A highly important marker of Frye’s career, The Critical Path openly addresses topics that he had previously been reluctant to discuss as fully, including the importance of literature to society, the responsibilities of critics, and the deeper rationales for studying literature.
The book showcases the history of British literary criticism dating back to the Classical and Renaissance Periods, all the way up through to the Victorian Age. It covers figures as diverse as Philip Sydney, John Dryden, William Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold, and even Henry James.
How many people know that Aristotle thought the best tragedies were those which ended happily? Or that the first mention of the motor car in literature may have been in 1791 in Boswell’s Life of Johnson? Or that it was not unknown in the nineteenth century for book reviews to be 30,000 words long! These are just a few of the fascinating facts to be found in this absorbing history of literary criticism.
This introductory volume provides an overview of the history of literature as a cultural concept, and reflects on the contemporary nature, place, and function of what the literary might mean for us today.