Northrop Frye's Late Notebooks,1982-1990
Published: August 2000© 2000
472 Pages, 6.41 x 9.52 x 1.56 in
An inveterate notebook keeper, Northrop Frye continually jotted down his ideas and thoughts as he worked through the complex schemes of his criticism. Volumes 5 and 6 of the Collected Works are the notebooks that he kept while writing his two final books, "Words with Power" and "The Double Vision". They provide a record of what he was reading and thinking as he struggled with the implications of those projects. In a sense they are the workshops out of which the books were constructed.
While focusing on the works-in-progress, the 3684 entries presented here range over diverse territory, never failing to surprise, delight, and provoke. In these notebooks, for instance, we find comments triggered by a detective story Frye is reading, a lecture he has to prepare, a glance at the books on his shelves, a quotation he remembers, a letter received, or the memory of a trip. In many respects, the notebooks reveal a Frye who is quite different from the critic who made his reputation with "Fearful Symmetry" and "Anatomy of Criticism", displaying aspects of his personality and thought that are not apparent in his books and essays. The notebooks show us the unbuttoned Frye, a complex man capable of both spiritual transcendence and hard-headed pragmatism. Here, for instance, his criticism of Catholicism is far more acerbic than in anything he published. Likewise, his rejection of both Marxist and feminist ideology is far more pointed than elsewhere.
These two volumes include seven of Frye's handwritten notebooks and five collections of his typed notebooks - all previously unpublished. The material is the record of an extraordinary intellectual odyssey, an odyssey that is, at its base, deeply spiritual.
'Frye concentrated on structures of imagery, regarding poetry as a recreation of the world in the image of the poet's fears and desires. In these notes and notebooks, one sees only a little of the outward, natural man, worrying about work and death, but a great deal of the inward, spiritual man, captaining the drunken boat of contemporary criticism as he charts the perilous seas of fairylands.'Thomas Willard, Department of English, University of Arizona