ABSTRACT

Northrop Frye’s proclaimed aim is to place criticism upon what he at times calls a ‘systematic’ and at times a ‘scientific’ basis. The fact that these two terms tend to be interchangeable in Frye’s writings is an indication of a fundamental difficulty and, perhaps, confusion, in his whole theory of criticism (and literature): it is a difficulty or confusion upon which M. H. Abrams seizes in a masterly review of The Anatomy of Criticism1 – a review upon which much of this chapter is a commentary. Vastness of scope is, perhaps, Frye’s most striking quality, as well as his chief ambition, and any attempt at summary must here be avoided.2 I shall merely try to deal with what I take to be the central problem – Frye’s attempt to establish criticism as a ‘science’.