The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Twin Towers of Toronto

The IDEAS section of the Sunday Toronto Star is pretty much the only one that interests me, and today's was no exception: Philip Marchand (whom I respect) had an interesting but incomplete article on the Titans. No, not Saturn and Cronos, but Canadian Titans Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan. I think it's safe to say that the two alone put the University of Toronto, as well as the city itself, on the map.

What's also interesting is that Marchand mentions the 4th year English course offered at York, "Frye and McLuhan." I remember the course was offered for the first time in my 4th year (2003-2004), but I never took it for some odd reason (it must have been course conflicts). I never took a class with the prof, B.W. Powe, but for some reason he would always say hi to me, and once we actually shot the breeze. I told him that I wasn't crazy about McLuhan. He didn't mind, but he was curious :) (I also find it interesting that, of all schools in the world, York offers the course).

I never took the course, but I'm not sure whether one may actually and profitably compare the two, or whether such a course would be as coherent as it sounds. Although both were Canadian English profs who taught at UofT, they had little in common. McLuhand stopped talking about literature long before he was famous, and Frye rarely talked about anything else. McLuhan had some interesting ideas, I'll admit, but sometimes he was full of it :) His notion of the "medium is the message" is interesting, but the phrase itself makes no sense. The medium is overlooked and is important, but it's hardly the message. I'm told he was fond of catchphrases.

Although Frye has been relegated to the margins (to borrow a phrase from current, cool, literary criticism), there are many people out there who appreciate him, i.e., people who know a real scholar and literary critic when they see one. Frye is, as Dr. J said, the sun-god of Canadian literary criticism. I would even go so far as to say that Frye was the most significant 20th century literary theorist (maybe not critic).

I honestly believe that, 50 years from now, when the Greenblatts and the Fouceault wannabees have died and been forgotten, Frye will still be read and appreciated. A century from now, posterity will look down on this generation of 'literary scholarship' and say "what a waste of time all that was." Thankfully people have begun to see this, including the likes of Harold Bloom, Terry Eagleton and Camille Paglia.

Oh, here's the article


Blogger Vixen said...

I was at work on Sunday and did not get to read this article. I am proud to say that Davyth Iwere a part of the debate mentioned by Philip Marchand. In case you were interested, we were McLuhanites,( in case you were interested.

3:05 a.m.  
Blogger Davyth said...

The blog doesn't quite highlight most of what we actually said in our presentation. Much of it was improvised: such as pulling out a Bible in retort against the Frygeans (I think ancient Phrygia everytime I hear that term), sarcastically asking them (knowing full well our opposing classmates ironically weren't familiar with the Bible as some of us) if they know their Bible as well as they allege, and then having the gall to recite Matt 16:3: "Hypocrites! You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but you can't discern the signs of the times!"

3:20 a.m.  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

Vixen: Thanks, I'll take a look.
Davyth: haha, yeah, I also think of Phrygians.
By blog you mean article, right? After all, I wasn't there.

One thing the article mentioned, which I already knew and agreed with, is that it's ironic that the course is offered at York of all places where most of the faculty are sworn enemies of Frye. I find it odd that UofT doesn't offer such a course.

10:21 a.m.  
Blogger Davyth said...

No, I'm referring to the blog posted by Vixen: our class brainstorming blog. Like most group projects there is a whole lot of blather, or chaff, but very little, if miniscule ideas came to fruition. Most of it we prepared last minute starting a week before the debate--people were either swamped with essays before, and / or no one had taken the effort to get the group organized and produce something concrete.

1:34 p.m.  

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