By Northrop Frye
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Extra resources for The Great Code: The Bible and Literature
This does not mean that man is being taken over by one of his own inventions, as in science-fiction stories of malignant computers and selfreproducing robots. It means rather that man is a child of the word as well as a child of nature, and that, just as he is conditioned by nature and finds his conception of necessity in it, so the first thing he finds in the community of the word is the charter of his freedom. We have so far not spoken ofliterature. The first phase oflanguage, as Vico indicates, is inherently poetic: it is contemporary with a stage of society in which the main source of culturally inherited knowledge is the poet, as Homer was for Greek culture.
Continuous prose, though often regarded, with Moliere's Jourdain, as the language of ordinary speech, is a late and far from "natural" stylistic development, and is much less direct and primitive than verse, which invariably precedes it in the history of literature. The language of ordinary speech, as I have tried to show elsewhere, has a loose associative rhythm quite different from actual prose. Language I 9 Plato's interest in mathematics is consistent with his use of language, for there are obvious metonymic features in mathematics.
6 The Order of Words I think we can see in most Greek literature before Plato, more especially in Homer, in the pre-Biblical cultures of the Near East, and in much of the Old Testament itself, a conception of language that is poetic and "hieroglyphic," not in the sense of sign-writing, but in the sense of using words as particular kinds of signs. In this period there is relatively little emphasis on a clear separation of subject and object: the emphasis falls rather on the feeling that subject and object are linked by a common power or energy.
The Great Code: The Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye