Rereading Frye: The Published and Unpublished Works


163 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8094-4
DDC 801'.95'092




Edited by David Boyd and Imre Salusinszky
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.


“It is premature to start critical study until all the evidence is in,
i.e., until all the words have been read. After the experience has been
completed, we can move from experience to knowledge.” So wrote
Northrop Frye in The Great Code. He was, of course, discussing
approaches to the Bible, but, as the present book makes clear, these
remarks apply well to his own work. Although it is subtitled “The
Published and Unpublished Works,” the main interest of this volume
lies in the tantalizing glimpses it offers of Frye’s extensive private
notebooks, which are in the process of being edited for the University
of Toronto Press Collected Edition.

Rereading Frye, the present volume, consists, in the main, of papers
presented at a research seminar held at the University of Newcastle,
Australia, in 1994, and they are of remarkably consistent quality. The
majority of them use the unpublished work—especially notebooks
specifically initiated by Frye when he was grappling with a new
book—to throw light on the work we already know and to show the
personal process of a major thinker developing and articulating his
ideas and insights.

Whether one’s response to Frye involves total acceptance or includes
considerable reservations, one cannot but be fascinated by the breadth
of his knowledge and the complex workings of his mind. This book, whose
contributors include such seasoned Frye scholars as Robert Denham,
Jonathan Hart, Joseph Adamson, and A.C. Hamilton, presents both the
scholarship and the individual behind the scholarship. It would be
absurd to suggest that such material makes for easy reading, but the
writers present it in as direct and accessible a manner as possible.

Not the least interesting of the essays is Jonathan Hart’s report on
Frye’s frustrated efforts to produce fiction as well as criticism.
Again, the evidence is in the notebooks, which also, as Denham remarks,
record a “remarkable religious quest.” This important contribution
to Frye studies whets the appetite and makes us look forward to the
publication of the notebooks with keen anticipation.


“Rereading Frye: The Published and Unpublished Works,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,