“Pity the Northrop Frye Scholar”? Anatomy of Criticism Fifty Years After

by Robert Denham, Northrop Frye Literary Festival, Moncton, NB, 26 April 2007

[A slightly different version of this talk was given at May 4-6 conference in Ottawa titled “Northrop Frye: New Directions from Old” and at a conference in Pamplona, Spain, on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Anatomy, 24 May 2007]

I have a relatively clear memory of my first encounter with Anatomy of Criticism. Browsing the shelves of the University of Chicago bookstore in the early 1960s, I had picked up a copy of the book, not because anyone had recommended it, but because it looked interesting. I had decided by then that I would be doing my degree in the history and theory of criticism, and leafing through this book made me think it worth looking into, though I didn’t actually read it until a couple of years later. That was after I was jerked out of my graduate studies in 1964 to serve in the army. I headed off with my wife and two-year-old son to the Air Defense School at Ft. Bliss, Texas, where I was charged with editing training manuals, a rather cushy job. The amount of time this took was about a half-hour per week, so I more or less hid out in my office and read books.

One of the first ones I turned to was the Anatomy, which had been staring at me from my shelves for a couple of years. Well, I read it and was more or less transported by its expansive scope, its structural ingenuity, and its authoritative voice. Why hadn’t they old me about this guy Frye in graduate school? I scurried over to the library at Texas Western University, as it was called in those days, to see if I could turn up anything on Frye. I naturally ran across a good deal. Two things I read I made photocopies of—reviews of the Anatomy by Frank Kermode in Review of English Studies and by M.H. Abrams in University of Toronto Quarterly, aging copies of which I’ve still got. Because Kermode has just written The Romantic Image—it was also published in 1957—he had the symbolist aesthetic on his mind, and so he read the Anatomy through that lens. He ended up calling the book a work of “sixth-phase Symbolism.” The Anatomy, said Kermode was “a work of criticism which has turned into literature” (23). Like Kermode, Abrams praised the book but he had his own misgivings. He concluded that the Anatomy was an example of wit criticism. It illustrated the free-play of a richly stored mind but its principles could not be confirmed. I later came to see that Kermode and Abrams had mistaken the means for the end. At the time, all I realized was that the views of Kermode and Abrams did not conform to my own view of the book, which was that it taught me a great deal about literary conventions. In any event, that encounter with the Anatomy in the deserts of Texas was what began a long odyssey. Who knows what my professional career would have turned out to be had they given me a real job in the army? Or had I come to Frye by way of Fearful Symmetry, the path followed by my friend Michael Dolzani. In the years that followed I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out the ends and means of the Anatomy, its arguments and taxonomies, its language and assumptions; and I eventually convinced Wayne Booth to let me write a dissertation on Frye’s critical method. My initial encounter with the Anatomy goes back, then, more than forty years. I was, as I say, at Ft. Bliss, Texas, where we would quip, “Ignorance is bliss. Welcome to Ft. Ignorance.” I was very ignorant at the time, but I had a clear sense was that by reading Frye’s book I might become less so.


In 1957 Humphrey was included within the boundaries of Moncton, adding Elmwood, Brookside, and Notre Dame to the city school system, and during the same year, a large brick bilingual school, Beausejour, was built north of Queen Elizabeth School. In 1957 the Moncton Boys’ Club was established. In 1957 T. Babbit Parlee, former mayor of Moncton and recently elected member of the Provincial House, was killed when his plane, flying from Fredericton to Moncton, crashed in bad weather, thus ending the career of a promising young politician. Meanwhile, about a thousand miles to the west of hometown, the thirty-four-year-old Northrop Frye was awaiting publication of his second book, Anatomy of Criticism. The book had gone to press in February 1957 and was released three months later, which means it appeared exactly fifty years ago this May. The same month, Frye was granted the first of his thirty-nine honorary degrees—a doctorate of laws—by Carleton College, which became Carleton University later in 1957. A month after the conferring this degree—June 1957—Frye travelled from Harvard, where he was teaching for the term, to Ottawa, where he delivered a speech, “The Study of English in Canada,” at the inauguration of the Association of Canadian University Teachers of English. As for other golden anniversaries, 1957 was the year Lester Pearson, also a Victoria College graduate, won the Nobel Peace Prize, the year Queen Elizabeth II opened the Canadian Parliament (the first monarch to have done so), and the year the Canada Council was established. So 2007 is a jubilee year on several counts, including the golden anniversary of The Cat in the Hat, not to say fiftieth year of my graduation from high school. The jubilee celebration goes back a long way. In the Book of Leviticus [25:9–12] we are told that every fifty years there was to be a celebration marking the freeing of slaves and prisoners, the forgiveness of debts, and the outpouring of the mercies of God. The Roman Jubilee can be traced back to Boniface VIII’s calling for the celebration of 1300 as the holy year, when as many as 30,000 pilgrims crossed the Tiber into Rome each day. Far fewer have gathered in Moncton for the Frye Festival, but it’s nevertheless appropriate that we celebrate a book that has been continuously in print for fifty years and that has sold 150,000 copies. But I want to begin by noting that, fifty years after, not everyone agrees there is anything to celebrate.

●Item: Marcia Kahan, writing in Books in Canada in 1985, reports on a debate between Frank Kermode and Terry Eagleton. “About the only subject on which they could agree,” she says, “was Frye’s obsolescence,” adding that Eagleton asked what was a decidedly rhetorical question, “Who now reads Frye?” (3–4). That was twenty-two years ago.

●Item: Graham Good writes in 2004, “This is a wintry season for Frye’s work in the West”; “the once-great repute of the Wizard of the North is now maintained only by a few Keepers of the Flame” (186), the Keepers of the Flame being, apparently, the editors of the Collected Works volumes and a handful of others scattered here and there, including perhaps some of you.

●Item: William Kerrigan remarks, “More than any critic of his day, Frye exercised the literary canon. No one, not even his great rival, M. H. Abrams, seemed able to touch the great works of many periods and languages with such omni-competent authority. But Frye is gone now. The feminists, postmodernists, new historians, and neo-marxists have buried him in a mass grave marked White Male Liberal Humanism” (198).

●Item: Joseph Epstein writing in Commentary two years ago includes Northrop Frye in a group of critics who for some time, Epstein claims, have been “fading from prominence and now beginning to fade from memory” (53).

●Item: Denis Donoghue writes in a review of The Double Vision, “For about fifteen years—say from 1957 to 1972—Frye was the most influential critic in the English-speaking world. . . . [He] went out of phase if not out of sight when readers lost interest in ‘first and last things’ and set about a political program of one kind or another under the guise of reading and teaching literature.” That was fifteen years ago.

●Item: In a 2006 interview Sir Frank Kermode expresses a similar opinion: “Looking back at the study of English in universities over the years the first thing that occurs to me is how very important the subject once seemed. In America the New Criticism—a school led by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren—argued that the close study of poetry was a supremely valuable thing. This was a view that was then accepted generally. And the leading academic literary critics were, in those days, very famous people. Think, for example, of Northrop Frye. Frye’s is now a name that you never hear mentioned but which was then everywhere” (Sutherland).

●Item: Also writing in 2006, Richard Lane declares, “The overarching project of the Anatomy of Criticism reveals why Frye’s approach is now out of favour: he attempts to account for the entire field of literary criticism in a totalizing gesture that is now read as deluded” (112).

●Item: In a review of Ford Russell’s book on Frye, Warren Moore puts a similar sentiment like this: “Pity the Northrop Frye scholar. While the broad heading of literary theory seems to offer room for a virtual pantechnicon of ideas, the Canadian theorist’s works have been marginalized to the point of being considered something like alchemy—possibly of historical interest but really of no use in a post/modern world. The reasons for this fall from grace range from the lack of immediately apparent political usefulness . . . to the currently fashionable pluralistic worldview that rejects ‘synoptic theories” by definition” (87).

You have no doubt heard sentiments similar to those expressed in these eight items—that Frye is obsolescent, that he has been buried with other dead white males in a mass grave, that no one today reads him, that he is fading from memory if not out of sight, that those deluded few who do read him are to be pitied, that his name is not a name mentioned nowadays, and so on. Several years back I heard a bit of gossip about a poor student at the University of Toronto who wanted to write a dissertation on Frye but who was told that Frye was out of fashion and that he should choose another topic if he wanted to preserve his career in the academy from permanent damage. Such attitudes go back more than quarter century. In 1980 Frank Lentricchia located the Anatomy at the head of a line of “-ologies” and “-isms” that marched onto the scene “after the new criticism”—existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism, and poststructuralism. Lentricchia worried about Frye’s attack on subjectivity, individuation, and the romantic conception of the self, and he noted that Frye’s conception of the centre of the order of words “anticipates and, then, crucially rejects” Derrida’s notion that such metaphors of centre, origin, and structure close off the possibility of “freeplay” (13–14). Moreover, Frye is said to have privileged spatial over temporal conceptions, centripetal over the centrifugal movements, the romantic over the ironic modes of literature, and Utopian desire over contingent, historical reality, Lentricchia’s obvious assumption being that it is self-evident in each case that the latter idea in each of these oppositions is to be preferred to the former. Years later he claimed that his essay “tried to point up the structuralist and poststructuralist moment in Frye” (Salusinszky 186), but that is a caricature of the aim of his chapter, which is to debunk all Frygean assumptions that do not conform for his arm-chair view of historical consciousness and antifoundational awareness.

Lentricchia maintains that Frye continued to “water down”—his phrase—the positions taken in the Anatomy through a series of books (30), but he gives no evidence of having read, say, The Critical Path (1971), where Frye addresses the forms of ideology that underlie the program for criticism that Lentricchia prefers. He concludes that by the mid-1960s “Frye . . . was unceremoniously tossed ‘on the dump’ . . . with other useless relics” (30). This is the claim that I would like to examine—the claim that Frye was tossed on the critical garbage dump in the mid-1960s. It’s a claim that was made, as I say, in 1980, twenty-seven years ago and twenty-three years after the Anatomy was published.

How might one go about testing the truth of Lentricchia’s claims? One could point, first of all, to counter claims. It was in the mid-sixties that the English Institute devoted its session to Frye, and Murray Krieger’s bold opinion delivered on that occasion was that because of the Anatomy Frye “has had an influence—indeed an absolute hold—on a generation of developing literary critics greater and more exclusive than that of any one theorist in recent critical history. One thinks of other movements that have held sway, but these seem not to have developed so completely on a single critic—nay, on a single work—as has the criticism in the work of Frye and his Anatomy” (1–2). This claim was echoed by Lawrence Lipking six years later: “More than any other modern critic, [Frye] stands at the center of critical activity” (180). In 1976, eleven years after Frye was declared to be a “useless relic,” Harold Bloom remarked that Frye had “earned the reputation of being the leading theoretician of literary criticism among all those writing in English today” (“Northrop Frye”) and a decade later Bloom had not changed his opinion: Frye, he wrote, “is the foremost living student of Western literature” and “surely the major literary critic in the English language” (Salusinszky 58, 62). The judgments of these surveyors of the critical scene from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s are about as far as one can get from the useless-relic declaration. And what would Lentricchia do with the fact that at the very time he was engaged in his debunking antics the Anatomy was the most frequently cited book by a writer born in the twentieth century?[1]

In his foreword to the reissue of the Anatomy in 2000 Harold Bloom remarks that he is “not so fond of the Anatomy now” as he was when he reviewed it forty-three years earlier (vii). Bloom’s ambivalence springs from his conviction that there is no place in Frye’s myth of concern for a theory of the anxiety of influence, Frye’s view of influence being a matter of “temperament and circumstances” (vii) Bloom’s foreword, however, is devoted chiefly, not to the Anatomy, but to his own anxieties about Frye’s influence, presented in the context of his well-known disquiet about what he calls the School of Resentment—the various forms of “cultural criticism” that take their cues from identity politics. In the 1950s, Bloom says, Frye provided an alternative to the New Criticism, especially Eliot’s High Church variety, but today he is powerless to free us from the critical wilderness. Because Frye saw literature as a “benignly cooperative enterprise,” he is of little help with its agonistic traditions. His schematisms will fall away: what will remain is the rhapsodic quality of his criticism. In the extraordinary proliferation of texts today, according to Bloom, Frye will provide “little comfort and assistance”: if he is to afford any sustenance, it will be outside the universities. Still, Bloom believes that Frye’s criticism will survive not because of the system outlined in the Anatomy, but “because it is serious, spiritual, and comprehensive” (xi).

There is no denying the importance of the poststructural moment. Frye’s late work illustrates clearly that he was quite aware of the dominant modes of inquiry during the last two or three decades of the twentieth century. One runs across occasional comments in his notebooks about his being “old hat,” “a member of an aging chorus” (Late Notebooks 1:23, 175), and the like. At times he even seems anxious about his position in the contemporary critical world.

I am told that the structure of the Anatomy is impressive but futile, because it would make every other critic a Gauleiter of Frye. People don’t realize that I’m building temples to—well, “the gods” will do. There’s an outer court for casual tourists, an inner court for those who want to stay for communion (incidentally, the rewards of doing so are very considerable). But I’ve left a space where neither they nor I belong. It’s not a tower of Babel: that tries to reach something above itself: I want to contain what, with a shift of perspective, contains it. Why am I so respected and yet so isolated? Is it only because I take criticism more seriously than any other living critic? (Late Notebooks 1:120).

In a notebook entry from the early 1980’s Frye wrote: “My function as a critic right now is to reverse the whole “deconstruction” procedure, which leads eventually to the total extinction of both literature and criticism: people are naturally attracted first, and most, by the suicidal and destructive” (Notebooks on Renaissance Literature 302). Well, Frye was not able to reverse the “whole ‘deconstruction’ procedure.” But if we take a somewhat longer view of things, it seems to me clear that if Frye is no longer at “the center of critical activity,” as he was in the mid-1960s, he still remains very much a containing presence at the circumference. While it is true that graduate courses in critical theory often exclude his work, it is no less true, as a glance at current university catalogues and course descriptions reveal, that both undergraduate and graduate students continue to read his works at a number of major universities. A couple of years ago I did an on-line survey of course descriptions, and I discovered that Frye was on the reading list in English and comparative literature courses at a large number of universities, including Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Stanford, Chicago, Virginia, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, York, McMaster, Texas, and Concordia.[2] Outside of North America, students were reading Frye at universities in Bucharest, Oslo, Rome, Brussels, Budapest, Prague, Stuttgart, Venice, Lecce (in Italy), Syddansk (in southern Denmark), Lisbon, Rennes (in Brittany), Mainz, Olomouc (in the Czech Republic), Brazil, Aalborg (in Denmark), Nanjing and Heilongjiang (in China), Freiburg, Copenhagen, Orviedo (in Spain), Toulouse, and Hoh–Hot (in Inner Mongolia). Bloom’s prediction, then, that Frye will disappear from the universities appears to have not yet begun.

We get similar evidence, at least at the graduate level, when we consider the relatively large number of people who continue to write dissertations in which Frye figures importantly. In 1963 Mary Curtis Tucker wrote the first doctoral dissertation on Frye. The period 1964 through 2003 saw another 192 doctoral dissertations devoted in whole or part to Frye, “in part” meaning that “Frye” is indexed as a subject in Dissertation Abstracts International. The number of dissertations for each of the decades falls out as follows: 1960s = 5; 1970s = 28; 1980s = 63; 1990s = 68; 2000–2004 = 29.[3] These data obviously indicate that during the twenty-year period following the height of the poststructural moment interest in Frye as a topic of graduate research has increased rather than diminished. During the 1980s and 1990s he figured importantly in more than six dissertations per year and for the years 2000–2003, eight per year. In 2003, Frye was indexed as a subject in fourteen doctoral dissertations, which was the highest number for any year, and the majority of these have to do with topics treated in the Anatomy—Menippean satire, romance, myth, genre theory, typological imagery.[4] Glen Gill’s recently published book on Frye and the phenomenology of myth emerged from a 2003 McMaster dissertation. The point is that the interest in Frye in doctoral studies has not abated at all. Whether the geometric progression of this interest in the 1970s and 1980s will level off in the current decade is not clear, but what is clear is that a large number of graduate students and their advisors, those at the University of Toronto notwithstanding, have not been convinced by the useless-relic hypothesis.

Other indicators also suggest increased academic attention to Frye. When Northrop Frye: An Annotated Bibliography was published in 1987, there were eight books devoted in their entirety to his work. Since that time another thirty-one have appeared.[5] The two most recent relate Frye’s Anatomy to music and film. And I should not fail to mention the most ingenious application of the Anatomy–a literal appliqué. For their mid-term project in a fabric design class at the University of Georgia students were asked to take an old piece of clothing and refurbish it with something unconventional in order to give the item a new life. For her project Amy Brodnax, a sophomore, attached pages of Frye’s Anatomy to the skirt of an old dress with mirrors and aluminum foil at the top (McWane).

Frye continues to wear well, one might say—figuratively and literally. I don’t know what it is about Frye and Georgia. One of the reviews of the Anatomy I ran across some years ago was in Florence Hill Morris’s 1976 column “Fireside Gardening” in the Augusta [Georgia] Chronicle. After advising her readers to “pore through books on the subject” of foliage and flower arrangement, she proceeded to annotate a list of such books. Included among them is, in a classic case of generic confusion, Anatomy of Criticism, the complete annotation for which is this: “A difficult book to read, but with study the material is most helpful.” I don’t know how to explain this bizarre thirteen-word review. Perhaps Florence Hill Morris had remembered what Frye had said in the Second Essay of the Anatomy about books on gardening being an example of verbal structures in the descriptive phase of symbolism (72).

But to return to the counter evidence for the useless-relic thesis: My 1987 bibliography recorded 588 essays or parts of books devoted to Frye, written over the course of forty years. Since that time, more than 950 additional entries (excluding the hundreds of news stories about Frye and reviews of his books) have been added to the bibliography. In other words, during the past two decades about twice as much has been written about Frye than in the previous forty or so years. Of the seventeen symposia and conferences devoted to his work, which have taken place on four continents, thirteen have occurred since 1986: two have been held in China, two in Australia, two in the U.S., six in Canada, one in Italy, and one in Korea. Of course, what we are doing now will add one more to the list, and there will be another symposium later this month in Spain.

Almost all of what has been written about the Anatomy has been within the field of literary criticism. But critic’s reputation and status is also revealed by the extent to which his or her work has been appropriated by those outside the field. In this regard it is worth reminding the death-of-Frye prophets that his ideas have been applied by philosophers, historians, geographers, anthropologists, political scientists, and by writers in the fields of advertising, communication studies, nursing, political economy, legal theory, organization science, and consumer research.[6] The Anatomy was the book that made Frye’s international reputation. In 1964, about the time that, according to Lentricchia, Frye had become a “useless relic,” the German translation of the Anatomy appeared. This was followed on the European continent by the French, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Greek translations. In Eastern Europe, one can read the Anatomy in Serbo-Croatian, Hungarian, and Czech; in the East, in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. In 1991 two Arabic translations appeared—one in Libya and the other in Jordan. Altogether, the Anatomy has been translated into fifteen languages. Six of these have appeared since 1990. It appears, then, that there is no diminishing of the interest in the Anatomy outside the Anglo-American world. And to judge by the increasing number of translations of all of Frye’s books, the interest in reading him in other languages has been increasing steadily: of the 104 translations into twenty languages, almost three-quarters (76) have appeared since 1980.

Finally, pockets of Frye scholars exist in what might at first seem unlikely places. From 1997 to 2004 the late Professor Wu Chizhe of Hoh-Hot University in Inner Mongolia translated the Anatomy and five of Frye’s other books into Chinese. In Hungary, Sára Tóth has recently completed a dissertation on Frye, János Kenyeres published Revolving around the Bible: A Study of Northrop Frye (2003), Péter Pásztor has translated The Great Code and Words with Power into Hungarian, Tibor Fabiny, the dean of the Hungarian Frygians, continues to lecture and publish on Frye, and courses on Frye have recently been offered at two universities in Budapest. In Italy, Korea, and China Frye is frequently taught in Canadian Studies Programs.

Earlier I noted Warren Moore’s woeful observation that readers of Northrop Frye scholar are to be pitied because his works are more or less like alchemical texts, possibly of some historical interest but of no use to the modern reader. Pity is an emotion we feel in the presence of a fallen hero, like Oedipus. I see little evidence that we should be pitied for coming together in a festival like this: I have tried to suggest that the proper answer to Terry Eagleton’s question, “Who now reads Frye?” is “A considerable number.” Even a poststructuralist like Jonathan Culler, who had never been very friendly to Frye’s enterprise, has lately come around to granting that Frye’s vision of a coherent literary tradition is something devoutly to be wished for literary studies.

In 1988 The Arts and Humanities Citation Index, mentioned earlier, recognized the Anatomy as a “Citation Classic.” Frye was asked to comment on the honor. Accordingly, in January 1989 there appeared in Current Contents a brief article under Frye’s byline entitled “Critical Theory: Structure, Archetypes, and the Order of Words.” I quote a brief passage: “In literary theory itself, the Anatomy seems most often regarded as a book of its time, a transitional successor to the New Criticism and precursor to later movements such as structuralism; in its ‘Polemical Introduction’ and ‘Tentative Conclusion’ the book in fact takes a rather similar view of itself. . . . Nevertheless, it is possible that its perspective is due for a return to fashion someday.” I said that this article appeared under Frye’s byline, but you will not find it in the Adamson/Wilson edition of the criticism from Frye’s last decade, nor will you find it in any of the other volumes of the Collected Works. The reason for its absence is that it was written by someone who did a great deal of ghost-writing for Frye, mostly in the form of correspondence. This does not mean that Frye would not have agreed to the opinions expressed in the article. In fact, the ghost-writer was Michael Dolzani, who has confided to me that Frye gave it his imprimatur. In any event, the point I want to make is that Frye was aware that critical trends come and go. In the mid-1980s he knew the ball park in which the game was being played. But he also knew that the rules of the game remained constant. Thus he could write in one of his notebooks from the 1980s.

If there’s no real difference between creation & criticism, I have as much right to build palaces of criticism as Milton had to write epic poems. My whole and part interchange works here too: inside the Anatomy, everyone is a disciple & to some degree a captive of Frye—every writer has a captive audience—but surely one can finish the book & then do as one likes, with something of me inside him. If he doesn’t have something of me inside him, he won’t, at this time of history, have anything of much use to say as a critic. (Late Notebooks 1:123)

I’ll close with that passage of uncharacteristic immodesty, adding only my judgment that Frye has already entered into the tradition, meaning that although all critics come and go they do not all go away. We are in the same position as Eliot, looking back on Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy a half-century after it appeared. Eliot, who saw his own work as forming a radical break with the poetry and criticism of the nineteenth century, nevertheless says of Arnold that he “does still hold us . . . by the power of his rhetoric and by representing a point of view which is particular” (382–3). All of the writing about Frye that I’ve briefly summarized convinces me that Frye also still holds us, and my guess is that as we begin moving now toward the centennial of the Anatomy, new readers, with the Collected Works at their disposal, will continue to find, in his phrase, new directions from old.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Appendix: Books on Frye (Alphabetical by Author)

Adamson, Joseph. Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.

Ayre, John. Northrop Frye: A Biography. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1989.

Balfour, Ian. Northrop Frye. Boston, Twayne, 1988.

Bates, Ronald. Northrop Frye: Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1971.

Boyd, David, and Imre Salusinzsky, ed. Rereading Frye: The Published and Unpublished Works. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Cayley, David. Northrop Frye in Conversation. Concord, Ont.: Anansi, 1992.

Cook, David. Northrop Frye: A Vision of the New World. New York: St. Martin’s, 1985.

Cook, Eleanor, et al., ed. Centre and Labyrinth: Essays in Honour of Northrop Frye. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, in association with Victoria University, 1985.

Cotrupi, Caterina Nella. Northrop Frye and the Poetics of Process. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Denham, Robert D. Northrop Frye: An Enumerative Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974.

—. Northrop Frye: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

—. Northrop Frye and Critical Method. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1978.

—. Northrop Frye: Religious Visionary and Architect of the Spiritual World. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004.

—. Northrop Frye: A Bibliography of His Published Writings, 1931–2004. Emory, Va.: Iron Mountain Press, 2004.

Denham, Robert D., and Thomas Willard, ed. Visionary Poetics: Essays on Northrop Frye’s Criticism. New York: Peter Lang, 1991.

Donaldson, Jeffery, and Alan Mendelson, eds. Frye and the Word: Religious Contexts in the Criticism of Northrop Frye. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Dyrkjøb, Jan Ulrik. Northrop Frye’s litteraturteori. Copenhagen: Berlinske Verlag, 1979.

Feltracco, Daniela. Northrop Frye: Anatomia di un metodo critico. Udine: Forum, Editrice Universitaria Udinese, 2005.

Gill, Glen Robert. Northrop Frye and the Phenomenology of Myth. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

Gyalokay, Monique Anne. Rousseau, Northrop Frye et la Bible: Essai de mythocritique. Paris: Honoré Champion, 1999.

Hamilton, A.C. Northrop Frye: Anatomy of his Criticism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

Hamilton, Mark. Categorizing Twentieth-century Film Using Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism: Relating Literature and Film. Lewiston, ME: Edwin Mellen P, 2006.

Hart, Jonathan. Northrop Frye: The Theoretical Imagination. London: Routledge, 1994.

Kee, James M., ed. Northrop Frye and the Afterlife of the Word. Semeia 89. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

Kenyeres, Janos. Revolving around the Bible: A Study of Northrop Frye. Budapest: Anonymus, 2003.

Kermode, Frank. Review of Anatomy of Criticism. Review of English Studies 10 (August 1959): 317–23.

Kogan, Pauline. Northrop Frye: The High Priest of Clerical Obscurantism. Montreal: Progressive Books and Periodicals, 1969.

Krieger, Murray, ed. Northrop Frye in Modern Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.

Krishnamoorthy, S., ed. The Importance of Northrop Frye. Kanpur, India: Humanities Research Centre, 1993.

Lee, Alvin, and Robert D. Denham, eds. The Legacy of Northrop Frye. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.

Lee, Sang Ran, ed. The Legacy of Northrop Frye in the East and West: Proceedings of the Third Annual International Conference of Canadian Studies. Seoul: Canadian Studies Center, Sookmyung Women’s University, 1992.

Lemond, Ed, ed. Verticals of Frye / Les verticales de Frye: The Northrop Frye Lectures and Related Talks Given at the Northrop Frye International Literary Festival. Moncton, NB: Elbow Press, 2005.

Lombardo, Agostino, ed. Ritratto de Northrop Frye. Rome: Bulzoni Editore, 1989.

O’Grady, Jean, and Wang Ning, eds. Northrop Frye: Eastern and Western Perspectives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Pandey, Santosh Kumar. Contrapuntal Modes in Northrop Frye’s Literary Theory: Continuities in Literary Structuralism. Delhi: Adhyayan Publishers, 2005.

Ricciardi, Caterina. Northrop Frye, o, delle finzioni supreme. Rome: Empirìa, 1992.

Russell, Ford. Northrop Frye on Myth: An Introduction. New York: Garland, 1998; London: Routledge, 2000.

Signori, Dolorès A. Guide to the Northrop Frye Papers. Toronto: Victoria University Library, 1993.

Wang, Ning, and Jean O’Grady, eds. New Directions in N. Frye Studies. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2001.

Wang, Ning, and Yen-hung Hsü, eds. Fu-lai yen chiu: Chung-kuo yü hsi fang [Frye Studies: China and the West]. Beijing: Social Sciences Press of China, 1996.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. “Northrop Frye Exalting the Designs of Romance,” New York Times Book Review 23 (18 April 1976): 21.

—. “Foreword,” Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000. vii–xi.

Culler, Jonathan. “Imagining the Coherence of the English Major.” ADE Bulletin, 133 (Winter 2003): 6–10; rpt. in Profession 2003, 1 (December 2003): 85–93.

Donoghue, Denis. Review of The Double Vision. New York Review of Books 39 (9 April 1992): 25.

Eliot, T.S. “Arnold and Pater.” Selected Essays of T.S. Eliot. New ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950. 382–93.

Epstein, Joseph. “Forgetting Edmund Wilson.” Commentary 120 (1 December 2005): 53–8.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Ed. Robert D. Denham. Collected Works of Northrop Frye, vol. 22. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

—. “Critical Theory: Structure, Archetypes, and the Order of Words.” Current Contents, 30 January 1989: 14.

—. Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks 1982–1990. Ed. Robert D. Denham. Collected Works of Northrop Frye, vols. 5–6. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.

—. Northrop Frye’s Notebooks on Renaissance Literature. Ed. Michael Dolzani. Collected Works of Northrop Frye, vol. 20. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

Garfield, Eugene. Current Contents 32 (6 August 1979): 5-10; rpt. in Garfield, Essays of an Information Scientist. Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1981. 4:238–43.

Good, Graham. “Frye in China.” Canadian Literature 183 (Winter 2004): 156–8.

Kahan, Marcia. “Pillow Talk.” Books in Canada 14 (April 1985): 3–4.

Kerrigan, William. “Bloom and the Great Ones.” Clio 25 (Winter 1996): 196–206.

Krieger, Murray. “Northrop Frye and Contemporary Criticism: Ariel and the Spirit of Gravity,” in Northrop Frye in Modern Criticism: Selected Papers from the English Institute, ed. Murray Krieger. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966. 1–30.

Lane, Richard. “Northrop Frye.” Fifty Key Literary Theorists. London: Routledge, 2006. 111–16.

Lentricchia, Frank. After the New Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Lipking, Lawrence I. “Northrop Frye,” in Modern Literary Criticism, 1900–1970, ed. Lawrence I. Lipking and A. Walton Litz. New York: Atheneum, 1972. 180–8.

McWane, Katie. “Fabric Design Students Falunt Midterm Project.” redandblack.com, 6 March 2007. http://media.www.redandblack.com/media/storage/paper871/news/

Moore, Warren S. III. Review of Northrop Frye on Myth: An Introduction, by Ford Russell. Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 34, no. 3 (Autumn 2001): 87–9.

Morris, Florence Hill. “Fireside Gardening. Augusta Chronicle [Georgia], 26 November 1967.

Salusinszky, Imre. Criticism in Society: Interviews with Jacques Derrida, Northrop Frye, Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Frank Kermode, Edward Said, Barbara Johnson, Frank Lentricchia, and J. Hillis Miller. New York: Methuen, 1987.

Sutherland, John. “The Ideas Interview: Frank Kermode.” The Guardian Unlimited 29 August 2006. http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1860357,00.html


[1] Garfield’s article lists the one-hundred most-cited authors in the Arts & Humanities Citation Index for 1977 and 1978. The list reveals that in the more than 900,000 entries in the AHCI only Marx, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Lenin, Plato, Freud, and Barthes were more frequently cited than Frye. A second list published by Garfield in the same article shows that for 1978 and 1979 Anatomy of Criticism was the most frequently cited book written by an author born in the twentieth century. Eight years after his initial survey Garfield updated and expanded the list, publishing the results in “The 250 Most-Cited Authors in the Arts & Humanities Citation Index, 1976–1983,” Current Contents 48 (1 December 1986): 3-10. Marx remained in first place, followed by Aristotle, Shakespeare, Lenin, Plato, Freud, Barthes, Kant, Cicero, Chomsky, Hegel, and Frye. At the time, then, Frye was the third most-cited author born in the twentieth century.

[2] My cursory search of recent catalogues and course descriptions turned up these courses in English (E), comparative literature (CL), and other fields in which Frye was being read: Harvard University (E193); Yale University (E463b), Berkeley (CL100, CL155) Stanford (E166/266A, E302A, CL369, C 172), University of Chicago (E47200), University of Virginia (E255, E481), University of North Carolina (E027.003), Vanderbilt University (E337a, E105W, CL312, CL314 [course on Frye’s central texts]), University of Pennsylvania (CL360.401), University of Notre Dame (E510), York University (E4109), McMaster University (E798), University of Texas, Austin (E5360), Concordia University (Religion 365). Similar courses can be found in numerous college catalogues.

[3] These data include six ED.D. and two D.L.S. dissertations. While it is difficult to get an accurate count of M.A. theses, fifty-one have been recorded from 1967 to 2004.

[4] Within the past dozen years the one-hundred or so universities where students have completed dissertations in which NF is a subject include Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Chicago, Toronto, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State, Virginia, NYU, McMaster, Oxford, and Stockholm.

[5] For the books on Frye, see Appendix.

[6] Some accounts that reveal the influence of Frye’s ideas outside of literary criticism include James L. Peacock, Comment on M. Pluciennik’s “Archaeological Narratives and Other Ways of Telling,.” Current Anthropology 40, no. 5 (December 1999): 670 ff.; G.V. Johar, Morris B. Holbrook, and Barbara B. Stern, “The Role of Myth in Creative Advertising Design: Theory, Process and Outcome,” Journal of Advertising 30, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 1–25; Barbara B. Stern, “Consumer Myths: Frye’s Taxonomy and the Structural Analysis of Consumption Text,” Journal of Consumer Research 22 (September 1995): 165–85; Rebecca Hagey, “Codes and Coping: A Nursing Tribute to Northrop Frye,” Nursing Papers / Perspectives en nursing 16 (Summer 1984): 13–39; Jonathan M. Smith, “Geographical Rhetoric: Modes and Tropes of Appeal, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 86, no. 1 (1996): 1–20; Robert Babe, “Foundations of Canadian Communication Thought,” Canadian Journal of Communication 25, no. 1 (2000): 19–37; Metin M. Coşgel, “Metaphors, Stories, and the Entrepreneur in Economics,” History of Political Economy, 28, no. 1 (1996): 57–76; Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley: U of California P, 1984); Douglas Long, “Northrop Frye: Liberal Humanism and the Critique of Ideology,” Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue d’Études canadiennes 34, no. 4 (Winter 2000): 27–51; David Cook, “‘Double Vision’: The Political Philosophy of Northrop Frye,” Ultimate Reality and Meaning 15 (September 1992): 185–94; Don L.F. Nilsen, “Northrop Frye Meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee: Adolescent Literature as Comedy, Romance, Tragedy, and Irony,” Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 19, nos. 1–2 (March 1998): 10–20; Roy Schafer, “Language, Narrative, and Psychoanalysis: An Interview with Roy Schafer,” in Criticism and Lacan: Essays and Dialogue on Language, Structure, and the Unconscious, ed. Patrick Colm Hogan and Lalita Pandit (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1990), 123–44; Robin West, “Jurisprudence as Narrative: An Aesthetic Analysis of Modern Legal Theory,” New York University Law Review 60 (May 1985): 145–211; John Murphy, “Narrative and Social Action: The Making of a President 1960,” Paper presented at the 1989 annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Francisco, 18–21 November; P. Baker, “‘Night into Day’: Patterns of Symbolism in Mozart’s The M agic Flute,” University of Toronto Quarterly 49, no. 2 (Winter 1979): 95–116; Kaj Sköldberg, “Tales of Change: Public Administration Reform and Narrative Mode,” Organization Science 5 (May 1994): 219–38; Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1981), 623; Hayden White, Metahistory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1973).

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