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Reseach on Frye’ Studies of Literature Anthropology

Author: LiuHaiLi
Tutor: YangShouSen
School: Shandong Normal University
Course: Literature and Art
Keywords: Northrop Frye literature anthropology nature Primitive culture rituals mythos
CLC: I0-05
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2008
Downloads: 546
Quote: 2
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With the development of interdisciplinary studies in the scopes of social and human sciences in the 20th century, literature relates gradually to anthropology. As a result of the flourishing synthetic cultural studies, literature anthropology, a brand new discipline, has given rise to tremendous interest in the academic circle. Having studied the theories of various anthropologists, Northrop Frye applies knowledge of anthropology to literary criticism and thus broadens the scope of literary criticism into a whole. In contrast with the former views which equate anthropology with ethnography, Frye’s advanced approach regards multicultural development as an impetus and turning point for the development of literature. Hayden White called Frye the“greatest natural-historical anthropologist”. Starting with his“Anatomy of Criticism”, Frye starts to stand on the position of the macro culture and explore the relationships between literature and anthropology. Frye’s studies, based on humanity, dive into the effects of anthropology exerted on literary criticism, the core of literature anthropology. Frye criticizes abundant literary phenomena and plenty of literary works, for instance, works of Milton, Shakespeare, Black, etc., all of which are literary studies with anthropology approaches and are of remarkable practical value as to anthropology.Studies on Frye’s literature anthropological ideas will be helpful for our comprehension of the great man. Meanwhile they will promote the further development of practices of literature anthropological criticism. The object of this thesis is Frye’s literature anthropological ideas. On the base of the recent studies on Frye’s theories home and abroad, this thesis aims to study Frye’s literature anthropological theories. It absorbs achievements of anthropological studies, focuses on the regular scopes of literature anthropological researches, such as primitive culture, rituals, and mythos, etc., unscrambles Frye’s anthropological angle of view in literary criticism, and rebuilds new structures of comprehension and explanation through new reading experiences. Based on various links between Frye’s literary criticism and anthropology, this thesis starts from his standpoint of the synthetic literature, makes use of the theories and critical practices in anthropology, and digs into the collision, dialogue and amalgamation between literature and anthropology in Frye’s academic studies in four aspects, that’s, literature and nature, literature and primitive culture, literature and rituals, literature and mythos. There are five chapters in the thesis. They are as follows:Chapter One analyzes the headspring and literary standpoint of Frye’s literature anthropological ideas. On the basis of studies on Oswald Spengler’s historical ideas, James Frazer’s ritualism and Jung Carl’s psychology, this part works over the three giants’impact on Frye’s literary ideas and his standpoint in literary studies. Frye adopts the macro cultural angle of view and a perspective of“standing by”, and always regards literature as a whole. Humanity is the core of his literary standpoint.Chapter Two is about literature and nature. Through the analyses of various factors’impact on Frye, including Canadian literary heritage and some great historic figures’revealing attitudes towards nature, this part sets forth the system and the causes of Frye’s understanding of nature and literature. Frye explores the relationship between human beings and nature and puts forward the idea that literature is the second nature besides the material nature. According to the underlying similarities between literature and nature, he further advances the theory that literature imitates nature. Via the studies of the similar rules of alteration both in literature and in nature, he brings forward the idea of circulatory literary patterns, which reveals the inner relationship between literature and nature. In addition, Frye analyzes three phases in the course of lingual development and puts forward the theory of circulatory literature.Chapter Three is about literature and primitive culture. Frye is quite interested in primitive culture under the influence of the upsurge in the fields of literature and anthropology. Frye’s attention is attracted to the primitive images, especially the images of the Great Mother and roads. Frye works over primitive culture as well as the primitive images, reveals the primitive feature of literature and analyzes its forming and evolution. Via the analysis of the loss and damages of primitive culture in modern civilization along with the conflict between barbarism and civilization, he furthermore criticizes the“myth of evolution”and expresses his worries about the primitive culture.Chapter Four is on literature and ritualism. Based on James Frazer and some others’understanding of ritualism, Frye defines the conceptions of rituals from various aspects. He analyzes the rituals in literary criticism and holds that mythologies are formed in verbal communications about rituals and dreams. Literary narratives take efforts to perfect human beings’life experiences, set up a series of emotional rituals with remarkable significance accordingly, work as a bridge between literature and anthropology, and offer a brand new perspective for studies of literary theories. With further studies on literature anthropological theories, rituals will play a more important role in literary narratives and cultural studies.Chapter Five discusses literature and mythos. Mythos as the noumenon and literature as the carrier, Frye’s myth-archetypal criticism, a synthetical system, has spread over all fields of social life. With broad and open eyesight, Frye’s theory of mythos is no longer confined to literature; it comes down to all aspects of the social culture instead. His theory of mythos is not only limited to the narrow conception of mythos; in contrast, it extends to trace back to the source of human civilization and ponders over the core of literature and culture. The revelation of the trinity of literature, culture and mythos help us to understand the essence of literature, to explore the commonness of human beings and to pursue the home of human spirits in the mythologies.In the end, the thesis talks about Frye’s position in the discipline of literature anthropology. Frye is the first person who has advanced literature anthropological theory. Starting with the literary points of view, he digs into profound anthropological knowledge and sets up a sound theoretical foundation for the new discipline. However, he doesn’t further build up its theoretical system in detail. Besides, his literary viewpoints and experience are confined to western literature, so in his system various elements are not fully developed. In a word, his system seems to be a partly literature anthropology.Literature anthropology constructed under the guide of Frye’s theories is of remarkable significance and value in the modern tides of literary studies. It is Frye who opens our eyes to the fact that literature anthropology can bridge literature and human culture, and reveal the coexistence of literature and social life. To study Frye’s theory of literature anthropology is also of great practical value. It sums up studies approaches of literature anthropology, paves way for new further studies on Frye, and carves out new approaches to literary criticism. It will also be of extreme value for us to evaluate the present studies of literature anthropology in China, to think over numerous problems related to literature anthropology, and to look forward to its contemporary changes and tendency.

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