The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.” (Northrop Frye)
This year marks the 100th birthday of the late Northrop Frye and scholars, writers, alumni and fans around the world have been remembering and celebrating the legendary professor who transformed literary criticism.
At the campus where Frye taught from 1939 to 1991, his alma mater, Victoria University, hosted the unveiling of a bronze statue by Fred Harrison & Darren Byers as international scholars gathered for Educating the Imagination: a Conference in Honour of Northrop Frye on the Centenary of his Birth.
(Text by Christine Elias, photos by Diana Tyszko)
Laila Khoshkar, a first-year Innis College student studying English and criminology, reads beside the great professor.
Twenty years after his death, the author of Fearful Symmetry and Anatomy of Criticism continues to be one of the most read and the most quoted of literary critics and is remembered as an inspiring professor by generations of alumni.
In the stack of books beside Frye, one features a stained glass pattern inspired by a window he admired in St. Mary’s Church in Fairford, Gloucestershire. Another book is decorated with the pattern that was on the first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost. The third book shows part of Blake’s face looking upwards.
Frye’s class planner is contained in the antique ledger directly under his personal journal located under his left elbow.
According to the artists, the book Frye holds relates to his life at Vic. For example, the motifs of the angel in the upper left, Leviathan in the lower left, and the divine creator in the upper right, refer to his strong religious background and also allude to the images of poet-artist William Blake, who inspired his approach to literature.
In his right hand is his wife Helen's sketch of a party, hinting at her sense of humour which brought levity to his life.
The inscription on the book beside the legendary professor begins: “Northrop Frye was one of the most influential literary critics and theorists of the Twentieth Century”.
Unveiled on October 4th, the bronze figure created by artists Darren Byers and Fred Harrison, is a variation of the sculpture commissioned by the Frye Festival for the city of Moncton – Frye’s birthplace.