The Age of Frye: Dissecting the Anatomy of Criticism, 1957-1966


This article explores the earliest reviews of the Anatomy of Criticism, constructing a microhistory of the moment when the unsuspecting critics of 1957-1966 first encountered Northrop Frye’s massive new critical theory. Their long-forgotten reviews reveal the critical concepts they brought to the attempt to understand Frye’s ideas, and illustrate why criticism as they understood it proved vulnerable when, with equal suddenness, in 1966 the Age of Derrida superseded what Harold Bloom would call The Age of Frye. Though the few Canadian reviewers (with one exception) spoke with the same voice as those in the US and England, the long-term consequences of Frye’s theories were very different on native ground. Only once did Frye himself debate his critics directly, and though the ideas of the Anatomy inform all his later work, the critical path he himself was choosing in the same decade would lead neither to Paris nor New Haven.

This article “The Age of Frye: Dissecting the Anatomy of Criticism, 1957-1966” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 214 (Autumn 2012): 15-29.

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