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Northrop Frye on Twentieth-Century Literature

Northrop Frye on Twentieth-Century Literature

Edited by Glen Robert Gill
Volume: 29
Copyright Date: 2010
https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442685741
Pages: 464
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442685741
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Northrop Frye on Twentieth-Century Literature
    Book Description:

    This volume brings together Northrop Frye's criticism on twentieth-century literature, a body of work produced over almost sixty years.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8574-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Credits
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xxiii-1)

    Northrop Frye’s towering reputation as a thinker is, unquestionably, built on the backs of his great work of literary theoryAnatomy of Criticismand his visionary studies of the Bible,The Great CodeandWords with Power. Following this, it is his books on Blake, Shakespeare, and Milton, and his works on literary genre likeThe Secular Scripture, and on literary culture likeThe Critical Path, for which he is best known. It is these influential writings that led one of his best-known critical contemporaries to label him “the foremost living student of Western literature” and “the largest and most...

  7. 1 Press Cuttings April 1933
    (pp. 3-4)

    Late one afternoon, having had the idea of work knocked out of me by an importunate scandal hunter for the Rag-em-offen, I strolled over to Hart House and happened in on a performance of Shaw’s one-act comedyPress Cuttings. The play was by all odds the most enjoyable that I have ever witnessed in connection with the Dramatic Society. It was quite competently done; a little raw in spots, not as finished acting as some parts of theTragedy of NanorThe Silver Box,¹ but never as bad as the larger works got at times. The performers showed all...

  8. 2 Delicate Rhythms December 1939
    (pp. 5-6)

    This is the first volume of poems by a young American poet who shows a good deal of versatility in his range of subjects and metres. In the earlier poems the rhythm is fluent and assured, with a gentle syncopated lilt and effortless variations in speed. There is an expert use of onomatopoeia and echoing vowels which give a distinctive haunting and evocative quality to the writing:

    The surface bulks and bulges, breaks and sprays

    Lipping and lapping, clambering and is repulsed,

    Is lifted again, claps, lapses and drifts away

    And word of this goes every baffled where.

    [The Water...

  9. 3 Experiment April 1940
    (pp. 7-8)

    The Hogarth Press feels that some attempt should be made to win back the market for serious poetry that existed ten years ago, and is planning a series of books presenting the work of four or five younger poets at a time. The attempt deserves support: notice the price.¹

    These four poets are all about twenty-five, and all write, very well, the sort of poetry fashionable during the last decade. They are haunted by the miserable cruelty of the time, the murder of Spain,² the growing stampede of bourgeois imbecility, the politely useless sympathy of intellectuals. They are in full...

  10. 4 Poetry (I) April 1940
    (pp. 9-10)

    Late Blossoms, by May Rooker-Clark, is a collection of very gentle little verses by a pleasant-looking lady whose picture forms the frontispiece. Some are descriptive, with a great deal of snow in them; some are moralizing ones of the keepsake variety. Needless to say, the former are better, and one calledSummers of Songhas its points.

    Two Sonnets for a Centenary, by Fisher Davidson, are on William Lyon Mackenzie¹ and Durham.² They are on the schoolroom level, but with practice he may do something with the sonnet form, as he seems to have some idea of it: “voyage” and...

  11. 5 Poetry (II) July 1940
    (pp. 11-13)

    The poems in Mr. Williams’s book are very homogeneous: none are bad, not many stand out particularly, and nearly all sound more or less alike. Mr. Williams is not fond of free verse; he prefers regular beats, resonant rhymes, and in general a simple quatrain stanza. His imagery and diction are based on a complicated private symbolism, with a good many animals in it, in which certain words such as “skyline” and “quicksilver” have hieroglyphic meanings.¹ A string of declarative sentences containing an interlocking system of mixed metaphors is therefore the general appearance the poetry presents. Like this:

    A canyonful...

  12. 6 Henry Wells October 1940
    (pp. 14-15)

    This book is a study of the influence of older poets on contemporaries, with special attention, of course, to deliberate borrowings, avowed indebtedness, and conscious or unconscious echoes. It is full of genuine and fascinating erudition, and for the first time (so far as I know) we find gathered into one volume examples of the influence of Anglo-Saxon poetry on Hopkins and MacLeish, of Langland on Day Lewis, of Skelton on Auden, of the murkier Elizabethans on Cummings, of Herrick on Davies, of Donne on Yeats and Elinor Wylie, of Pope on the Sitwells, and many others.

    The Americans are...

  13. 7 Irene Moody October 1940
    (pp. 16-17)

    Mrs. Moody is a practised imagist,¹ specializing in the shortvers libreimpression and the evocative descriptive phrase. In the longer poems this last sometimes alternates with more prosaic rhythms and produces an uneven texture. As in so many imagist poems, particularly Canadian ones, the vocabulary is in more than one sense too precious. There is enough amber and crystal and ivory to stock a museum, enough gold and precious stones to build a Byzantine palace. I suppose poetry written by women is apt to absorb some of the sense of elaborate decorative design that would otherwise have gone into...

  14. 8 Poetry (III) October 1942
    (pp. 18-20)

    A poet today is usually a cultured liberal intellectual: that’s his union card, the caste mark in his forehead. He usually writes lyrical poetry about war and Fascism, and he usually deprecates them. I happen to have the same caste mark, and by virtue of it I have patiently read, and occasionally reviewed, at least several hundred, if not thousand, lyrics by which members of this caste communicate to one another in subtly cadenced murmurings the fact that they deprecate war and Fascism. The similarity of all these lyrics in tone, mood, subject, and form is so oppressive that the...

  15. 9 New Directions (I) December 1942
    (pp. 21-24)

    This is a very mixed bag, ranging from tripe to a few quite decent things, each of which deserves a careful review in itself. A book so uneven in interest starts at once an inquiry into the principles on which its material was collected, and for those we must look at the editor’s preface.“You need only study literary history,” he says, “to see that writing goes stale and soft in periods when the innovators and the nonconformists are stifled. Tradition and experiment, working against each other, produce a lively literature; neither one can be dispensed with” [xi].

    Now I think...

  16. 10 Review of New Writing and Daylight (I) April 1943
    (pp. 25-26)

    This is the second issue of the combined groups mentioned in the title, the first having appeared last summer. A reviewer who did not see the summer issue is therefore at an initial disadvantage, as many of the articles are marked “Part Two.”

    The book contains poems, stories, sketches, and critical essays by young writers who are nearly all in the armed forces. The general level of competence is high, somewhere between the amateur conception of writing as a means of personal expression and the professional conception of it as a skilled labour. The poetry has a firmness of touch...

  17. 11 Review of Voices and Genesis June 1943
    (pp. 27-31)

    The critic’s lot, like the policeman’s, is not a happy one. He is perhaps the only person who feels the disadvantages of universal free education and a low rate of illiteracy. For those who can read and write, will, and there is perhaps no adult north of the Rio Grande who has not attempted some form of creative writing. Much of this is, of course, a mere response to middle-class competitive snobbery, which gives to proficiency in the arts a good deal of prestige. Cinderella mythology, besides, always dies hard, and the notion that successful writers can live on the...

  18. 12 Review of New Writing and Daylight (II) October 1944
    (pp. 32-33)

    This is the fourth collection of poems, stories, and essays by young writers in England, many if not most of whom are in uniform, to be issued under this title. The special feature ofNew Writing and Daylightis that it attempts to give as full representation as possible to the work of foreign and colonial writers now stationed in England; and this issue contains Czech, Greek, and Brazilian names. Spender and Edith Sitwell are the best-known contributors. As in most such collections, the poetry is better than the stories, and the critical essays better than the poetry. The essays...

  19. 13 Joseph Schull October 1944
    (pp. 34-35)

    This is a narrative poem describing the thoughts in the mind of an officer just before zero hour. Jones is a sensitive soldier, and is not content to go into action with a merely physical integration; he wants a spiritual one, too, and some insight into the fundamental faiths which are the laws of his own being and consequently the causes of his being there. He reviews his military career up to that point with a good deal of detachment and humour, and rejects the ready-made formulas—patriotism, justice of one’s cause, product of a Depression generation, and the rest...

  20. 14 New Directions (II) November 1944
    (pp. 36-38)

    When I reviewed the seventh annualNew Directionsa year ago [no. 9], I attacked the theory of “experiment” which underlies it: a theory which is partly an application of the two-party system of politics to literature, and partly a conception of expanding development in the use of literary techniques which is based on a fallacious analogy with science. I notice that Mr. Laughlin is still talking the same nonsense on such matters (“a technique which fails with the writer who developed it may become a potent tool in the hands of a succeeding writer able to realize it more...

  21. 15 Karl Shapiro December 1944
    (pp. 39-40)

    This is the second volume of one of the best contemporary poets, now on active service in the South Pacific, where most of the poems in it were written. Probably few of those who have followed his work will consider it the equal of the earlier book,Person, Place and Thing; but the poems are attractive, if seldom deeply moving, and, though some are trivial, the book as a whole is a pleasure to read. As he says, he is not a “war” poet: he is simply a poet who happens to be in the army, and because he is...

  22. 16 Kenneth Rexroth December 1944
    (pp. 41-43)

    This collection consists of the long title poem, a group of shorter poems, and another group of imitations and paraphrases, chiefly of late Classical epigram-writers. Mr. Rexroth prefers a short accentual free verse line, and in his vocabulary makes constant and at times excessive use of technical and abstract terms. The writing, in spite of occasional Eliot and Lawrence cadences, is admirably clear and intelligent, sounding perhaps a good deal more likeThe Testament of Beauty¹ than the poet intended it to do. He is seldom obscure and even more seldom without something interesting to say, and his poetry makes,...

  23. 17 Idols of the Marketplace September 1946
    (pp. 44-45)

    English literature had two obituaries on its hands last month.¹ Bernard Shaw, it is true, continues to turn up to all his funerals as lively as Finnegan, though without his taste in whisky. But the incredible writing energy of H.G. Wells, which in the last few years, with a succession of querulous valedictories, seemed to be sinking into a nervous tic, has stopped at last. Both writers are now in the trough of appreciation into which all great artists must fall between their later years, when young men are looking for younger masters or asserting themselves, and their final embalming...

  24. 18 A.E. Coppard and T.F. Powys November 1946
    (pp. 46-46)

    It was an excellent idea to make a one-volume selection from Coppard’s twelve books of short stories, probably all out of print by now, and put back into circulation an interesting writer, who, except for anthologies, has rather dropped out of sight. He is still very readable, though his mannered style (“the ruckle of partridges, or the nifty gallop of a hare” [107]) has lost the smartness of novelty, and the straightforward stories stand up better than the more widely known fantasies. And remember T.F. Powys, not to be confused (though he always was) with John Cowper Powys or Llewelyn...

  25. 19 George Orwell, Animal Farm December 1946
    (pp. 47-49)

    George Orwell’s satire on Russian Communism,Animal Farm, has just appeared in America, but its fame has preceded it, and surely by now everyone has heard of the fable of the animals who revolted and set up a republic on a farm, how the pigs seized control and how, led by a dictatorial boar named Napoleon, they finally became human beings walking on two legs and carrying whips just as the old Farmer Jones had done. At each stage of this receding revolution one of the seven principles of the original rebellion becomes corrupted, so that “no animal shall kill...

  26. 20 Review of New Writing and Daylight (III) February 1947
    (pp. 50-51)

    This anthology of stories, poems, criticism, and sketches has been appearing in bound volumes about twice a year since 1942. It is edited and published by John Lehmann, and has contained much of the best writing produced in English during that time. It has always taken particular pains to include work, in translation or otherwise, by Continental writers, many of whom were with the British army during the war. The latest issue seems to feature Greek and Czech names especially. This issue also contains a symposium on the future of fiction to which Rose Macaulay, V.S. Pritchett, Arthur Koestler, and...

  27. 21 Review of The Kafka Problem February 1947
    (pp. 52-52)

    A symposium of essays and critical studies on the great German writer, now one of the major influences on modern literature. How deeply he has penetrated into our culture is indicated by the names of the contributors, which include W.H. Auden, Albert Camus [“Hope and Absurdity”], Max Lerner [“The Human Voyage”], Franz Werfel [“Recollections”], and Denis Saurat [“A Note onThe Castle”], to mention only the best-known ones, and which appear to represent at least a dozen literatures. The book is an essential supplement to the translations of Kafka’s works which are now appearing, many of them also published by...

  28. 22 Henry James, Roderick Hudson August 1947
    (pp. 53-53)

    The revival of Henry James and the reissue of his works proceed apace, and we may confidently look forward to a time when it will be possible to buy a copy ofThe Golden BowlorThe Wings of a Dove.Roderick Hudsonis James’s first important novel, and is pure James for all its indebtedness in theme to Hawthorne’sMarble Faun(a novel which must have haunted James all his life, as he refers to it inThe Sense of the Past),¹ and in style to Howells. The reader unacquainted with James could not do better than start in...

  29. 23 Yeats and the Language of Symbolism October 1947
    (pp. 54-73)

    In reading any poem we have to know at least two languages: the language the poet is writing and the language of poetry itself. The former exists in the words the poet uses, the latter in the images and ideas which those words express. And just as the words of a language are a set of verbal conventions, so the imagery of poetry is a set of symbolic conventions. This set of symbolic conventions differs from a symbolic system, such as a religion or a metaphysic, in being concerned, not with a content, but with a mode of apprehension. Religions,...

  30. 24 The Betjeman Brand December 1947
    (pp. 74-76)

    This book introduces to American readers the light verse of John Betjeman, now something of a cult in England, along with a few prose pieces. Though its origins go back to the Middle Ages, when practically all secular verse was light, light verse did not clearly emerge as a separate type until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since then, it has been handicapped by a persistent association with parody, and by some absurd fashions, notably the extensive corseting into ballades and sestinas which followed Austin Dobson. Mr. Auden, who introduces the book, has already performed a major service to...

  31. 25 Edith Sitwell, The Shadow of Cain January 1948
    (pp. 77-77)

    When the war began one of the many things that no one could have predicted to happen at the end of it was Edith Sitwell’s latest poetry. By 1940 every critic had more or less buried the playgirl of roller-coaster rhythms and snap-the-whip imagery as a curious example of what they did in the 1920s. One unlucky critic said so publicly, and the outraged Edith sued for libel, and won.¹ Silly as that libel suit was, she was right. She is now a major poet, a necessary part of one’s literary education and current reading alike,² and this poem is...

  32. 26 For Tory and Leftist March 1948
    (pp. 78-79)

    One thinks of Max Beerbohm’s famous portrait of the “statesman of olden time, making without wish for emolument a flat but faithful translation of theGeorgics, in English hexameters.”¹ And it is not perhaps hard to see why the honourable gentleman should be doing this. He looks like a simple-minded eighteenth-century Tory, and, if he has not exactly a poetic ear, great poetry has made something of the direct impact on him that it often does make on simple people, especially when they can attach its subject to their own experience. The attachment here is clear enough: as a landowner,...

  33. 27 Virginia Woolf March 1948
    (pp. 80-81)

    This book (an attractive little book, with its jacket design by the author’s sister Vanessa Bell) is a collection of miscellaneous literary essays, including a number of reviews, consisting of both published and unpublished material gathered together after the author’s death. It forms a pendant, along with a previous collection calledThe Death of the Moth, to the two well-known volumesThe Common Reader.¹ Like its predecessors, it makes very agreeable reading, but indicates that Virginia Woolf was as minor a figure in criticism as she was a major one in the novel. She was a great novelist, with a...

  34. 28 Four Short Reviews July 1949
    (pp. 82-83)

    Memoirs of a girl born about the time of the Revolution, who lived in Russia until recently, when a marriage to an English correspondent enabled her to get out of the country. The book is nonpolitical, and concentrates on the standard nostalgic material of memoirs. But in the background is a lumbering and fumbling bureaucracy which gradually changes as the book proceeds from well-meaning Marxist pedantry to an intolerable opportunistic tyranny.

    An excellently written, and consequently very readable, story of two Yorkshire waifs who live the life of what in America would be called hoboes, until their ability to box...

  35. 29 Ezra Pound September 1949
    (pp. 84-85)

    A lively controversy has been going on in the press over an award for poetry made recently to a volume of Ezra Pound’sCantos. Pound is American by birth, supported the Mussolini regime actively until his capture by American troops, and was brought back to face a charge of treason, escaping through a plea of insanity.¹ Both the charge and the plea are technically correct, but as a traitor Pound was never in the class of Lord Haw-Haw or Axis Sally,² and it would be rather inconsistent to execute him at the same time that such grotesquely indulgent sentences are...

  36. 30 George Orwell March 1950
    (pp. 86-87)

    George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, died recently of tuberculosis while still in his forties. His background was public-school upper-middle-class society—or, at any rate, a career in that class was certainly open to him. He saw service with the Imperial army in Burma, and was not encouraged by what he saw of imperialism. In politics he drifted far to the left of Communism, and took part in the Spanish war in an anarchist brigade. He was thus an anti-Stalinist revolutionary, but there was never anything in him of the “god that failed”¹ bluster of the Communist converts...

  37. 31 Novels on Several Occasions Winter 1950–51
    (pp. 88-98)

    The theme ofAcross the River and Into the Treesis death in Venice, with Colonel Cantwell, a reduced brigadier and a “beat-up old bastard” [180], as a military counterpart to Mann’s beat-up old novelist. The colonel is a lonely man. Around him is an impersonal hatred directed, like a salute, at his uniform; behind him is the wreck of a marriage and of the career of a good professional soldier; in front of him is his next and last heart attack. He meets all this with a compelling dignity, and there is pathos in his struggles to control his...

  38. 32 Phalanx of Particulars Winter 1952
    (pp. 99-104)

    Ezra Pound is not exactly unread or even neglected, but he is, so to speak, unidentified. Criticism has not fitted him into his cultural milieu as it has fitted Joyce, Eliot, and Yeats; and our perspective on our culture is bound to be astigmatic until he comes into focus. The delay is due to certain prejudices against Pound, which fall into three main groups. Some feel that Pound’s reputation ought to wait until a time when a man with his political record can be more calmly appraised. Others feel that, while Pound has obviously been an enthusiastic, generous, and often...

  39. 33 Quest and Cycle in Finnegans Wake December 1955
    (pp. 105-113)

    Finnegans Wake¹ belongs to the epic tradition, and epic writers have always been unusually conscious of tradition. Joyce’s immediate predecessors in his type of epic were the mythological poets of the Romantic period, and among these Blake is clearly the most important for the study of Joyce. Blake’s work is middle-class, nineteenth-century, moral, romantic, sentimental, and fervently rhetorical, and these were the cultural qualities that Joyce, to the dismay of many of his critics, most deeply loved and appreciated. I propose first to set out the major parallels between Blake’s myth of Albion and Joyce’s myth of Finnegan.

    Blake’s myth...

  40. 34 Graves, Gods, and Scholars Summer 1956
    (pp. 114-119)

    The trouble with being a literary critic is that one gets filing cards in the memory, and one is continually having to fish them out and wonder if the clichés typed on them are really so very bright. I imagine a good many people roughly familiar with modern poetry have some sort of card in their memories reading in effect: “Graves, Robert. Does tight, epigrammatic lyrics in the Hardy-Housman tradition; closer in technique to Blunden and de la Mare than to Eliot, Pound, or Yeats; a minor poet but one of the best of the post-Georgians.” There is some factual...

  41. 35 Nature and the Psyche January 1957
    (pp. 120-123)

    This book consists of two essays. The first, by C.G. Jung, on “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,” has for its theme the phenomenon generally known as “sheer coincidence.” A novelist, let us say, has just decided to call a character in his book Mr. Tackhammer, when there is a knock at the door and a Mr. Tackhammer is announced. Coincidences as unlikely as this have happened to a great many people, perhaps nearly everyone. They make a strong impact on the mind: they have, Jung says, a quality of the numinous, but their general effect is to paralyse one’s mental...

  42. 36 Poetry of the Tout Ensemble Spring 1957
    (pp. 124-128)

    One of the most fashionable poets in English literature, Charles Doughty, made the unfashionable remark, “The poet’s task is not to meditate on human vanity, but to serve his country.” Most of us would perhaps feel that such an observation was, first, quixotic (what country cares whether its poets want to serve it or not?), and, second, a recommending of what would in practice be a dismal bureaucratic flunkeyism, like the pseudoarts of totalitarian states. In any case the gestures of twentieth-century writers are mainly negative ones: gestures of defiance (Pound), of detachment (Valéry), of silence, exile, and cunning (Joyce),¹...

  43. 37 The Realistic Oriole: A Study of Wallace Stevens Autumn 1957
    (pp. 129-146)

    Wallace Stevens was a poet for whom the theory and the practice of poetry were inseparable. His poetic vision is informed by a metaphysic; his metaphysic is informed by a theory of knowledge; his theory of knowledge is informed by a poetic vision. He says of one of his long meditative poems that it displays “the theory of poetry / As the life of poetry,”¹ and in the introduction to his critical essays that by the theory of poetry he means “poetry itself, the naked poem” (NA, viii). He thus stands in contrast to the dualistic approach of Eliot, who...

  44. 38 Religion and Modern Poetry 1958–59
    (pp. 147-158)

    I apologize in advance for a somewhat abstract introduction, but the problems of poetry and belief are still too complex and too little understood for us to dispense with some preliminary explanation.

    Poetry has from the earliest times been confused with oratory. The structure of both is rhetorical; they both have a strong emotional appeal, and there are other factors in common. Yet there is a crucial difference: the poet,quapoet, never addresses a reader directly. If he did, he ought to be judged, as we judge everything that is said to us directly, by the standards of truth...

  45. 39 The Nightmare Life in Death August 1960
    (pp. 159-167)

    In every age the theory of society and the theory of personality have closely approached each other. In Plato the wise man’s mind is a dictatorship of reason over appetite, with the will acting as a thought police hunting down and exterminating all lawless impulses [Republic, chaps. 7, 9]. The ideal state, with its philosopher-king, guards, and artisans, has the corresponding social form. Michael explains to Adam inParadise Lostthat tyranny must exist in society as long as passion dominates reason in individuals, as they are called [bk. 12, ll. 79–101]. In our day Marxism finds its psychological...

  46. 40 Comment May 1961
    (pp. 168-178)

    This conference is fortunate in having a paper so broad in its range and striking in its formulations as Father Ong’s to consider in its opening sessions. It would be hard to imagine a better kind of basis for the serious discussion of twentieth-century criticism. What follows is intended only as a variation on some of Father Ong’s highly original themes.

    Of all the ways of conceiving time, two are particularly relevant to Father Ong’s “Synchronic Present.” One is linear time, with its three categories of past, present, and future, the conception of time we need to live in a...

  47. 41 T.S. Eliot 1963
    (pp. 179-250)

    Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on 26 September 1888. His father was in business there, and his grandfather was a Unitarian minister who had much to do with the establishing of Washington University in St. Louis. His mother was also a writer, and her dramatic poem on Savonarola, edited by her son, indicates an early source of Eliot’s interest in poetic drama. The Eliot family had come in the seventeenth century to New England,¹ and for many reasons it was natural that Eliot should go to New England for his university education. He entered Harvard in...

  48. 42 Tribute to John Crowe Ransom 1964
    (pp. 251-251)

    I am very pleased to have an opportunity of extending congratulations and tribute to Mr. John Crowe Ransom. There can hardly be many living Americans who have done more for American life and letters, in making life lively and letters literary. He is a most original and distinguished poet—something of a victim of anthologies, it is true, which keep reprinting the same three or four poems and do not give their readers much sense of the variety of his work, but a poet whose best work is unforgettable. As a critic, he has added a whole new dimension to...

  49. 43 The Rising of the Moon: A Study of A Vision 1965
    (pp. 252-277)

    Literature is one of the products of the constructive or imaginative power in the mind, and is the verbal part of the process of transforming the nonhuman world into something with a human shape and meaning, the process that we call culture or civilization. In literature, particularly in poetry, the nonhuman or natural world is symbolically associated with the human world. The two great principles of association are analogy and identity, which are repeated in the grammatical forms of the simile and metaphor respectively: “A is like B,” and “A is B.” Identity is found in mythology, which is concerned...

  50. 44 Foreword to 1984 1967
    (pp. 278-282)

    George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, was born in 1903, of an Anglo-Indian family. He had a conventional public-school education, and then went back to India as a member of the Imperial Police. His experience of British imperialism in Burma is recorded in his bookBurmese Days; it convinced him that imperialism was something he wanted no part of. It was one of his several encounters with the sources of tyranny in our time. Then he lived for a time as a vagrant or hobo, picking up jobs like washing dishes in Paris restaurants, and got a first-hand...

  51. 45 The Top of the Tower: A Study of the Imagery of Yeats 12 August 1968
    (pp. 283-303)

    All poets speak the same symbolic language, but they have to learn it either by instinct or unconsciously from other poets. In the poetry of the Western world from medieval times to our own, there has been a framework for poetic symbolism with four main levels. On the top level is what I should call the Logos vision, which includes the conventional heaven of religion, the place of the presence of God. The central symbol of the Logos vision is the city, the Biblical New Jerusalem, but it is also often described in metaphors taken from mathematics or from music,...

  52. 46 Draft Introduction to Twentieth-Century Literature 1972
    (pp. 304-307)

    The twentieth century has seen the entire world condensing into a single communication unit, and this process has naturally gone further in English than in any other language, as English is now the most dominant language in the world. Not only has there been an immense development of an “American Literature” written in English, but the question where a given author belongs to one side or other of the North Atlantic community is often difficult to decide. In order to save space, the editors have arbitrarily decided that Henry James and Ezra Pound are “American Literature,” and that T.S. Eliot,...

  53. 47 Wallace Stevens and the Variation Form 1973
    (pp. 308-324)

    We cannot read far in Wallace Stevens’s poetry without finding examples of a form that reminds us of the variation form in music, in which a theme is presented in a sequence of analogous but differing settings. Thus inSea Surface Full of Cloudsthe same type of stanza is repeated five times, each with just enough variation to indicate that the same landscape is being seen through five different emotional moods. Another type of variation form appears inThirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, where a series of thirteen little imagist poems are related by the common theme...

  54. 48 Aldous Huxley 4–5 December 1973
    (pp. 325-327)

    Interviewer: This same intellectual isolation is one of the cornerstones of Huxley’s fame, as Northrop Frye, professor emeritus, University of Toronto, points out.

    Frye: Well, Huxley is eminently worth reading, because of the quality of his intelligence, the far-ranging versatility of his intelligence, and his command in fi ction of a form of satire which, I think, relatively few people have equalled. There is a kind of integration in Huxley, of intelligence and curiosity and vision, of interest in religion and society and science, which makes him a writer of the very highest quality of cultivation, if he doesn’t have...

  55. 49 Rolls Royce 1982
    (pp. 328-331)

    The English reading public knows Giorgio Bassani chiefly as the author of two novels,The Garden of the Finzi-ContinisandBehind the Door,¹ the former being also a successful television program. Both are quiet, gentle, melancholy stories about Jewish families in Ferrara during the Mussolini period. Mussolini’s Fascism was bad enough in all conscience, but it was so much better than the slavering madness of Nazism that one feels almost nostalgic about it by comparison. The stories portray middle-class or aristocratic Jews, with some status in their society that they try hard to maintain, but forced gradually to realize what...

  56. 50 Cycle and Apocalypse in Finnegans Wake 1987
    (pp. 332-349)

    Since the fourteenth century, there has never been a time when English literature has not been influenced, often to the point of domination, by either French or Italian literary traditions, usually both at once. For Chaucer, the major foreign influence was Boccaccio, whoseTeseideandFilostratoform the basis forThe Knight’s TaleandTroilus and Criseyderespectively. In Tudor times the Petrarchan sonnet was the central model, both in technique and theme, for lyric poetry, and Ariosto at least contributed very heavily to the major epic of the period, Spenser’sFaerie Queene. After the Restoration, French influence, of the...

  57. 51 Henry James and the Comedy of the Occult 19 October 1989
    (pp. 350-370)

    It is a genuine pleasure to be giving a lecture in honour of my old friend, Professor Munro Beattie. Our friendship goes back to undergraduate days at Victoria College, when we were fellow students of Pelham Edgar. Edgar’s main scholarly interest was in Henry James, on whom he wrote a pioneering study published in 1927.Henry James: Man and Authoris a badly organized book, but it is full of the candour and simplicity which was Edgar’s great quality as a critic, and is an especially useful quality for such a subject. Munro Beattie shared this interest of Edgar’s at...

  58. Notes
    (pp. 371-416)
  59. Emendations
    (pp. 417-418)
  60. Index
    (pp. 419-445)