Monthly Archives: July 2010

Centre for Comparative Literature Roundup of Posts and Links (2)


Last week’s roundup here.

Linda Hutcheon’s post at The Mark here.

Jonathan Allen’s report on the petition and the support of celebrated scholars from all over the world here.

Sylvia Maultash Warsh, author of a newly published novel featuring Frye as a character, offers her support for the Centre here.

A report from BlogTo here.

Maclean’s article, “Academic Vandalism,” here.

Prof. Eva von Dassow’s viral video condemning budget cuts to Liberal Arts programs here.

Ottawa Citizen‘s article on the student housing crisis that cites the closing of the Centre for Comparative Literature as symptomatic of the wider problem of funding here.

Sign the petition to save the Centre here.

Daniel Defoe in the Pillory


On this date in 1703 Daniel Defoe was placed in the pillory for seditious libel, but was pelted with flowers instead of garbage.

Frye in The Secular Scripture:

When the novel was established in the eighteenth century, it came to a public familiar with the conventions of prose romance.  It is clear that the novel was a realistic displacement of romance, and had few structural features peculiar to itself.  Robinson Crusoe, Tom Jones, Pamela, use much the same general structure as romance, but adapt that structure to a greater demand for greater conformity to ordinary experience.  This displacement gave the novel’s relation to romance, as I suggested a moment ago, a strong element of parody.  It would hardly be too much to say that, realistic fiction from Defoe to Henry James, is, when we look at it as a form of narrative technique, essentially parody-romance.  (CW , 79)

Overcrowding and Underfunding


The Ottawa Citizen published an article Tuesday on the miserable state of student housing and cited the closing of the Centre for Comparative Literature as symptomatic of the broader problem of underfunding:

Every university is short of cash: Even the comparatively wealthy University of Toronto expects to shut down the Centre for Comparative Literature founded by Northrop Frye — the most famous humanities scholar this country ever produced — to save money.

The complete story here.  Sign the petition to save the Centre here.

Emily Bronte


Emily in a portrait by her brother Branwell

Today is Emily Bronte‘s birthday (1818-1848).  Earlier posts on Anne and Charlotte here and here.

Frye in “Four Forms of Prose Fiction”:

In novels that we think of as typical, like those of Jane Austen, plot and dialogue are closely linked to those of the comedy of manners.  The conventions of Wuthering Heights are linked rather with the tale and the ballad.  They seem to have more affinity with tragedy, and the tragic emotions of passion and fury, which would shatter the balance of tone in Jane Austen, can be safely accommodated here.  So can the supernatural, or the suggestion of it, which is difficult to get into a novel.  The shape of the plot is different: instead of maneuvering around a situation, as Jane Austen does, Emily Bronte tells her story with linear accents, and she seems to need the help of a narrator, who would be absurdly out of place in Jane Austen.  Conventions so different justify us regarding Wuthering Heights as a different form of prose fiction from the novel, a form we shall here call romance.  (CW 21, 79)

Video of the Day


Under any other circumstances, it’d be cruel to post such a video. But now that the cavernously ignorant and aggressively semi-literate serial liar Sarah Palin is the de facto leader of the Republican Party, it’s not necessarily a laughing matter.

This is Basil Marceaux, Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee.

Website here.

Maclean’s: “Academic Vandalism”


Maclean’s article on the closing of the Centre for Contemporary Literature here.

An excerpt, including a quote from our own Jonathan Allan:

Students have organized a campaign called “Save Comparative Literature” that includes a petition with around 5,800 signatures, including Margaret Atwood’s. Online forums have seen an unfavourable acronym attached to the School of Languages and Literature at U of T, namely “SLLUT.”Some students see the plan as a breach of contract. “I think something that is going to be very difficult for us going on the job market is that we are the last classes for the [Centre] and that’s damaging to us,” fourth-year PhD student Jonathan Allan said. “We didn’t agree to come to the University of Toronto to become a part of some school of languages.”

Professors are similarly disappointed. Linda Hutcheon, who teaches at the Centre, although her home department is English, says that interdisciplinary studies, like comparative literature, are being threatened. “There’s no other Centre that brings people together, not only from other languages to work together, but from other disciplines, from history to sociology to the theatre,” she told Maclean’s. “Almost every school in the United States has a comparative literature department. That’s the joke.”

Alexis de Tocqueville


Today is de Tocqueville‘s birthday (1805-1859).

Frye in the “Conclusion to the Second Edition of Literary History of Canada“:

The coherence of the “American way of life” is often underestimated by Americans themselves, because the more thoughtful citizens of any country are likely to be more preoccupied with its anomalies.  Hence outsiders, including Canadians, may find the consistency easier to see.  De Tocqueville, who didn’t like much of what he saw in the United States, wrote his book [Democracy in America] very largely about that consistency, almost in spite of himself. (CW 12, 452-3)

In his “Speech at the New Canadian Embassy, Washington”:

De Tocqueville, in his magesterial survey of democracy in America, says only one thing about Canada, but what he says bears on our present point.  “In Canada,” he says, “the most enlightened, patriotic and human inhabitants make extraordinary effort to render the people dissatisfied . . . more exertions are made to excite the passions of the citizens there than to calm them elsewhere.” He is speaking mainly of French Canada, but the remark applies to the whole country.  One reads between the lines the desperate frustrations of the earlier communicators, and the massive indifference of those they attempted to address. The silence of the eternal spaces remained at the bottom of the Canadian psyche for a long time, and in many respects is still there.  (ibid., 647-8)

In a 1969 interview, “CRTC Guru”:

Chiasson: I’m considering some thoughts that Tocqueville, the French historian, had about the U.S. and indeed about Canada, which I think have something to do with the fundamentally classless situation of North America.

Frye: The thing is that when you don’t have a class structure you have to diversify society in some other way, otherwise you just get a mob; of course, the mob is what Tocqueville is worried about.  This is why, I think, this breaking down of the Canadian population into separate groups is so important.

Chiasson: And something to be encouraged?

Frye:  Well, it takes place anyway. (CW 24, 101)