Case 10
Frye and Canadian Literature (Cont.)

Frye is credited with outlining the first “comprehensive view” of the Canadian literary tradition. In his conclusion to Literary History of Canada (1965, edited with Carl Klinck), Frye describes the “Canadian sensibility” as a major intellectual force that shaped Canada’s early literature. He argues that a “garrison mentality” (which he described as the antagonistic attitude of the early settlers towards nature) had a profound influence on the emerging literary and poetic works. In Frye’s view, these early works did not yet represent a distinct literary tradition. He asserted that their fearful portrayal of nature was a manifestation of the unconsciousness and of a death-wish that in turn resulted in an immature vision of the natural world. For Frye, the poetry of E.J. Pratt symbolizes the emergence of a mature view of nature, as his poems often depict the struggle of human dignity against this death-wish. This theme is particularly visible in Brébeuf and His Brethren.

Joseph Adamson, Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.
Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Toronto: Anansi Press, 1971.
Northrop Frye, On Education. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1988.