Chronology

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The following chronology is from Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life, by Joseph Adamson (ECW Press, 1993).

1912 Born on 14 July, in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Son of Herman Edward Frye and Catherine Maud Howard, the youngest of three children (his sister Vera, the middle child, is 12 years old at the time). Both parents are devoutly Methodist.
1917 His brother, Howard, is killed in action in the First World War.
1919 With the failure of his father's business, the family moves to Moncton, New Brunswick, where Herman Frye becomes a hardware salesman for the Maritimes.
1928 Graduates from Aberdeen High School, and in the fall takes a three-month secretarial training course at Success Business College.
1929 In September, enters Victoria College, University of Toronto. In October, the stock market crashes.
1930 In the summer, working at the Central Reference Library, discovers Denis Saurat's Blake and Modern Thought and starts reading Blake. In the fall of his second year at Vic, meets Helen Kemp. Takes Pelham Edgar's Shakespeare course. Discovers Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West in the Hart House Library.
1933 Graduates with an honours degree in Philosophy and English. In the fall, enters Emmanuel College, University of Toronto, as a theological student to prepare for ministry in the United Church of Canada.
1934 In addition to his studies at Emmanuel, presents a seminar on Blake's Milton in Herbert Davis's gradu- ate class, with Pelham Edgar in attendance. Spends five months (May to September) as a student minister on a mission field in rural Saskatchewan. The experience convinces Frye that he is not suited for the ministry.
1934–35 Helen Kemp spends a year at the Courtauld Institute in London. In the fall of 1934, Frye reads Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough and Emile Male's The Gothic Image.
1935–36 Spends his first full year of teaching at the University of Toronto. In the spring, ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada. First essays published in the Canadian Forum.
1936–37 Travels to England to study for a degree in English literature at Merton College, Oxford University. His tutor is Edmund Blunden. Attends lectures by C.S. Lewis.
1937 Spends part of the summer touring Italy with friends from Oxford. Returns to Toronto, and marries Helen Kemp on 24 August.
1937–38 Takes up a one-year appointment as "special lecturer" at Victoria College.
1938 Returns to Oxford to complete his degree. Makes a month-long tour of Paris and environs with friends over the Christmas holiday.
1939 On 20 June, appointed a member of the permanent staff at Victoria College. In the summer, tours Italy with Helen and friends. Returns to England and leaves for Canada on 12 August, less than three weeks before the outbreak of war.
1942 Promoted to assistant professor. Publishes "Music in Poetry" and "Anatomy in Prose Fiction," his first major articles, in the University of Toronto Quarterly and the Manitoba Arts Review.
1946 Promoted to associate professor.
1947 Publishes Fearful Symmetry, a study of William Blake. Promoted to full professor.
1948 Becomes managing editor of the Canadian Forum, a position he will hold until 1952. In September, presents "The Argument of Comedy" at the English Institute.
1950 Granted a Guggenheim fellowship to write a study of Spenser.
1951 Publishes "The Archetypes of Literature," the socalled mini-anatomy, in Kenyon Review. "Letters in Canada: 1950, Poetry," appears, the first of 10 annual surveys of Canadian poetry that Frye will write over the next decade for the University of Toronto Quarterly. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
1952 Becomes chair of the Department of English at Victoria College.
1953 Serves as chair of the English Institute.
1954 Appointed Class of 1932 Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University. Anatomy of Criticism is an expansion of the four public lectures delivered there in March.
1957 Publishes Anatomy of Criticism, a landmark study of structural poetics. Appointed visiting lecturer at Harvard University.
1959 Becomes principal of Victoria College, serving until 1967.
1962 Presents "The Drunken Boat: The Revolutionary Element in Romanticism" at a conference on Romanticism he chairs at the English Institute; the other participants are M.H. Abrams, Lionel Trilling, and René Wellek. The proceedings are edited by Frye and published as Romanticism Reconsidered (1963).
1963 Publishes The Well-Tempered Critic; The Educated Imagination, a series of talks aired by the CBC; Fables of Identity, a collection of essays; and T.S. Eliot, which provokes letters of outrage and protest from the publisher, Faber and Faber, and from Eliot himself.
1965 In September, the English Institute holds a special session devoted to Frye, with a panel composed of Angus Fletcher, Murray Krieger, Geoffrey Hartman, and W.K. Wimsatt. Frye publishes A Natural Perspective, a study of Shakespeare's comedies, and The Return of Eden, a study of Milton.
1967 Appointed University Professor at the University of Toronto (the first person to receive such an appointment). Establishes an office at Massey College. Jane (Welch) Widdicombe, who becomes his secretary, will remain his invaluable assistant until his death. Publishes Fools of Time, a study of Shakespeare's tragedies, and The Modem Century.
1968 Publishes A Study of English Romanticism. Appointed member of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, serving until 1977.
1969 Begins to work on a successor to Anatomy, a study of the myth of concern that grows into the two books on the Bible.
1970 Publishes The Stubborn Structure, a collection of essays.
1971 Publishes The Bush Garden, a collection of reviews and essays on Canadian literature, and The Critical Path, an extended essay on the myth of concern.
1972 Made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
1975 Appointed Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, Harvard University.
1976 Elected president of the Modem Language Association. Publishes The Secular Scripture, a study of romance, and Spiritus Mundi, a collection of essays on literature, myth, and society.
1978 Named chancellor of Victoria University.
1979 Gives an extensive lecture tour of Italy, speaking in Milan, Florence, Padua, Vicenza, Venice, Urbino, and Rome.
1980 Publishes Creation and Recreation.
1982 Publishes The Great Code, his first study of the Bible.
1983 Publishes The Myth of Deliverance, a study of Shakespeare's "problem" comedies. Centre and Labyrinth, a Festschrift in Frye's honour, is published by friends and colleagues at Victoria College.
1986 Death of Helen Frye in Australia during Frye's tour of Australian universities.
1987 Wins the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction for Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, a collection of essays based on his undergraduate lectures on Shakespeare's plays. In May, attends an international conference on his work in Rome.
1988 Marries Elizabeth Brown on 27 July.
1990 Publishes Words with Power, his second study of the Bible.
1991 Dies, 23 January. A family funeral is held in the Victoria College Chapel on 26 January; a memorial service for the Victoria University community is held in the same location on 28 January. The following day, a memorial service for the larger community is held in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, with the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in attendance, and many testimonial speakers, including Bob Rae (Premier of Ontario), Margaret Atwood, Pauline McGibbon, and Pierre Juneau. Blake's "Jerusalem" is sung by the congregation at the end of the service. The Double Vision appears posthumously, only months after his death.

Last updated: March 25, 2015

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