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This review is taken from PN Review 30, Volume 9 Number 4, March - April 1983.

ANATOMY OF SCRIPTURE Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (Routledge) £9.95

The Bible, now, is curving out of sight. Our whole relationship to it has been profoundly, irrevocably altered by the complex changes of our century; we see it at a distance, through a glass darkly. But if we can release ourselves from the frantic liberations of our time, we can still re-enter its inner spaces, and see that these offer a topography of our own condition which enlightenment must learn or founder, once more, in misery and blood. But our modern Sadducees, in the Anglican Church and elsewhere, reject that map, redrawing it for modern consumption: in the beginning was the Word, but now God knows New-speak. So the task of keeping the Bible alive has fallen, in the main, to teachers of literature in higher education. An odd dispensation, to be sure; the profession has its Christians, but many of its members profess other beliefs, or no beliefs at all: but of course it is pedagogy, more than Paraclete, that drives them to the Book. Our cultural amnesia in respect of the Bible causes aphasia: unscriptured students can't read. Northrop Frye acknowledges that The Great Code had its profane source in pedagogy, and says that this book is, like his others, really a teacher's manual. He is far too modest, of course.

His book takes its title from Blake's axiom: 'The Old and New Testaments are the Great Code of Art': that is, they are a central source, in Western culture, of structures of rhetoric and ...


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