9780156364805 / 0156364808

The Great Code: The Bible and Literature


Publisher:Mariner Books



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About the book:

The subject of Northrop Frye's The Great Code is "a huge, sprawling, tactless book inscrutably in the middle of our cultural heritage": the Bible. And though literary critic Frye insists on approaching this monumental book only as a "unified structure of narrative and imagery," he acknowledges that the Bible is somehow "more" than a work of literature. The Great Code tries to track down that sense of "more." The Bible, according to Frye, is at the centre of our mythical universe, establishing "the imaginative framework within which Western Literature has operated down to the eighteenth century and is to a large extent still operating."

Arranged in two parts, the first setting forth critical principles under the headings of "language," "myth," "metaphor" and "typology," and the second focusing primarily on the application of those principles, The Great Code adopts the "double mirror" structure of the Bible's Old and New Testaments. The book grew out of a course Frye taught at the University of Toronto for half a century, and so, he insists, it addresses not the Biblical or even the literary scholar so much as the general reader, including those without much prior knowledge of the Bible or any particular religious faith. With its successor, Words with Power, The Great Code forms perhaps the most ambitious and most personal project of this great literary man's career. Though he was himself ordained in the United Church of Canada in his early 20s, Frye decided to leave the religious for the academic life; what he took with him was a fierce fascination with this sacred text and a deep sense of its literary and cultural importance. It is the one book that, Frye says, "all my critical work has revolved" around. --Russell Prather

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