Daily Archives: January 23, 2010

Saturday Night Bach: Remembering Northrop Frye


Today we are commemorating the 19th anniversary of Frye’s death on January 23rd, 1991.  It is only fitting, therefore, that our regular Saturday night music video feature the work of the well-tempered critic’s favorite composer: Bach’s “Fugue in E Major”, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II.

Some Musings on Death, Culled from Here and There in Frye’s Notebooks


The creation is not in the past; the Last Judgement is not in the future; we must get a proper view of creation that isn’t a projected sexual or artefact myth: when we get it the Last Judgement conception will clear up, & when that clears up there shall be a way open for a conception of life without birth & death that isn’t either before birth or after death. (11f.29)

Death is a process, not a condition.  A stone is not dead: when did it die? (11f.66; see Great Code, 157)

It’s only in nature’s Heraclitean fire that time is irreversible.  Hopkins is impressionist, he likes “dappled” things, because that preserves the sense of identical particulars while coming to terms with the dissolution of all form.  But the resurrection isn’t just a comfort, or even what makes the particular adamant or immortal diamond: it’s something that stops the irreversibility of time.  What is immortal is not the life we are going to live after death, but the life we have lived.  The Resurrection must be retrospective. (11f.98)

Death is not the opposite of life; death is the opposite of birth.  The new birth that Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus is also a release from death.  Matthew & Luke have infancy narratives about a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes; Mark & John start with the symbol of the second birth through water & the spirit.  Coming out of the water with the redeemed from the dragon. (11f.144)

I come back to the feeling that one’s eternal existence is to be connected, not with where one is going after death, but with where one is at death.  (21.30)

The total similitude of death turns into the particular point of light that turns similitude into the universal identity.  That is what resurrection means now. (21.473)

Birth means death & consciousness means nothingness.  Between birth & death you can help produce other bodily lives: between consciousness & nothingness you can help produce creative activity.  Hence maybe the two poles of the Atman, Thou & That, can produce the new child-spirit who is also ourselves. (11e.7)

The business of life is to make a path for the incarnation: the business of death is to make a path for the resurrection. (11b.31)

My hunch is that grief of survivors, being so largely self-pity, distresses, perhaps even impedes, progress to a world that makes more sense.  I know that she [Helen] would forgive me my sins of indolence and selfishness in regard to her, and therefore God will.  I hope only that she knows now that I genuinely loved her very dearly, so far as human frailty permits.  God bless, protect, and keep her among his own.  I hope to see her again; but perhaps that is a weak hope.  Faith is the hypostasis of what is hoped for, the elenchos of the unseen. The one thing truly unseen, the world across death, may, according to my principle, be what enables us to see what is visible. (44.170)

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Frye and I, A Skinny Chinese Guy: On the 19th Anniversary of His Death Jan. 23, 2010


Among my family and friends, Northrop Frye, Canada’s greatest thinker, is the forbidden four letter F-word.

No small talk, gossip or conversation begins or ends without my mentioning his name. Back from the cottage? Frye says you re-enacted the Exodus story, escaping the city for your promised land. A fan of the Dougs, Flutie or Gilmour?  Frye calls them the classic David/Goliath, underdog story. The success of The Blair Witch Project? Frye sees it as the ironic unhappy reversal of the Hansel/Gretel story, complete with witch, forest, trail of stones, and house. The demise of hockey czar, Alan Eagleson? Frye says life imitates literature, as Eagleson exploited players just like Bluebeard exploited his wives, until one dared to bring him down. My Ukrainian wife, Leah’s surprise “that the man of my dreams turns out to be a skinny Chinese guy”. Frye says beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, as my competition, the”tall, dark, and handsome” archetype, is, thankfully, a mass media construction.

Outside of the boxed holdings at U of T’s Victoria College, Frye’s Alma Mater, one of the greatest collection of Frye paraphernalia — autographs, out-of-print books, tape recordings, photos, films, videos, lecture notes, juvenilia, short stories, caricatures, cartoons, reviews, t-shirts, interviews, newsletters — belongs to me, a skinny Canadian Born Chinese Guy (CBC for short; American Born Chinese are ABCs). Frye fanatics at Victoria College were dubbed Fryedolators or SmallFrye.  My best man, R. Bingham, christened me StirFrye.

So, why do I, and so many others, love Frye? The short and long answer: he takes us everywhere we want to go. And today, on the 19th anniversary of his death, after the tributes of more qualified and distinguished academics and writers, I have finally gathered enough nerve to pay tribute to the greatest 20th century literary critic, on behalf of his favourite audience — the non-specialist, reading lay public.

Like many readers, I first encountered Frye in ENG 101, in “The Motive for Metaphor,”  an essay I read out of patriotic duty, as he and Atwood were the only Canadians represented.  Reading Frye reminded me when I first read Revelations:  understanding little, but the incredible rush of striking metaphors — in an essay, no less — clustered in my brain like a drug-induced dream, a Frye high for awakened minds. That piece led me to the rest of The Educated Imagination and his works.

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In Memoriam


Frye in 1957, the year he published Anatomy of Criticism

Abbate, Gay.  “Frye’s Legacy: Scholarship, Loyalty, Humanity: Lighting a Path for Those Who Follow.”  University of Toronto Bulletin 4 February 1991: 6–7.

Abley, Mark.  “One of Canada’s Foremost Intellectuals Dead at 78.”  Whig‑Standard (24 January 1991): 3.

“Anatomising Literature”  The Guardian [London and Manchester] (25 January 1991): 39.

Atwood, Margaret.  Canadian Literature 129 (Summer 1991): 242–3.

________University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 4–5. Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 7.

________.  “The Great Communicator.”  Globe and Mail (24 January 1991): C1; rpt. in Journal of Canadian Poetry 6 (1991): 1–3.

________.  [Tribute].  Brick 40 (1991): 3.

Barber, David.  “The Formidable Scholar.”  The Whig-Standard Magazine (2 February 1991): 5. [Based on an interview with A.C. Hamilton.]

Barnes, Bart.  “Canadian Literary Critic Northrop Frye Dies at 78.”  Washington Post (24 January) 1991: D6.

Barilli, Renato.  “Frye, corsi e ricorsi della letteratura.”  Corriere della Sera (27 January 1991).

Bemrose, John.  “The Great Decoder: Northrop Frye Explored Culture’s Myths.”  Maclean’s 104 (4 February 1991): 51–2.

Bevington, David.  “Northrop Frye.”  American Philosophical Society, Proceedings 137, no.1 (March 1993): 125.

Bissell, Claude T.  The Independent [London] (26 January 1991): 12.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 10.

________.  “Northrop Frye Remembered.”  University of Toronto Magazine 18 (Spring 1991): 10.

________University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 8–9.

Brown, Gord.  “Norrie’s Wisdom Lives on in His Writings and Students.”  the newspaper [University of Toronto] (30 January 1991): 5.

Buckley, Jerome. “Northrop Frye Remembered by His Students.”  Journal of Canadian Poetry 6 (1991): 4.

C., G.  “Northrop Frye, dalla Bibbia alla civiltà della parola.”  La Stampa (25 January 1991).

C., R.  “É morto Frye l’innovatore.”  La Nazione (25 January 1991).

Chamberlain, Ted.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 9–10.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 11.

Christian Century 108 (20–27 March 1991):  321.

Cook, Eleanor.  “Northrop Frye as Colleague.”  Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 18.

Cooley, Dennis.  “The Educated Imaginer: Northrop Frye (1912–1991).  Border Crossings 2 (April 1991): 78.

Cosway, John.  “Changes.” The Sunday Sun [Toronto] (27 January 1991): 109.

“Critic Northrop Frye Dead at 78.”  Toronto Star (23 January 1991): 28.

Dahlin, Karina.  “ U of T Remembers Its Greatest Humanist.”  University of Toronto Bulletin (4 February 1991): 1–2.

Denham, Robert D.  “Northrop Frye: 1912–1991.”  Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 24 (Spring 1991): 158–9.

Downey, Donn.  “Literary Scholar Regarded as Great Cultural Figure.”  Globe and Mail (24 January 1991): D6.

Fabiny, Tibor.  “Érdekeltség és szabadság” [“Concern and Freedom”].  Nagyvilág (December 1991).

Fisher, Douglas.  “A Frydolator Remembers.”  Toronto Sun (25 January 1991): 11.

________.  “Frye was Right about Quebec.”  The Sunday Sun [Toronto] (27 January 1991): C3.

Fletcher, Angus.  “In Memoriam.  Northrop Frye (1912–1991).”  New Vico Studies 9 (1991): 153–4.

Flint, Peter.  “Northrop Frye, 78, Literary Critic, Theorist and Educator, Is Dead.”  New York Times (25 January 1991): B14.

Foley, Joan.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 6.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 8.

Forst, Graham.  “Remembering Norrie, Critic and Teacher.”  Vancouver Sun (26 January 1991): D24.

“Frye, Herman Northrop.”  Current Biography 52, no. 3 (March 1991): 60.

“Frye’s Genius Recalled in Tributes.”  Toronto Star (24 January 1991): D1.

Fulford, Robert.  “Frye’s Soaring Cathedral of Thought.”  Globe and Mail (26 January 1991): C16.

Garrido-Gallardo, Miguel Angel.  “Northrop Frye (1912–1991).”  Revista de Literatura 53 (January–June 1991): 175–7.

Globe and Mail (25 January 1991): D8.

Guarini, Ruggero.  “Una vita per due gemelle, bellezza e verità. . . .”  Il Messaggero (25 January 1991).

Hamilton, A. C.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 10–11.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 11.

________.  “Northrop Frye: 1912–1991.”  Quill & Quire 57 (March 1991); rpt. in Journal of Canadian Poetry 6 (1991): 5–7.

Harron, Don.  “A Memory of Frye.”  Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 19.

Hartley, Brian.  “Life in the Resurrection: Remembering Northrop Frye.”  Herald (March, 1991).

Hoffman, John.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 2.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 4.

Jensen, Bo Green.  “Kritikeren, Northrop Frye, 78 †r.”  Weekendavisen [Denmark] (1 February 1991).

Johnston, Alexandra F.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 14–15.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 15.

________.  “In Memoriam: Chancellor Northrop Frye.”  Victoria College Council, Minutes of the Meeting of 11 February 1991.  Typescript. 3 pp.

J[ohnson], P[hil].  “A Tribute to Northrop Frye.”  Pietisten 6 (April 1991): 5.

Juneau, Pierre.  “The Power of Frye’s Words.”  The Financial Post (28 January 1991): 8.

________University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 13–14.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 14.

Kenner, Hugh.  “Northrop Frye, R I P.”  National Review 43 (25 February 1991): 19.

Kushner, Eva.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 12–13.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 13.

Laux, Cameron. The Independent [London] (30 January 1991): 13.

Lee, Alvin.  “Northrop Frye: 1912–1991.”  The McMaster Courier (12 February 1991): 5.

________University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 11–12.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 12.

Lee, Hope. “Tribute to Northrop Frye.” Presented on the CBC Sunday Morning Program, 27 January 1991. Typescript, 1 p.

“Literary Critic Dies.”  Richmond Times-Dispatch (24 January 1991): B2.

“Literary Critic Rode Subway Daily to Work.”  Niagara Falls Review (24 January 1991): 7.

Lombardo, Agostino, Baldo Meo, and Piero Boitani.  “Il Pagione [A Tribute to Frye].”  Broadcast on Italian Radio—RAI, 19 February 1991, at 4:30 p.m.

McBurney, Ward.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 6–7.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 89–9.

McGibbon, Pauline.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 4.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 6.

McIntyre, John P.  “Northrop Frye (1912–91).”  America 165, no. 1 (6 July 1991): 14–15.

Marchand, Philip.  “Frye Really Believed that Literature Could Save Society.”  Toronto Star (24 January 1991): D1.

________.  “Premier, Friends Pay Tribute to Northrop Frye.”  Toronto Star (30 January 1991): E1, E6.

Meo, Baldo.  “Northrop Frye e i nuovi furori della critica letteraria.”  l’Unita 25 (January 1991): 19.

Miller, Daniel.  “Northrop Frye Remembered by U of T.”  the newspaper [University of Toronto] (30 January 1991): 10.

Moriz, Andre.  “Northrop Frye Tribute Service Draws 800.”  The Varsity [University of Toronto] (31 January 1991): 12.

“La morte in Canada di Frye: critica e società.”   Il Gazzettino [Venice] (25 January 1991).

“É morto Northrop Frye teorico della letteratura.”  Corriere della Sera (25 January 1991).

“É morto il critico Northrop Frye.”  Il Giornale (25 January 1991).

“É morto il critico Northrop Frye.”   Il Tempo (25 January 1991).

“É morto a Toronto Northrop Frye risalì al ‘profondo’ dell’opera letteraria.”  Gazzetta del Sud (25 January 1991).

“Morto critico litterario canadese Northrop Frye.”  ANSA News Agency, Rome (24 January 1991).

Mulhallen, Karen.  “In Memoriam, Northrop Frye, 1912–1991, R.I.P.”  Descant 21–22 (Winter–Spring 1990–91): 7.

Newsweek (4 February 1991): 76.

“Northrop Frye.”  St. Louis Post-Dispatch (24 January 1991): 4C.

“Northrop Frye.”  The Daily Telegraph (25 January 1991): 19.

O’Malley, Martin.  “The Ordinary Side of an Extraordinary Man.”  United Church Observer (March 1991): 16.

Nolan, Nicole, and Hilary Williams.  “Memorial for Frye.”  The Strand [Victoria University] (30 January 1991): 1.

“Northrop Frye.”  Times [London] (26 January 1991): 12.

“Northrop Frye 1912–1991.”  Toronto Star (1 November 1992): 70.

“Northrop Frye.”  Toronto Star (24 January 1991): A26.  [Editorial].

Outram, Richard.  “In Memory of Northrop Frye.”  Globe and Mail (16 February 1991): C16; rpt. in Northrop Frye Newsletter 3, no 2 (Spring 1991): 36.

Pentland, Howard.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 15–17. Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 17.

Placido, Beniamino.  “É morto Northrop Frye.”  La Repubblica (25 January 1991).

Polizoes, Elias.  “Northrop Frye’s Legacy Pivotal.”  Varsity [University of Toronto] (25 January 1991): 12

Prichard, Robert.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 2–3.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 4.

Rae, Bob.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 3–4.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 5.

Reaney, James.  “Northrop Frye: He Educated Our Imagination.”  Toronto Star (24 January 1991): A27.

“Remembering Frye.”  Globe and Mail (26 January 1991): C10.

Saddlemyer, Ann.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 7–8.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 9.

Sewell, Gregory.  “Literary Critic Northrop Frye Dead.”  Varsity [University of Toronto] (25 January 1991): 1.

Stefani, Claudio.  “Il molto reverendo Frye.”  Il Resto del Carlino (25 January 1991).

Stone, George Winchester.  “Herman Northrop Frye (14 July 1912–23 January 1991).”  PMLA 106, no. 3 (May 1991): 564, 566.

Stuewe, Paul.  “Northrop Frye, 1912–1991.”  Books in Canada 20, no. 2 (March 1991): 9.

Teskey, Gordon.  “Eulogy of Northrop Frye.”  Annual Dinner of the Milton Society, San Francisco, 28 December 1992.  Typescript. 4 pp.

Theall, Donald F.  “In Memoriam.”  Science Fiction Studies 18, no. 2 (July 1991): 288–90.

Thompson, Clive.  “Frye First and Foremost a Great Teacher.”  The Strand (30 January 1991): 5.

Time (4 February 1991): 61.

Toronto Star (26 January 1991): D7.

Tredell, Nicholas.  “Northrop Frye.”  PN Review 17 (May–June 1991): 8.

Vega, María José. “La Literatura como Orden: En la muerte de Northrop Frye.”  Revista de Extremadura (Segunda época) 9 (September–December 1992): 71–4.

Warkentin, Germaine.  “The Loss of Northrop Frye.” http://lists.village.virginia.edu/lists_archive/Humanist/v04/0923.html

Weinbrot, Howard.  “On Northrop Frye in Minneapolis, 1990.  A Memorial.” Johnsonian News Letter 50 (September & December 1991): 39–5.

Northrop Frye: “Statement for the Day of My Death”

frye athlete

Norrie, aged 10, Pine Street, Moncton, New Brunswick

Northrop Frye: 14 July 1912 – 23 January 1991

“The twentieth century saw an amazing development of scholarship and criticism in the humanities, carried out by people who were more intelligent, better trained, had more languages, had a better sense of proportion, and were infinitely more accurate scholars and competent professional men than I. I had genius. No one else in the field known to me had quite that.”

Obituary, The New York Times.