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Interviews With Northrop Frye

Interviews With Northrop Frye

Edited by Jean O’Grady
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 896
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  • Book Info
    Interviews With Northrop Frye
    Book Description:

    It is often forgotten that Northrop Frye, a scholar known chiefly for his books and articles, was also a gifted speaker who was never reluctant to be interviewed. This collection of 111 interviews and discussions with the critic assembles all of those published or broadcast on radio or television. Also included among the interviews are a number of conversations not generally known, many of them transcribed from tapes gathered from personal collections.

    Interviews with Northrop Fryeaims to provide another view of the famous literary critic, one that supplements that which is often obtained from reading his printed works. Ranging from the earliest interviews in 1948 to discussions that took place mere months before his death in 1991, this volume is a complete portrait of Frye the conversationalist, demonstrating that he was capable of expressing his thought just as lucidly in person as he could on paper. Among the topics included are Frye?s views on teaching, writing, and Canadian literature, his opinions on the state of criticism, and a fascinating exchange concerning contemporary religion.

    For anyone interested in the life and career of Northrop Frye, these interviews are an ideal way to gain greater insight into the man and his work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8837-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xiii)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. Credits
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xxix-2)

    Northrop Frye had no desire to be a “media celebrity,” no itch for publicity in itself. Undoubtedly, he would rather have been at home in his study writing and thinking than sitting before a microphone fielding questions he had probably heard many times before. The enormous number of interviews he granted bears witness both to his heightened sense of the social responsibility of academics, and to his personal, Methodist-derived belief in his own vocation as a preacher (in an extended sense) of the Word (318–20). And as the preface points out, the present volume, large as it is, represents...

  8. 1 What Has Become of Conversation?
    (pp. 3-12)

    Announcer: What has become of conversation? Is it a lost art? Is it, in fact, an art? Those are the questions that concern the five people who meet tonight as CJBC unfolds another chapter in the

    “Varsity Story.” The University of Toronto and the CBC present the “Varsity Story.” To discover what has become of conversation, there follows a conversation. Now our chairman, Lister Sinclair.

    Sinclair: We often hear that university days are a paradise. But nowadays some people think that the university paradise is like the one at the end of Goethe’sFaust, where the indescribable now is done,...

  9. 2 On Human Values
    (pp. 13-22)

    McCulley: This evening, ladies and gentlemen, we are coming to the culmination of our week’s discussions. We have had a week of extremely fruitful discussions on military defence and economic assistance, and we’ve now come to what seems to me to be basic and fundamental to the discussions that we have been pursuing during this whole week: that is, the question, What are the human values we wish to defend? * * * I’m going to begin the discussion by asking each of the three members of the panel if he will make a brief statement outlining what is his...

  10. 3 University
    (pp. 23-27)

    Jackson: For some students, this constant collision of new ideas is a challenging experience, boldly entered into. For many others university is a confusing and upsetting experience after the certainties which were characteristic of their previous schooling. But Dr. Northrop Frye, principal of Victoria College, Toronto, and an eminent man of letters, feels that this is a necessary stage in a student’s development.

    Frye: I am afraid it is an essential part of the educating process—the educating process just can’t go on until the mind gets unsettled and very badly unsettled. The whole method of education that was laid...

  11. 4 Literary Trends of the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 28-31)

    Interviewer: What is the state of Canadian literature today, Professor Frye?

    Frye: In the field of poetry, with which I am most familiar, Canada is doing remarkably well for its population. For one thing, this is not a bad environment for a poet—he is able to remain more anonymous here than he would in some places and is less compelled to become part of a clique. If [Irving] Layton, for instance, were writing in the United States he would probably be just another member of one of the contemporary poetic movements there, and certainly James Reaney would never have...

  12. 5 The Voice and the Crowd
    (pp. 32-47)

    Baum: Dr. Frye, we have been invited to have a conversation on the attempts of men to reach out for salvation, and on whether this means a withdrawal from or an involvement in the world. I must say that I don’t find this subject an easy one, because the very meaning of salvation is not something that is always very clear to me. At the moment, in the Catholic Church, and it seems to me in all the Christian churches, there seems to be a tendency to re-interpret the meaning of salvation. At one time we thought that salvation meant...

  13. 6 Breakthrough
    (pp. 48-50)

    Narrator: If life is discovered on other planets, and if that life is superior to ours, how might that affect us?

    Frye: I don’t feel that the existence of superior intelligences in other worlds has much effect on us. Men have believed in many centuries in angels, but it hasn’t affected human behaviour profoundly. We remember the philosopher Montaigne, who said that he found himself entirely unable to make any impression whatever on his cat, who insisted on continuing to live as a cat without reference to his wisdom.¹ It seems to me we’re in exactly that position in regard...

  14. 7 Style and Image in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 51-57)

    MacQuarrie: Mr. Frye, you’ve just completed a series of six lectures in which you’ve been defining the difference between a closed mythology and an open mythology. A closed mythology, you said, is one which fills in all of the assumptions for the person who believes in that mythology, whereas an open mythology provides the individual with options, with various ways in which he can imagine himself in relation to the total society, in relation to religion, morality, the future, politics, his total world view, if you like. You implied—because these lectures were originally given in connection with the Centennial—...

  15. 8 Dix Ans avant la Néo-critique
    (pp. 58-62)

    Frye: Il est essentiel de distinguer entre l’expérience littéraire et la critique. Celle-ci a pour but de comprendre la littérature en tant que fond de connaissance. Une telle approche ne peut menacer la littérature. On n’a jamais dit que la linguistique a tué le langage. Le critique tente d’élaborer une théorie sur la littérature, sur l’expérience littéraire. Celle-ci est inépuisable et la critique est comparativement bien plus limitée. Il y a deux manières de lire un livre: le lecteur peut vouloir participer à une expérience littéraire: il peut nous communiquer ses impressions, mais il ne fait pas oeuvre de critique....

  16. 9 B.K. Sandwell
    (pp. 63-63)

    Frye:Saturday Nightprojected itself as a kind of lighthouse of civilization in a world which is full either of howling Marxists or of howling fascists. It was an earnest, perspiring world which had a great sense of ideas as weapons, as things to be used in some kind of dialectical battle, and Sandwell projected the image of an economy and an attitude towards civilization which was clear of all this kind of thing. I think that that feeling really attracted a good deal of loyalty, which was not so much a personal loyalty to Sandwell as an enthusiasm for...

  17. 10 Engagement and Detachment
    (pp. 64-73)

    Kidd: Critics are seldom popular. I expect you remember that Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote,

    “Nature, when she invented and manufactured and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left.”¹ But Canada has at least one critic who has won and deserved the admiration of writers and readers and students of all ages. Northrop Frye, you yourself have been an author and an editor and a theologian and a college administrator and a social reformer. One time—in the Massey Lectures—you introduced yourself by saying, “ For the past twenty-five years I have...

  18. 11 L’Anti-McLuhan
    (pp. 74-78)

    Kattan: Comme votre livre l’Anatomie de la critiquel’indique, vous êtes un anatomiste de la littérature, vous examinez les oeuvres comme un médecin examine un corps. Quel rapport établissez-vous entre la littérature et la réalité, la littérature et la vie?

    Frye: Si l’on prend comme point de départ la vie, la littérature nous apparaît comme un exercice mineur, et pourtant la littérature est plus que la vie; c’est la vie de l’imagination, pas la vie, elle l’englobe, elle l’avale.

    Kattan : Existe-t-il cependant un rapport significatif entre la littérature et la vie?

    Frye: Il existe deux mondes: le premier...

  19. 12 Student Protest Movement
    (pp. 79-87)

    Bossin: I can always tell that I am reading a Frye speech when I see within the first four pages a reference to Marx and within the last three pages a quotation from Blake.

    Frye: That’s because I like to look back to my student days when I was interested in Blake and everyone else was interested in Marx.

    [Victoria College professor Northrop Frye is not only renowned for his literary criticism, but also for his writings on education, universities, and scholarship.Randomsent SAC education consultant Bob Bossin to interview Professor Frye; in a discussion ranging from the structure...

  20. 13 CRTC Guru
    (pp. 88-144)

    Martin: Dans votre réflection sur la culture, quelle part jouent les outils?

    Frye: Technology? Well, first of all, the means of communication are physical, and the way the imaginative life developed in this country around the railway, bridges, and roads is truly extraordinary I think.

    Martin: Pensez-vous qu’il soit possible de créer une culture canadienne,originale, avec des outils aussi anciens que le journal, le livre, la photo-graphie, de vieux outils, de vieilles techniques?

    Frye: This is the Americanising of Canada, but it is what Canada has been living with.

    Chiasson: Fernand Cadieux, a friend of ours, has been telling André...

  21. 14 The Only Genuine Revolution
    (pp. 145-173)

    Mickleburgh: Not long ago the principal teacher at the district high school in Atikokan, Ontario, asked me, “What is the aim of education?” I undertook to quote you from memory: “The aim of education is to be able to distinguish illusion from reality.”

    Frye: Yes, I did say that, and I was speaking of a particular stage in the educational process. I think I located it somewhere in the high-school stage of education, where it seems to me that the distinction between reality and illusion is really the central problem—the problem of distinguishing the realities from the illusions in...

  22. 15 The Limits of Dialogue
    (pp. 174-189)

    Mandel: If we’re going to be talking about the limits of dialogue, one place to begin is to ask aboutbothof the limits. That’s perhaps a naive way to begin, but I wonder whether there are not upper limits and lower limits. What I have in mind as an example of a lower limit would be ignorance—ignorance of language, the inability to speak at all because one didn’t know anything, one didn’t know the words. At the other extreme, I have in mind what George Steiner refers to inLanguage and Silenceas the upper limits of language...

  23. 16 “There Is Really No Such Thing As Methodology”
    (pp. 190-197)

    Aitken: I should like to ask you to comment further on some of your earlier observations which we, as teachers, find “echoing in our minds.” The following remark from theEducational Courieris an example: “We cannot have education without incessant repetition and practice, drill, and going over the same things over and over until they become automatic responses.”¹ This remark was met with a certain repugnance by many school teachers. Why can’t we have education without incessant repetition, practice, and drill?

    Frye: I don’t know—it’s just the way the human animal is constructed. The most miraculous feat of...

  24. 17 Into the Wilderness
    (pp. 198-209)

    Ayre: There is a passage in yourThe Modern Centurywhich says:

    The world we are in is the world of the tiger, and that world was never created or seen to be good. It is the subhuman world of nature, a world of law and of power but not of intelligence or design. Things “evolve” in it, whatever that means, but there is no creative power in it that we can see except that of man himself. And man is not very good at the creating business: he is much better at destroying, for most of him, like an...

  25. 18 The Magic of Words
    (pp. 210-218)

    Sloan: A perennial question that children and even my students at Queens College ask is, “Why study literature?” I’d add a question, “How do you go about the study?”

    Frye: You start off with reading and writing because of course you can’t take any part in your society without it. Eventually you realize that there is a difference between learning to read and write at the minimum standards of literacy and learning to write with some power of articulateness and read with some sense of direction. So, in fact, the teaching of literature is the teaching of reading and writing....

  26. 19 Two Heretics: Milton and Melville
    (pp. 219-226)

    Teunissen: One of the things I’ve been interested in is the role that chaos plays in the great epic, or perhaps tragic, poem, and I’ve called it an archetype. I wonder if the word “archetype” is a legitimate label to attach to it.

    Frye: Yes, it is a legitimate label, because an archetype is an image that recurs throughout literary experience. Chaos comes into the first verse of the Book of Genesis and keeps on going long past Melville.

    Teunissen: Is it legitimate to go back to Hesiod—who in my experience, at least, is one of the very first...

  27. 20 Notes on a Maple Leaf
    (pp. 227-229)

    Frye: The fiction writer, though, has a rather different problem from the poet. A poet makes poems and each poem is a separate creative effort, whereas a full-length work of fiction takes a terrific amount of drive to get through. You’re sustained in that drive by the feeling of a fairly immediate response from your public, and if you don’t get that, of course, you’re simply hung up. Back in the early nineteenth century, poor old Major Richardson said he might as well have published his book in Kamchatka as Canada.¹ I think that that feeling of no echo coming...

  28. 21 The Canadian Imagination
    (pp. 230-238)

    Frye: The first and most obvious difference is that the American imagination is that of a tremendous imperial power. Whatever America does is very important for the world as a whole. American people, if they have any sense of responsibility at all, are conditioned in this attitude to things right from the beginning, whereas Canada, with its twenty million people, has a much more observant and less involved view of the world as a whole. Its attitude towards things has that slightly quieter quality of a more observant people. It’s more like that of Scandinavia, say, than of Russia.


  29. 22 Poets of Canada: 1920 to the Present
    (pp. 239-244)

    Anderson: “Are you aCanadianpoet?” I asked the seventy poets I interviewed for this series. It’s a question that’s been asked again and again in this country. Is there something distinctively Canadian, specifically identifiable about our poetry, or some of it at least? Well, various poets I talked to found this query infinitely tedious, while others had surprisingly varied answers. Seventeen of the poets who answered are heard tonight, plus a couple of literary critics. I’ll introduce each in turn. * * * Northrop Frye:

    Frye: It’s true that Canada is an environment; that is, it’s a place where...

  30. 23 On Evil
    (pp. 245-253)

    Somerville: Professor Frye, I think most people identify the problem of evil with the problem of bad choices, the problem of reprehensible actions. But it seems to me that in much of your work the whole question of evil is seen in a larger or more ancient than moral context. I remember reading in your book on Shakespearean tragedy,Fools of Time, that the experience of the tragic can’t be moralized or contained in a conceptual world view, and that a tragic hero is a tragic hero whether he is a good or a bad man [4].

    Frye: I would...

  31. 24 Blake’s Cosmos
    (pp. 254-263)

    Hill: Dr. Frye, we’re going to be talking about William Blake this evening. He’s a poet who has been described as being radically original in respect to his cosmology. I wonder if we could start with the question, What is a cosmos? What is a cosmology in the traditional sense of the word?

    Frye: Traditionally a cosmology has been an ordering of the objective picture of nature that man sees around him. That is, traditionally heaven has always been “up there.” When Jesus left the world he ascended into the sky, and his disciples gazed upward until a cloud received...

  32. 25 Science Policy and the Quality of Life
    (pp. 264-274)

    O’Hara: One of the quotes I have in front of me is fromThe Bush Garden[ii; C, 413], where you say that the central images of everyone’s life are formed in childhood. [Relates an anecdote about a four-year old child who asked him if a lake was polluted.] It struck me that it means that here’s a formation of something in childhood that is going to alter the young person’s perception of what water is, and the baptismal, the salvific, notions of water. The first question becomes, “Is it polluted?” which is a very unnatural one.

    Frye: Well, I...

  33. 26 Modern Education
    (pp. 275-277)

    Narrator: We asked Northrop Frye whether he thought the quality of university education today was being eroded by social pressures.

    Frye: The university is after all a special purpose institution, and the decline in undergraduate registration in the last year or so indicates that the students are beginning to realize that. A university education does not guarantee a comfortable middle-class living. Further, it is not something that one really has to have or can demand as a right. I think that what is really the problem is the old hierarchical system—that the university is the first-rate education that the...

  34. 27 Symmetry in the Arts: Blake
    (pp. 278-282)

    Robertson: We asked Dr. Northrop Frye why he called his book on William BlakeFearful Symmetry.

    Frye: I used this quotation from Blake’s most familiar poem,The Tyger,because I thought it would be recognized by the public and also because I felt a great deal of Blake was bound up with his conception of symmetry, which was partly a revolt against the eighteenth-century, classical conception of symmetry. Poets always develop a type of verse which suits their habit of thought, and Blake was looking for something in metre, or at least in a poetic rhythm. He was almost the...

  35. 28 Harold Innis: Portrait of a Scholar
    (pp. 283-283)

    Chisolm: Professor Northrop Frye is a literary critic and a commissioner for the CRTC. He has long thought that Innis’s theories were central to any communications philosophy.

    Frye: This is something that naturally interests both historians and theorists of language, so that Innis, like Hegel, is a person who has both leftwing and right-wing disciples. I don’t think that you could find greater contrasts in outlook and temperament in the University of Toronto than between, say, Marshall McLuhan and Donald Creighton, and yet both of them have been very strongly influenced by Innis.

    ab ab ab ab ab ab ab...

  36. 29 Easter
    (pp. 284-290)

    Davis: We begin with a question to a distinguished Canadian scholar and humanist, Northrop Frye. Why did the life of Christ parallel almost everything we know about the nature of the hero in mythology and literature?

    Frye: There’s a tendency for all religions to develop mythologies, that is, bodies of stories at the centre. The tendency of myth is to stick together to make mythology; the mythology tends to become encyclopedic, to cover the whole range of time and space. One of the things in Christianity that’s important is that it must have hit the people in the Mediterranean world...

  37. 30 Impressions
    (pp. 291-302)

    Cook: I believe that you’re an ordained minister, isn’t that so?

    Frye: That’s true, yes.

    Cook: Did you in fact take a charge in the early part of your life?

    Frye: No. I had a mission field in Saskatchewan one summer, that was all.¹

    Cook: And then you went back to your studies?

    Frye: Yes.

    Cook: And you’ve taught in a church-affiliated college all your life. Yet you teach the Bible as a form of literature. Is that something which has easily been accepted in a church-affiliated college, your treating a sacred document as though it was simply a piece...

  38. 31 CRTC Hearings
    (pp. 303-305)

    Frye: I have been wondering about the conception of Canadian society that seemed to be implied in your report this morning, Mr. Picard. I’m rather unhappy about statistics which show that the CBC is better at concentration and the CTV better at distraction. It seems to me so obvious that to be educational and to be entertaining are aspects of a good program—they are not categories of programs. I feel unhappy when I discover that there are three pure models available: a wholly commercial mass appeal, a different Canadian mass appeal, and a different Canadian specialized minority appeal. I...

  39. 32 Canadian Voices
    (pp. 306-309)

    Every once in a while [a Canadian in the U.S.] realizes he is in a foreign country. When I was first faced with the question, I thought: my religious affinities at the moment are the United Church of Canada, and my political affinities at the moment are CCF.¹ These were two categories I could never translate into American terms. The boundary has a reality in the Canadian mind of which the American has no conception. In Canada you hear the phrase “across the line” to describe America. I’ve never heard an American say, “across the line.”

    I think the greatest...

  40. 33 Sacred and Secular Scriptures
    (pp. 310-316)

    Frye: I am preoccupied at the moment with a very large and complicated book on the Bible and the way in which the Bible set up the mythological framework within which Western culture operated for many centuries.

    Kaplan: And continues to operate?

    Frye: I think it does. There is hardly anything else with which to work. There is in secular literature— more particularly what I call romance—a curious kind of shadow effect. I have been looking at romance as consisting of a number of themes or narrative units, which make up the same kind of legend of the universe...

  41. 34 Education, Religion, Old Age
    (pp. 317-327)

    Chester: Dr. Frye, when you were first informed of theVarsity’srequest to interview you, what was your initial reaction?

    Frye: Well, theVarsityhas had a great variety of editorial policies over the last few years, and I’d normally be very pleased and honoured to have an interview from theVarsity.

    Chester: I understand, though, that you have been interviewed before byThe Varsity.Your secretary mentioned that you weren’t very pleased with what had happened. Is this true?

    Frye: What happened then was that one of the professional student organizers from the States came in in the middle...

  42. 35 The Future Tense
    (pp. 328-329)

    Narrator: As Northrop Frye says, Mr. McLuhan’s vision of apocalypse is worth thinking about. But there’s another side too.

    Frye: The possibility of a smash is something that we would be foolish to dismiss. I think that our minds go in a kind of manic-depressive, up-anddown rhythm between feeling that we’re all going to be wiped out by the atomic bomb, which is the depressing one, and feeling that we’re going to move into an Age of Aquarius where everything will be wonderful and lovely, which is the manic side.¹ I don’t believe in either the manic peak or the...

  43. 36 “A Literate Person Is First and Foremost an Articulate Person”
    (pp. 330-343)

    Oliver: Literacy is a term that seems to be open to a range of interpretations—from the mechanical ability to read and write to an understanding and a familiarity with literature. First I should like to consider the more mechanical aspects, especially writing, because the inability of students to express themselves in writing has recently caused such a fuss around the country. What are your own feelings about this? Do you think standards have deteriorated?

    Frye: Certain kinds of standards have. I think it’s very seldom realized that the mechanical ability to read and write, especially to read, has no...

  44. 37 The Education of Mike McManus
    (pp. 344-354)

    McManus: He explains a medieval legend in which the souls of the dead had to keep running day and night or crumble to dust. This, he says, is a parable for modern society [MC, 22–3;NFMC, 11]. My guest: one of the leading literary critics of the Western world, Dr. Northrop Frye. Our subject: A Man for All Seasons. And my name’s McManus.

    Dr. Northrop Frye, I quoted in my opening from a book that you wrote in 1968 calledThe Modern Century.In it you told how we’re being reduced to despair by the steadily increasing speed of...

  45. 38 An Eminent Victorian
    (pp. 355-366)

    Reynolds: Do you have any favourite recollections from your days as a student at Victoria College?

    Frye: Well, I’d had rather a lonely time growing up and I found myself in a very congenial community, so I threw myself into quite a lot of activities: debating, dramatic society, year executives, residence executives, editor ofActain my last year, and so on.¹ So there are quite a number of pleasant memories, including the friends that I met. I think that students did know each other very well in those days, more than they do now perhaps. There are something like...

  46. 39 Between Paradise and Apocalypse
    (pp. 367-399)

    Harron: Professor Frye, there’s a lot of talk these days about a return to religion. The flower children have gone to seed, and the counter-revolution seems to be here. People are born again. Is there any real meaning in a return to religion? Does it ever leave?

    Frye: I think it springs from the fact that we all belong to something before we are anything; that is, we’re conditioned to be people in a certain social context even before we’re born. I think that people consequently have certain feelings of loyalty built into them, and there are times when the...

  47. 40 Frye’s Literary Theory in the Classroom: A Panel Discussion
    (pp. 400-412)

    Frye: There are several subordinate reasons, one being that Bill Jovanovich is a person with a very compelling personality, and after I got a few letters from him saying things like, “Will the real Northrop Frye please stand up,” I had to do something to respond. But the real reason I got interested in it is that my approach to literature has always been a teach- ing approach—I have always been a teacher rather than a scholar; my books have been teachers’ books.

    In a way, I really didn’t believe in my own theories until I found a way...

  48. 41 Getting the Order Right
    (pp. 413-429)

    Cuthbert: First of all, Dr. Frye, why did you begin with Blake?

    Frye: When I was an undergraduate I had a teacher, Pelham Edgar, who had X-ray eyes, and he took one look at me and decided I had to write a paper on Blake for his seminar. I did, and I got promptly hooked on him. Then when I had got my B.A., Herbert Davis at University College was giving a graduate course on Blake, so I snatched at that. That hooked me into writing a book, although it took me ten years to do it and five complete...

  49. 42 Tradition and Change in the College
    (pp. 430-441)

    Plaskett: The role of chancellor is, at best, an ill-defined role. Could you outline what you see that role as being?

    Frye: Well, I’m not sure. Victoria changed over from the University of Toronto scheme sometime in the 1930s. Walter Brown was the executive officer before that, and there was no president. It was Brown who changed the [Victoria College] Act and brought in Brigadier Spencer as the first chancellor, while he became vice-chancellor and president.¹ Then we had Lester Pearson and Louis Breithaupt.² And then the office lapsed for fifteen or twenty years. So there really isn’t a great...

  50. 43 The New American Dreams over the Great Lakes
    (pp. 442-444)

    Brunetta: Mr. Frye, you maintain that Canadians, after being for a long time an American colony, are today trying to discover, or rediscover, their own identity.

    Frye: For as long as Canada has existed Canadians have had an almost neurotic obsession that has pushed them to seek their own identity, underlining, as much as possible, the non-American traits. This preoccupation, one widely held, goes back to the nineteenth century when Can- ada became a political entity thanks to Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution. Canadians have always been troubled by the fact that in other countries they are always presumed...

  51. 44 Four Questions for Northrop Frye
    (pp. 445-448)

    Eco: Your last book to be translated into Italian,The Secular Scripture,is dedicated to romance. This is a difficult category for the Italian reader, for whom the expression “fantastic novel” would be more apt as a description given the absence, in our language, of the distinction between a “novel,” as a realistic tale, and a “romance.” Nevertheless, even if we do not have the romance genre, we have produced a few of them in Italy, and you would even include in this category theDivine Comedy.Moreover, as is true throughout the world, the younger Italian generation has discovered...

  52. 45 “I Tried to Shatter the Shell of Historicism”
    (pp. 449-451)

    Gorlier: The role of history is one of the most debated aspects of your theoretical framework. This is especially so in a country where historicism and the historical approach are still very much in evidence. Can you comment on this?

    Frye: I don’t know much about the historical approach to criticism in Italy. When I attended university, there was a strong historical slant to literary criticism, especially at a very mechanical level. In other words, a literary-historical perspective emerged which could be reduced in substance to the proposition that one author came after another, and that therefore one had to...

  53. 46 The Wisdom of the Reader
    (pp. 452-454)

    Frye: Let’s say, for the sake of simplification, that myths are words arranged in a certain order. In primitive societies, all the myths were translated into stories because there was no other system for arranging words and also because abstract argument had not yet emerged. We are speaking about stories that usually dealt with gods and tended to stick together, giving birth to a complex mythology. It is this mythology which, in turn, handed down to later centuries a cultural heritage of allusions. From this literature then developed, and its function has always been to recreate mythology. In this sense,...

  54. 47 Identity and Myth
    (pp. 455-460)

    Reid: What do you think characterizes you as a literary critic?

    Frye: My own interests have always been centred upon literature itself, and upon what might be called the social context of literature, its real function in society. I was educated in the authentic philistine tradition: literature was something you only concerned yourself with after the day’s work, that is, after you’d earned your living and had success. Literature was a luxury article, a thing one could easily do without, an amusement to be cultivated only after the real problems had been resolved. However, when I started to study a...

  55. 48 Literature in Education
    (pp. 461-468)

    Fillion: Would you begin by commenting on your idea of the educated imagination, a central notion in many of your works?

    Frye: It is primarily by means of our imagination that we participate in society. That sort of participation makes us concerned citizens and, since a democracy depends on concerned citizens, it follows that the education of the imagination ought to have a central priority in our schools.

    Fillion: You have said, “Ultimately, works of literature are not things to be contemplated, but powers to be absorbed.”¹ Does that statement indicate how literature educates our imaginations?

    Frye: Yes, that notion...

  56. 49 Northrop Frye: Signifying Everything
    (pp. 469-476)

    Fraser: You grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick, where you must have spent a lot of time in front of a typewriter, because you soon found yourself in Toronto competing as a representative of Underwood in a typewriting contest at Massey Hall. Were you planning on going into a business career at that time?

    Frye: No, I got a scholarship from a local business college when I graduated from high school, because I had the highest standing in English. I thought it would be a good thing to have. I was offered various secretarial jobs, but I was very anxious...

  57. 50 The Critical Path
    (pp. 477-482)

    Herman-Sekulić: Mr. Frye, your bookAnatomy of Criticism,a classic of contemporary literary criticism, translated into many foreign languages, even into Japanese, finally appeared in a Yugoslav edition thanks to the efforts of the publishing house Naprijed of Zagreb. We waited long— the first edition ofAnatomywas in 1957—to see your book translated into Serbo-Croatian, but we are happy that it has seen the light of day in our bookstores in quite a good translation and an attractive edition. Do you know of any reason for such a late publication in Yugoslavia? Was it just another case of...

  58. 51 Regionalism in Canada
    (pp. 483-486)

    Gorjup: It has been a fact that your theory of criticism, developed in your masterworkAnatomy of Criticism,has had a much greater and more persuasive influence on a generation of critics in both English-and non-English-speaking countries than that of any other literary critic in recent history. Could you tell us how and why you came to construct your “systematic” framework for the critical study of literature in view of the fact that literature has always been thought to be that aspect of the human mind which opposes itself to any “systematization”?

    Frye: It is hardly possible to explain how...

  59. 52 Canadian Energy: Dialogues on Creativity
    (pp. 487-495)

    Shackleton: Do you draw a distinction between your roles as scholar and teacher, or do you view them as being integrated?

    Frye: I think that there is a difference in practice, though there shouldn’t be in theory, between a scholar and a teacher. And it’s only recently that it’s dawned on me that all of my books have essentially been teachers’ manuals rather than works of scholarship. Of course the two things overlap a good deal, but the scholar is a person who gathers material and does research. He puts everything he has in front of the reader. And a...

  60. 53 From Nationalism to Regionalism: The Maturing of Canadian Culture
    (pp. 496-505)

    Fulford: Culture in Canada in the 1970s expanded enormously in numbers, in everything from the number of books of poetry published to the number of dancers employed. But as the decade ended there was a sense of—maybe not despair, but certainly disappointment that somehow things hadn’t worked out as everyone had hoped or expected. Did you get that feeling?

    Frye: I’m not so sure. I think there are other factors such as the growing recognition of Canadian literature outside Canada, and a growing response to it which I find almost miraculous. I don’t understand what people on the continent...

  61. 54 Commemorating the Massey Lectures
    (pp. 506-509)

    Wolfe: I asked Professor Frye how his 1962 Massey lectures would be different if he were preparing them today.

    Frye: Only in small details. The larger contours would be the same.

    Wolfe: I asked him to what extent he thought his view of literature had been shaped by the fact that he was Canadian.

    Frye: A great deal, but in ways that would puzzle me perhaps to make explicit. I just know that every person with any sort of creative power grows out of his immediate environment and is shaped by that environment in ways that are often too subtle...

  62. 55 Marshall McLuhan
    (pp. 510-511)

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

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

    [Other comments intervene.]

    Interviewer: Professor McLuhan’s ingenuity was easily...

  63. 56 Storytelling
    (pp. 512-517)

    Frye : Man doesn’t live nakedly in nature the way that animals do. He lives inside a transparent envelope that we call his culture or his civilization. The verbal part of that culture or civilization consists of stories that express his central concerns about himself, his destiny, and his nature, and also about the origin of his society. These become theological or political arguments later on, but they begin as stories in a culture where everything is concrete. When the arguments develop, they often repress the fact that they are in fact later developments of stories.

    Germain: In this segment,...

  64. 57 A Fearful Symmetry
    (pp. 518-525)

    Bastian: You have a new book coming out on the Bible. What is it called?

    Frye: It’s calledThe Great Code, a phrase from Blake. He says the Bible is the great code of our art.¹

    Bastian: What do you do in this book?

    Frye: I’m trying to relate the Bible to the cultural, imaginative traditions of Western Europe. So it’s not Biblical scholarship, it’s not theology, it’s about the Bible in literature. In fact, “The Bible and Literature” is its subtitle.

    Bastian: So you’re coming from Western civilization back to a consideration of the Bible?

    Frye: It’s actually broken...

  65. 58 Medium and Message
    (pp. 526-527)

    Davies: [McLuhan’s] own commitment * * * was to literacy, and in his anxiety to point out the possibility of its decay, he failed to do justice to the full powers of print technology. Such at least is the view of his Toronto colleague, the critic Northrop Frye.

    Frye: I rather wish that Marshall had come to terms with the linear nature of the book because I think he would have been a much more permanent influence if he had done. What he has said about the linear quality and the self-hypnotizing power of the eye in written books and...

  66. 59 Scientist and Artist
    (pp. 528-535)

    Interviewer: Professor Frye, your first published book was a study of William Blake. Blake is emblematic, for many people, of the poet’s antipathy towards the sciences. What was it that Blake saw in science that would lead him to say, “May God us keep /From single vision and Newton’s sleep!”?¹

    Frye: It wasn’t what he saw in science, it was what he saw in politics. He saw a kind of death impulse trying to get control of science and the death impulse was the thing that had caused the Napoleonic Wars. He had started out as a partisan of the...

  67. 60 The Art of Bunraku
    (pp. 536-545)

    Gross: Was this your first encounter with Bunraku?

    Frye: No. I had visited Japan and was taken to Osaka and had seen a performance of a Chikamatsu play—or half of it; I was exhausted by the end of the first half. So I knew something about what the whole ensemble was. When I saw Marty Gross’s film I realized chiefly what an extraordinary synchronizing job he had managed to make of the total impression of the original.

    Fulford: What happens in the theatre? I still have never experienced it. How does the experience of the theatre differ from the...

  68. 61 On The Great Code (I)
    (pp. 546-564)

    Harron : Where does the term “The Great Code” come from?

    Frye : It comes from a series of aphorisms that Blake wrote around the margins of an engraving he did of the Laocoön, and . . .

    Harron : That’s those three guys all tied up together.

    Frye : Yes, that’s right. And he had several remarks there about the Bible, and in the course of it he says that the Old and the New Testaments are the “Great Code of Art.” Of course originally “code” was a word that had rather specific reference to the Bible itself, whereas...

  69. 62 Chatelaine’s Celebrity I.D.
    (pp. 565-567)

    Height: 5’ 8 or 9”.

    Weight: About 155.

    Shoe size: I don’t know. I get my shoes measured.

    Eyesight: I’m nearsighted;but gradually I’m becoming less so, as everybody does, after the age of sixty-five.

    When I write: My writing becomes an oddly furtive business, like squirrels burying nuts against a hard winter. I’ve learned to adapt myself so I can write at odd moments and in odd corners.

    Average day: I find that my schedule tends to be very much nine to five or six. I like to be home for dinner. I am usually in bed by ten; I...

  70. 63 On The Great Code (II)
    (pp. 568-574)

    Gougeon: Professor Frye, should it be surprising to anyone to realize that a university course on the Bible is attracting students and other teachers from every corner of the world?

    Frye : It’s not surprising to me as a teacher because I’ve been aware for a good many years that students were not getting trained in the Bible at an early age. They realized they were being gypped, because when they came to read English literature and struggled with things likeParadise Lost, they realized how clueless they were. So naturally, the intelligent people wanted to know something about the...

  71. 64 Towards an Oral History of the University of Toronto
    (pp. 575-641)

    Schatzker: You were born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1912, Dr. Frye.

    Frye: That’s right.

    Schatzker: And your full name, I should mention, is Herman Northrop Frye.

    Frye: Yes.

    Schatzker: Of Canadian parents?

    Frye: Yes.

    Schatzker: What were their full names?

    Frye: My father’s name was Herman Edward Frye and mother’s name was Catharine Howard Frye.

    Schatzker: I gather you spent your early childhood there and also in Moncton, New Brunswick. Frye: I spent the first five years of my life in Sherbrooke, the next three in Lennoxville (a town next to it), and then we moved to Moncton, New Brunswick,...

  72. 65 Back to the Garden
    (pp. 642-655)

    Arnold: But let’s start with him telling his own story, which begins when he arrives at Victoria College.

    Frye : I came to Victoria College in the fall of 1929, and Toronto, while it was still a small town by world standards, was still a lot bigger than anything I’d seen before. The movement to the city of Toronto in itself was quite an education, and then of course the whole undergraduate career was one that provided me with a sense of social function. I’d always been a bit isolated as a high-school student, and at college there were a...

  73. 66 On The Great Code (III)
    (pp. 656-669)

    Interviewer: Professor Frye, could I first ask you why you chose the Bible as a subject for literary analysis when there is already a vast canon of works on Biblical scholarship?

    Frye: Well, I found myself as an English teacher first of all engaged in trying to explain poems likeParadiseLost to students who didn’t know one end of the Bible from the other. And so the importance of studying the Bible as a guide to the study of English literature was impressed on me for a long time. It’s true that there has been a great deal written...

  74. 67 Maintaining Freedom in Paradise
    (pp. 670-680)

    Kaufman: Did there come a particular point or did it dawn on you gradually that your career was not going to be that of a more typical professor, who might publish a handful of articles and perhaps an obscure book?

    Frye: Well, I don’t really know how to answer that. People have said that my career looks as though I had drawn up an agenda in my early twenties as to exactly what I was going to do and when I was going to do it. But it wasn’t at all like that. I simply went completely in the dark,...

  75. 68 On The Great Code (IV)
    (pp. 681-684)

    Reid: At the beginning ofThe Great Code, you explain that the book rose out of your teaching experience and that it was aimed at overcoming a series of “repressions” in the minds of the students. Teaching, you point out, should help students to realize what they already know [xv/9]. What exactly did you mean by that?

    Frye: Well, many scholars hate the guts of this book, and the reason, I think, is simple: every scholarly establishment creates its own institutions and conventions, its own canons of what is acceptable and what is not, and these rapidly become a repressive...

  76. 69 Making the Revolutionary Act New
    (pp. 685-692)

    Interviewer: Could we begin by discussing the relation ofFearful SymmetrytoAnatomy of Criticism?You say at the end ofFearful Symmetrythat the study of anagogy could provide the missing piece in contemporary thought. What’s the place of anagogy in your present work?

    Frye: The reason it took me so long to writeFearful Symmetrywas that a great deal of what later became theAnatomywas being mixed up with it, and so theAnatomydid grow quite directly out of the Blake study. That, in its turn, reaches the conception of anagogic criticism, which is the...

  77. 70 Visualization in Reading
    (pp. 693-699)

    Esrock: I’m interested in your experiences as a reader reading texts. I’m particularly interested in visual images, at least in that commonsense way we talk of them. I have a few questions, so maybe you can put yourself in a meditative, rather than a programmatic frame of mind. Can you form the visual image of an apple?

    Frye: I think so.

    Esrock: Can you make it a red apple?

    Frye: Yes.

    Esrock: A green apple?

    Frye: Yes.

    Esrock: Can you turn it upside down?

    Frye: Yes. Esrock: That’s simply to establish something about your imagining capacities, at least your reports...

  78. 71 Hard Times in the Ivory Tower
    (pp. 700-703)

    Barker: In last night’s program, I showed how government and universities have encouraged students to come to university. I argued that the vocational role of the university, the ability to train students for jobs of higher technical skill as well as higher status, was always in danger of overshadowing the intellectual curriculum. Tonight I want to argue that, while an intellectual curriculum can be found in a large decentralized university, it does not flourish there unless it is closely related to the spontaneity and support found in a vigorous social life.

    Frye: The dilemma of a university which is caught...

  79. 72 Frye at the Forum
    (pp. 704-708)

    Kirkwood: Do you think that writing on a variety of subjects in theForumwhen you were a younger man helped you to form your style and your ideas in any way?

    Frye: Oh yes, very much so. I spoke once of theForum’sgood-natured hospitality that has helped so many Canadians to learn to write,¹ and actually that was one of the things I had as a kind of ideal when I was literary editor. I wanted it to be a forum for bringing along younger writers.

    Kirkwood: In October 1938, some years before you became editor, you wrote...

  80. 73 The Scholar in Society
    (pp. 709-717)

    Winkler: Could we begin with your understanding of the role which the university plays in society?

    Frye: I think that the university stands for a certain attitude to society, which is an attitude of detachment without withdrawal. That sense of detachment from partisanship, at the same time being fully aware of everything that’s going on in society and concerned about it, is really the model for the citizen of a democracy. The university, I think, does provide the nearest thing to a model community for the student that human nature permits. Once he has graduated, then he is the university...

  81. 74 Inventing a Music: MacMillan and Walter in the Past and Present
    (pp. 718-719)

    Frye: Hello, Sam, it’s good to see you.

    Sam: Northrop Frye, this is Whitney Smith.

    Smith: Hello, Mr. Frye.

    Sam: Mr. Smith here is doing a program on Sir Ernest MacMillan and Arnold Walter. I was telling Mr. Smith what you said about music as a social art.

    Frye: Well, music is an ensemble performance for audiences, and I think that societies that have a strong sense of themselves as societies, like Elizabethan England, are societies where music and drama forged to the front as the main means of expression. When you get a strongly individualized society, like Victorian England,...

  82. 75 Criticism after Anatomy
    (pp. 720-722)

    Stamberg: Northrop Frye, one of the world’s most distinguished literary critics, is giving a lecture at the Library of Congress this evening. His topic is “The Social Authority of the Writer.” Frye’s authority as a critic was established with his now classic book,Anatomy of Criticism, praised for raising the level of the critic to that of the artist.

    Frye: TheAnatomy of Criticismis now thirty years old,¹ and at that time there was still a lot of feeling around that literary criticism was a parasitic subject, that the literary critic was somebody who profited by the poets without...

  83. 76 Richard Cartwright and the Roots of Canadian Conservatism
    (pp. 723-725)

    Cayley: Dennis Duffy indicates here both the strength and the weakness of Loyalism. Through the movement for an imperial federation of British nations, the Loyalists sought a wider, more universal identity for Canada. But at the same time, they were often forced to overlook Britain’s actual indifference to Canada and its concerns, and this inevitably led to a certain sentimentality in Loyalism.

    Frye: Nobody coming from the planet Mars and studying Canadian history would believe that Canadians retained a loyalty to the British government through a century of total ineptness, where the British had always preferred American interests to Canadian...

  84. 77 Les Lecteurs doivent manger le livre
    (pp. 726-728)

    Frye: La Bible est un livre original en cela qu’il n’y a pas grand-chose de neuf dedans. L’auteur original est toujours celui qui retourne aux origines de la littérature. Shakespeare n’est pas neuf parce qu’il a inventé de nouvelles histoires, mais parce qu’il a su en raconter d’anciennes.

    Dans le Nouveau Testament, Jésus n’a rien enseigné qui ne soit déjà dans l’Ancien. La conception de ce que nous appelons la vérité, la croyance, a pas mal changé au cours des vingt derniers siècles. Ce n’est plus parce qu’elle contient des faits historiques que nous nous intéressons àla Bible. Elle est...

  85. 78 The Darkening Mirror: Reflections on the Bomb and Language
    (pp. 729-732)

    Frye: People have been drunk with words ever since they began to use them.

    Wilson: This is Dr. Northrop Frye, the eminent literary critic. He’s written voluminously on language, most recently in his book The Great Code:The Bible and Literature.

    Frye: And I suppose that the model for what Derrida is talking about isFinnegans Wake, where every word has a number of supplements in addition to its surface meaning, whatever it is, and where you don’t follow a plot, but you simply follow a number of allusions into a verbal world. Well, I think this conception of a...

  86. 79 Music in My Life
    (pp. 733-742)

    Alexander: Northrop Frye, you’ve said, “I’m really building everything around a highly personal vision I think I’ve had since I was a child.”¹ Can you talk about your childhood and what that vision might have been?

    Frye: I suppose I’m really saying what is true of almost all members of the human race, that they get what I call their archetypes in their childhood and then spend the rest of their lives elaborating them in various ways. I was brought up in a middle-class, nonconformist environment. I have been more or less writing footnotes to the assumptions I acquired at...

  87. 80 Books as Counter-Culture
    (pp. 743-743)

    Cope: These days we hear talk that television is ruining the attention spans of prospective readers and that the commercialized world of publishing inhibits the growth of serious literature. Whether this is true or not was a question posed recently to Northrop Frye, the eminent scholar and literary critic * * *. In the Bay Area recently, Frye was asked the Big Question: Does he believe literature in North America is headed for renewal or demise?

    Frye: I think I’m hopeful * * *. I know that when I travel on the subway in Toronto I see that people are...

  88. 81 The Primary Necessities of Existence
    (pp. 744-751)

    Craik: What is the role of the humanities in today’s technological world?

    Frye: The humanities came into existence around the time of the Renaissance to distinguish the study of human matters from the things that were concerned with theology on the one hand and nature on the other. The things concerned with nature became the source of modern science, but that still left the study of mankind itself. Mankind is the only organism that has been able to study itself as a thing, as something in the world. And while part of that study belongs to the sciences, the central...

  89. 82 Criticism in Society
    (pp. 752-765)

    Salusinszky: I’m going around talking to a series of people about the social and institutional contexts of contemporary criticism. I’d like to talk to you first about the role of criticism in society, and I’ve been thinking of what you’ve written about “concern”—the things that a society thinks it needs to know about where it’s coming from or where it’s headed—and the relation of criticism to concern. I want to talk about three of the concepts with which your name always has been, and most likely always will be, associated within criticism. First, the notion of myth or...

  90. 83 On the Media
    (pp. 766-769)

    Interviewer: Some people would say that popular culture arises only out of its definition. Could you distinguish between popular culture and high culture?

    Frye: The distinction between popular culture and highbrow culture assumes that there are two different kinds of people, and I think that’s extremely dubious. I don’t see the virginal purity of highbrow literature trying to keep itself unsullied from the pollutions of popular culture. Umberto Eco wasn’t any less a semiotics scholar for writing a bestselling romance [The Name of the Rose]. There isn’t a qualitative distinction. It just doesn’t exist. And I think that the tendency...

  91. 84 The Great Test of Maturity
    (pp. 770-778)

    Carlin: First of all, does the popular journalism of today have a real impact on our society and its culture? Or does it just flit on the surface of it?

    Frye: Oh, it’s bound to have an impact, and even if it’s superficial, nevertheless it has a cumulative effect day after day in the steady bombardment of events. A world in which an atomic energy plant springs a leak and you see the results in the air in Winnipeg is obviously a world in which there is a very considerable response to this bombardment of sense impressions.

    Carlin: Now I’m...

  92. 85 Archetype and History
    (pp. 779-789)

    Lawton: During a question-and-answer session in Sydney I heard you say, “I rather resent being known as that man who does archetypes and myths.” Do you accept archetypal criticism as a good label for the sort of work that you do?

    Frye: On the understanding that “archetypal” means recurrent patterns in literary experience which give unity to the criticism of literature, I would consider that it was all right. I use the term “archetypal” in its Neoplatonic sense, only as something immanent and not as something belonging to another world and generating things in a lower world. But I used...

  93. 86 Moncton, Mentors, and Memories
    (pp. 790-808)

    Bogdan: Professor Frye, you were born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, but grew up and went to school in Moncton. During what years was that?

    Frye: It was sometime around 1919 or 1920 that we moved to Moncton. There had been a background of disaster in the family. My older brother was killed in the First World War in 1918. My father’s hardware business in Sherbrooke failed at the same time, so he moved to the Maritimes to take agencies for the hardware companies in Upper Canada. Moncton was the logical centre for travelling in the Maritimes. So I moved there when...

  94. 87 William Blake: Prophet of the New Age
    (pp. 809-812)

    Cayley: Why read Blake today?

    Frye: Why read Blake today?

    Cayley: Yes.

    Frye: Well, because he’s one of the half-dozen people in the world it makes sense to read.

    Lister Sinclair: That was Northrop Frye. I’m Lister Sinclair and this isIdeason the poetry, the painting, and the prophecy of William Blake.

    Frye: Blake was the first poet of English literature, and as far as I know, the first person of the modern world who not only had revolutionary ideas but realized that the whole mythical structure of the universe that man had been using for a couple of...

  95. 88 Morningside Interview on Shakespeare
    (pp. 813-820)

    Gzowski: I could introduce Northrop Frye this morning by enumerating a long list of his honours and achievements, but I’ll forego that and I’ll mention his latest accomplishment: his book on Shakespeare,Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, a collection of lectures on the great bard that were once the prize of the privileged few, more than a few, who’ve been Frye’s students. Now they can be enjoyed and shared by us all. Northrop Frye joins me in the studio now. Good morning, sir.

    Frye: Good morning.

    Gzowski: Now, I’m intimidated. I don’t know how to deal with the fact of being...

  96. 89 Love of Learning
    (pp. 821-825)

    Schiller: Why, then, does a man whose life has been steeped in the classroom call his own schooling as a boy “penal servitude” [WE, 143]? Why has he said over the years that “I probably owe my present interest in education to the fact that I had so little of it” [ibid.]. He claims no school teacher had any lasting influence on him. Just what does Northrop Frye expect of a school system?

    Frye: I’ve always said that when a person loses his memory, he’s senile. A nation that loses its sense of history goes senile. That’s why I think...

  97. 90 Frye, Literary Critic
    (pp. 826-829)

    Innocenti: Your criticism deals mainly with the search for the basic elements of literature—those of formal structure (myths) and those of imagery (archetypes). If these are the common components of different literary works, how can the critic capture the specificity of a single text and of its individual and autonomous meaning?

    Frye: I think of criticism as a structure of knowledge about literature. If it isn’t that it’s not anything worth pursuing. Uniqueness and individuality are elements of experience, not elements of knowledge. We cannot know the unique, or even the individual, as such: knowledge is of likenesses within...

  98. 91 On The Great Code (V)
    (pp. 830-831)

    Aphel: With your book on the Bible, it may be the first time (at least in Italy) that the Old and New Testaments are linked to the study of narrative works. At the international level, what kind of a response has this work garnered?

    Frye: Let’s say that it was not a unanimous response; many critics had a feeling that this was a book on religion, and that is not so. Others thought that I was being anti-historical, but it is the Bible that is anti-historical. There have also been, however, positive, generous reactions. There are those who understood that...

  99. 92 On The Great Code (VI)
    (pp. 832-835)

    Plevano: There is a tension, a problem, in defining the structure and characteristics of the category of the modern in literature. The modern seems almost to be that point beyond which conventional narrative structures dissolve, or at least are put in question. In what sense can the Bible offer us an understandable model for modern narrative?

    Frye: It is a model in the sense that many contemporary narrators actually dedicate themselves to a quasi-parody, to a deliberate inversion, or to a deconstruction of the conventional forms. This means that the reader is forced to have in mind the traditional model...

  100. 93 On Education
    (pp. 836-839)

    Pringle: You started your formal education in school at the age of eight, which is later than most kids. In all I read about you, you don’t have very kind things to say about teachers or the educational system, which you’ve called a form of penal servitude [WE, 143]. It seems sort of bizarre that you’d end up spending your life in its service.

    Frye: Well, I was taught at home, and those were fairly easy-going days, when our family was shuttling back and forth between Quebec and New Brunswick. So it was just a matter of accident that I...

  101. 94 Schools of Criticism (I)
    (pp. 840-848)

    Guardiani: The main thesis ofAnatomy of Criticismwas the establishment of a “new science,” if I may use the expression, of literary criticism as an empirical, systematic, and progressive discipline drawing directly from literature the necessary instruments of analysis. The new discipline should be free from the direct experience that one might have in reading literature and free from the dependence on other disciplines such as philosophy, psychoanalysis, history, etc. In regard to the first point, what do you have to say to Harold Bloom protesting that “There are no texts. There are only ourselves”?¹ Do you think that...

  102. 95 William Morris
    (pp. 849-857)

    Lowry: Can you recall your first introduction to Morris? Was it as a literary figure or a political figure?

    Frye: It was more a literary figure. I was interested in Blake because he was the subject of my first book and, of course, one of Blake’s main interests was the democratizing of art, of making it a general possession. Morris carried that a good deal further from the study of Carlyle and Ruskin. He felt that the difference between the major and the minor arts—painting, music, literature on the one hand, and pottery, ceramics, and textiles on the other—...

  103. 96 What Is the Purpose of Art?
    (pp. 858-859)

    Frye: A great many people would say that art has no purpose, that that’s the whole point about the arts. I think myself that I prefer not to use the word “purpose,” but it does have a function. I think that humanity has certain concerns, and some of them are concerns that can be expressed verbally, such as political loyalties and religious beliefs, and others are more primary and immediate, like seeing and hearing, and also making a living and staying healthy and that kind of thing. I think that literature has a specific function among the verbal arts in...

  104. 97 Canadian Writers in Italy
    (pp. 860-861)

    Frye: In culture, as in athletics, it’s fine for Canadians to win the odd game or pick up the occasional bronze medal, but to win an entire series or a fistful of gold medals would be, well, ostentatious. [Frye’s voice continues in the background while the narrator talks.]

    Downey: Northrop Frye is revered in Italy. It’s part of the reason he was asked to give the opening address at this Toronto conference on the reception of Canadian literature in Italy. Italian scholars and Canadian writers meet to talk about Canadian writing. Northrop Frye hates being asked why other countries are...

  105. 98 The Great Teacher
    (pp. 862-886)

    Frye(υoiceoυer): I think of a nature that got along for billions of years without man, but I don’t think of creation as a factor. Somebody talking about the origin of the universe would be better advised not to use the word “creation” in that context. He’s talking about a natural process.

    The conception of creation for me, as a term, only begins to make sense when there is a consciousness responding to it.

    Rasky: Is it important that the first words be “In the beginning,” do you think, in the Bible? Could you imagine a Bible that started any other...

  106. 99 Canadian and American Values
    (pp. 887-903)

    Moyers: Does it bother Canadians that the United States pays them so little attention? Or do you just consider yourselves lucky?

    Frye: Well, there is a good deal of resentment about the Americans’ ignorance of things Canadian, considering that the first thing the American learns about his own country is that it’s bounded on the north by Canada. At the same time, the American policy of taking Canada more or less for granted rather suits the Canadian temperament.

    Moyers: Poor Mexico has to wake up every morning wondering what good deed the United States is going to do to it...

  107. 100 Nature and Civilization
    (pp. 904-909)

    Interviewer: Professor Frye, what does the word “nature” mean to you?

    Frye: Traditionally, there have always been two aspects of nature: nature as structure or system in the environment—the nature of physics; and the nature that is the force of growth in life—the nature of biology.

    Interviewer: As man did not make nature we therefore cannot understand it. How has man dealt with this incomprehensibility of nature?

    Frye: Man looks at nature and finds it intelligible. How the intelligibility got there is none of his business as a scientist, but he does find that he can make a...

  108. 101 Second Marriage
    (pp. 910-915)

    Ashton: In July of last year, a loving union was announced that captivated the imaginations of all Canadians. Dr. Northrop Frye, one of the most influential scholars of this century, was getting married. For both him and Elizabeth, his bride-to-be, it was a second marriage. Now there may be nothing too special about that, but what brought the romantic out in all of us, I think, was that Northrop and Elizabeth had known each other since their university days. They were part of the Class of ’33 at Victoria College in Toronto, and when they exchanged vows for the second...

  109. 102 Northrop Frye in Conversation
    (pp. 916-1035)

    Cayley: I would like to begin by asking how your religious and cultural background shaped your vocation.

    Frye: I think my religious background really did shape almost everything. It gave me the mythological framework I was brought up inside of, and I know from experience that once you’re inside a mythological framework you can’t break outside of it. You can alter or adapt it to yourself, but it’s always there.

    Cayley: Can you say what it was? What was, or is, Methodism?

    Frye: I think Methodism is an approach to Christianity that puts a very heavy emphasis on the quality...

  110. 103 “Condominium Mentality” in CanLit
    (pp. 1036-1039)

    O’Brien: What is your response to the biography?

    Frye: I suppose you always have to read a biography of yourself as though it were about somebody else . . . It’s very painstaking . . . I think it’s quite a respectable book and it seems to have done quite well.

    O’Brien: What about all the idiosyncratic, personal details in it?

    Frye: There’s not much you can do about them if you’re going to write a biography. I suppose some of them have to go in.

    O’Brien: What are you working on now?

    Frye: I’m in the last stages of...

  111. 104 Modified Methodism
    (pp. 1040-1042)

    Frye: It’s rather similar to the kind of truth that one gets through the study of literature. “Myth” is from the Greek workmythos, which means a story or a plot. If you say the Bible is history, you’re opening up a terrific can of worms, because the Bible is a mixture of things which are obviously not historical, things which have a kernel of history to them, completely rewritten, and so forth. But if you say the Bible tells a story, nobody can disagree with you. Sometimes you read a book to get information about something that’s outside the...

  112. 105 Family Stories
    (pp. 1043-1054)

    Frye: . . . broken in rather curious ways. I had a brother who was thirteen years older than I and a sister who was twelve years older. So I was in effect brought up as an only child. When I was six years old, my brother was killed in the First World War and my mother, I think, always regarded me as God’s rather bumbling and inefficient and stupid substitute for the son that she had lost. I discovered later that a lot of cute stories and bright sayings that were told about my babyhood were in fact about...

  113. 106 Imprint Interview
    (pp. 1055-1066)

    Richler: It gives me great pleasure to welcome to theImprintstudio, Northrop Frye. Professor Frye, how much of what you are now as a man and a thinker has its origins in your early childhood?

    Frye: I suppose as much as anyone else’s does. One can’t escape one’s social and cultural conditioning and one’s context in time and space, or one’s physical heritage, that kind of thing.

    Richler: Is there a point where you remember religion specifically entering your life?

    Frye: Not specifically as entering, because my family was a religious family; my mother’s father was a Methodist circuit...

  114. 107 Stevens and the Value of Literature
    (pp. 1067-1073)

    Miner: I am interested in the “moral vision” in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, particularly in his later lyrics. My first question is to ask you how you see Stevens using Biblical imagery and Biblical allusion in his poems?

    Frye: It is not easy to say because Wallace Stevens is not like Eliot, a deliberately allusive poet. In fact, he is a poet who avoids allusion, so while I have no doubt that the image in thePalm at the End of the Mindis a garden of Eden allusion, he is careful not to rub it in or to...

  115. 108 Time Fulfilled
    (pp. 1074-1078)

    Fabiny: Professor Frye, your grand work on the Bible,The Great Code, is just one of your twenty or so books published so far. Is it perhaps the “code” to your life’s work as well?

    Frye: As a book, it’s of course one among the rest, but it’s true that it is concerned with a topic which I dealt with intensively throughout my life. This book was completed with great difficulty.

    Fabiny: If you were so much interested in the Bible earlier, why did you write it so late? Frye: I was held back because the generally accepted criteria of...

  116. 109 Schools of Criticism (II)
    (pp. 1079-1088)

    Vidan: Professor Frye, today, so many years after publishing your first books, which sent your work in a certain direction, I would be interested to know how you personally view your approach in relation to other approaches of the mid-twentieth century and of the subsequent decades?

    Frye: The answer is not simple, because after 1957, the year when theAnatomy of Criticismwas published, there was a great explosion of critical disciplines; that is to say, of approaches and methods. I think that they are basically of two types: one emphasizes narrative characteristics, like Bakhtin with dialogue and the various...

  117. 110 Cultural Identity in Canada
    (pp. 1089-1096)

    Mollins: In the preface toThe Bush Garden(1971), you talk somewhat despairingly of Canada’s seeming to be on the verge of disintegration, but say that having multiple cultural identities is not necessarily irreconcilable with national unity. Do you feel more intensely now than you did twenty years ago that the country is in trouble as a unit?

    Frye: Well, I have said in another speech that if a sculptor were to make a statue of a patriotic Canadian, he would depict somebody holding his breath and crossing his fingers.¹ In other words, there has never been a time when...

  118. 111 The Final Interview
    (pp. 1097-1102)

    Yan: I want to talk about education because there is so much teacher-bashing going on right now. You mention that a theory of literature should lead to a theory of education because a theory of literature will tell you indirectly what kind of books to read. In your theory of literature what would be your implied theory of education?

    Frye: It’s pretty complicated. I have written several books on the theory of education, what I would consider the fight from the beginning to the end for the central importance of the humanities in education, and within the humanities for the...

  119. Appendix A: Other Films Featuring Northrop Frye
    (pp. 1103-1104)
  120. Appendix B: Interviews Which Led To Discursive Articles
    (pp. 1105-1108)
  121. Appendix C: Lost, Unavailable, or Untraced Interviews and Discussions
    (pp. 1109-1112)
  122. Notes
    (pp. 1113-1174)
  123. Index
    (pp. 1175-1220)