Conference set to explore religion in Northrop Frye’s writing


The thoughts and ideas of Northrop Frye have been scrutinized and celebrated by scholars throughout the world.

But, until now, an important element of the late Canadian literary and cultural critic's work has been overlooked. The Departments of English and the Religious Studies are hosting an international conference to explore the religious contexts of Frye's thinking on May 17-19, entitled “Frye and The Word.”

Frye's most influential study, Anatomy of Criticism(1957), is an overview of the principles and techniques of literary criticism, attempting to uncover and categorize the underlying myths and archetypes of world literature. It's viewed as the focal point for the rest of work.

“Frye is known for literary criticism,” says Jeffery Donaldson, conference chair and an assistant English professor. “His critical vision has brought cultural and religious implications. The cultural impacts have been looked at in a number of ways. There has never been a look at his religious implications before. However, they had an enormous impact on his work.”

Frye was an ordained minister with the United Church of Canada, but never formally practised. In his later years, Frye wrote a trio of books exploring literary elements in religion. They were: The Great Code: The Bible and Literature 1982; Words With Power: Being a Second Study of The Bible and ; and The Double Vision, published after his death in 1991.

This conference will give scholars an opportunity to reassess the importance of Frye's books on the Bible published late in his career. “Frye and the Word” will be a rigorous consideration of Frye's religious thought, its place among various theologies and studies of religion, and its relation to his literary criticism.

The conference has attracted scholars from the United States and Canada, as well as China, Australia, and Scotland. The keynote speaker will be Alvin Lee, McMaster President Emeritus and an emeritus professor of English who is the general editor of the Collected Works of Northrop Frye.

A full list of speakers and a tentative schedule can be found on the conference's Web site at

The conference received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Michael DeGroote Trust, the Faculty of Humanities, and the Departments of Religious Studies and English.