Thursday, May 04, 2006

We still like Frye

Grandpa Squirrel made his usual weekend Toronto Star/Globe and Mail drop Sunday night, but I haven't had a chance till now to blog about one of the Really Interesting articles in the papers.

Between April and June of last year, I posted several times (here, here, here) about the Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye. The last time was here. Since then I've gotten a couple more of his books, become slightly more confused about his theology (was he ever really clear on it himself?) but even more interested in his ideas on literature.

Last Sunday's Toronto Star had this article by Philip Marchand, called "McLuhan, Frye and the falling towers." Marshall McLuhan, for Americans or others who don't know, was another professor of Frye's vintage, and as Marchand says, he's best known for the phrases he coined: "the global village" and "the medium is the message." As Marchand also points out, Frye and McLuhan were rivals and each "thought the other was on the wrong track."

And neither of them, according to Marchand, is exactly on key with today's academic thinking. Frye in particular is "a distinct minority taste in an age when literary studies are heavily influenced by radical politics and the philosophy of deconstruction--twin wrecking balls sworn to destroy any literary cathedral in sight."

Yep, I know. Frye doesn't have enough duende. He's not hip. And neither is McLuhan, although you would think, of the two, that somebody so interested in the media would have held up better.

However, we at the Treehouse are not too much into hip anyway, and we still like Frye. So, apparently, does B.W. Powe, a York University professor who has "written brilliantly about both Frye and McLuhan in his books A Climate Charged and The Solitary Outlaw....". Powe recently got one of his classes to stage a debate about how Frye and McLuhan would have viewed events such as 9/11. Actually the class is about Frye and McLuhan, which sounds very cool. (Powe was a pretty cool professor anyway. How do I know? I was in one of his senior writing classes in my last year at York.)

It's amazing that there is a Frye-McLuhan class offered these days. It's amazing that anybody takes it. It's amazing that this debate sounds (from the description in the article) like at least some of the students peered out of their millennium-sized boxes long enough to get a handle on what these pre-deconstructionist geezers (dead white guys and all that) were saying. I would have liked to have been there.


Anonymous said...

Marchand fails to remark how Frye's last book (which he reviewed) actually does cover the topics current in lit ideology, politics, religion etc...Frye is still amazing and all major critics today still sample/plagiarize/riff off Frye's ideas today..he is the subtext of every critic worth reading...

Mama Squirrel said...

Yan, what do you think of this criticism of Marchand's view of Frye?

Peter Yan said...

Hi Mama Squirrel..could not access the article...could you email it to me? also...appreciate your commens of my blog on Frye at