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Northrop Frye's Student Essays, 1932-1938

Northrop Frye's Student Essays, 1932-1938

Edited by Robert D. Denham
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 576
  • Book Info
    Northrop Frye's Student Essays, 1932-1938
    Book Description:

    This unique collection of twenty-two papers was written by Northrop Frye during his student years. Made public only after Frye's death in 1991, all but one of the essays are published here for the first time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7790-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxx)

    The twenty-two essays collected here, which come from Northrop Fryeʹs student days, were written over the course of seven years, from 1932 to 1938. Three of the papers are from his last year at Victoria College; fifteen were written for his courses at Emmanuel College, the theology school of Victoria University. Another paper, a talk on Calvin, was written while Frye was at Emmanuel College, though not for an Emmanuel course. Still another, on the forms of prose fiction, cannot be dated with certainty, but it appears to come from the late 1930s. The final two essays are from Fryeʹs...

  5. Victoria College Essays

    • 1 The Basis of Primitivism
      (pp. 3-10)

      Primitivism is the name given to a literary movement following in the wake of the rococo or eighteenth-century tradition and anticipatory of the romantic revival. Positively considered in itself, it is merely a passing aberration of judgment; relatively, to the two great periods which sandwiched it, an episode of the highest significance. The comparatively unimportant formulation of the myth of the noble savage takes on a more dignified aspect when its roots are seen embedded in that profound change of thought, the most complete and far-reaching the world had yet seen, which the transition in question signifies.

      The prevailing note...

    • 2 Romanticism
      (pp. 11-84)

      What is born must live; what lives must die. The consideration of any problem in history belongs to life. Hence, it is essential in examining any historical phenomenon to keep in mind the unit of life, so to speak, to which it belongs, and the larger the scope of the phenomenon, the more essential this is, and the nearer the ultimate background approaches. With a purely cultural question to deal with, such as romanticism certainly is, we are at once implicated in the larger one. Our initial survey, then, takes in the duofold question: What unit of life is implicated...

    • 3 Robert Browning: An Abstract Study
      (pp. 85-108)

      The effect of the romantic revival on English literature was so powerful and widespread that no subsequent poet can be considered without some reference to it, so that all the poetry of the last century or so is to that extent postromantic.¹ It is especially in dealing with the great names of the Victorian era that we cannot be too explicit in insisting that the social change, the most important since the great migrations, of which romanticism was merely one symbol, signified something more than merely the advent of the nineteenth century. The French Revolution was catastrophic evidence of a...

  6. Emmanuel College Essays

    • 4 The Concept of Sacrifice
      (pp. 111-126)

      The fundamental problem of experience is the problem of the good life: how best self-development may be integrated with the social relationship. The religious attitude to this claims that by communion with God man achieves the highest possible synthesis of the separate and sometimes conflicting claims of the individual and the group; that in the perfect life the highest freedom coincides with absolute subjection to necessity. All human progress, as a dynamic religion conceives it, is bound up in the enunciation and actualization of this ideal. Christianity specifically claims that the enunciation commenced with the dawn of the reasoning faculty...

    • 5 The Fertility Cults
      (pp. 127-138)

      The discovery by anthropology of the fertility cult rite among agricultural primitives is a comparatively recent one, but fraught with the highest importance for future developments in religion, art, and in general the symbolic aspects of culture. The term ʺfertility cultʺ is usually held to designate whatever religious practices are specifically associated with the sympathetic magic which aims at promoting the fertility of the soil, and, consequently, exists only among agriculturalists or among dwellers in the forest, where the lives of the people are bound up with the fate of the vegetation.

      Our problem is to trace the influence of...

    • 6 The Jewish Background of the New Testament: An Essay in Historical Apocalyptic
      (pp. 139-154)

      TheGolden Boughis admitted on all sides to be a magnificent piece of scientific research and perhaps the most important and influential book written by an Englishman since theThe Origin of Species. Certainly Frazer has, aided by what must be something very like a regiment of assisting field workers, compiled a huge nineteenth-centuryAnatomy of Melancholyfor which all lovers ofquidquid agunt homines¹ will be grateful. But, as one bores his way along the shelf of books, one is conscious of the Macaulay-like tone of the supercilious middle-class Victorian contemplating the wasteful and gloomy pageant of history,...

    • 7 The Age and Type of Christianity in the Epistle of James
      (pp. 155-158)

      The weight of modern scholarship seems to be on the side of a view which states that the Epistle of James dates approximately from the middle of the second century a.d., and, thus, was not written by James the brother of our Lord, but by someone else, either of the same name or pseudonymous. The readers of the Epistle are the ʺTwelve Tribes in the Dispersion,ʺ which has a Jewish sound, and the various expressions such as ʺAbraham our fatherʺ (2:21), and ʺLord of sabaothʺ (5:4), the references to the Old Testament traditions and scriptures (to Job in 5:11; to...

    • 8 Doctrine of Salvation in John, Paul, and James
      (pp. 159-164)

      The vitality of apostolic literature is almost entirely owing to the impetus given by Paul to a synthesis of philosophy and tradition to sustain the preaching of the new gospel. Without Paul, it is hardly too much to say that the message of Jesus might have been distorted, or lost altogether, through the indifference of Christians expecting a Parousia. As it was, however, Christian literature takes a sudden upward sweep through the Epistles and the Gospels, culminating in the Gospel of John, to subside for a time in the tracts, homilies, and pious discourses of a Church by that time...

    • 9 St. Paul and Orphism
      (pp. 165-190)

      This paper is chiefly an investigation of the Greek religion known as Orphism, with a note on the similarity of its tenets to those of St. Paul. It does not raise the issue, except by implication, of how far St. Paul could safely be said to have been ʺinfluencedʺ by Orphism. It may be advisable, therefore, to defend this position at the outset, as it apparently shirks what is generally regarded as the most important question in connection with their relationship.

      In the first place, there is the obvious point that any examination of ʺinfluenceʺ is mainly a groping in...

    • 10 The Augustinian Interpretation of History
      (pp. 191-216)

      It is generally admitted, with regard to St. AugustineʹsDe Civitate Dei, that a book of such enormous influence and power contains a great many things deliberately intended by its author and a great many hints seized upon by a later generation. These latter, being adapted to the needs or at least the desires of a different time, can hardly with justice be assigned to the authority claimed for them, so out of proportion are they to the definite intent of the original. Just which class the element of a philosophy of history belongs to has been variously estimated. Some...

    • 11 The Life and Thought of Ramon Lull
      (pp. 217-234)

      Ramon Lull was born in Majorca, sometime between 1232 and 1236. The Balearic Isles had been taken from the Moors by King James of Aragon some years previously, and those who had fought on the conquering side had been suitably rewarded with gifts of land. Among these was Ramon Lullʹs father, of the same name. The boy grew up in what appears to have been the class of minor nobility who followed a king and who, largely through their prowess in arms, were forming an avant-garde of the new social order which eventually destroyed the feudal system. At the age...

    • 12 Robert Cowton to Thomas Rondel, Lector at Balliol College, Oxford
      (pp. 235-256)

      When this letter reaches you, dear brother,² you will know that I am now safely arrived in the Eternal City. A trading vessel leaves Ostia³ for London in a few days, and will arrive there much sooner than I can return. The captain, who is a very worthy man, is commissioned to deliver this letter to our brethren in Southwark, and from thence I have no fears of its safety. I also commend to your care an Italian brother, Guido of Perugia,⁴ who should arrive not long after this does, if God has prospered his journey. I encountered him in...

    • 13 Relative Importance of the Causes of the Reformation
      (pp. 257-264)

      The chronicler differs from the historian in that he sees history in two dimensions, as a series of pictures. Every movement or occurrence, regardless of size or importance, can be understood only with reference to whatever precedes it, so that the chronicler has no standard by which he may avoid confusing a ʺcauseʺ with the precipitating event. According to him history is a grotesque series of accidents arising from the whims of court favourites, the sudden resolves of heroes, or the vanity of princes. Responsible historians, from Voltaire on, have summarily rejected this approach, but as school textbooks and popular...

    • 14 Gains and Losses of the Reformation
      (pp. 265-272)

      The gains and losses of the Reformation are, of course, inextricably bound up with gains and losses more directly brought about by other movements contemporary with it. The Renaissance brought tremendous gains and losses in art, science, philosophy, and scholarship, which were not altogether the work of the Reformation: so did the rise of nations and of the middle class: so did inventions and discoveries. Many of the greatest men of the time—Machiavelli, Erasmus, Copernicus—either remained aloof from the Catholic versus¹ Protestant struggle or refused to commit themselves to it. We owe incalculable debts to Gutenberg, Columbus, Magellan,...

    • 15 A Study of the Impact of Cultural Movements upon the Church in England during the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 273-304)

      In this essay I propose to let a few of the more accredited representatives of the nineteenth century speak, as far as possible, for themselves. Whatever connective tissue I can supply will perhaps serve to form a pattern and a background. With the nineteenth centuryculturalmeans, when brought into any connection with the Church, literary and philosophical. Musically, the Victorian Age was as tone-deaf as the petrified city in theArabian Nights, its sculpture being presumably much inferior. Architecture has a certain negative interest we shall touch on later; painting has a religious connotation only in the Pre-Raphaelite movement....

    • 16 The Relation of Religion to the Arts
      (pp. 305-312)

      Nearly all the deeper questions dealt with by modern philosophers bring us at once to the epistemological problem, the question of the theory of knowledge. In an age which prides itself both on its use of scientific methods and on the success with which it has used them, the presentation of a general metaphysical structure has become steadily more difficult. A tendency is now to regard this approach as naive; and the feeling does not decrease with the greater impressiveness of any individual attempt. To the extent that philosophy coordinates the sciences, it is busied necessarily with the question of...

    • 17 The Relation of Religion to the Art Forms of Music and Drama
      (pp. 313-344)

      In attempting to examine the connection of religion and art in general, before passing on to a more specific application, the thing to be avoided at all costs is any attempt at a strict definition of the wordsreligionandart. The only possibility is to indicate roughly where we believe their respective fields to lie in relation to this thesis. For the present writer, religion, true or false, adequate or inadequate, signifies a form or stereotype of activity certain individuals follow in order to bring them to what they consider a better way of living. If there is any...

    • 18 The Diatribes of Wyndham Lewis: A Study in Prose Satire
      (pp. 345-380)

      It is now generally recognized that the cult of sensibility preceding the French Revolution and a similar cult preceding the Russian Revolution were respectively the beginning and end of a fairly homogeneous development, the outlines of which become clearer as we move farther away from it. In its specifically artistic aspect this development produced what is usually called romanticism in its earlier stages, and Impressionism in its later, its most outstanding achievements being, appropriately enough, mainly French and Russian. The chaos of the Great War hastened its collapse and provoked a reaction, which, like most first reactions, contained a small...

  7. Other Essays

    • 19 An Enquiry into the Art Forms of Prose Fiction
      (pp. 383-400)

      Prose fiction today seems to fall into a general negative antithesis of fiction and nonfiction, the former being about things admitted not to be true, and the latter about everything else. Fiction and facts are, thus, placed in opposition, and the distinction is between the imaginary and the real, the imaginary and the imaginative being, of course, identified. With the extraordinary vulgarity of this distinction we take immediate issue, for the wordfiction, like the wordpoetry, means etymologically something made for its own sake. We, therefore, extend the term to include any form of prose writing which belongs to...

    • 20 The Importance of Calvin for Philosophy
      (pp. 401-416)

      To make oneʹs mark in the contemporary world of scholarship one must be both erudite and eclectic: the present age has a vast number of intellectual interests, and the attainments of those who specialize in any one of them are looked upon with respect increasing in proportion as the field becomes more narrow and intense. The high priests of modern learning are expected to be able to talk unintelligibly about their particular subjects and to require a hair-splitting nicety of statement from their acolytes. As a result, laymen feel a certain hesitancy in handling the really important questions of those...

    • 21 T.S. Eliot and Other Observations
      (pp. 417-430)

      Modern literature seems at times to be animated by a spirit of practical communism: those who cannot write read the works of those who can and write an additional book about them. The twentieth century has been well described aslʹâge des petits papiers, and the number of books about books is now of astronomical proportions, bound volumes being, of course, only a small part of the total spate. Possibly one source of the modern obscurity so frequently complained of may be the artistʹs feeling that, if his work is to support a swarm of scribbling parasites as well as...

    • 22 A Reconsideration of Chaucer
      (pp. 431-468)

      If I should be asked why I am reading a paper on Chaucer with so arrogant a title when so many among my audience know infinitely more about Chaucer than I do, I can only plead that I have a special interest in Blake. Blakeʹs essay onThe Canterbury Tales¹ outlines a method of criticizing Chaucer which I have ventured to apply to the minor poems and toTroilus and Criseyde, that is all. The original reconsideration of Chaucer is Blakeʹs, not mine; and my approach to Chaucer includes a private conviction that Blakeʹs essay is as revolutionary a document...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 469-528)
  9. Emendations
    (pp. 529-532)
  10. Index
    (pp. 533-557)