Northrop Frye (1912–1991)

Canadian literary critic and educator. A graduate of the University of Toronto’s Victoria College and Oxford University, Frye served as a member of the faculty at Victoria College from 1939 until his death. A specialist in Renaissance and Romantic literature, he launched his career with Fearful Symmetry (1947), which led to a radical reevalution of the works of English poet William Blake. His best-known work, Anatomy of Criticism (1957), represents his lifelong project: to make the criticism of literature as rigorously systematic as science. The critic’s chief task, he argues, is not to evaluate a work of literature but to discern the archetypes that inform the work. Frye would go on to write more than forty books that apply his theories to subjects ranging from Shakespeare’s comedies and Milton’s epics to Canadian culture and the Bible as literature. See also