Making Human Sense: The Changing Influences of Northrop Frye’s Literary Theory upon the Literary Experiences of Children—1957-2007

Johanne L. Aitken, University of Toronto

In all our efforts to imagine or realize a better society, some shadow falls across it of the child’s innocent version of the impossible created world that makes human sense (Modern 121).

By 1957, something called Children’s Literature was becoming a respectable field of academic study in universities. The so-called classics from “the maddened ethics of fairyland” (The Brothers Grimm, Perrault and the literary tales of Andersen and Wilde), The Water Babies, Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe—all the books children had the good sense to seize upon—had long been given critical attention.[i] Now, however, the climate—social, economic, political and educational—was ripe for this attention to extend to almost everything read to—and by—children. And, in 1957, when Anatomy of Criticism burst upon the world, the exciting practices of making connections and seeing correspondences intensified. The confluence of these two sea changes—Frye’s perspective on literary studies writ large and the recognition that Children’s Literature could be studied in an organized fashion—brought the possibility of system and sense to a field heretofore largely neglected by the academy. There was at last a satisfying way to articulate the long-felt importance of what children read and to push for the considered rather than the conditioned response. That “interlocking body” of poem and story began to be viewed in ways that made human sense. The body of works to be studied was complemented by a body of Frye’s students, who were librarians, parents, bookshop owners and buyers and teachers—from Kindergarten to graduate school. This happy band was spreading the good news across the land at the same time that critical studies worldwide were responding to Anatomy of Criticism. It was a heady time.

What has happened to the study of English in schools since those glory days? Fifty years on we may initially be struck by the conspicuous absence of Frye’s name on defenses of curriculum designs in departments of English. Credit is clearly not given where credit is due. Yet the significance of the system Frye introduced remains: we can only hope that future generations will at some point look back with gratitude. David Cook observes that the important elements of our (western) tradition, “the Bible, Shakespeare, Blake and Milton, are virtually unknown aspects of contemporary society. … We are increasingly ignorant of the origins of our own thoughts” (Vision New World 21). By the same token many who do not associate Frye’s name with their practice use his literary/educational theories to organize curriculum.[ii] An understanding of the mythoi of Comedy, Romance, Irony and Tragedy and their intricate connections continues to guide those who try to educate the imagination. In this article I will begin by commenting upon five aspects of the study of children’s literature in which Frye’s influence continues to prevail. The fifth of these concerns the mythos of Romance which has recently enjoyed revival and respectability. In the second part of this paper I will consider a contemporary example and the ways in which Frye’s system influences how children’s literature can be studied in the early part of the 21st Century.

There are, then, at least five ways in which Frye’s thought permanently changed the study of literature in schools. In the first place, literature is now overwhelmingly viewed as a body of interlocking stories. Teachers know that literature is made out of other literature and familiar patterns are sought and celebrated. Gone for the most part is the “thematic approach” which held sway for so long, forcing disparate story shapes into common procrustean beds with such “thematic” titles as “Courage” or “Confederation.”[iii] The conviction that literature can be studied in a systematic way as one studies any other coherent body of knowledge has taken hold.[iv] The well-intentioned anthologies of unconnected fragments usually meant that very little stuck in the minds of students because the works before them had no way to stick to one another. Frye showed the possibility of systematic designs for learning about literature, and these designs are now widespread. Frye’s stance against chronological snobbery bestowed a second lasting benefit upon English studies. He provided an apologia to hold fast and to redeem stories that were under threat from the hysteria of a narrowly-defined form of political correctness which may have reached its ugly peak sometime in the 80s but which has, by no means, disappeared. Banishment of stories from other times and other sets of assumptions (including, for example, at least four Shakespearean plays), became fashionable with the school of noble notions. In many lectures and publications Frye warned against blaming writers from other places and periods for not having our “enlightened views” and argued effectively for a fine balance:

Every work of literature that we continue to read and study meant something to its own time and something quite different to us. Both poles of understanding have to be kept in mind. If we disregard its original historical context, we are simply kidnapping it into the orbit of our own concerns; if we disregard its relevance to ourselves, we are leaving it unrevived in the morgue of the past. But if we keep the two together and in balance, we are stabilizing a tradition, and are engaged in a process which includes ourselves and yet is something bigger than ourselves (Creation 67).

Closely connected to chronological snobbery is a third aspect of Frye’s educational legacy. It lies in his mental fight against the “sociology of school knowledge” which from time to time threatens to overtake literary studies. A basic assumption of the sociology of school knowledge is that novel reading is primarily part of that sociology and as such has a profound and predictable effect upon students’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviour. “Literature,” on occasion, finds itself wedged between “textbooks” and “social relations of classrooms,” unfortunately reducing it to just another vehicle of school knowledge (Aitken 1988). As Frye states, “there can be no such thing as, […], a sociological ‘approach’ to literature” (Anatomy 19). Frye has provided us with the language to perform the rescue operation so often needed by literary studies.[v] Unlike school knowledge in general, literature does not present the world as it is or the world view of a single ideology. Rather, it shows us the world as we would have it be, the world of our heart’s desire, the one that makes human sense. It also shows us the world we dread—the shadow world of our nightmares, the world we most fear. While teachers of literature may know all this, they often depend upon Frye’s clear descriptions of the heights of imaginative heaven and the depths of imaginative hell to which our greatest writers take us (Fables 44). Frye’s insistence that literature can only be literature-like helps to keep the study of fiction on its feet: it also helps teachers defend imagination’s turf. In the fourth place, Frye noted that value-judgments should not be hurried: “it does a student little good to be told that A is better than B, especially if he prefers B at the time. […] He has to feel values for himself and should follow his individual rhythm for doing so” (Fables 48).[vi] A general relaxation of the forbidden text laws has taken place (although, as we find later, some authorities might still like to reintroduce an index). For the most part books selected for study are chosen with literary care. If the student connects these texts with others from television, film or print so much the better. Given the present anxieties about North American children’s eating habits, Frye’s analogy may fall a little flat. Nevertheless we get his point and that point is now widely accepted: the child “can read almost anything in any order just as he can eat foods that would have his elders reaching for the baking soda” (Fables 48).

The attention now paid to the mythos of Romance by teachers and librarians, by children and grown-ups, comes in a direct line from Frye: it is a fifth and perhaps the most telling of his influences upon the contemporary study of children’s literature. The stories that cluster together in this consistently popular category have often been regarded as “low brow” and therefore considered by curriculum planners as unworthy of serious study in school. While enjoying romance in their own reading, the adult gate keepers were sometimes reluctant to extend this joy to children. Perhaps the repressive tendencies of school organization, always more comfortable with instruction than delight, were at work. As Frye states:

Any serious discussion of romance has to take into account its curiously proletarian status as a form generally disapproved of, in most ages, by the guardians of taste and learning. […] The close connection of the romantic and the popular runs all through literature (Secular 23).

While for some time the good intentions of new realism, the (‘new real’ as it was popularly called) seemed about to carry the day, the mythos of romance once more erupted in new guises. Frye declared Oscar Wilde to be “the herald of a new age in literature. […] He is looking forward to a culture which would use mythical and romantic formulas in its literature with great explicitness” (Secular 46). Frye’s celebration of the mythos of romance makes it much easier than it was fifty years ago for teachers to develop and defend a curriculum in which the dependable conventions of romance hold a prominent place. I turn now to a specific example.

In 2007, we find the mythos of Romance for young readers going strong in such works as Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials. It provides a contemporary instance of a story for children being studied in the light of Frye’s theory. It can also be seen as a kind of fulfillment—as a tale foretold using “mythical and romantic formulas with great explicitness.” Its choice by librarians, teachers and book-sellers indicates an increased awareness of what children, when enraptured, are capable of reading and a decrease in the power of censorship to dictate what in Nicholas Tucker’s words is “suitable for children”. Pullman explains why he writes for children: “Children’s books still deal with the huge themes which have always been part of literature—love, loyalty, the place of religion and science in life, what it really means to be human. Contemporary adult fiction is too small and sterile for what I’m trying to do” (Darkness 184). While he may somewhat underestimate the adult fiction of the twenty first century, in choosing to write books for children Pullman has struck deep chords within his readers. In the tradition of Swift, Lewis Carroll, Edith Nesbitt, Susan Cooper, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, he has added to cultural literacy—that background of allusion and image with which we talk to one another. Pullman himself is vicious about C.S. Lewis’s ever-popular Narnia cycle, declaring it “one of the most poisonous things I’ve ever read” (Rough Guide 128). Yet in His Dark Materials he writes against the grain of Narnia with the racy momentum of the iconoclast. As Burton Hatlin suggests, “rather than simply rejecting Lewis as a model, Pullman has, in His Dark Materials offered a kind of inverted homage to his predecessor, deliberately composing a kind of ‘anti-Narnia’ […]” (Materials Illuminated 82-3). As Frye points out, ” […] it may be possible for two poets to be related by common qualities of imagery even when they do not agree on a single thesis in religion, politics, or the theory of art itself” (Romanticism 3). Such may be the connection between Lewis and Pullman with the latter protesting too much. At any rate, His Dark Materials has been translated into at least 20 languages and enjoyed record sales and circulation, on occasion overtaking J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. In a recent review, Kate Taylor wrote: “Canadians could apply their own Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism and see in Harry an archetypal hero, who like the Greek hero Perseus, or Christ in the apocryphal Harrowing of Hell, must descend underground to vanquish monsters” (Greatest Story R1). Lyra of His Dark Materials belongs to this same lineage, and it is equally satisfying to view her within Frye’s framework. Interestingly enough, all sources in this review agree that it is to Pullman’s trilogy readers must turn when the Potter mania begins to wind down. His Dark Materials demands more of its readers than the Rowling books, for it is longer, denser, tougher, deeper. And Pullman has taken more risks. His work has come under predictable fire for its direct hits against the authoritative, life-denying aspects of “The Church,” or “The Authority,” as it is called in the novel. Frye, unwaveringly against censorship, questions “whether the work of creation in society is really effective if it meets with no social resistance at all” (Creation 17). Indifference might be far worse: the reactions and responses to His Dark Materials have been anything but indifferent.[vii] Frye points out once again the danger of confusing what a book is about with what it presents (Secular 43). As he said in this oft-quoted example, “we don’t go to Macbeth to learn about the history of Scotland—we go to find out what happens when a man gains the whole world and loses his own soul” (Fables 24). Similarly we don’t go to the Narnia cycle or to His Dark Materials for indoctrination into either Christianity or secular humanism.[viii] We may go to both of them, however, to learn about good and evil, freedom and bondage, presented in spell-binding stories of fantasy and adventure. When in His Dark Materials a nun named Mary tosses her crucifix out to sea, Frye’s recollection of the high school day when “just suddenly that whole shitty, smelly garment (of fundamentalist teaching I had all my life) just dropped into the sewers and stayed there” may come to mind (Ayre 44). What the storybook nun and the flesh and blood Frye both did was to jettison the restrictive and repressive interpretations of their stories out of their lives for good: to the stories themselves they held firm. According to Frye, Blake was “the first person in the world to understand that the older mythological structure had collapsed.” This understanding alone binds Pullman to Blake. Like Blake, he both “destroys a mythology derived from the Bible” and is also an “intensely biblical” writer (Creation 55-6). As Frye tells us, “The entire Bible […] can be read either as the charter of human freedom or as a code of restrictions and moral commands” (Stubborn 183). For Pullman as for Frye the stories are consistently interpreted as a charter for abundant life and human freedom.

The literary wellsprings to which both Frye and Pullman repeatedly return are legion but three of them—the Bible, Milton and Blake—add a particular zest to the consideration of His Dark Materials in the light of Frye’s theory. They are the works, we recall, that David Cook identifies as the sources of our very thoughts. Any serious student of Frye’s work must sooner or later wrestle with these giants and indeed they are the dark materials from which Pullman constructs his wondrous romance. As Carole Scott says, “the intricate threads of relationship interweaving the three sources (Milton, Blake and the Bible) make the examination of Pullman’s ontology remarkably complicated” (Materials Illuminated 95). Clearly the student of Frye has a decided advantage: he/she is familiar with the great mythos of summer and also with the literary foundations upon which the present text is built. His Dark Materials brings to its readers the riches of our central myths and metaphors. By delving deeply into the underpinnings of one culture His Dark Materials makes itself accessible across a wide range of diverse backgrounds—the universal being revealed through the particular—a phenomenon upon which Frye often remarked.[ix] “The story of Adam and Eve,” Frye explains, “has […] a canonical position for writers in our tradition […]. The reason for the greater profundity of canonical myth is not solely tradition, but the greater degree of metaphorical identification that is possible in myth” (Anatomy 188). Just as surely as Milton made his great epic out of The Bible, Pullman made his trilogy out of Paradise Lost. The title, the opening excerpt from Book II, the shape and symbols of the Christian myth, the brooding landscapes, the angels, the possible locations of paradise all invoke Paradise Lost. The proud, intellectual Asriel has much of the appeal of Satan and Lyra is the new Eve, this time successful. Lyra and Will, the new Eve and Adam, are “hand in hand” and the world, now their true home was “all before them.” “When Adam and Eve join hands as they walk slowly out of their garden, we know that another kind of human society has already been formed, and one that no tyranny can ever penetrate” (Paradise xx). Eden as an external environment has disappeared only to reappear as the “paradise within thee happier far”.

Because it is a well-wrought tale, His Dark Materials corresponds with ease to Frye’s well-recognized patterns.

‘The essential element of plot in romance is adventure […]’ and a ‘sequence of adventures in romance’ leads up to ‘a major or climacteric adventure, usually announced at the beginning, the completion of which rounds off the story. We call this major adventure, the element that gives literary form to the romance, the quest’ (Anatomy 186-187).

Thanks to Frye’s teaching of teachers (including those who are unfamiliar with his name), this literary form is quickly recognizable and the adventures of Lyra and later Will are “diagrammed” on blackboards and in notebooks.[x] “The sequence of adventures” begins with Lyra, whose name like all those in His Dark Materials comes laden with allusion. Frye says of Milton’s nomenclature that “the vagueness and strangeness of the names is exactly the reason for using them” (Paradise xxvii). The same might be said of Pullman’s suggestive names which add considerably to the pleasure of the text. Readers thrill to Lyra’s high adventures which we discover lead up to the climacteric one announced early on and rounded off at the end of Book III. Lyra comes trailing clouds of glory with the usual hints and guesses about her origin and destiny. Her birth narrative, exploits, and ultimate self-sacrificing triumph appear as a fulfillment of prophecy: “It seems that there is a prophecy. […] All the signs have been fulfilled. The circumstances of her birth to begin with. […] She is the child we always expected” (Dark Materials 325-6). Lyra embarks upon her quest, eventually fulfilling the prophecy. While the quest is hers alone, it also exemplifies what Frye calls “the recurrent event […] the kind of thing that always does happen” (Fables 24).

The three books of His Dark Materials follow Frye’s three stages of Romance. The “conflict” in Book One, The Golden Compass, portrays Lyra, the new Eve, running her heedless ways among the buildings and over the rooftops of a place that is—and is not—Oxford. Lyra, like so many literary children before her, has at first the freedom of the orphan but in the fullness of time learns of her actual parentage. She goes off on expeditions to “the North.” As Frye says, “There is always something nomadic in romance. […] an imaginative uprooting, a drive over and across everything settled and planted and built” (Secular 186). Colourful characters abound such as an armoured bear, a wonderful witch and a Texan aviator. They join together to rescue children who have been kidnapped. In Book Two, The Subtle Knife, the “death struggle” of Frye’s Stage Two plays itself out. Will, the unlikely new Adam, who hails from yet a different Oxford is again a kind of orphan with an invalid mother and a missing father. With Lyra, he must slay evil, defend good, and move through holes in the air into another world, at last struggling almost to the death. Finally, in The Amber Spyglass, Book Three of the trilogy, we reach Stage Three: the “Anagnorisis or Discovery” Frye describes. Lyra follows her literary ancestor “Adventurous Eve,” questioning “the Authority.” Will rescues Lyra from the forces bent on her destruction, they make a trip to the land of the dead, encounter harpies and ghosts. Stories that are “true at heart” serve as magic potions. Lyra’s parents reconcile and sacrifice their lives to save her. As Frye observes, in Romance there is a “double resolution”—not only are the young lovers united but there is “as much or even more emphasis on the reintegration of an older generation” (Creation 23). Lyra and Will recognize the great love they share but for the sake of others they must close the windows between the two worlds and separate—Lyra to return to school and Will to care for his mother. As Frye notes, ” [….] the pattern of the romantic is cyclical (or more precisely spiral), for the hero returns to his starting point (or a ‘rebirth’ of that starting point) only to start out on a new journey (“Lecture notes”). Lyra and Will vow to help build the Republic of Heaven on earth by making the best of the life they possess. “Heaven is this world as it appears to the awakened imagination” (Symmetry 83).[xi]

The tension between Blake’s worlds of Innocence and Experience preoccupies Pullman as surely as it does Frye. From it Frye erected much of the scaffolding of his own over-arching theory. From the demarcations between the lamb and the tyger Pullman has designed much of his trilogy. In Book One of His Dark Materials, Lyra is given the alethiometer, an instrument as its name implies, for detecting the truth. As a child she has a kind of perfect pitch or intuition which permits her to “read” it accurately and effortlessly. Similarly, in their state of innocence, Lyra and Will are untouched by the dreaded parasitic specters which have no interest in the age of innocence, only desiring to suck the blood of full consciousness from those in the world of experience in order to render them zombies, potential slaves who no longer have any degree of self-determination. While children’s daemons are nimble at shape-changing, those of adults assume permanent, unalterable forms. Thus the daemons of Lyra and Will change with ease while the golden monkey of Mrs. Coulter and the snow leopard of Lord Asriel have become fixed “for life.” The time “once under a time” is fleeting: the child’s innocent vision of the world is soon forced underground, assaulted by the heavy weight, or the sheer seduction, of experience. In Romance, the emphasis is on “the constructive power of the mind, where reality is brought into being by experience” (Educated 11). In Frye’s reading of Blake and in Pullman’s narrative the child’s innocent vision is important to keep alive. “Pullman, like Blake and many other later readers of Milton wants to recover this moment of infinite possibility” (Materials Illuminated 87). Blake believed that the human soul must first pass through the world of experience before it can reach a new, higher state of innocence. This idea is an obvious influence in those scenes in The Amber Spyglass where Lyra and Will visit the underworld and then emerge as “newly purified beings” (Darkness Visible 157). “Ambition comes […] when we find no longer all things possible” (Eliot, Murder 44), when in the world of experience we must work hard to achieve what once came naturally. Thus, when childhood ends Lyra must toil to understand and read the alethiometer. “The analogies of innocence and experience,” says Frye, […] “give us not the city and the garden but the process of building and planting” (Anatomy 158). Pullman says that “we’ve got to study and think and work hard” once we enter the world of experience ( Darkness Visible 167).

Frye always insisted that the Bible should be taught “so early and so thoroughly that it sinks to the bottom of the mind, where everything that comes along later can settle on it (Fables 46). According to Frye, “Without some knowledge of the Bible one simply does not know what is going on in English literature (Education 120). A reinforcement of this view has arrived: “Pullman is giving the Bible an ‘increased visibility.’ […] At a time when Bible stories are becoming less common in a great many schools, some young readers could find themselves learning them from Pullman himself” (Darkness Visible 162). Frye always claimed that “Christ brought no new doctrines: he brought new stories” (Symmetry 86). These stories form the foundation of the “great code of art” and Pullman, “brought up on Bible stories as a child, has never wavered in his love for them […]” ( Darkness Visible 162-3). He declares that “we must constantly renew our human faith […] with the aid of those stories that remind us of the best we should aspire to. They are easily the most important things in the world. Within them we can find the most memorable, life-enhancing glimpses of human beings at their very best” (Pullman, in Darkness Visible 167). As Frye reminds us, “In art we learn as the child learns, through the concrete illustration of stories and pictures, and without that childlike desire to listen to stories and see pictures art could not exist” (Symmetry 87).

By writing “Children’s Books” that engage readers of all chronological ages, Pullman can be certain of multiple readings of his work. Frye calls a book a “mechanical device for bringing an entire artistic structure under the interpretive control of a single person” (Anatomy 248). “Every reader recreates what he reads. To read is invariably to translate” (Anatomy 65).[xii] In many cases the child will have heard the trilogy read aloud, having a greater ability to relish the story than to decode the print. As an adult you may come to His Dark Materials with the weight of western culture on your reading shoulders. The title and the excerpt from Paradise Lost, with which the book begins, place you squarely in the world of Milton, which implies the Bible on one hand and Blake and Frye on the other. With your “improved binoculars” you will read a multi-layered, multi-splendoured thing in which a tower is never just a tower nor a bear simply a bear. The exciting intertextuality of it all and your ability to read the code of allusion, shape and language will be exhilarating. The child is neither aided nor encumbered by your adult perspectives. With Lyra she is free to ride in hot air balloons and cross the River Styx with a trusty two-way ticket. The child moves in and out of the story with the centripetal and centrifugal forces Frye long-ago described, attached as she has become to Lyra, Will and their entourage. When she stops for breath, she may say “Lyra reminds me of Lucy” or “that’s just like Harry and Hermione flying on their broomsticks” or “I think Lord Asriel might be a rogue Superman.” Or “Oh yeah. I know this kind of book—kids can never have parents around in real adventure stories.” Or, “Could you be as brave as Will?” Or, alas, “Mrs. Coulter is just like my teacher—all dressed up and really mean.” Making connections seems to come naturally. A classroom anecdote illustrates their transfer of energy. Unaware of the dangers that, according to Pullman, lurked therein, a primary teacher recently read aloud C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to her entire class. Few of the students possessed any cultural Christian background. A generous man in the community had brought a large number of “formerly loved” toys to the school to the delight of the almost toy-less children. Among them was a large, well-worn lion with as dignified and intelligent a countenance as any manufacturer could produce. It now occupies a corner of honour in the primary class, was instantly named “Aslan” and is useful to cuddle when the need arises. Nobody mentioned Jesus: everyone talked to the stuffed lion. As adults recall their childhood favourites, they rarely remember any social, religious or political undertones. Children are immune to ideology”: for them, the tale’s the only thing.

Throughout this excursion into His Dark Materials, the way has been lit by Frye’s explication of the mythos of Romance. It is not that children and their elders without Frye’s help would have overlooked Pullman’s tour de force. Familiarity with Frye’s system, however, paved the way for a thoughtful reception of His Dark Materials by teachers and librarians and provided a critical language with which to discuss and grapple with the trilogy itself. It also helped to locate Pullman’s text in the context of literature as a whole. “Putting works of literature in such a context gives them an immense reverberating dimension of significance” (Fables 37). For children, one of the most exciting and enduring aspects of Frye’s system is the discovery that “every literary work catches the echoes of all other works of its type in literature, and so ripples out into the rest of literature and into life” (Well-Tempered 37). For children, who “see the world in terms of total human intelligibility” such ripples, in 2007, still make perfect human sense (Well-Tempered 16).

Bibliography

Aitken, J. L. Chapter Two, in Childrens’ Literature in Light of Northrop Frye’s Literary Theory.

Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto. (1975)

Aitken, J. L. “Children’s Literature and the Sociology of School Knowledge: Can this marriage be

saved?” (Comment on an article by Joel Taxel, Curriculum Inquiry, vol. 16, no. 3). Toronto: The

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Curriculum Inquiry, vol. 18, no. 2 (1988)

Ayre, John. Northrop Frye: a biography . Toronto: Random House (1989 )

Cook, David, Northrop Frye: A vision of the new world. Montréal : New World Perspectives (1985)

Eliot, T.S. Murder in the Cathedral. London: Faber & Faber (1935)

Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry: A study of William Blake. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (1947)

Frye, Northrop, (Ed.) Paradise Lost and Selected Poetry and Prose, by John Milton. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston (1951)

Frye, Northrop, Anatomy of Criticism: four essays. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton U. Press, (1957)

Frye, Northrop, The Well-Tempered Critic. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1963)

Frye, Northrop, “The Drunken Boat: The revolutionary element in romanticism.” In, Frye, Northrop (Ed.), Romanticism Reconsidered: Selected papers from the English Institute. New York: Columbia University Press (1963).

Frye, Northrop, Fables of Identity: studies in poetic mythology. New York: Harcourt, Brace (1963)

Frye, Northrop, The Educated Imagination. Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1963, The Massey Lectures, Second Series )

Frye, Northrop (Ed.), Romanticism Reconsidered: selected papers from the English Institute.

New York: Columbia University Press (1963)

Frye, Northrop, The Modern Century. Toronto: Oxford University Press (1967 )

Frye, Northrop, The Stubborn Structure: essays on criticism and society. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press (1970)

Frye, Northrop, The Critical Path: an essay on the social context of literary criticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1973)

Frye, Northrop,The Secular Scripture: a study of the structure of romance. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press (1976)

Frye, Northrop, Creation and Recreation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1980)

Frye, Northrop, Divisions on a Ground: essays on Canadian Culture. Toronto: House of Anansi (1982)

Frye, Northrop, On Education. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press (1988)

Lenz, Millicent (Ed.), His Dark Materials Illuminated: critical essays on Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Detroit: Wayne State University Press (2005)

Pullman, Philip, His Dark Materials. New York: Knopf (2007)

Simpson, Paul, The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. London: Rough Guides Ltd (2007)

Taylor, Kate. “The greatest story ever sold.” Toronto Globe & Mail, 7 July 2007: R1, R7

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Endnotes

[i]See, for example, St. John, Judith. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books 1566-1910: A Catalogue. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1958)

[ii] In The Well-Tempered Critic Frye speaks of his “important realization” that “the problems of literary criticism and literary education are inseparable” (15)

[iii] For details regarding “the thematic approach to the teaching of literature,” see “Teachers’ need for Theory and System in the Teaching of Literature” (Aitken 1975 12-25)

[iv] In The Critical Path Frye sums up interconnectedness: “Everyone deeply devoted to the study of literature knows that it says something, and says something as a whole not only in its individual works” (103)

[v] Please excuse this note, entered to repair automatic numbering.

[vi] Throughout his work Frye draws distinctions between taste and value and is against what he calls “sentimental and prejudiced value judgments” (Anatomy 18). He notes the caprice of taste as works of literature go in and out of fashion. He himself of course, makes plenty of considered value-judgments referring to works, for example, as “mediocre” and even “rubbish.” The point for teachers is that such judgments should not be hurried and that the book a child loves should not be treated with condescension or disdain by adults. For a full examination of “value” in Frye’s work, see in particular Jean O’Grady’s paper, “Re-Valuing Value,” and also Thomas Willard’s, “The Genius of Northrop Frye: Notes Toward a Critique of Value Judgment”: Frye Conference, University of Ottawa, May 2007

[vii] Pullman’s trilogy has been attacked by some Christian teachers and the (Roman) Catholic press as blasphemous. It has also been recommended for inclusion in school Religious Education lessons by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. Librarians in denominational schools in the UK have been prevented from stocking His Dark Materials, and The Christian Herald attacked Pullman’s books, saying “they were worthy of bonfires.”

[viii] N.B. “secular humanism” is used here as John Dewey used it.

[ix] Frye offers an example of such interpenetration: “the more intensely Faulkner concentrates on his unpronounceable county in Mississippi, the more intelligible he becomes to readers all over the world” (Divisions 24)

[x] Frye’s theories are often expressed in lists and diagrams. In his lectures he made great use of the blackboard and teachers under his influence do likewise. Students “diagram” their understanding of connections among stories. But there are limits. No boundary lines exist except in diagrams: no classifying or pigeon-holing is involved; “literary works are simply seen as being in different areas where they can be both distinguished from and related to one another” (Notes 1966)

[xi] As a young student remarked, Lyra and Will are just like Louis Armstrong—they plan to find “heaven right here on earth.”

[xii] Frye makes a case for Milton, “moving in the modern direction of regarding the reader, simply as a human being, as the real focus of his poem” (Creation 63)

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