Northrope Frye's Mythoi and Narrative Genres from Tyson

last revised 2/20/09


Frye posited a theory of genres that try to be the end all be all structure of Western literature leading hopefully toward a central, underlying, master plot that has a lot to do with Jungian Archetypes (heroic or otherwise).  You can certainly compare his potential for one key, circular narrative structure to Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the hero's journey.

Frye says that the traditional quest has four structural components: conflict (romance), catastrophe (tragedy), disorder/confusion (satire/irony), and triumph (comedy).

irony is real world seen through tragic lens where protagonists
are defeated by puzzling circumstances (more mimesis?)

satire is the real world seen through the comic lens (less mimesis)?
heroes are inferior/antiheros

<------  Satire  -  Irony  ------>

Mythos of Winter

movement from real to ideal world, from experience to innocence;
(less mimesis?);
hero isn't superior

Mythos of Spring
when the hero is equal, R. Scholes calls that realism
Mythos of Autumn

movement from the ideal to the real world, from innocence to experience; the hero falls from a romantic height and is defeated;
(more mimesis?);
hero superior to others but not the environment

Mythos of Summer


the ideal world; adventure, successful quests;
(less mimesis?);
heroes are superior