Study Guide

Northrop Frye - The Canadianists

The Canadianists

This group gets together to make sure that Canadian literature is on the map, so to speak. They're just sick of the whole "when people say America, they mean the United States" thing. Plenty of cool stuff came from Canada—and we're not just talking about Neil Young and Avril Lavigne. Did you know that Jack Kerouac was French Canadian?

Weekly meetings usually highlight the benefits of the good writing coming from the "True North." Canada has always liked having its own separate identity, and Frye had a load of theories about the ups and downs of national isolation.

Northrop Frye
President and Founder

Naturally, Norrie headed up this gathering, what with his whole "garrison mentality" idea. He gave Canadian literature the spotlight it had long deserved.

Claude T. Bissell
Vice-President

It's sort of ironic that Bissell was the president of the University of Toronto when Frye was a professor there, but in the Canadianists, the hierarchy was inverted simply because Frye was such a Big, well, Fry.

Bissell was bummed that on the international academic stage, Canadians were seen, as he put it, "simply as political and economic animals, and that literary critics viewed our writers too narrowly, as exotic products of a thin literary culture. His arguments for a […] more informed understanding of literature […] were remarkable at the time" (source).

Douglas Fisher
Defender 'Til the Death

This hero of World War II was a political heavy hitter in the Ottawa Parliament. But when that was over, he attended the University of Toronto and became one of Frye's pet students. Fisher and Bissell covered the Canadianists' political concerns, while Frye made literature his main thing.

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