Northrop Frye biography

Northrop Frye

Literary critic, Author

1912 – 1991

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Who was Northrop Frye?

Herman Northrop Frye, CC FRSC was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century.

Frye gained international fame with his first book, Fearful Symmetry, which led to the reinterpretation of the poetry of William Blake. His lasting reputation rests principally on the theory of literary criticism that he developed in Anatomy of Criticism, one of the most important works of literary theory published in the twentieth century. The American critic Harold Bloom commented at the time of its publication that Anatomy established Frye as "the foremost living student of Western literature." Frye's contributions to cultural and social criticism spanned a long career during which he earned widespread recognition and received many honours.

Famous Quotes:

  • Culture's essential service to a religion is to destroy intellectual idolatry, the recurrent tendency in religion to replace the object of its worship with its present understanding and forms of approach to that object.
  • It is clear that all verbal structures with meaning are verbal imitations of that elusive psychological and physiological process known as thought, a process stumbling through emotional entanglements, sudden irrational convictions, involuntary gleams of insight, rationalized prejudices, and blocks of panic and inertia, finally to reach a completely incommunicable intuition.
  • A reader who quarrels with postulates, who dislikes Hamlet because he does not believe that there are ghosts or that people speak in pentameters, clearly has no business in literature. He cannot distinguish fiction from fact, and belongs in the same category as the people who send checks to radio stations for the relief of suffering heroines in soap operas.
  • The metaphor of the king as the shepherd of his people goes back to ancient Egypt. Perhaps the use of this particular convention is due to the fact that, being stupid, affectionate, gregarious, and easily stampeded, the societies formed by sheep are most like human ones.
  • Popular art is normally decried as vulgar by the cultivated people of its time; then it loses favor with its original audience as a new generation grows up; then it begins to merge into the softer lighting of quaint, and cultivated people become interested in it, and finally it begins to take on the archaic dignity of the primitive.
  • Just as a new scientific discovery manifests something that was already latent in the order of nature, and at the same time is logically related to the total structure of the existing science, so the new poem manifests something that was already latent in the order of words.
  • Between religion's this is and poetry's but suppose this is, there must always be some kind of tension, until the possible and the actual meet at infinity.
  • In our day the conventional element in literature is elaborately disguised by a law of copyright pretending that every work of art is an invention distinctive enough to be patented.
  • The pursuit of beauty is much more dangerous nonsense than the pursuit of truth or goodness, because it affords a stronger temptation to the ego.
  • It is of the essence of imaginative culture that it transcends the limits both of the naturally possible and of the morally acceptable.

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"Northrop Frye." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 30 Nov. 2020. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/northrop_frye>.


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Born
Jul 14, 1912
Sherbrooke
Religion
  • United Church of Canada
Nationality
  • Canada
Profession
Education
  • University of Toronto
  • Victoria University in the University of Toronto
  • Master's Degree, Merton College, Oxford
    English Literature
  • Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
    Theology
    ( - 1936)
Lived in
  • Sherbrooke
  • Toronto
    ( - 1991/01/23)
Died
Jan 23, 1991
Toronto

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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