Northrop Frye, working in the field of literature, defined an archetype as a symbol, usually an image, which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as an element of one’s literary experience as a whole. Another way of thinking about archetypes is to imagine that in some way it is possible to plot the important aspects of a story onto a graph. If enough points from several stories were plotted a pattern would start to appear. If one then drew a line that approximated the pattern that emerged in the points, that best fit line would be an archetype. No story perfectly matches the archetype, and some stories will diverge from the archetype more than others. Still, recognizing that a pattern exists can be a powerful tool in understanding and comparing literature.
Read Northrop Frye's The Anatomy of Criticism.
Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: "Follow your bliss."
What trials unite not only Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins but many of literature's most interesting heroes? And what do ordinary people have in common with these literary heroes? Matthew Winkler takes us step-by-step through the crucial events that make or break a hero.
How can an anti-hero teach us about the heroic--and sometimes, the unheroic--characteristics that shape a story’s protagonist? From jealousy to self-doubt, Tim Adams challenges us to consider how anti-heroes reflect the very mortal weaknesses that can be found within all of us.