NORTHROP FRYE (1912-1991)


Northrop Frye worked as Norman Endicott's student assistant, researching annotations for the 1935 edition of Representative Poetry. Frye's interest in the textbook continued after he joined the staff of Victoria College. The Standing Committee on Representative Poetry in late 1947 included R. S. Knox as Chair, and Endicott, Frye, John C. Garrett, and Marshall McLuhan as members. Five years after his Anatomy of Criticism was published (1957), Frye selected and edited works by Christopher Smart and William Blake for the Volume II of the seventh (termed third) and last edition.

The following brief biography comes, with permission, from The Northrop Frye Centre Web Site, for which the Editor would like to thank Brian Merrilees, its Director. Lisa Sherlock, Head of Reader Services, Victoria University Library, kindly provided the photograph of Professor Frye.

Northrop Frye, C.C., B.A., M.A. (Oxon), LL.D., D.D., D.Litt., D. de l'U, L.H.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.C., was born on 14 July 1912, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and raised in Moncton, New Brunswick. He entered Victoria College in the University of Toronto in 1929, graduating in Honours Philosophy and English in 1933; he then completed the theological course at Emmanuel College, and was ordained in the United Church of Canada in 1936. He attended Merton College, Oxford, receiving his Oxford M.A. in 1940. In 1939, he joined the Department of English at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, and remained there for the rest of his life. He died in Toronto on 23 January 1991.

His honours were many. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1951, receiving the Society's Lorne Pierce medal in 1958 and its Pierre Chauveau medal in 1970. In 1967 the University of Toronto named him University Professor, in the same year he received the Canada Council medal. In 1971 he was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize, and in1978 he received the Royal Bank Award. In 1987 he was given the Governor General's Literary Award and the Toronto Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. He was an Honorary Fellow or Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1969), Merton College, Oxford (1974), the British Academy (1975), the American Philosophical Society (1976), and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1981). He held thirty-eight honorary doctorates from universities around the world.



His chief publications are: Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake, 1947; Anatomy of Criticism, 1957; The Well-Tempered Critic, 1963; The Educated Imagination, 1963; T. S. Eliot, 1963; Fables of Identity, 1963; A Natural Perspective, 1965; The Return of Eden, 1965; Fools of Time, 1967; The Modern Century, 1967; A Study of English Romanticism, 1968; The Stubborn Structure, 1970; The Bush Garden, 1971; The Critical Path, 1971; The Secular Scripture, 1976; Spiritus Mundi, 1976; Northrop Frye on Culture and Literature, 1978; Creation and Recreation, 1980; The Great Code, 1982; Divisions on a Ground, 1982; The Myth of Deliverance: Reflections on Shakespeare's Comedies, 1983; No Uncertain Sounds, 1988; On Education, 1988; Myth and Metaphor: Selected Essays, 1974-1988, 1990; Words with Power, 1990; Reading the World: Selected Writings, 1935-1976, 1990; The Double Vision, 1991; The Eternal Act of Creation: Essays by Northrop Frye 1979-1990 (forthcoming). He edited fifteen books, contributed essays and chapters to over sixty books, and his articles and reviews in learned journals number over one hundred. From 1950 to 1960 he wrote the annual critical and bibliographical survey of Canadian poetry for Letters in Canada, University of Toronto Quarterly.


There are many critical discussions of Frye's work, including the following: Murray Krieger, ed., Northrop Frye in Modern Criticism, 1966; Robert D. Denham, Northrop Frye and Critical Method, 1974; Eleanor Cook et al., eds., Centre and Labyrinth, 1985; Ian Balfour, Northrop Frye, 1988; Agostino Lombardo, ed., Ritratto di Northrop Frye, 1989; A. C. Hamilton, Northrop Frye: An Anatomy of His Criticism, 1990; Robert D. Denham & Thomas Willard, eds., Visionary Poetics: Essays on Northrop Frye's Criticism, 1991; David Cayley, Northrop Frye in Conversation, 1992; Jonathan Hart, Northrop Frye: The Theoretical Imagination, 1994; Alvin A. Lee & Robert D. Denham, eds., The Legacy of Northrop Frye, 1994.



There is a full-length biography of Frye by John Ayre, Northrop Frye: A Biography, 1989, and a shorter, critical biography by Joseph Adamson, Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life, 1993. An extensive bibliography is provided by Robert D. Denham in Northrop Frye: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources, 1987, and in the ongoing Northrop Frye Newsletter.