Frye’s Diaries

I wish I had the money to spring for Northrop Frye’s diaries

A review in the National Post reflects a couple of reasons why I like him, even though I don’t agree with much of his agenda. Maybe it’s because archetypes are dangerously close to stereotypes.

He [Frye] told his diary what he didn’t always express in print or in public. He often disliked the moral tone of the Toronto people he knew. “Every once in a while I get shocked by the callousness and brutality of members of my class,” he wrote; sometimes they revealed that they thought the poor sub-human. He wasn’t impressed when Osbert Sitwell, one of the eminent Sitwells of England, came to Canada to lecture: “If I didn’t know him to be brilliant I’d say he was a dope.”

He decided that obscenity is an ornament to language except when it becomes routine; then it approaches idiocy. He cited a colleague’s story about a First World War soldier who saw a dead mule at the bottom of a shellhole and remarked, “Well, that fuckin’ fucker’s fucked.” Setting that down, Frye added, “What sort of person is it, incidentally, whose feelings would be spared by printing the above as ‘that —-in’ —-er’s —-ed,’ or ‘that obscene obscenity’s obscenitied’?” He had no time for prudes.

I find it difficult to excerpt without comment. I also have difficulty with the division between public and private. I don’t keep a private diary; this is it folks. The two themes presented above reflect my thinking well, as I work my way through the educational process. I don’t think that “uneducated” people are somehow less than those who feel the need to process too much of the worlds information. We’re all human, and the poetry of that exists in all of us. I don’t like restraint in language, but it’s always there. How do you talk to an audience if they walk away? Discussing language theory with a bunch of strongly religious people last Wednesday, all of them wondered: “Just makes these words taboo anyway?” It felt good to know that even the strongly indoctrinated question the mechanism behind it all. Judgment which leads to censorship, or judgment which leads to setting another human above another is dangerous. But how can we live and not judge? There is just not enough time to take everything into consideration equally.