12 March 1974: Northrop Frye Looks to the Twenty-First Century


I have been browsing in a recently acquired copy of Bob Denham’s new collection, Northrop Frye: Selected Letters, 1934-1991.  These build up a picture of Frye largely in the role of  professional academic.  It is a wonderful book, and the range of correspondents and subjects is remarkable.  For example, Frye writes to Martin Amis in 1971 about the latter’s interest in studying at the University of Toronto, and to Greg Gatenby in 1987 with some very amusing memories of meeting Wallace Stevens at Columbia University in 1948 .  In 1974, Frye looks to the future while commenting to Bob Denham on his Northrop Frye: An Enumerative Bibliography, a copy of which Frye has just received:

The bibliography is a most impressive achievement: your introduction in particular, which I had not seen before, seems to me an excellent and very judicious one.  Reading through Section 3, I am astonished at the number of people who seem to have rushed into print with the notion that my view of literature is preposterous.  Something tells me that the twenty-first century will have a good deal of difficulty in understanding what all the fuss was about.

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1 thought on “12 March 1974: Northrop Frye Looks to the Twenty-First Century

  1. Peter StirFrye Yan

    Thanks for this intro to the letters Russell. The 21st century is still in the midst of all the critical fuss. The main cause is the publish-or-perish syndrome in academia, where many aspiring academics adopt the David and Goliath myth, seeing Frye as the great giant they must slay/stake their reputation on. There is no greater example than Harold Bloom whom I hope is in this collection. There are letters, thanks to Denham, showing how Frye thought his critical method of the Anxiety of Influence was worth pursuing. Bloom’s atrocious introduction to the new edition of Anatomy of Criticism shows his anxiety in full bloom.


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