A Personal View by Northrop Frye: The Bible and Literature - Program Introduction



Between 1980 and 1981 Prof. Northrop Frye held 25 lectures under the title ‘The Bible and Literature’. Each of these lectures was recorded and for each of them a transcript was provided. Later, excerpts of these 25 lectures (each 50 minutes long) were made into 30 programs (each about 30 minutes long). That means that in some cases, one lecture supplied material for two programs, or the other way around. The numbers and titles below belong to the programs, the appropriate corresponding lectures are indicated on the program pages.

The First Part:
Program 1 Introduction: An Approach 
Program 2 The Shape of the Bible
Program 3 Images of Paradise: Trees and Water
Program 4 Parody and Manifest Demonic: Trees and Water
Program 5 Sexual Imagery: The Bride and the Bridegroom
Program 6 The Great Whore and the Forgiven Harlot
Program 7 Pastoral and Agricultural Imagery: Part One
Program 8 Pastoral and Agricultural Imagery: Part Two
Program 9 The World of Angels 
Program 10 Leviathan, Dragons and the Antichrist 
Program 11 The Hero from Across the Sea
Program 12 The Double Mirror: Exodus and the Gospel
Program 13 The Metaphor of Kingship
Program 14 Kiing, Priest and Prophet
Program 15 The Question of  Primogeniture 

The Second Part:
Program 16 Genesis: In the Beginning 
Program 17 Genesis: Creating the Sexes 
Program 18 Exodus: A Revolutionary Heritage 
Program 19 Law: Ordering a Society
Program 20 Wisdom: The Proverb
Program 21 Wisdom: Playing Before God 
Program 22 Ecclesiastes: Vanity of Vanities 
Program 23 Job: A Test
Program 24 Job and the Question of Tragedy 
Program 25 Job and Restored Humanity 
Program 26 The Language of Proclamation: Style and Rhythm in the Bible
Program 27 The Gospel: Rewriting the Commandments 
Program 28 Revelation: Removing the Veil 
Program 29 Revelation: After the Ego Disappears
Program 30 Conclusion: the Language of Love



Each of these manuals combines a transcript of the entire lecture or lectures from which material has been excerpted for use in the video program, followed by a Teacher's Guide to that program. Lecture portions appearing in the video programs are indicated in bold-face type.

  1. Lecture Transcripts


The thirty half-hour programs in this series draw on video recordings of twenty-five lectures of approximately fifty minutes each given by Dr. Frye 1981-82. Each program manual contains transcripts of the full lecture (in some cases two full lectures) on which the video program is based.

The transcripts are intended to serve at least two purposes. They allow the teacher to assess each video program within the context of the lecture or lectures from which it is excerpted, and they provide useful elaboration of some of the points made in the program. In most lectures, for example, there were questions from students in the classroom, and Dr. Frye's responses appear only infrequently in the edited video programs. Both there and in the transcripts, these have by necessity been incorporated to appear as part of the lecture.

The recorded lectures have not only had to be compressed, but also to some extent restructured in the process of translating them to the half-hour video format. Thus, in some cases, two lectures are condensed into one video program. In other instances, one lecture has been split to provide the material for two separate programs. And finally, there are three programs each of which draws material from two separate lectures.

This re-arrangement of lecture materials is reflected in the content of the Teacher's Manuals as follows:

  1. Manuals containing one lecture transcript not appearing elsewhere (numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15, 25, 28, 29, 30).
  2. Manuals containing the transcript of a lecture that also provided material for the preceding or succeeding program (numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27). The Manuals for programs 5 and 6, for example, contain an identical lecture transcript, but with different bold-facing to indicate that different sections of it were utilized in each program.
  3. Manuals containing two lecture transcripts (numbers 17, 19, 23).

Thus, each Teacher's Manual provides all transcripts relevant to the video program in question. In all cases, the portions used in the video program are clearly indicated in bold-face type.

In editing the printed transcripts, Dr. Frye's actual words were altered only when necessary for ease of reading. Punctuation has been supplied by the editor.

Each program contains question and answer sessions in a seminar setting. Transcripts have not been provided for these portions of the programs.

  1. Teacher's Guide


In preparing the Teacher's Guides, we recognized that we were addressing at least three kinds of teachers – those teaching the Bible, those teaching primarily literature and those teaching the Bible and literature. Our decision was to focus on the interrelationship implied in the series title, The Bible and Literature, in the hope that teachers whose primary interest was one or the other of these fields will find the Guides adaptable to their purposes.

In each of these Teacher's Guides, then, we provide a synopsis of the program, an outline of the key facts presented in the video lecture, including Biblical passages cited the lecture, and suggestions both for supplementary reading and for essay and discussion questions. To this we have added a section called 'The Teacher's Perspective'. In this section, the writer has drawn on his own knowledge of Dr. Frye's thought (and no doubt his own biases and concerns) an effort to provide and touchstones other teachers may find useful. The writer joins the producers in stressing that the Teacher's Guides are just that, and are in no way intended to limit the kinds of instructional use teachers may wish to make of the series.

The Teacher's Guides have been researched and written by Michael Dolzani, a graduate assistant to Dr. Frye currently working to complete his Ph.D. in English literature. Mr. Dolzani has also acted as editor of the lecture transcripts for the manuals.

The producers are much indebted to Mr. Dolzani for his pioneering work on these Manuals, and to Mr. Anis George of Multi-Media Transcriptions Inc., Toronto, for the initial transcription and subsequent word processing of the printed material for this series.

A Point of Interest:

Throughout the series, despite the fact that Dr. Frye is lecturing without notes, viewers will recognize many passages which are almost direct quotations from The Great Code. After screening a number of edited programs, Dr. Frye seemed somewhat surprised to discover this fact, and he asked us to point out that he was composing much of The Great Code over the 1981-82 period during which he was delivering his lectures. We could only assure him that the chances of his being charged with plagiarism seemed remote.


Bob Rodgers

Executive Producer

Toronto, 1983