Northrop Frye: The Bible and Literature - 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.  The lectures are listed below.

Lecture 1 Introduction: An Approach
Lecture 2 The Shape of the Bible
Lecture 3 Images of Paradise: Trees and Water
Lecture 4 Parody and Manifest Demonic: Trees and Water
Lecture 5 Sexual Imagery: The Bride and the Bridegroom (Part 1) & The Great Whore and the Forgiven Harlot (Part 2)
Lecture 6 Pastoral and Agricultural Imagery: Parts 1 & 2 
Lecture 7 The World of Angels 
Lecture 8 The Hero from Across the Sea  
Lecture 9 The Double Mirror: Exodus and the Gospel
Lecture 10 The Metaphor of Kingship
Lecture 11 King, Priest and Prophet
Lecture 12 The Question of  Primogeniture        
Lecture 13 Revelation: After the Ego Disappears 
Lecture 14 Genesis: In the Beginning 
Lecture 15 Exodus: A Revolutionary Heritage 
Lecture 16 Law: Ordering a Society
Lecture 17 Wisdom: The Proverb
Lecture 18 Wisdom: Playing Before God (Part 1) & Ecclesiastes: Vanity of Vanities (Part 2)
Lecture 19 Untitled
Lecture 20 Job: A Test
Lecture 21 Job and the Question of Tragedy 
Lecture 22 Job and Restored Humanity 
Lecture 23 The Language of Proclamation: Style and Rhythm in the Bible 
Lecture 24 Revelation: Removing the Veil 
Lecture 25 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