggestions is intended to be of practical use to critics and students of literature.


Single Work Synoptic View Verbal Universe Thematic Mode Tentative Version 
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  1. 2.
    S. H. Butcher, Aristotles Theory of Poetry and Fine Art with a Critical Text and Translation of ‘The Poetics’ (1st edn 1895; 4th edn 1907; rev. posthumously 1911 and repr. several times; the translation repr. frequently in collections of critical texts, including Saintsbury and Ross; reissued in paperback in 1951 from plates of the 4th edn). The 1951 reissue has a note at the end of the bibliography suggesting that ‘critics are likely to agree with the opinion of Professor W. K. Wimsatt, Jr … that the revisions of the text, derived from the Arabic version and MS Riccardianus 49 [sic] “are not as a matter of fact important enough to have worked any substantial damage to the theoretical part of Butcher’s labor”.’ This statement, if written after 1965, would seem to be ill informed or disingenuous.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Werner Jaeger, Aristotle: Fundamentals of the Histoy of his Development, trs. Richard Robinson (Oxford, 1948) p. 7.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Ingram Bywater, Aristotle on the Art of Poetry (Oxford, 1909) p. ix.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Lane Cooper and Alfred Gudeman, A Bibliography of the Poetics of Aristotle, Cornell Studies in English, vol. XI (1928). Listed 1583 items. Marvin T. Herrick provided a supplement in 1931, and in 1954–5 Gerald Else published ‘A Survey of Work on Aristotle’s Poetics, 1940–1954’.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    D. W. Lucas, Aristotles Poetics: Introduction, Commentary and Appendixes (Oxford, 1968) p. ix. My summary here is based in part on Lucas’s Introduction.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Marjorie Grene, in assailing the view encouraged by Jaeger that Aristotle started as a Platonist, puts this point neatly: ‘Plato was a Platonist to the last, and Aristotle an Aristotelian from the first, or very near it’ — A Portrait of Aristotle (London, 1963) p. 256.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    F. Solmsen, in an impressive article, ‘The Origin and Methods of Aristotle’s Poetics’, Classical Quarterly, 29 (1935) 192–201, recognises an ‘original train of thought and … later additions’, but does not venture a more exact consideration of the span of possible dates. The only recognisable piece of internal evidence for some part of the Poetics having been written in Athens (i.e. before 348 BC or after 335 BC) is 1448a 31 — a passage that Solmsen considers to be ‘late’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 24.
    The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Kathleen Coburn (New York and London, 1957–72) III, 4397, f. 53; variatim in Literary Remains (1836–9) I, 225, and Biographia Literaria, ed. J. Shawcross (Oxford, 1907) II, 259. Cf. G. M. Hopkins on observing the form of sea-waves: ‘it is hard for [the eyes] to unpack the huddling and gnarls of the water and law out of the shapes and the sequence of the running’ — The Journals, ed. Humphry House and Graham Storey (Oxford, 1959) p. 223. See also Metaphysics, 1050a 21–4.Google Scholar
  9. 31.
    H. D. F. Kitto, ‘Catharsis’, in The Classical Tradition, ed. L. Wallach (Ithaca, NY, 1966) pp. 133–47.Google Scholar
  10. 32.
    George Whalley, ‘The Aristotle—Coleridge Axis’, University of Toronto Quarterly, 42 (Winter 1972–3) 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1985

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