Study Guide

Northrop Frye Social Media


Even fusty academics like Frye can create controversy. Apparently some people dared to ask the question: "Does literary criticism need the kind of conceptual universe Frye seeks to provide?" That's core. (Source.)


So, Frye and media impresario Marshall McLuhan weren't exactly bosom buddies. Frye had a beef with McLuhan's idea of a "global village" because he thought that communities weren't just made up of a bunch of buddies. Frye said that "a village may be a community of cliques & feuds & backbiting & gossip of a ferocity far worse than any metropolis, like those hideous little towns at the divisional points of railways, where the conductor's wife couldn't compromise her dignity by speaking to the brakeman's wife." That, folks, is what we like to call an "academic smack down." (Source.)


Frye doesn't seem to have liked to gossip himself, but he wouldn't say no to indulging in a little if other people were doing it. As he said, "I like to hear gossip, not for its own sake, but for the sake of knowing what other people know." (Source.)


Frye believed that gossip could have a negative impact on writers. He wasn't just talking about dirt and personal stuff; he also meant the kind that could harm a person's academic career. He called this "'leisure-class gossip,' the 'casual, sentimental, and prejudiced value-judgments' that are part of the literary stock exchange in which reputations are made and broken by wealthy investors like T.S. Eliot." (Source.)

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