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"To say it is a magnificent, extraordinary book is to praise it as it should be praised, but in doing so one gives little idea of the huge scope of the book and of its fiery understanding . Several great poets have written of Blake, but this book, I believe, is the first to show the full magnitude of Blake's mind, its vast creative thought." -- Edith Sitwell, 'The Spectator'
"According as we agree or disagree with Mr. Frye's contention we shall decide finally on the supremacy of his book. In following the structure of Blake's total vision and relating it to the thought of his age he has triumphantly carried out a task which, given the giant shape of the material, cannot help being immense. His cadences, by sheer explanatory devotion, approach the sonorities of Blake's own." -- 'Times Literary Supplement'
"Frye conducts his ambitious study with unflagging energy, great enthusiasm, and immense erudition." -- 'Poetry'
"An intelligent and beautifully written critical interpretation of the poetry and symbolic thought of William Blake..." -- 'New Yorker'
My opinion: Northrop Frye's literary criticism manages to shift the ground underfoot in the same rare way Blake's poetry does. Frye was the first to crack Blake's code, remove from him the labels of Mystic and Nutcase, and reveal him as a poet who systematically recreates the world. Frye taught Blake to Jesuits, Communist organizers, deans of women, and angry young poets. He was continually pleased to encounter doctors, housewives, clergymen, teachers, blue-collar workers, and shopkeepers, all with a great and deep appreciation of Blake.
Frye's deep appreciation and admiration for Blake comes through on every page, six times over. I reread this book about every five years, each time coming away seeing the world upside down, inside out, and worth renovating.Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Collected Works of Northrop Frye) Overview
Published in 1947, Fearful Symmetry was Northrop Frye's first book and the product of over a decade of intense labour. Drawing readers into the imaginative world of William Blake, Frye succeeded in making Blake's voice and vision intelligible to the wider public. Distinguished by its range of reference, elegance of expression, comprehensiveness of coverage, coherence of argument, and sympathy to its subject, Fearful Symmetry was immediately recognized as a landmark of Blake criticism. Fifty years later, it is still recognized as having ensured the acceptance of Blake as a canonical poet by permanently dispelling the widespread notion that he was the mad creator of an incomprehensible private symbolism.
For this new edition, the text has been revised and corrected in accordance with the principles of the Collected Works of Northrop Frye series. Frye's original annotation has been supplemented with references to currently standard editions of Blake and others, and many new notes have been provided, identifying quotations, allusions, and cultural references. An introduction by Ian Singer provides biographical and critical context for the book, an overview of its contents, and an account of its reception.
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