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Literary Criticism Canadian

The Well-Tempered Critic

by (author) Northrop Frye

Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Initial publish date
Dec 1983
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 1983
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"Northrop Frye's The Well-Tempered Critic is a brilliant take on writing, academia, and culture as a whole. His book is unique from other critiques on literary theory as he emphasizes the importance of the language spoken and not just language written. Frye writes in his first chapter, "Good writing must be based on good speech, it will never come alive it is based on reading alone."

"Frye divides language into a three-part model and walks the reader through each little nook-and-cranny of his idea. He divides language into the Poetic (rhythm caused by the beat of the words), Prose (rhythm caused by the sentence), and Associate (informal, everyday kind of talk.) Frye also divides the written language into his last chapter: Hieratic (High style) and Demiotic (low style).

"Frye's work is full of insight and intellectualism, and void of the intimidation factor which might be associated with a piece by Keats, Bloom, Eagleton, and other big name critics. Frye's diction is invitingly instructive, docilely dense, and meekly meticulous. His attention to detail and organization of thought work well to ensure the reader's comprehension of Frye's obvious intellect."

By D.A. Wetherell

About the author

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was one of Canada's most distinguished men of letters. His first book, Fearful Symmetry, published in 1947, transformed the study of the poet William Blake, and over the next forty years he transformed the study of literature itself. Among his most influential books are Anatomy of Criticism (1957), The Educated Imagination (1963), The Bush Garden (1971), and The Great Code (1982). Northrop Frye on Shakespeare (1986) won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. A professor at the University of Toronto, Frye gained an international reputation for his wide-reaching critical vision. He lectured at universities around the world and received many awards and honours, including thirty-six honorary degrees.

Northrop Frye's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"It is worth a hundred ordinary critical studies..."
The Hudson Review

"Professor Frye's new book will naturally invite the serious attention of all who are interested in literature and criticism . . . It is written with a grace and charm that may especially recommend it."
Quarterly Journal of Speech

"Frye has demonstrated throughout his career, and again in this book, his outstanding qualifications for literary scholarship. His learning, his easy familiarity with literature and ideas both in breadth and in depth, and his extraordinary penchant for projecting intricate systems and sub-systems - these talents are undeniably his own and undeniably fruitful ones. . . His analysis of 'styles' in The Well-Tempered Critic is cleanly observed and clearly articulated for the benefit of any reader. His work is, in the very best sense of the term, 'useful' scholarship and the study of literature has been given tools of greater precision because of his work."

"The Well-Tempered Critic, unlike many works on criticism, exemplifies the virtues of style that critics strive to analyze . . . It clears the ground for serious study of all types of writing."
Chicago Tribune Magazine of Books

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