Daily Archives: October 9, 2012

Missing Items in the Frye Corpus

Missing Items in the Frye Corpus

Robert D. Denham

When I was compiling Frye’s bibliography Frye wrote to me, saying:

 I never know how exhaustive a bibliography should be, especially with the development of that snake in the grass the tape recorder.  With me, the difference between writing and speaking from notes is a chalk-and-cheese difference, and when I’m asked to speak I often make it a condition that I am not to produce a manuscript.  But of course when I turn up either a tape recorder is revolving somewhere or the CBC has gone into action, and they produce what purports to be a manuscript.  Thus there now exists a speech of mine printed in the Educational Courier, Nov.–Dec. 1968, Vol. xxxix, No. 2, (listed as) “The Social Importance of Literature,” pp. 19–23.  The same magazine printed a speech in another issue which I am sending you: use your own judgement.  Similarly with campus magazines.  I recently wrote out a speech for the local alumni called “The Quality of Life in the Seventies,” which was printed in the University of Toronto Graduate, Spring 1971, Vol. III, No. 5, pp. 38–48.  But to this was added a speech called “Education and the Rejection of Reality,” pp. 49–55, which, as the editor says, “consists of Dr. Frye’s words as they came off the tape.”  This is one I know about, but I quite often hear about recorded speeches of mine that I haven’t even seen, and didn’t until then know existed.  I think this is probably illegal, but the copyright law is in such a chaos that nobody really knows what is legal.

But sometimes the chalk and cheese turn out to be almost indistinguishable.  An example is a series of two lectures on “Reconsidering Levels of Meaning” Frye gave at Emory & Henry College in 1979.  He spoke only from two or three pages of notes he had scribbled on a writing pad.  I taped his lectures and later transcribed them.  They were published twenty‑five years later in Christianity and Literature and are now included in volume 25 of the Collected Works.  Although my transcription never received Frye’s imprimatur, we are doubtless the richer for having this variation on a theme that Frye was working on when writing The Great Code.

A number of talks Frye gave cannot be accounted for.  Either he spoke extemporaneously or from notes; or, if there were manuscripts, they have disappeared.  Perhaps some of them were taped.  What follows is a list of more than 140 talks Frye gave for which no known manuscripts exist.  Bloggers might know whether some of them were recorded and, if so, whether it might be possible to recover them.


A paper on Blake, at the Graduate English Club, 25 October 1934.

In 1936–37 and 1938–39 Frye wrote papers for his Oxford tutorials with Edmund Blunden on Wyatt, Fulke Greville, Crashaw, Herbert, Vaughan, Traherne, Herrick, Marvell, Cowley, the Dark Ages, the character book, King Lear, the history of language.  He may have written papers on Sidney and Lyly as well.  At least some of these papers Frye sent to his Victoria College mentor, Pelham Edgar, who passed them on to Frye’s friend Roy Daniells.  What subsequently became of them is uncertain.  They are not among the Edgar Papers at Victoria University or the Daniells Papers at the University of British Columbia.

“A Short History of the Devil,” at Oxford to the members of the Bodley Club, 2 December 1938.

“The Search for Wisdom” and “The Search for the Word,” at the Victoria College retreat, 27 September 1942.

A talk on Frazer to the Liberal Arts Club, Toronto, October 1942.

Continue reading