Daily Archives: March 28, 2010

Glenna Sloan: “Northrop Frye in the Elementary Classoom”


We are very pleased to add to the Denham Library Glenna Sloan’s “Northrop Frye in the Elementary Classroom,” a speech she gave to the Canadian Literature Symposium on Northrop Frye in 2007.  You can link to it directly here.

Glenna brings what we very much need here: a consideration of Frye as a teacher, which, of all the remarkable roles he played, he considered the most important.

Here’s a sample:

I begin with indoctrination. I preach the gospel according to Frye in an effort to save teachers from the false teachings of the reading industry. These include the notion that how children read is more important than what they read, that fragmenting the reading experience through inane drills of so-called sequential skills is the way to develop literacy. The reading pundits insist that suitable early reading material must be dumbed down or, as they say, leveled, an unfortunate word which means written in limited vocabulary deemed appropriate for the reader’s age. I refer to Professor Frye’s blistering critique of Harcourt’s Adventure series of basal readers when I insist that genuine literature is far and away the most effective reading program ever devised.

In an interview with me, Professor Frye said: “As you read and write from the basis of literature, eventually you realize that there is a difference between learning to read and write at the minimum standards of literacy and being able to write with some power of articulateness and to read with some sense of direction. So the teaching of literature is the teaching of reading and writing. And what you’re aiming for here is the transfer of imaginative energy from literature to the reader” (University of Toronto, February 23, 1970).

Visit Glenna’s website, Children’s Literature and Literacy

Frye Alert


The closing sequence of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould

The Australian blog Art Neuro today mentions Frye while praising Canadian culture, and Canadian film especially:

Nobody says it out loud, but Canada is the cultured, well-educated, bookish, serious  brother to the sporty, happy-go-lucky, pretentious Australia. Here’s something for people to chew on: the film that kicked off the Australian film renaissance in 1970 was ‘Wake in Fright’, directed by Ted Kotcheff who is a Canadian.

Canada is the land of Glenn Gould and ‘32 Short Films About Glenn Gould’. Australia is the land of David Helfgott and ‘Shine’. Their premier pianist defined the playing of Bach for generations to come. Our pianist is a guy who had a breakdown trying to play Rachmaninoff’s third and went crazy. The movie about their guy is one of the most significant biopics of all time. Our biopic is an Oscar winner but really just another movie.

Another Canadian, John Ralston Saul is a front line top of the heap intellectual. We don’t have anybody who can go toe to toe with John Ralston Saul. Canada produced Northrop Frye. We don’t have a single literary critic that can hold a candle to Northrop Frye, then or since.

You can read the entire post here.

Also, PDF Database offers a number of Frye related PDFs here.

Stephen Leacock


Stephen Leacock, photographed by Yousef Karsh, 1940

On this date in 1944 Stephen Leacock died of cancer at age 74.

Frye regularly refers to Leacock’s Lord Ronald from Nonsense Novels, the hero who is always riding off in all directions.  He nicely utilizes the figure here to characterize Canada’s unusual cultural development during its colonial period:

Canada had no enlightenment, and very little eighteenth century.  The British and the French spent the eighteenth century in Canada battering down each other’s forts, and Canada went directly from the Baroque expansion of the seventeenth century to the Romantic expansion of the nineteenth.  The result was the cultural situation that I tried to characterize in my earlier conclusion [to Literary History of Canada].  Identity in Canada has always something about it of a centrifugal movement into far distance, of clothes on a growing giant coming apart at the seams, of an elastic about to snap. Stephen Leacock’s famous hero who rode off rapidly in all directions was unmistakably Canadian. This expanding movement has to be counterbalanced by a sense of having constantly to stay together by making tremendous voluntary efforts at intercommunication, whether of building the CPR or hold federal-provincial conferences. (“Conclusion to the Second Edition of Literary History of Canada“, CW 12, 454.)

Leacock’s “The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias” from Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town can be read here.