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Frye, Northrop (1912–91)


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


Canadian critic and literary theorist. Frye graduated from Victoria College, University of Toronto, and Merton College, Oxford. For most of his professional life he taught at Victoria College. One of the most influential literary theorists of the twentieth century, Frye has been most often associated with myth or archetypal criticism, although he disliked labels and denied having founded a school. His first book, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (1947), revolutionized Blake studies and demonstrated, for the first time, Frye's synoptic approach to literature. The book constituted a challenge to those critics who had neglected or despised Blake's long prophetic works in favor of the more comprehensible and frequently anthologized Songs . Frye sought to demonstrate the total coherence of Blake's work, often standing back from the details of the poems in order to reveal the underlying S tructure or myth that makes sense of the whole. Such a critical practice was a direct challenge to N ew Criticism , and Frye's next book, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (1957), extended the methodology to the whole tradition of Western literature and L iterary Criticism . This ambitious undertaking, carried out with encyclopedic virtuosity, established Frye as one of the most exciting critics of his generation. Deploring the lack of theoretical rigor and appropriate vocabulary in the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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