The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Northrop Frye

Herman Northrop Frye (July 14, 1912January 23, 1991) was a Canadian literary critic, one of the most distinguished of the 20th century.


Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec but raised in Moncton, New Brunswick, Frye studied for his undergraduate degree at Victoria College, University of Toronto. He then studied theology at Emmanuel College, at Victoria University, and was ordained as a minister of the United Church of Canada. After ordination, he studied at the University of Oxford, before returning to Victoria College for his entire professional career. He first rose to international prominence when still a student. The prophetic poetry of William Blake had long been considered delusional ramblings that could never be understood. Frye found in it a systematic system of metaphor derived from Paradise Lost and from the Bible. He published his findings as Fearful Symmetry in 1947.

Ten years later he expanded his vision, arguing in Anatomy of Criticism that there are certain archetypes and symbols used throughout literature. His The Great Code looked at how scenes and images from the Bible underpin all of western literature.

He also engaged in cultural and social criticism and was the recipient of some 39 honorary degrees. Anatomy of Criticism remains one of the most important works of 20th Century literary criticism.

Frye was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's Lorne Pierce Medal in 1958. In 1972 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Frye died in 1991 and was interred in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario.

In 2000, he was honoured by the government of Canada with his image on a postage stamp. A festival devoted to Frye's works takes place every April in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Works by Northrop Frye

Here is a list of his books, including the volumes in the Collected Works of Northrop Frye, an ongoing project under the editorship of Alvin A. Lee .

  • Fearful Symmetry
  • Anatomy of Criticism
  • The Educated Imagination
  • Fables of Identity
  • T.S. Eliot
  • The Well-Tempered Critic
  • The Modern Century
  • A Study of English Romanticism
  • Creation and Recreation
  • Harper Handbook to Literature (with Sheridan Baker and George W. Perkins )
  • On Education
  • No Uncertain Sounds
  • The Double Vision of Language, Nature, Time, and God
  • Northrop Frye in Conversation (an interview with David Cayley )
  • The Eternal Act of Creation
  • The Collected Works of Northrop Frye
  • Northrop Frye on Religion

Other works

  • edited fifteen books
  • composed essays and chapters that appear in over sixty books
  • wrote over one hundred articles and reviews in academic journals
  • from 1950 to 1960 he wrote the annual critical and bibliographical survey of Canadian poetry for Letters in Canada, University of Toronto Quarterly

Biographies of Northrop Frye

  • John Ayre, Northrop Frye: A Biography (1989)
  • Joseph Adamson, Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life (1993)
  • Robert D. Denham, Northrop Frye: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources (1987)

External links

Last updated: 05-07-2005 10:35:42
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04