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Having one’s Kant and eating it

Terry Eagleton: Northrop Frye, 19 April 2001

Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks 1982-90: Volume One 
edited by Robert Denham.
Toronto, 418 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 8020 4751 3
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Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks 1982-90: Volume Two 
edited by Robert Denham.
Toronto, 531 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 8020 4752 1
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... form in the shape of a major critic who was also a committed Christian. The Canadian Northrop Frye, previously known chiefly as a critic of Blake, burst on the literary world in a big way in 1957, with the publication of his remarkably original and ambitious study, Anatomy of Criticism. With previous North American criticism, we had moved ...


Will Self: Video Games, 8 November 2012

... I wonder if Northrop Frye played video games. It’s true that it’s difficult to imagine the doyen of North American literary criticism with his pouchy features shivering over the levers while the reflected white-line paddles of Pong tracked up and down his spectacle lenses; yet when it – the first true video game – hit the arcades, Frye was just sixty ...

Absent Authors

John Lanchester, 15 October 1987

Criticism in Society 
by Imre Salusinszky.
Methuen, 244 pp., £15, May 1987, 0 416 92270 8
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by Malcolm Bradbury.
Deutsch, 104 pp., £5.95, September 1987, 0 233 98020 2
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... modern age, the era of the total professionalisation of literary studies in the university’: Northrop Frye. The interviews were conducted in the year from April 1985; the interviewees were asked to discuss a poem (Wallace Stevens’s ‘Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself’) and were shown transcripts of the preceding interviews ...

The Bible as Fiction

George Caird, 4 November 1982

The Story of the Stories: The Chosen People and its God 
by Dan Jacobson.
Secker, 211 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 436 22048 2
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The Art of Biblical Narrative 
by Robert Alter.
Allen and Unwin, 195 pp., £10, May 1982, 0 04 801022 7
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The Great Code: The Bible and Literature 
by Northrop Frye.
Routledge, 261 pp., £9.95, June 1982, 0 7100 9038 2
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... nothing of its perennial fascination. All three grapple with the conundrum forcefully posed by Frye: ‘Why does this huge, sprawling, tactless book sit there inscrutably in the middle of our cultural heritage like the “great Boyg” or sphinx in Peer Gynt, frustrating all our efforts to walk around it?’ All three agree that it is fiction, but when we ...

Reading the Bible

John Barton, 5 May 1988

The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... commenting on the recent re-inclusion of the Biblical canon in the canon of English literature. Northrop Frye celebrated the literary rediscovery of Scripture in The Great Code, and now Frank Kermode and Robert Alter, two critics who have given a new rigour and seriousness to the ‘Bible as literature’ movement, have brought together a constellation ...

On Typing

Jo-Ann Wallace, 24 February 2022

... typing it in myself.I am a fast and pretty accurate typist, the only characteristic I share with Northrop Frye who, in 1929, travelled to Toronto from his home in New Brunswick to compete in a national speed-typing contest. He came second. I don’t know how Frye came to be such an accomplished typist – 72 words a ...

Joke Book?

A.D. Nuttall, 23 November 1989

The Anatomy of Melancholy: Vol. I 
by Robert Burton, edited by Thomas Faulkner, Nicholas Kiessling and Rhonda Blair.
Oxford, 675 pp., £70, October 1989, 0 19 812448 1
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... eye’ of the poker-faced clown than to the functional gravity of the medical expert. Northrop Frye saw the Anatomy as ‘the greatest Menippean satire in English before Swift’. If this were true, Burton would be easy to place and our special problem of style would disappear forthwith. Burton, a sort of cross between Hamlet and a pedagogic ...

At Tate Britain

Frank Kermode: William Blake, 14 December 2000

... wind it into a ball; It will lead you in at Heavens gate, Built in Jerusalems wall. The great Northrop Frye, in whose book Fearful Symmetry it is sometimes difficult to know where Blake stops and Frye starts, claimed to have wound the string and rediscovered ‘the lost art of reading poetry’, presumably to be ...

Reasons for Living

Adam Phillips: On Being Understood, 12 November 1998

Open-Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul 
by Jonathan Lear.
Harvard, 345 pp., £21.95, May 1998, 0 674 45533 9
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... help people to close out certain thoughts so they can be open to better ones. An open mind, as Northrop Frye remarked, has to be open at both ends. So when we think of ourselves as open-minded we think of ourselves as open to the right kinds of thing. We have doors in order to be able to close them. Our attention is not so much selective as ...

Green Films

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 April 1982

Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage 
by Stanley Cavell.
Harvard, 283 pp., £12.25, December 1981, 0 674 73905 1
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... romances he sees behind them, these films, Cavell makes clear, move their characters into what Northrop Frye has called a ‘green world’, a place ‘in which perspective and renewal are to be achieved’. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream this is a place inhabited by fairies. In The Winter’s Tale it is Bohemia. In Bringing Up Baby, The Awful ...

A la mode

Graham Hough, 18 October 1984

Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 357 pp., £15, December 1982, 0 19 812812 6
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... supposedly familiar stretches of literary history in a fresh light. The obvious comparison is with Northrop Frye, to whom Fowler refers many times. Kinds of Literature and Anatomy of Criticism cover parts of the same ground, and the Anatomy is among other things a revised theory of genres. What both books have in common is a generous familiarity with ...

Dangerous Faults

Frank Kermode, 4 November 1993

by Tim Parks.
Heinemann, 214 pp., £13.99, August 1993, 0 434 57745 6
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... it is about – one of those thematic titles, like Sense and Sensibility or Futility, which, as Northrop Frye pointed out, establish a different programme from that set out by titles like The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, or Roderick Random. Here the tone is petit-bourgeois comic, the male ‘I’ living with his girl in ‘quite a decent ...

Three feet on the ground

Marilyn Butler, 7 July 1983

William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision 
by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Oxford, 496 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 19 812097 4
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William Wordsworth: The Poetry of Grandeur and of Tenderness 
by David Pirie.
Methuen, 301 pp., £14.95, March 1982, 0 416 31300 0
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Benjamin the Waggoner 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Paul Betz.
Cornell/Harvester, 356 pp., £40, September 1981, 0 85527 513 8
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... respect of the graduate schools, can be traced back to the mode of thought of the Canadian critic Northrop Frye, a Jungian, who schematises literature into a rather small series of recurring archetypal themes. According to this view, early Neo-Platonism and Jewish Gnosticism, two anti-materialist and otherworldly habits of thought, offer the most useful ...

Turtles All the Way Down

Walter Gratzer, 4 September 1997

The End of Science 
by John Horgan.
Little, Brown, 324 pp., £18.99, May 1997, 0 316 64052 2
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... between exegesis and speculation, leading to no enlightening conclusions. He derives the term from Northrop Frye, who taught that all texts have multiple meanings, no single one of them paramount. Horgan discerns a further parallel between the state of science and that of contemporary literature, when he draws on the views of Harold Bloom, who holds that ...

Is it always my fault?

Denis Donoghue: T.S. Eliot, 25 January 2007

T.S. Eliot 
by Craig Raine.
Oxford, 202 pp., £12.99, January 2007, 978 0 19 530993 5
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... in Eliot’s poems have more ‘interior life, mental life’ than they can use: their problem, as Northrop Frye put it, is an excess of consciousness over being. Raine assumes that a complete life can be described in psychological terms, since therapists help their patients to live more abundantly, form richer friendships and see the world in a new ...

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