Case 3
Victoria College

Frye began his undergraduate studies and his lifelong association with Victoria College in September of 1929, a month before the stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Great Depression. Between 1932 and 1933, Frye resided at Gate House, Vic’s residence for male students. He also served on the board of Acta Victoriana (a student publication devoted to poetry, reviews, short stories and articles). He was also involved in the debating club and the drama club.

Frye’s fascination with Blake originated in a class on Shakespeare that was held by Pelham Edgar, during his second undergraduate year at Vic.  According to Frye, Professor Edgar was not very fond of Shakespeare (in fact, according to Frye, he was “the only professor of English I ever knew who didn’t like Shakespeare.”) During his summer employment at the Central Reference Library, Frye discovered Denis Saurat’s Blake and Modern Thought, which inspired him to read works by William Blake, who was at that time considered to be an obscure English poet. That year, he also read Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, which he discovered in the collection of the Hart House Library. Frye graduated in 1933 and was awarded an honours degree in Philosophy and English. In the fall, he entered Emmanuel College to study theology in order to become an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada.

Frye later credited several members of Vic faculty with his intellectual development, in particular the “extraordinary trio” of mentors, as he referred to Pelham Edgar, J.D. Robins and E.J. Pratt in The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination (1971).

Joseph Adamson, Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.
David Cayley, Northrop Frye in Conversation. Concord: House of Anansi Press, 1992.