Primary Identity in Literature: Frye-inspired Reflections on Characters in Literature

Brian Russell Graham

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In our times, literary criticism, as well as larger political and cultural developments, is characterized by identity politics, meaning that our discourses are structured around the notion of different socially identifiable populations in society. In relation to literature, this results in our viewing the characters in literature in terms of these political identities. Literature is consequently discussed in relation to political causes. Literary criticism is animated by the same causes, and is viewed as having a direct intervention in society in relation to them.

In this paper, I will discuss, in relation to Frye’s works, the idea that the primary identities of characters in literature were and, to a considerable extent, continue to be those of family-member identities. As such, literature should not be appropriated to a political context too readily. Whereas viewing characters in terms of, for example, social class affiliations leads to political literary criticism, viewing the same characters as first and foremost family members is, by and large, apolitical, relating rather to issues of human fulfillment or frustration rather than different kinds of justice. Literature, Frye tells us, expands in opposite directions towards the fulfillment of desire at one end of experience and a world of fear and despair at the other, and in relation to its notion of a better society, what interests literature is a society of contented families joined through the marriage of their adult children.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2012
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventNorthrop Frye 100: A Danubian Perspective - KÁROLI GÁSPÁR UNIVERSITY OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN HUNGARY
Duration: 7 Sep 20128 Sep 2012

Conference

ConferenceNorthrop Frye 100: A Danubian Perspective
LocationKÁROLI GÁSPÁR UNIVERSITY OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN HUNGARY
Period07/09/201208/09/2012

Keywords

  • identity, Frye, family

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