Northrop Frye

(1912—1991) Canadian literary critic

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Canadian critic, born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and at Merton College, Oxford. Returning to Toronto as a lecturer, he wrote Fearful Symmetry (1947), an influential defence of Blake's allegorical system. His most important book is The Anatomy of Criticism (1957), which redirected American literary theory away from the ‘close reading’ of New Criticism and towards the larger meanings of literary genres, modes, and archetypes. Rejecting critical evaluation in favour of a value‐free literary science, Frye elaborates here a comprehensive map of the literary ‘universe’ in a boldly schematic series of classifications. His early work did much to redeem the genre of romance, the subject of his later book The Secular Scripture (1976). Among many other works, he wrote The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (1982). His emphasis on the deeper ‘codes’ or generic structures under the surface of literature foreshadowed the later turn to structuralism in literary studies.

Subjects: Literature.

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