[Milton-L] Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Northrop Frye

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Tue Jul 17 13:05:13 EDT 2012

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Northrop Frye


The Future of Northrop Frye: Centennial Perspectives

University of Toronto Quarterly - 81:1, Winter 2012



Guest Editors: Germaine Warkentin and Linda Hutcheon


This special issue of the UTQ celebrates the centennial of the birth of
Northrop Frye in 1912. It was here that the young Frye published his first
academic article in 1942. Projecting forward, not back, these essays look to
the future of his ideas in the critical climate of the twenty-first century.
The publication of Frye's Collected Works has brought about a serious
reconsideration of his criticism and what it might have to say to the
future-and not just that of literary studies. The essays explore the Frye
canon afresh to reflect on what a critic of today finds challenging,
provocative, and productive in the rich record of his criticism.


This special issue contains supplemental material including the watercolour
portrait of Northrop Frye, painted by Canadian artist Jeffrey Sprang, a
graduate of Victoria College and one of Frye's former students. The portrait
depicts Frye at the blackboard in front of his lesson The Conspectus of


This issue is available in print and online at

UTQ Online - http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/j4g43540w007/

UTQ Mobile - http://digital.utpjournals.com/i/55747

Project MUSE -



Introduction: A 'Permanent Appointment'? 

Germaine Warkentin and Linda Hutcheon:



'Blazing with Artifice': Light from the Northrop Frye Notebooks 

Michael Dolzani

The notion that Frye's criticism has no historical dimension is commonest
among those who know only Anatomy of Criticism. Frye is indeed a structural
thinker, yet he is equally a theorist of historical process, and these twin
sides of his imagination are Blakean contraries, without which is no
progression. The historical side of Frye is minimized in Anatomy, but
emerges from a huge mass of unpublished work now edited as part of the
Collected Works of Northrop Frye project. This previously unpublished
material is capable of revolutionizing our view of Frye, who becomes a more
interesting, possibly a more relevant, thinker once we see that his
structural side is in creative tension with an equally important opposite.
Of the many new paths in Frye studies opened up by access to the notebooks,
student essays, diaries, letters, etc., the exploration of Frye's historical
side seems most promising.



Northrop Frye and Theories of Human Nature 

Merlin Donald


Northrop Frye sought out the laws governing the rise and fall of cultural
ideas, bringing the attitude of a system-builder to his research. As he
pointed out on many occasions, psychologists and anthropologists, such as
Jung and Frazer, were addressing some of the same questions, albeit with a
different set of tools. However, their ultimate goal - gaining a wider view
of how cultures and creative minds intermeshed - was the same as his. I was
greatly moved by Frye's grand vision, which influenced my choice of the word
'mimesis' as a label for the ancient cognitive adaptation that defined the
underlying logic of the human mind. Mimesis established the cognitive
foundation upon which the evolution of language and symbolic thought became
possible. The analogue logic of mimetic representation is still the
underlying currency of symbolic exchange, as it seamlessly connects gesture
and ritual with everyday speech, narrative, and text.



Northrop Frye and the Book as Metaphor and Material Artifact 

Travis Decook


Few strains of literary study seem further from Northrop Frye's critical
project than the history of the book. In light of this distance, this essay
is inspired by two primary objectives. The first is to cast light on Frye's
treatment of the book as a material artefact, a theme that has received
relatively little attention. The second is to draw attention to the
important role of the material book as metaphor in Frye's writings, and
consider its implications for the practice of book history. Working against
prevailing stereotypes of both Frye's visionary humanism and book history,
this essay attempts to bridge the two by considering how books as physical
artefacts participate in the work of the imagination. I argue that Frye's
attentiveness to the socially symbolic power of the book, and his various
explorations of the metaphorical possibilities of this artefact, provide
powerful instances of how cultural meanings of media of inscription signify
alongside their verbal contents.



Paradox and Provocation in the Writing and Teaching of Northrop Frye 

Ian Balfour


This article focuses on the place of paradox in Northrop Frye's writing and
teaching, principally by way of several key examples. Paradox tends to
counter, at least superficially, popular opinion and common sense, though in
the interest of common enlightenment. The figure of paradox is linked by
Frye to metaphor as a kind of logical contradiction that can nonetheless be
a vehicle of truth, foremost in literature and religion. Such paradoxes are
both a topic for Frye's elucidations of literary and scriptural texts but
also a mode enlisted in the very performance of Frye's critical writing and



Elephants Are Not Giraffes: A Conversation with Margaret Atwood, More or
Less about Northrop Frye 

Margaret Atwood and Nick Mount


In the late 1950s, Margaret Atwood became a student of Northrop Frye at
Victoria College in the University of Toronto. Although it's doubtful that
anyone noticed at the time, Atwood's decision to attend Vic (and Frye's
decision to stay there) put what would become two of Canada's most
well-known public intellectuals at the geographic and historic start of the
CanLit Boom of the 1960s, the largest single increase in literary publishing
in Canadian history. This conversation explores Atwood's thoughts on her
teacher and Canada's thinker: the ideas they shared (and didn't share), his
influence on herself and others, his legacy today.



The Chancellor's Gold Medal

David Blostein


Nine Poets

A.F. Moritz, John Reibetanz, Lorna Crozier, Jan Zwicky, Serge Patrice
Thibodeau, George Elliott Clark, Dennis Lee, Robert Bringhurst, Ward



Northrop Frye Votes for Wine 

David Blostein


Intoxicated with Words: The Colours of Rhetoric

Northrop Frye

Edited by Robert D. Denham 



Remedial Metaphor: Pedagogical Frye 

Jean Wilson


In his ongoing inquiry into the social value of literary study, Frye not
only critiques perceptions of the humanities as ornamental rather than
functional, but also complicates common notions of relevance and
practicality. He resists, moreover, conventional distinctions between the
arts and the sciences, and recognizes that a wide range of disciplines, from
'philology' to 'physics,' constitute the liberal arts. As he articulates it,
what unites the scientist and the humanist is social, a matter of 'the
practical intelligence,' which derives its authority from an informing
vision of society. Frye's writings suggest that such capacity can be
developed through pedagogical approaches that enable freedom from ready-made
language and thought and access to 'the real world of human constructive
power.' His literary and educational theory offers a perspective from which
we might confront the challenges both of teaching literature in the
twenty-first century and of fashioning forward-thinking liberal arts
programs and interdisciplinary projects.



Northrop Frye's Musical Dimensions 

Yves Saint-Cyr


Northrop Frye felt that literary critics should envy music critics because
the latter deal more in structures and relationships, which is what literary
critics like Frye would like to do, rather than getting bogged down in style
and content. To appreciate fully the inseparability of literature and music
in Frye's life, one must start at the beginning - with the experiences that
shaped his taste in and understanding of music, both as a listener and as a
musician himself. The evolution of Frye's relationship with music, from his
early childhood to his later career, describes an arc that passes through
all of his major fields of study: from literature to religion, to visual
arts and culture, to pedagogy and educational psychology.



Cosmopolitan and National Culture in Northrop Frye 

Adam Carter


The essay explores a double trajectory in Frye's writings between a
universalist, cosmopolitan, understanding of culture that transcends
locality, and an understanding of culture that traces its connections to the
specificities of geography and history and, to some extent, embraces the
idea of national and regional cultures. I argue that the two concepts in
Frye are joined by the common idea of culture as the achievement of a realm
of freedom from nature. I defend this oscillating movement in Frye's thought
by viewing it as a suggestively open-ended dialectic, one which does not
seek to impose a static unity or synthesis upon its opposing terms. The
dialectic between cosmos and locus allows Frye's thought to grapple
productively with what Pheng Cheah has called 'the aporias of given culture'
- the various material, natural, and social givens that constitute culture
even as they trouble its promised freedom for humanity.



Visiting Theory: The Northrop Frye Visiting Professorship at the University
of Toronto 

Jonathan Allan


One of the most enduring testaments to the legacy of Northrop Frye at the
University of Toronto is the program in Comparative Literature and more
particularly its commitment to Literary Theory. This paper provides a
history of the Northrop Frye Visiting Professorship in Literary Theory,
which has allowed for some of the most important theorists of literature and
culture to hold the chair and introduce their ideas to members of the Centre
for Comparative Literature and the University as a whole.



The Social Vision of Frye's Criticism: The Scandal of Undiscriminating

Jonathan Arac


This essay explores Frye's highly debated views concerning the role of
criticism. Frye does not grant value-judgement any place within criticism,
rejects hierarchy, and states that negative criticism is futile. His works
Anatomy of Criticism and The Critical Path illuminate his faith in the
importance of positive literary theory, freedom from the shortcomings of
class-bound conceptions, the conversion of pejorative critical terms into
tools of analytical criticism, and 'undiscriminating catholicity' as
openness to all products of human imagination. Critics from Samuel Taylor
Coleridge to Walter Benjamin and Erich Auerbach are examined in their
relation to Frye's arguments. The article defends Frye's vision,
specifically his theorization of historical, ethical, and archetypal
criticism and the autonomy of literature, as well as his advocacy of an
escape from negative evaluation as a way for criticism to achieve new



Afterword: Of Greatness in Criticism 

Gordon Teskey




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