James’ Brand New Blog

Northrop Frye @100: His place in the Reaney & Thibaudeau cosmos

- July 14th, 2012

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Northrop Frye image courtesy of http://library.vicu.utoronto.ca

Northrop Frye would have been 100 today. Happy birthday to one of the greatest of Canadians . . . my own memory is of a family lunch, chatting about the Globe & Mail etc.,  at the Auberge du Petit Prince when he was  visiting Western. On a London visit, he once said Western’s English department was a familiar place because so many of its faculty (then) were former students (like my father).

The Frye phrase JBNBlog calls to mind right now is the one about T.S. Eliot being a wealthy investor who was pushing up the value of  Milton stock after downgrading it for a time (JBNBlog paraphrase). You still see the stock market approach all the time in criticism . . . fearful symmetry save us now.

Northrop Frye was a great influence on my parents, especially my father. I have always wondered if the speech in The Sun & The Moon about seeking our true parents throughout our lives might have been about Dad finding in Frye his intellectual & spiritual father.

There is a passage in one of Mom’s letters about her posing a question to Frye when he was visiting Winnipeg in the 1950s which makes it sound as if her admiration was more amused &  a bit skeptical. Late in her life, Mom enjoyed reading a collection of Frye letters as she found many mentions of old friends & events.

Dad told Frye biographer John Ayre this about his use of Frye-themed patterns in One Man Masque:

“Since my thesis was on Yeats and Spenser I was using them, but I was also using Frye’s mandala and the ruthlessness with which I planned the shape of the play comes from his views that you should adapt a convention and let it carry you where it may.”

That’s just one example of Frye’s influence on Dad’s work.

Here’s one anecdote. Dad once said Frye had looked through The Pooh Perplex to see if he was among its satirical targets. (He apparently doesn’t — at least not prominently). Which today on the Great Man’s 100th strikes JBNBlog as an anahnahnah-to-me of criticism.

Northrop Frye (July 14, 1912-Jan. 23, 1991). Semper Northrop.

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3 comments

  1. Debbie says:

    Hey Mr. Reaney…I am sure you are probably aware of the annual Frye Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick…but if not, check it out. Moncton has just unveiled a bronze of Frye sitting on a bench outside their public library in honour of his 100th

  2. Richard Nichols says:

    Speaking of critics, where were the true critics when George Bush and Dick Cheney collectively ruined the lives of millions in our midst…too contemporary, I guess.

  3. SusanR says:

    Northrop Frye once said “The world of literature is a world where there is no reality except that of the human imagination.” If he were here today he would have plenty to say about politics as well.

    Here’s the link to the Frye Festival: http://www.frye.ca/content/eng/mission-and-history

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