Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Northrop Frye's Notebooks on Romance

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Northrop Frye's Notebooks on Romance

Article excerpt

Northrop Frye, edited by M. Dolzani, Northrop Frye's Notebooks on Romance (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 503pp. Cloth. $95 (£60). ISBN 0-8020-3947-2.

Volume 15 of The Collected Works of Northrop Frye fills some important gaps in our understanding of Frye's intellectual development and provides the 'back-story' to his somewhat fluid concept of romance. Comprising nine holograph notebooks and fifteens sets of typed notes from 1944 to 1989, this meticulously-edited volume offers tantalising glimpses into the way Frye processed his reading in philosophy, history, anthropology, religion, myth and literature, and gradually constructed a unique theory of symbolic patterns and their meanings. These notebooks clarify important influences, such as that of Jung, and they remind us of Frye's lively curiosity about all human thought, including New Age mysticism. Most significantly of all, they dramatise the interpenetrating nature of Frye's intellectual schema.

Even the ways in which Frye compiled his notes reveal interconnectedness as his central critical method and core theme. While some notes relate closely to specific book projects like The Secular Scripture, others take the form of fragmented reflections and even 'memos to self ', such as the nature of an ideal home recorded when he was house-hunting. However, the notebooks actually show the steady accretion of a complex intellectual framework. They reveal how Frye continuously sought hidden connections and associations, and they demonstrate how he revised initial arguments while retaining important links to previous thought, coming back years later to add further comments. Notebook 34, for example, moves from observations on the novel and critical method, through 'the extent & ramifications of unconscious symbolism in life' (p. …

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