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This report is taken from PN Review 79, Volume 17 Number 5, May - June 1991.

Northrop Frye Nicolas Tredell
The great anatomist of criticism is dead. Northrop Frye, whose Anatomy of Criticism (1957) was the first major theoretical challenge to the New Criticism in the postwar era, died on 23 January 1991. He was 78.

Sometimes mistaken for an American critic, Frye, like the celebrated sixties guru Marshall McLuhan, was Canadian. Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1912, he grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. He studied at a business college there and, in the late 1920s, went to Toronto to take part in a national typewriting contest. While in Toronto, he became a student at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and graduated in Philosophy and English in 1933. He then studied theology at Emmanuel College, Toronto, and, in 1936, was ordained in the United Church of Canada. Shortly afterwards, however, he won a scholarship to Oxford; he went to Merton College, where his tutor was Edmund Blunden. He took a First in English, then returned to Canada in 1939 to teach at his old college. He remained at the University of Toronto for the rest of his academic life, becoming Professor at Victoria College in 1947, Principal of the College from 1959 to 1966, and University Professor in 1967. He also taught full terms at Oxford, Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, Columbia and Cornell, and held 30 honorary degrees.

Frye had discovered Blake in his adolescence, and his first book was Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (1947). This affirmed Blake's central importance in English poetry and ...


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