- The ‘Third Book’ Notebooks of Northrop Frye, 1964–1972: The Critical Comedy. Volume 9 of Collected Works of Northrop Frye ed. by Michael Dolzani (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 73, Number 1, Winter 2003/04
- pp. 321-323
- View Citation
- Additional Information
humanities 321 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 moment in [his] intellectual career was his break from Innis=s notions of time and space.= These notions, including traditional distinctions between spatial and temporal arts and a belief that the blending of space and time was hypothetical only (i.e., groundless), gave way before McLuhan=s view that space in an electric age was not exclusively visual and not static. It was his University of Toronto colleague, the psychologist Carleton Williams, drawing upon an earlier University of Toronto psychologist, E.A. Bott, who provided McLuhan with the possibility of >acoustic= as distinct from visual space; in McLuhan=s words, >unenclosed space ... [which] has no centre and no margins since we hear from all directions simultaneously,= >space whose centre is everywhere and whose margin is nowhere.= >In contemporary culture (as in the Middle Ages),= Cavell observes, >space is once again becoming multivalent, after the centuries of uniform, perspectival space produced by the dominance of print.= Admittedly, Cavell is more concerned with making the case for McLuhan as >spatial theorist= than with his Canadian credentials, or with him as student and teacher of literature or as cultural historian. His reference to the Middle Ages, for example, despite the Augustinian ring of McLuhan=s definition of acoustic space, remains in parentheses, unrelated to McLuhan =s Catholicism, to the milieu of St Michael=s College, where he taught for many years, and its affiliated Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies with its library and faculty, including its founder, Etienne Gilson. Because it was a characteristic of medieval perception, McLuhan argued, which has been recovered in the concept of acoustic space, this seems a notable omission. Cavell occasionally lapses into a type of clotted prose which betrays the vividness of what he would present. He can also slide over biographical details, such as the setting and circumstances of McLuhan=s coming >to know= Wyndham Lewis, or his supposed influence on Sheila Watson=s The Double Hook, with a curious disregard for the biographical sources he has cited. Perhaps his assumption that McLuhan wrote >from within a postmodernist (and poststructuralist) sensibility= is more contentious and less inevitable than he appears to believe. Cavils aside, this is a valuable book, less for its representation of Marshall McLuhan as a >spatial theorist,= however , than for its exploration of the cultural/geographical space that made him like his country, in his words, >a borderline case.= (F.T. FLAHIFF) Michael Dolzani, editor. The >Third Book= Notebooks of Northrop Frye, 1964B1972: The Critical Comedy. Volume 9 of Collected Works of Northrop Frye University of Toronto Press. xiv, 480. $80.00 The >Third Book= Notebooks is the ninth volume to appear in the Collected Works of Northrop Frye. The >Third Book= of the title refers to a projected study of literature and society, a third large-scale work to follow Fearful 322 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Symmetry and Anatomy of Criticism. Some of the material in these notebooks eventually found its way into Words with Power, but the third book itself was never written. Frye used his notebooks to work out the organizing structures which inform his essays and books. He writes in a kind of personal code, comprising elements from William Blake=s mythological system and of categories of his own devising, notably the conceptual map of his mythological universe that he called >the great doodle.= The following two sentences are typical of the style of a significant proportion of the notebooks : >Eros & Adonis are both forms of Orc, the eniautos-daimon, and the Orc cycle underlies the Nomos-Nous encyclopedia. Oedipus & Prometheus run the other way, from death to birth, and are both, I think, forms of Urthona.= It is a relief to find that Frye sometimes makes an ironic comment at his own expense. For example, after relating a point to a childhood game, he writes, >I record this because anyone reading these notes would assume that they were the work of a psychotic, so I may as well furnish the definitive proof of the fact.= Given their nature, the notebooks are likely to be...