Daily Archives: July 21, 2010

Frye Festival Newsletter


You can see the latest Frye Festival Newsletter here.  There is an update on the campaign to raise a sculpture of Frye in Moncton, as well as an update on the effort to save the Frye-founded Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.

We are of course attempting to provide a bridge to these two communities, so please join our Facebook page (top right corner of our widgets menu).  The more links we can make between the artistic and academic communities and Frygians everywhere, the better.

The Centre for Comparative Literature: Votes of Confidence


So far the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto has 12 votes of non-confidence and over 5.000 votes of confidence.  The 12 votes are those of the Strategic Planning Committee; the rest are from a much wider public which includes everyone from steelworkers to ministers to concerned citizens and, of course, academics.  Meric Gertler, the Dean of Arts and Sciences surely must realize that both his office and the Strategic Planning Committee are losing the confidence of the public and scholars alike.

If the number of signatures on the petition is not enough to convince some, they can now also turn to http://savecomplit.blogspot.com/ .  This webpage includes letters sent to the President, to the Dean, to the Globe and Mail, and many others.  Reader responses to the letters can be posted in the comment section.

Victor Li, co-editor of the University of Toronto Quarterly and Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, writes: “As any knowledgeable scholar in the field will attest, comparative literature has not become redundant because literary theory and the comparative approach have been absorbed by other disciplines in the humanities. In fact, as the abundance of published books and lively debates in cutting-edge humanities journals clearly indicate, comparative literature remains a highly important and relevant area of academic enquiry in this age of globalization and cultural diversity.”

David Damrosch, chair of the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard, past Northrop Frye Professor of Literary Theory, and past President of the American Comparative Literature Association, writes: “As with individual departments, so at the national level: the membership of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) has grown steadily throughout the past dozen years, and our annual meeting has seen a tenfold increase in papers delivered, averaging two thousand per year in the past two years. Our participants have come from all around the US and Canada, and from nearly fifty other countries as well, in a reflection of the discipline’s expanding role as a central venue for thinking about cultural processes and interactions in a globalizing world. Speaking as a past president of the ACLA, I feel a sharpened sense of concern at the proposed disestablishment at Toronto when our Association is planning its next annual meeting in Vancouver (our second time in Canada in recent years), where we’ll be hosted by the rapidly growing new program in World Literature at Simon Fraser University, founded just a few years ago by a group of faculty led by Paulo Horta, a Toronto graduate.”

For more letters, please visit the webpage.  If you have written a letter to the Dean, Provost, President, Globe and Mail, etc., and would like to see your letter included on this webpage, please forward it to: savecomplit@gmail.com and we will post it in the near future.

Marshall McLuhan


Today is Marshall McLuhan‘s birthday (1911-1980).

Above, Marshall McLuhan and Norman Mailer interviewed on CBC TV in 1968 as the hippie movement takes deep hold of youth culture and protest against the Vietnam War begins to escalate sharply.

From an interview with Frye about McLuhan broadcast on CBC Radio in January 1981, shortly after McLuhan’s death.

Interviewer: Professor McLuhan’s great contemporary at the university, Northrop Frye, says that McLuhan’s background enabled him to achieve is insights.

Frye: He was a literary critic and that meant that he looked at the form of what was in front of him instead of at the content.  And so instead of issuing platitudes abut what was being said on television he looked at what  the media where actually doing to people’s eyes and ears.  He had a gift of epigrammatic encapsulating that made some of the thing he said extremely memorable.

Interviewer: Professor McLuhan’s ingenuity was easily seen, but his message was not easily understood.  In the 1960s and 70s there were sometimes crude journalistic interpretations of his work, and reporters began to write that, after all, the master of communication could not communicate.  The result was that as the 1979s closed Marshal McLuhan’s influence declined, and at the end of his life his colleagues saw him neglected by the public which has once clamoured for him.

Frye: That’s true, but that was because he got on the manic-depressive roller-coaster of the news media and that meant he went away to th skies like a rocket and then came down like a stick.  But he himself and what he said and thought had nothing to do with that.  That’s what the news media do to people if you get caught in their machinery.  (CW 24, 510-11)

Frye in Notebook 12:

McLuhan has of course enormously expanded my thesis of the return of irony to myth.  His formulation is hailed as revolutionary by those who like to think that the mythical-configuration-involved comprehension is (a) with it (b) can be attained by easier methods than by the use of intelligence.  Hence everyone who disagrees (as in all revolutionary arguments) can be dismissed as linear or continuous.  But there are two kinds of continuity involved: one is the older detached individuality, the other the cultural and historical continuity of preserving one’s identity and memory in moving from one to the other.  The issue here is a moral issue between freedom of consciousness and obsessive totalitarianism, plunging into a Lawrentian Dionysian war-dance.  (Cited by Robert Denham, Northrop Frye Unbuttoned, 174)

McLuhan on Frye:

Norrie is not struggling for his place in the sun.  He is the sun.  (Ibid.)