Function Of Literature
Perspective on Man: Literature and the Christian Tradition, by Ronald Mushat Frye (Westminster, 1961, 207 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by D. Bruce Lockerbie, Chairman, English Department, Stony Brook School, Stony Brook, New York.
The premise upon which Roland M. Frye, Professor of English at Emory University, bases his book is a quotation from a letter written by Luther in 1523: “I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature pure theology cannot at all endure.… Therefore … urge your young people to be diligent in the study of poetry and rhetoric.” Proceeding from this exhortation, Professor Frye suggests, is “the perspective of Christian humanism.” This he defines to be “a consciously Christian approach to literature, philosophy, and other humanistic disciplines.”
Perspective on Man comprises the Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton Seminary in 1959 and is divided into three parts. First, consideration is given to the effect of myth and symbol as literary forms on Scripture and its interpretation. Frye observes that fundamentalism and mythologizing are linked together by their common failure to recognize and distinguish between fact and symbol in the Bible. “Neither seems able to accept literary symbols as such, and they insist upon reducing the literary either to the literal or to the ideational.” As alternatives to these two sides of the same coin, the author proposes a resurgent acceptance of “the doctrine of accommodation” and “a willing suspension of disbelief,” from which will evolve “a distinctive kind of validity.”
The second section is devoted to showing literature’s concern with man’s desperate struggles for identity and against misery, failure, guilt, and death. Extensive citations from ...1
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