Cover

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Title page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Introduction

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pp. 1-18

This collection of essays considers Northrop Frye’s criticism in relation to a group of mostly lesser‑known figures in the history of Western culture who influenced his thinking in various ways but about whom he never wrote anything extensive. The impetus for the book actually goes back to my editing of Frye’s Late Notebooks, when I ran across the rather astonishing proclamation that Henry Reynolds was “the greatest critic before Johnson” (CW 5: 236). I...

Abbreviations

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pp. 19-22

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1. Frye and Aristotle

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pp. 23-62

Aristotle’s Poetics is the most influential critical work in the Western tradition. Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism is the most influential critical work of the last century. How are the two connected? Two of Frye’s early theoretical essays — “A Conspectus of Dramatic Genres” (1951) and “Towards a Theory of Cultural History” (1953) — begin with Aristotle: the first quotes the opening paragraph of the Poetics (CW 21: 104), and the second refers us to what...

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2. Frye and Longinus

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pp. 63-84

The earliest reference to Longinus in Frye’s work is in a 1953 review of books by Allen Tate, Herbert Read, and Francis Fergusson, where he says that the theme of Read’s The True Voice of Feeling “is essentially the same as the problem of ekstasis or ‘transport’ in Longinus,” adding that this “problem” had been “ably handled” by Tate. He is referring to Tate’s “Longinus and the ‘New Criticism’” from a collection of Tate’s essays, The Forlorn Demon (1953)....

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3. Frye and Joachim of Floris

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pp. 85-102

The Italian abbot Joachim of Floris (also Fiore or Flora) (ca. 1132–1202) makes more than three dozen appearances in Frye’s published and unpublished writings, which suggests that the connections between the two might be worth exploring. In reading the few texts of Joachim that are available in English and in studies about him by the pre-eminent Joachimite scholar Marjorie Reeves and others (Bernard McGinn, Delno C. West and Sandra...

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4. Frye and Giordano Bruno

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pp. 103-112

This essay explores the connection between Northrop Frye and Giordano Bruno, the sixteenth‑century Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, playwright, Copernican activist, hermeticist, excommunicant at the hands of both Calvinists and Lutherans, friend of Sir Philip Sidney, and madcap free‑thinker who was burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in 1600 for his heretical theological...

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5. Frye and Henry Reynolds

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pp. 113-130

Blake being a mythological poet, Frye had to school himself early on in myth. The sources of his reading on myth are not wholly known, but we do have a fairly complete list of the mythographers that he began to explore at the beginning of his career. In The Critical Path he observed that “[s]tudents of mythology often acquire the primitive qualities of mythopoeic poets. I have read a good many of them, from medieval writers through Bacon...

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6. Frye and Robert Burton

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pp. 131-146

In his interview with David Cayley, Frye reveals the very high estimate he has of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. Responding to Cayley’s question about the use of the word “anatomy,” Frye said,

The word anatomy in Shakespeare’s day and a little later meant a dissection for a synthetic overview. One of my favorite books in English literature — there are times when it is actually my favorite — is Burton’s...

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7. Frye and Søren Kierkegaard

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pp. 147-178

The roots of Frye’s expansive vision of culture have often been remarked. Blake and the Bible are obviously central to the development of his ideas, and much has been written about Frye’s debts to both. Much has been written as well about other significant influences on Frye: Nella Cotrupi’s book on Frye and Vico, Glen Gill’s study of Frye and twentieth‑century mythographers (Eliade, Jung, and others), Ford Russell’s account of the influence of Spengler,...

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8. Frye and Lewis Carroll

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pp. 179-194

Frye read Lewis Carroll’s Alice books as a child, and they made a deep impression on him. “There [are] a number of key works in English literature,” he writes. “A person is simply deprived of part of his or her social context by not knowing them. If I hadn’t had the Alice books at an early age, it would have been like a couple of front teeth missing!” (CW 24: 465). But, he notes, like Huckleberry Finn and Gulliver’s Travels, the Alice books can be read at any...

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9. Frye and Stéphane Mallarmé

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pp. 195-212

In 1985 Frye wrote in one of his notebooks, “The ‘subject’ swallows everything objective to it: hence the pan-historical critics of today, the Hegelian pan-philosophical absolute knowledge, the pan-literary universe which only three people understand: Blake, Mallarmé, and myself. The final answer, naturally, is interpenetration” (CW 5: 247). Five years later Frye gave an expanded version of the same extraordinary claim:...

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10. Frye and Colin Still

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pp. 213-222

In Anatomy of Criticism, Frye notes that critics often break forth into an “oracular harrumph” when they encounter references to alchemy, the Tarot, or Rosicrucianism. Even today, one encounters readers here and there who, having discovered that Frye thought highly of Colin Still’s book on The Tempest or that he had read some esoteric work, recoil in amazement, as if it automatically followed that Frye was a card‑carrying member of some mystery cult or was...

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11. Frye and Paul Tillich

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pp. 223-236

In his 1950 diary, when he is worrying about his understanding of the dialectic of both Thomism and Marxism, Frye speculates that Paul Tillich¸ who would shortly be coming to the University of Toronto to lecture, might have a solution (CW 8: 237). Ten days later Tillich spoke to a large crowd at Wycliffe College, where, Frye says,...

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12. Frye and Frances A. Yates

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pp. 237-252

Frances A. Yates was a British historian whose studies focused on the development of Western esotericism, particularly hermeticism, during the Renaissance. She taught at the Warburg Institute of the University of London. In 1977 she became Dame Frances Yates, having been made a Daughter of the British Empire. Yates’s...

Notes

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pp. 253-276

Works Cited

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pp. 277-288

Index

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pp. 289-296