Margaret Atwood: “Northrop Frye saved me from dying young and poor in a Paris garret!!”


Yes, tabloid headline writing turns out to be as exciting as it is easy — like jumping off the roof into the pool.

Here’s what Margaret Atwood actually had to say recently about Frye’s influence on her career as writer:

She decided to get a degree and teach English. After that, her plan was to run away to France, “become an absinthe drinker,” get tuberculosis and die young like Keats, having written works of staggering genius in a garret.

She was talked out of that, she said, by one of her professors, Northrop Frye, the famous literary theorist, who said, “Why don’t you go to graduate school? You would probably get more work done that way.”

He turned out to be right, she said.

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One thought on “Margaret Atwood: “Northrop Frye saved me from dying young and poor in a Paris garret!!”

  1. Robert D. Denham

    From a news story about Margaret Atwood’s recent visit to Davidson College (my alma mater):

    There were no women professors in Harvard’s English department at Harvard when Atwood studied there, and as a female student she was not allowed to use the Lamont Library where the modern poetry was kept. So the aspiring poet sought out the tiny section of Canadian poetry in the more accessible Widener Library, which just happened to be right next to the section on witchcraft and demonology.

    “My lifelong interest in the Salem Witch Trials was born in those stacks,” she recalled, “as well as an interest in defining what makes Canadian literature uniquely Canadian.”


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