«The Educated Imagination» and Other Writings on Critical Theory, 1933–1963


553 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-9209-8
DDC 809




Edited by Germaine Warkentin
Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


The somewhat desperate overall title of this volume reflects the fact
that it represents a sort of mopping-up operation, since it collects
material not published in earlier volumes devoted to more specific
topics. But it is no less interesting for that.

Here we find a gathering of articles exploring critical positions later
refined and incorporated into Anatomy of Criticism. Frye aficionados
will be fascinated by the way he expands and elaborates his arguments
and selects telling examples. The book also reprints the more general
articles from Fables of Identity and the text of The Well-Tempered
Critic (much of it focusing on non-fiction prose), as well as The
Educated Imagination, originally talks for the CBC, which Frye’s
editor Germaine Warkentin rightly describes as “the most energetic,
charming, and persuasive book he ever produced.” There are also a
number of essays and reviews about such
anthropological-cum-psychological writers as Sir James Frazer, Carl
Jung, and Mircea Eliade.

The phrase “Critical Theory” in the title now needs some comment,
since in 2006 it may give the wrong impression. Decades of atrocious
academic prose by self-styled literary theorists, filled with jargon or
what Frye liked to call “gobbledegook,” has given the phrase a bad
name. Frye, however, was a genuine literary theorist capable of
expressing his theoretical insights in an English that is always clear,
and often witty and elegant. One may well disagree with some of his
pronouncements, but if one misunderstands his position it isn’t
Frye’s fault. He wrote of Frazer that “he will always be read,
because he can be,” and the phrase can be applied equally justly to

The Collected Works of Northrop Frye are notable for their excellent
editing. This volume is no exception.


Frye, Northrop., “«The Educated Imagination» and Other Writings on Critical Theory, 1933–1963,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15942.