Northrope Frye – Educated Imagination Response Essay, Research Paper
LITERARY TECHNIQUES – NOT JUST FOR ENGLISH GEEKS The waves of knowledge literature generates, break on the infinite shores of our imagination. Literature empowers and develops our imagination and induces it to create. The first thing that our imagination creates, whether developed or malnourished, is an imaginary society based on our own personal wants. By using specific techniques learned while studying literature, one can analyze our own society by referencing it with our vision of society. We can use detachment to deal with the bombardment of advertising and pick out the products we want. We can also use our vision of society to help us make and realize the changes we would like to see in the society we live in. By studying literature and learning its techniques we can truly expose the world we live in. Northrop Fry states that the first objective of our imagination is to create an artificial society (Frye 60). By reading literature we can develop our imagination and thus develop our vision of society. This vision or imaginary society, is what advertisers try to appeal to. But advertisements are illusions and we must be able to decipher the real meaning behind them. One way to cope with the onslaught of advertisements is to treat them as we treat irony in literature. Irony “means saying one thing and meaning another as a device which a writer use to detach our imagination from a world of absurdity or frustration by letting us see around it” (Frye 59). When we first see an advertisement we try to rationalize it, do we need it, is it really that good? That voice of reason is really our imagination talking. It is considering if the product will fit into our vision of society. It is our vision of society that we hope the product will be useful in, and if we purchase the product we will become closer to our vision. Our imaginary society is also the basis upon which we draw our conclusions about freedom from. It is in our criticism of literature in which we learn the art of free speech. In the same way one would criticize literature, by comparing it to other literature, we criticize society by comparing it to our vision of society. It is in the difference between these two worlds where discrepancies take shape. If we feel strong enough about these discrepancies we will try to alter the society we live in, this is called free speech. Once we act on those discrepancies we begin to alter society and we have been doing this since the dawn of humanity.
The empowerment of our imagination through literature has the ability to construct and demolish societies but it only possible if we study literature properly. Frye explains that the bible is the foundation upon which one can build their study of literature on (Frye 46). In today’s secular world, religion is playing far less a role than it once previously held. In Shakespearean times most of the audience was educated in the bible and would understand when Shakespeare made an allusion towards it. Today this would not be possible because we do not study the bible to the same extent. People are less religious and our society includes other religions that do not study the bible as part of their beliefs. Hindus and Buddhists, for example, don’t study the bible and therefore members of those religions would not understand the allusions made to the bible. The study of the bible as a basis for studying literature is great in theory but in practice it does not work. Frye states that literature can only derive from itself (Frye 15). If the fist source of literature was the bible, which I suspect, then every other piece of literature since then must be a derivative of the bible. To study literature properly and learn it techniques, we need only to be able to understand literature. This understanding of literature can only come from proper education and years of progression. The first step to understand literature is to have an understanding of the language the literature is written in. Once a student is fluent in the language and understands the grammatical make-up, he/she can begin to learn certain literary skills and techniques. The literary skills begin to introduce the third level of mind to literature and we start to understand our imagination’s involvement in literature. These skills are essential not only for studying literature but also for many aspects in our life. When we read literature some imaginative power is transferred from the author to the reader. This energy fuels the imagination and our imagination is what molds and shapes our vision of society. We use our imagination to create our own unique vision of a society we want to live in. To study literature we must understand the language it is written in and the literary techniques it uses. By learning literary techniques like irony and criticism we can apply them to other aspects of our life, not just literature. Literature matures our imagination and by studying literary techniques we can apply them to our everyday life.