Daily Archives: September 19, 2009

Barry Callaghan’s Memoir of Norrie and Morley (and a little Alice Munro too)


Lest this blog get too serious, here’s a little episode from Barry Callaghan, Barrelhouse Kings (Toronto: MacArthur and Co., 1998), pp. 551–7. [The ellipses are Callaghan’s.] A briefer account of the Frye/Gale episode is recorded in an interview with Callaghan by Roger B. Mason in Books in Canada 22, no. 5 (July 1993).

The supper to launch A Wild Old Man on the Road –– a story about two writers, a meditation on the nature of celebrity, youth and age, fathers and sons, betrayal and love— was given at George Guernon’s Le Bistingo by General Publishing, his new house headed by my old friend and first publisher, Nelson Doucet. There were some seventy people there . . . the one writer in the country that Morley [Barry’s father] truly admired and felt affection for — Alice Munro — and the premier, David Peterson, and Zachary flew in from Saratoga, and Peter Gzowski and Greg Gatenby, Robert Fulford and Northrop Frye all had a chair. In charge of chairs, I had mischievously put the actress Gale Garnett beside Frye on a banquette. The great scholar, whose public manner was often “shy reluctance” (masking an enthusiasm for the scatological), eyed her ample cleavage. People kept interrupting with “Good evening, Doctor Frye” and “Very pleased, Doctor Frye,” until Gale—a forthright literate woman of gumption, beauty and wit, a trouper in the finest sense (schooled as a girl by John Huston, a star in Hair, a companion to Pierre Trudeau, a journalist for The Village Voice, novelist and a mature actress in fine movies, including Mr. and Mrs. Bridge), said, “Doesn’t anyone ever talk to you like a human being?”

“Not often,” Frye said.

“I’ve a cure for that,” she said, taking two red sponge balls out of her purse. She squeezed one, it opened, and she clamped it on his nose. She damped the other on her own nose and the two sat side-by-side beaming, clowns on a banquette.

A film producer from Amsterdam cried, “Norrie, how are you?” Frye stood up and clasped his hands, saying, “Fine, fine.” Gale handed out a half-dozen clown’s noses and soon Greg Gatenby and Francesca Valente, director of the Istituto Italiano, and Premier Peterson were posing with Frye for snapshots, all clowning, happily wearing red noses.

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Study Guide: Some Notes and Questions on The Educated Imagination


With the school year beginning, a lot of students out there will be encountering Frye for the first time, and The Educated Imagination is likely to be their first encounter.  Here, therefore, is a study guide and some questions for them to consider as they read.

The spatial or schematic form of chapter 1:

Levels of Mind
1.  (Theoria or dianoia) Speculative or contemplative: one’s mind is set over against nature.  Separating, splitting, or analytic tendency: me vs. not me; intellect vs. emotions; art vs. science.
2.  (Praxis)  Social participation: motivated by desire (one wants a better world); intellect and emotions now united; necessity (work what one has to do); adapting to environment; transforming nature.
3.  (Poesis)  Vision and imagination: also motivated by desire but here it’s a desire to bring a social human form into existence, i.e., civilization; freedom.

Corresponding Levels of Language
1.  Language of consciousness or awareness; the language of nouns and adjectives.  Language of thinking.
2.  Language of practical sense and skills (work, technology); language of teachers, preachers, advertisers, lawyers, scientists, journalists, etc.); language of necessity.  Language of action.
3.  Language that unites consciousness (level 1) with practical skill (level 2); language of imagination; literary language; language of freedom. Language of construction.

1.  Awareness that separates one from the rest of the world
2.  Practical attitude of creating a human way of life in the world.
3.  Imaginative attitude or vision of world as imagined or desired.

Chapter 1, “The Motive for Metaphor” (phrase from title of a Wallace Stevens poem)

1.  What are the two points—one simple and one complex—Frye makes in connection with the relevance of literature for today (pp. 16ff.)?
2.  What is the motive for metaphor?
3.  What does Frye mean by “a world completely absorbed and possessed by the human mind”?
4.  What does Frye mean my transforming nature into “something with a human shape”?   What does he mean by “the human form of nature,” which he seems to say is the same thing as “the form of human nature.”

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