Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Literal, the Archetypal, and the Allusive


In response to Trevor Losh-Johnson:

I am pretty much at a loss when it comes to Spenser, though I should be better versed, given that Hawthorne was steeped in Spenser (he named his daughter Una) and seems to have regularly ripped off parts of The Faerie Queene (“mediocre writers borrow, great writers steal”), such as the Malbecco episode that he purloined for his story “Egotism, or the Bosom Serpent.” Maybe someone else can offer more help in that area.

From what I can tell, however, the lion here (C.S. Lewis’s  lion Aslan, I guess, comes from Spenser)  seems to be an emblematic symbol, allegorical, because linked to a conceptual framework for its meaning, rather than archetypal, and the transvaluation is purely contextual, as you outline:  depending on whether it is associated with (British) regality, ferociousness, or savagery.

As to more general questions, here are some rough thoughts.

What you seem to be talking about is the centripetal connection between images and words that the reader makes as he reads and constructs the text: its internal structure. This is the literal level of meaning, as Frye defines it in Anatomy. The archetype, in contrast, involves the linking of a recurring image or, as Bob points out, a ritual story-pattern among works in literature as a whole, as a total centripetal organization of words.

In my Hawthorne example, the archetype of the “bride-garden” brings within its orbit and organizes an entire series of details and images in The Scarlet Letter, at the centre of which stands this Edenic image of the rose-bush. Another good example is the organizing of almost every detail of Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” (no, it is not a Chuck Berry tune) around the womb-tomb white goddess archetype, which is powerfully encapsulated in the haunting closing image of the sea, or death:

“( . . . like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet
garments, bending aside,)
The sea whisper’d me.”

The recurring image should also be distinguished from allusion, the reference within a text to another text or texts, though allusion often links what may seem casual details to an organizing archetype. I emphasize to my students the importance of allusion and how, as Frye insists, in any writer of genius there are no idle or gratuitous, purely ornamental details.

I mentioned the Esau archetype. In Balzac’s Pere Goriot, the red hair that covers Vautrin’s body, which may seem at first blush simply a realistic detail, is in fact an allusion to a detail in the Genesis story, the fact that Esau’s body is covered with red hair; in fact Vautrin’s hair is described as a pelt (pelure in French), which alludes to another detail in the Genesis story: Esau is a hirsute hunter and so Jacob covers his own body with pelts to make his blind father Isaac mistake him for Esau and win his blessing. Elsewhere, Vautrin makes a number of allusions to Rousseau’s Social Contract. When he is finally captured,  he defiantly declares himself a disciple of Rousseau and an admirer of his great political treatise. This detail falls into the orbit of the same archetype: Vautrin is someone who breaks with the social contract and sides with Nature and the strength and cunning of the natural man, and declares war on society, all of which reinforces and blends into the Esau archetype.

Another challenge is to show how archetypal meaning works in much more contemporary mimetic fiction like Updike’s Rabbit saga, or Richard Ford’s similar type of epic about an individual who is simply “one of us,” or Richard Price’s great novels about street life, police enforcement, and drug crime in urban America, or some of the great HBO series, such as Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men. That these stories are so compelling suggests to me that there must be significant metaphorical and mythological structuring involved, however displaced. It would be of great interest, precisely because of their displacement and relative invisibility, to uncover the underlying elements of archetypal design that give such highly mimetic stories their power. It would also be worth exploring since it is these popular TV dramas that inevitably attract ideological criticism and are interpreted as critiques of ideology. If archetypal criticism is the foundation of literary criticism, it must be able to deal with imaginative works like these as effectively as it deals with more romantic and mythopoeic forms of literature.

Archetype in Spenser


Trevor Losh-Johnson,  in response to Bob Denham’s Frye on Archetype:

Thanks for such a helpful post! I am wondering if Frye addresses anywhere the difference between archetypes that refer to an exterior model (which seems to be his primary concern in this vein) and archetypes that become so by repetition within the bounds of the individual text. By the latter I mean either motifs that become loaded images through repetition, such as crystalline optical illusions in Nabokov, or exterior archetypes that assume different connotations through repetition. I may be confusing his literal and mythical symbolic categories, but the lamentable paper I am writing on Spenser has forced the question.

I am looking at Frye’s essay on imagery in the Faerie Queene, and it seems like a model of archetypal criticism. It is mostly dedicated to imagery as it fits with exterior models, analyzing, for one of many examples, the Venus/Adonis/Diana motifs in the context of the Virgin Mary and the Pietà. This has brilliant implications for Glorianna and the structure of the knights’ quests, but I can’t help but wish he had better outlined how such imagery of chastity and rebirth inveigles itself into other episodes of the poem.

In his notebooks, Frye does address the latter sorts of motifs, in one case noting how in Book I the lion imagery follows Una around [see the painting above, “Una and the Lion” by Briton Rivière (1840-1920)”], first as an actual lion and then as a series of similes describing both her assault by Sansloy and her rescue by the satyrs. In that case, the different connotations of regality, ferocity and savagery seem to to work their way through different inflections at each appearance. This appears to be a great example of archetypal transvaluation, but his emphasis in his essay proved to be towards archetypes that refer to the larger economies of literature. It would also be helpful to know if, such as when he claims that there is Adonis imagery in the first couple books that do not directly refer to the character in the later books, we can connect episodes that are not explicitly connected

More on Frye and Victoria College, Including the Question of Whether To Stay or Not


Responding to Russell Perkin:

In the Prologue to his 1949 diary, Frye writes, “I’m beginning to feel a bit restless—impatient with Victoria’s corniness, & wondering if it is really the best place in the world to work” (Diaries, 53) Then there are these entries:

The English department [at Michigan State] however lives in a squalor that reminded me of Victoria College. (Diaries, 193––26 April 1949)

Well, well.  On the way back Woodhouse told me Don Cameron Allen of Johns Hopkins had written him asking him if he thought anyone in Canada was capable of filling a full professorship there: 19th c. preferred, but failing that, history of criticism & general problems.  At the end of his letter he said “What about Frye?”  I said “please don’t slam that door.”  Salary $7000, leading (they don’t say how soon) to $8000. (Diaries, 231––16 January 1950)

At the moment, of course, I feel dreadfully bored because two things dangling in front of me all month like the apples of Tantalus haven’t moved any closer.  One is the Johns Hopkins offer, the other the English invitation [NF had been invited by Bonamy Dobrée to lecture in England].  I’ve more or less written off the former, & the latter is fading.  Then again, by not applying for the Nuffield I’ve stuck my neck out on the Guggenheim, & if I miss it I’ve really had it.  Oh, well, I suppose I should set all this down, as I have at least another month of it to go through.  More important is my recurring restlessness about Victoria, wondering if they’ll really adopt [Walter T.] Brown’s policy of running it at a third-rate level.  If so, I must make up my mind to leave, & that won’t be easy.  As I’ve said, I don’t think much of Joe as the next head, but he couldn’t be much worse than Robins has been lately.  Well, that’s enough ego-squalling for the present.  Light—I mean Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom.  I don’t care about choosing my path, but I’d like to get a glimpse of it occasionally. (Diaries, 242––27 January 1950)

After the usual buggering I went into lunch with the males in the English department, Cecil Bald, & Bennett.  I had mildly suggested moving the party to Chez Paris [Paree], in view of the fact that Bald has a special interest in Coleridge & it was silly to leave Kay Coburn out.  Robins said he couldn’t make the switch because Bennett didn’t want to take the party “off the campus.” [NF had suggested that the group have lunch “off the campus” so that Kathleen Coburn could be included in the party.  Women were excluded from eating in the Senior Common Room until 1968]  That’s the kind of thing that makes me restless about staying at Victoria.  (Diaries, 248–9––3 February 1950)

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Frye on Archetype


Responding to Clayton Chrusch:

Here’s Frye’s extended definition of “Archetype” from the Harper Handbook to Literature:

Archetype.  A term that has come down from Neo-Platonic times, and has usually meant a standard, pattern, or model.  It has been sporadically employed in this sense in literary criticism down to at least the eighteenth century.  An archetype differs from a prototype (even though the two words have often been used interchangeably) in that prototype refers primarily to a genetic and temporal pattern of relationship.  In modern literary criticism archetype means a recurring or repeating unit, normally an image, which indicates that a poet is following a certain convention or working in a certain GENRE.  For example, the PASTORAL ELEGY is a convention, descending from ritual laments over dying gods, and hence when Milton contributes Lycidas to a volume of memorial poems to an acquaintance who was drowned in the Irish Sea, the poem is written as a pastoral elegy, and consequently employs a number of conventional images that had been used earlier by Theocritus, Virgil, and many RENAISSANCE poets.  The conventions include imagery of the solar and seasonal cycles, in which autumn frost, the image of premature death, and sunset in the western ocean are prominent; the idea that the subject of the elegy was a shepherd with a recognized pastoral name and an intimate friend of the poet; a satirical passage on the state of the church, with implied puns on pastor and flock (naturally a post-Virgilian feature); and death and rebirth imagery attached to the cycle of water, symbolized by the legend of Alpheus, the river and river god that went underground in Greece and surfaced again in Sicily in order to join the fountain and fountain nymph Arethusa.

One of the conventional images employed in the pastoral elegy is that of the red or purple flower that is said to have obtained its colour from the shed blood of the dying god.  Lycidas contains a reference to “that sanguine flower inscrib’d with woe” [l.  106], the hyacinth, thought to have obtained red markings resembling the Greek word ai (“alas”), when Hyacinthus was accidentally killed by Apollo.  Milton could of course just as easily have left out this line: the fact that he included it emphasizes the conventionalizing element in the poem, but criticism that takes account of archetypes is not mere “spotting” of such an image.  The critical question concerns the context: what does such an image mean by being where it is? The convention of pastoral elegy continues past Milton to Shelley [Adonais], Arnold [The Scholar Gypsy], and Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in Dooryard Bloom’d.  Here again are many of the conventional pastoral images, including the purple lilacs: this fact is all the more interesting in that Whitman regarded himself as an antiarchetypal poet, interested in new themes as more appropriate to a new world.  In any case the gathering or clustering of pastoral archetypes in his poem indicates to the critic the context within literature that the poem belongs to.

The archetype, as a critical term, has no Platonic associations with a form or idea that embodies itself imperfectly in actual poems: it owes its importance to the fact that in literature everything is new and unique from one point of view, and to the reappearance of what has always been there, from another.  The former aspect compels the reader to focus on the distinctive context of each particular poem; the latter indicates that it is recognizable as literature.  In other genres there are other types of archetypes: a certain type of character, for example, may run through all drama, like the braggart soldier, who with variations has been a comic figure since Aristophanes’ Acharnians, the first extant comedy.  The appearance of a braggart soldier in a comedy by Shakespeare or Molière or O’Casey is quite different each time, but the archetypal basis of the character is as essential as a skeleton is to the performing actor.  Thus the archetype is a manifestation of the extraordinary allusiveness of literature: the fact, for example, that all wars in literature gain poetic resonance by being associated with the Trojan War.

In JUNGIAN CRITICISM the term archetype is used mainly to describe certain characters and images that appear in the dreams of patients but have their counterparts in literature, in the symbolism of alchemy, in various religious myths.  The difference between psychological and literary treatments of archetypes is that in psychology their central context is a private dream.  Hence they tell us nothing except that they appear, once we leave the psychological field of dream interpretation.  The dream is not primarily a structure of communication: its meaning is normally unknown to the dreamer.  The literary archetype, on the other hand, is first of all a unit of communication: primitive literature, for example, is highly conventionalized, featuring formulaic units and other indications of an effort to communicate with the least possible obstruction.  In more complex literature the archetype tells the critic primarily that this kind of thing has often been done before, if never quite in this way.

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Re: Five Questions about Archetype


Responding to Clayton Chrusch:

Thanks for the clarification and questions, Clayton. These questions deserve thoughtful and detailed answers, but I’ll just respond now off the cuff. I will try to come up with something more detailed in the next several days, but just in case you get cornered again at lunch by a hostile anti-archetypalist:

1. What did Frye actually mean by the word?

An archetype is a recurring image that links one literary work with another. The doubled heroine is a good example, popularized by Walter Scott, and omnipresent in the 19th century.

2. What are some examples other than hero and whore?

The Esau archetype, for example, which is also prevalent in the romantic period and 19th century: Vautrin in Balzac, Ishmael in Moby-Dick,  Heathcliff, and Huckleberry Finn, etc. More modern forms would be the detective archetype, as first fully crystalized in Poe, descended from the eiron or tricky servant figure or gracioso of comedy. As literature is created from literature, so archetypes are created from previous archetypes.

3. Aren’t archetypes psychological entities described by Jung?

Frye’s use is very different from Jung because archetypes are based on conventions of story-telling, not on something like the collective unconscious: more like a cultural collective consciousness picked up from our experience of literature, and unconscious only in the sense that our familiarity with archetypes is often unconscious the same way our use of language is; it involves a complex learned skill, which becomes habitual and inferentially compressed and stored in something like a zip file in our brains. There may be innate elements in archetype, a part of our brain that responds to archetypal thinking just as part our brain responds to other skills, but of course they need  to be activated and those parts of our brain presumably can atrophy without using the skill (I am in deep water here as I know next to nothing about neuroscience).

4. How can you say archetypes are universal when they are based on northern hemisphere climate imagery? Aren’t Frye’s archetypes Eurocentric?

Some archetypes are probably more universal than others: the ones that pertain directly to food, sex, freedom, and property. No archetype exists in pure form so there are always ideological elements specific to particular social histories. And some seem very specific to a given culture, such as the doubled heroine (light haired/dark haired heroine convention). However, even the latter case partakes of a doubling element that may be more universal: man torn between two women representing the social and the the dreaming aspect of human experience; or woman torn between  two men: such as Wuthering Heights; Catherine between Linton and Heathcliff. The more universal an archetype the more it pertains to the anagogic level, the level of primary concerns. One culture may be agricultural, another food-gathering, so the archetype will reveal the particular traces of the culture, but the food and drink issue, for example, is universal and the archetypal meaning will tend to overlap greatly, I would think, from one culture to another.

And of course archetypes are created that are unique to a highly advanced technological culture like ours — but every culture has arts and sciences, the primary concern of what Frye calls property, and so there would be overlap here as well: the concern with fire, with wealth, with money or treasure, with particular kinds of technical or technological knowledge–like that belonging to the smith or forger of metals.

5. How can transcendent entities have any explanatory power?

Archetypes are not transcendent in the sense you mean, but very human entities, linked to intensely experienced primary human concerns, and in this sense not transcendent, though they evolve and expand in spiritual directions: that is, they did not descend from the  heavens in a space-ship, or as ideal Platonic forms handed down by a Nobodaddy sky god; they derive from the most intense forms of human experience, social and individual, and when the concerns involved are the most essential or primary, such as food and sex, the more universal is the archetype.

Clayton Chrusch: Five Questions about Archetype


Responding to Joe Adamson:

I’m not anti-archetypist. I’d actually like to see more of this kind of spirited defence of the the term and the concept.

The reason I suggested Frye’s word choice was a disaster and not just a misfortune was that I think archetypes are very important, and that they are so easily dismissed actually is a disaster.

I was having lunch last week with a good friend on the other side of the critical divide (I said imagination was the matrix of human meaning and she said it was ideology) and when the conversation came to archetypes, what I really needed at that moment was not a more profound appreciation of archetypes but short and simple responses to all the common criticisms:

1. What did Frye actually mean by the word?

2. What are some examples other than hero and whore?

3. Aren’t archetypes psychological entities described by Jung?

4. How can you say archetypes are universal when they are based on northern hemisphere climate imagery? Aren’t Frye’s archetypes Eurocentric?

5. How can transcendent entities have any explanatory power?

I muddled through but was disappointed by inability to offer good answers to these questions.

What would you, Joe, or anyone else have answered?

Summary of Chapter Four of Fearful Symmetry: A Literalist of the Imagination


Here is Clayton Chrusch’s excellent summary of Chapter Four of Fearful Symmetry:

A Poet, a Painter, a Musician, an Architect: the Man Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian.

1. Blake’s view of art: “proud and demonic”

In this chapter, Frye explains Blake’s views about art in general and specifically about visual art.

Blake was a practicing artist which distinguishes him from other thinkers who otherwise had similar views. His views about art are highly developed, central to his thought, and distinguish him as a thinker. For Blake, art stabilizes our experience by removing it from the world of time and space where everything is necessarily blurred. It does not seek to escape from reality but to perceive it clearly and recreate it as a permanent and living form.

Art is superior to abstract thought because it addresses the whole person, not just the conceptual intellect, and demands a total response, including a physical response. A generalization never has the vividness of an example or an illustration. Christ, in this sense, was an artist. Frye writes,

Christ brought no new doctrines: he brought new stories. He did not save souls; he saved bodies, healing the blind and deaf that they might hear his parables and see his imagery. He stands outside the history of general thought; he stands in the center of individual wisdom.

By wisdom, Frye means, “the application of the imaginative vision taught us by art.”

Some people have knowledge without wisdom, which means they possess an unorganized collection of information. Wisdom takes knowledge, abstract or otherwise, organizes it according to a grand pattern, and fits it into a universal imaginative vision. We cannot be satisfied by acquiring knowledge until we have a universal vision that it all fits in.

Here Frye turns to the relationship between art and religion. He recognizes that art cannot give the objective support to religion that dogma can be, but he prefers it that way. Frye claims this kind of objective support leads to a perpetual spiritual infancy and the worship of nature. It is okay to rely on dogma in our most difficult moments, but otherwise dogma must itself be treated as an art form, infinitely suggestive but also flawed and provisional. Frye writes,

The state of Eden [the free and exuberant creativity of an artist] to [dogmatic religions] is proud and demonic, a state in which one forgets God. But one forgets God in that state only in the sense in which one forgets one’s health by being healthy: one is merely released from the tyranny of “memory.”

And so Blake is clear that one cannot be a true Christian without being an artist.

2. Art builds up a permanent structure above time.

Culture or civilization is the totality of art, and art is every worthwhile task done well. Though culture supports society, society, being fallen, constantly resists and attacks culture. Art is ornament, it requires and manifests a freedom above the restrictions of necessity, but the fallen world attempts to eliminate all ornament and to bind people in the chains of necessity. People can only achieve happiness by being artists, that is, by living a free and creative life. Compulsion cannot result in order because it develops out of anarchy which itself develops out of Selfhood or self-absorption.

So divinity is the origin of inspiration; art arises from inspiration; culture and civilization are built up by art; and culture, being the totality of eternal imaginative acts, builds up a permanent structure above time called Golgonooza in Blake’s mythology.

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Follow the Damn Archetype


In response to Bob Denham’s post on how Frye thinks:

This is terrific, Bob. Well beyond what I could have hoped for. Here are some improvised thoughts in response:

I was thinking in terms of practical criticism, in response to Michael Sinding’s question: how does an archetype in a given work, like an Ariadne’s thread, lead us into and all the way through a detailed critical reading of a text? At the time I was working on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: that is to say, I was teaching The Scarlet Letter–we’re now onto Melville, another overtly archetypal writer–and I was trying to use Hawthorne’s novel in my American literature class as an example of how archetypes guide our reading, indeed are of primary and central importance to the signifying power of the work.

In that novel (romance Frye would say), the opening chapter, which is simply a description of the prison door, hands the reader the keys to the two main blocks of apocalyptic and demonic archetypal imagery analogically organizing the meaning of the story. The central archetype of the novel, and of Hawthorne’s work in general, is the Eros or bride=garden archetype: it opens with the prison (and in the next chapter we get the associated image of the scaffold) and the rose-bush which is identified metaphorically with Nature (of the natura naturans variety) and sexuality, and is identified with Anne Hutchinson, and by association with Hester and with Pearl, Hester’s daughter, the latter grouping set in opposition to a patriarchal and morally repressive society that punishes sexual freedom and freedom of thought. Thus a deeply social and feminist reading of the novel is fully enabled by the archetypal reading, which inevitably leads to it, in fact, as a level of meaning sublated in the archetype. All of this and more, which I have only encapsulated here, is what the story unfolds when it is unpacked in detail just at the level of a structure of imagery, at the centre of which is, not the morally ambiguous  image of the scarlet letter, but the image of the rose-bush.

The scarlet letter is a related image: the rose-bush is associated with a state of prelapsarian Nature and sexual love; the scarlet letter with the moral repression of sexuality after the fall and with the situation of woman under patriarchy as a scapegoat that carries the burden of shame and guilt for a repressed and projected sexuality. In this situation, the archetype reveals a further dimension, and the figure of Hester Prynne is a perfect example: “a dimension, ” as Frye puts in his discussion of the figure of Ruth in Words with Power “in which woman expands into a kind of proletariat, enduring, continuous, exploited humanity, awaiting emancipation in a hostile world: in short, an Israel eventually to be delivered from Egypt. ” Frye points out that “[t]he body-garden metaphor continues to be appropriate here, for nature is also exploited, fruitful, and patient.”

The critical process of such an unfolding through the archetype is dialectical, as you have shown in your post: but backwards or in reverse, since it begins with an unfolding of the archetype in which the other levels of meaning in the story are already sublated or aufhebened, if I may use such a term. That is what I meant by “follow the archetype.” Spotting it, of course, is the first step, but I am not talking at all about just “archetype spotting,” of which Frygians were, and I guess still are, accused of (and of which we had a rather hysterical outburst ourselves a while back on the blog).

I meant:  follow the archetype, follow the damn thing: it will give you everything you need. Everything in the tale, even the most realistic details, are molded by the archetypal level of meaning. And the anagogic, which is where Frye’s dialectic ultimately takes us, and which you have unfolded above, is also implied in Hawthorne’s novel as what transcends or lies beyond the archetype in the story, the meta-archetypal, meta-literary level.

Archetypes are, semiotically speaking, recurring or inter-textual images “hyper-linked,” as it were, to a complex set of clustered associations. They are, I guess, what Michael Sinding would call particular types of imaginative or mythological frames that organize the way the reader makes connections and constructs the meaning of the text. The Great Doodle, then, would be the frame of frames.

I understand Clayton Chrusch’s unease with the term archetype. There are good reasons for it. But I prefer to embrace the term and reclaim its meaning: its usefulness, it seems to me, lies in the way it covers both metaphor and myth under one term, both story-shapes and structures of imagery, as outlined in essay three of the Anatomy.

“A First-Class Scholar in a Second-Class Institution”


Like Russell, I am reading Bob Denham’s selection of Frye’s correspondence.  This observation to Edith Sitwell in April 1948 caught my attention:

Once a critic learns his job, criticism ought to come very easily, for if he is writing about a greater man than himself (the normal procedure), he has that man’s power available  and ready to be tapped, if he will only realize that it is greater, and puncture a hole in the dam of his own ego.  The arrogance and self-sufficiency I find in so much contemporary criticism, especially in America, bewilders me, as it seems to make things needlessly difficult.

The “arrogance and self-sufficiency” of scholars seems to be a perennial problem.

As Russell points out, Frye dedicated himself to Victoria College, even though in the diaries (which end in 1955) he complains about how stifling the institution could be and occasionally wonders if he shouldn’t take up one of the better offers coming his way.  On January 19, 1950, he observes, “I am worried about my future as a first-class scholar in a second-class institution.”

“My Desire to Remain at Victoria College”: Frye and the History of Literary Studies (I)


I have recently been reading Northrop Frye: Selected Letters, 1934-1991 (ed. Robert Denham, published by McFarland).  They give one a vivid insight into the history of literary studies through the twentieth century, and of Frye’s developing role within that history.  One thing that stood out for me in the selection of letters from the earlier years was the extent to which Frye’s career was bound up with his identification with Victoria College, and with various other Canadian institutions.  This is of course something that anyone at all familiar with Frye is aware of; what is so compelling about these letters is the glimpses they give us of the thoughts and feelings of Northrop Frye, in his late thirties, a promising young scholar who has just published his first book and finds his promise transformed into achievement and recognition. 

People often comment today about how star scholars are lured from campus to campus with offers of increased pay and reduced teaching duty, but on the evidence of the Frye letters, things were not so different in the 1940s.  In February of 1948, Frye writes to Walter Brown, the president of Victoria College, asking for promotion to the rank of Professor.  He notes “the College has treated me very well, and my refusal of the Wisconsin offer is pretty tangible evidence that I realize that fact.  I do have to consider the question of how far I can afford to keep on refusing offers for promotion and greatly increased salary.  The Wisconsin one is the fourth full professorship I have been offered in the past eighteen months: I have no reason to suppose that such offers will cease coming, and I should be greatly fortified in my desire to refuse them by possessing the rank which they offer.”  He concludes the letter by telling Brown that “my conviction of your personal concern for my welfare has always been an essential factor in my desire to remain at Victoria College.” 

A few years later (November, 1951), Frye writes to Robert Heilman, chair of the department of English at the University of Washington, who had been exploring Frye’s willingness to consider a career move, “I look around at my desk and see it piled high with Royal Commission reports on Canadian culture, Canadian magazines and books, letters about jobs in Canada, Royal Society and Canadian Humanities Research bulletins, and I realize how deeply intertwined I am with this community.  I think I should be unlikely to move except to a job that could absorb my teaching and writing interests completely – that’s the nearest I can get to indicating a state of mind at present.” 

Those of us who are academics can no doubt draw many conclusions from this exemplary narrative.