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HUMANITIES 541 has to be said, also, that one must bear in mind the accrual of these same rewards to the academic exponents of these arguments. Unfortunately, there is nothing that is tenable or persuasive in Ravvin's presentation of his thesis. He asserts, rather than demonstrates. Nowhere does he even begin to describe what the mainstream traditions may be in either Canadian or American literature. Without this, a fundamental pillar of his set of assertions does not exist. He claims that American Jewish writers more properly entered the mainstream of their literature with an adequate appreciation of their Jewish culture because the New York Jewish intellectuals interpreted modernism for the American reader. This opinion is wholly false. Modernism was presented to the American reader some decades earlier by the earliest practitioners and critics of modernism itself, many of whom were American, and was further interpreted and disseminated by the white Christian southern United States critics known as the Fugitives. Their influence came to dominate most university English departments in both the United States and Canada. Not much Jewish mediation here. Further, readers and critics of modern literature in Canada also read the New York intellectuals. The Canadian vs American distinction Ravvin insists is fundamental to his purpose does not seem to exist, on the basis of any evidence he provides. His discussions of particular writers are shallow, confused, and often contradict, without his being aware of it, his main argument. It is unclear why he is comparing Canadians and Americans, because he is unable to present either dilferences or points of comparison which are at all illuminating. Part of Ravvin's conceptual problem is his wholly untenable assumption , unfortunately held by too many critics in Canada, that all population migrations are somehow postcolonial. But Jews in the English-speaking world are not colonized and do not have the profoundly ambivalent relationship to the inherited literary forms they use as writers in the painful awareness of the imposition of those forms upon them by brutal imperialisms . This is the matrix of postcolonialism and it cannot be assumed as capriciously as Ravvin, among others, would prefer, for their own convenience. (G. DAVID SHEPS) Robert D. Denham, editor. Northrop F1ye's Student Essays 1932-1938 University of Toronto Press. xxx, 558. $gs.oo These essays, ranging from 'The Concept of Sacrifice' and 'The Fertility Cults' to 'The Augustinian Interpretation of History' and /The Relation of Religion to the Arts/ will be of interest not only to the faithful but also to anyone examining psychological, aesthetic, or scholarly foreshadowing. The consistency between the student essays and Frye's work entire is 542 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 sobering for any scholar or teacher intrigued by intimations of genius. Blake, Frazer, and Spengler, for example, fix and hold their grasp. Frye initiated a Blakean revival, which, in tum, made Frye a critic with whom posterity must reckon. In a 1937 essay Frye claims that his 'special interest' in Blake qualifies him to write 'A Reconsideration of Chaucer,' following Blake's 'revolutionary' style. Frye sought recourse to Frazer in the work of his maturity, but The Golden Bough is already central in these beginning years. Spengler appears in essays at Victoria, Emmanuel, and Oxford: in Frye's diaries of the late 1980s he recalls, 'What fascinated me about Spengler ... was the vision of every historical phenomenon being a symbol of all other phenomena contemporary with it.' In short, the student essays provide an Wlcanny prediction of the major nnderpinnings of the teacher who once remarked, 'There is always a text in my class.' Not only key texts and authors but most of the big ideas are here, at least in embryo- comedy, romance, irony, tragedy, the major categories, tensions , biblical typography, and systems- the scaffolding of the 'spiritual architect.' Frye, the Wldergraduate, was already incapable of writing about literature except in relation to music- his other calling. The prose style that embraces contradictions but by its own balance, rhytlun, and authority brooks none from the first-time reader is firmly in place. The apparent oppositions flow seductively. The excitement of Frye's encyclopedic mind is matched only by the assurance and power of his words. When...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 541-543
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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