Frye and Martin Amis


It’s really interesting to read in Russell’s earlier post that Martin Amis considered attending U of T in 1971 to study with Frye before publishing his first breakout novel, The Rachel Papers, in which Frye plays an integral part in the protagonist Charles Highway’s intellectual development.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve read the novel, but if I remember correctly, Highway must read Frye more or less under the covers, in secret: it is completely symptomatic of a time when Frye had somehow become anathema to the British idea of literary scholarship.  I know I’m a partisan, but I’d still say that in the long run, the British lost out in the bargain.  When the Franco-American poststructuralist tide was rising in the 1980s, the English school had very little to fight back with on literature’s behalf, and the lingering Leavisites certainly weren’t going to get the job done.

Frye also appears regularly in Amis’s critical writings, and is part and parcel with the contrarian badboy outlook that continues to carry him as both an author and a critic.  (One of his best observations is that a literary critic’s most essential attribute is a spine: something to tingle when tingling is the required response.)  Anyone interested in getting a sense of Frye’s influence on Amis should check out his excellent collection of articles and reviews, The War Against Cliche.

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