Summer 2012
Letters to the Editor

Readers reminisce about their learning experiences with Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan.

Real Freedom
I can’t thank you enough for the good memories you evoked with “Frye’s Anatomy” (Spring 2012), your tribute to the great scholar and teacher Northrop Frye. Taking a class with Prof. Frye in Old Vic was both inspirational and a life-changer. He had a low-key but intense style of lecturing that was completely mesmerizing. He revealed how to read for greater insight and, importantly, how to make legitimate and imaginative connections in literature – and in life. I often walked out of his classroom feeling more connected, modestly smarter and that the world made more sense. He taught me how to think independently and gave me an understanding of both responsibility and the concept of real freedom – something I’ve tried to pass on to my own students as part of their “educated imagination.”

John Borovilos
BA 1970 VIC, MEd 1976 OISE, Toronto

Surprise Visitor
In the late 1970s, I studied at a yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) on the West Bank. It was headed by two rabbis, one of whom had earned a PhD in English literature from Harvard University. One day, a handful of us stared wide-eyed as none other than Northrop Frye, accompanied by his wife, walked into the Beit Midrash (study hall). As the aforementioned rabbi spoke to him and noted that his adviser at Harvard had been Douglas Bush, Mrs. Frye, hearing a familiar name in this profoundly unfamiliar setting, began to exclaim excitedly, “Norrie – he knows Doug! He knows Doug!”

It was later reported to us that Frye was struck in particular by two things: the yeshiva method of text study known as havruta, in which students sit in pairs, read texts together and discuss them as they go; and the rapt attention and reverential silence in which students listened to the shiurim (lectures).

Just a minor footnote to Frye’s illustrious career, I know, but I think it deserves to be remembered.

Yehudah Mirsky

Wistful Thinking
I never had the privilege of hearing Northrop Frye in person, let alone of taking classes from him. Pondering over his books has made me wistful for “the real thing.” We shall not see his like again.

Ed Bebee

An Appreciation
I have been receiving U of T Magazine since 1975 but the Spring 2012 issue is the first time I’ve read it in its entirety (including the ads) because all of it was interesting to me. When I think of the sleep-inducing issues of yore, I wonder what makes the magazine so much better a read now. The fine variety of subjects and lengths of the pieces, the sprightly format, the photos of my fellow alumni accompanying pieces by as well as about them – these aren’t hard to appreciate. There’s more I’m sure, but I’m glad to leave the rest to the editors’ admirable and, I hope, longtime management.

John Dixon
MEd 1972, MA 1974, Toronto

Know Thyself
I was encouraged to see that two articles from the Autumn 2011 issue, “Marshall’s Laws” and “Mind Games,” show that the dictum “know thyself,” attributed to Socrates, is alive and well within the pages of U of T Magazine. Being a student at St. Mike’s during the McLuhan years I regret that I never took courses from the venerable professor. “Marshall’s Laws” reminded me that his work has helped me to know myself and my place in our technological age, and to avoid enslavement by the media. “Mind Games” reminded me that, by and large, psychology and psychiatry have displaced philosophy in shaping our present self-understanding. The article’s insightful conclusion notes that the psychiatrist’s job is to make diagnoses of biological origin and to treat them with effective agents. This recognizes mental health and mental illness for what they truly are, which rescues me from the constraints of the clinical model of life so prevalent in the Western world.

Allan Savage
BA 1974 SMC, Quebec City

Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Robert Britton BA%201974 on July 4th, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

For years I have been wondering why the magazine is sent in paper. Today I see an ad where it is possible to get it electronically. Finally! Not only is this saving a bit of the environment but I am far more likely to look at it electronically.

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