Perhaps the foremost of pioneers in modern anthropology and renowned as the author of The Golden Bough, James George Frazer (FRAY-zur) was the son of Daniel F. Frazer, a partner in an old established firm of chemists. The young Frazer demonstrated academic distinction early at Larchfield Academy, then at Glasgow University, and finally at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was made a Fellow in 1879. Frazer’s early interest was in the classics, an interest that continued during his long scholarly career, during which he translated Apollodorus, Pausanius, Ovid, and Sallust. But friendship with W. Robertson Smith, the Hebrew scholar who wrote Religion of the Semites (1889), led Frazer to the work of Sir Edward...
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Ackerman, Robert. J. G. Frazer: His Life and Work. 1987. Rev. ed. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2001. A very useful study of Frazer and the evolution of The Golden Bough.
Downie, Robert Angus. Frazer and the Golden Bough. London: Gollancz, 1970. A biography written by Frazer’s assistant in his later years.
Evans-Pritchard, Sir Edward. A History of Anthropological Thought. New York: Basic Books, 1981. A distinguished anthropologist, Evans-Pritchard is highly critical of Frazer’s theoretical and methodological shortcomings, but he still finds in Frazer important contributions to the understanding of magic. He pays “homage to his scholarship.”
Hyman, Stanley Edgar. The Tangled Bank: Darwin, Marx, Frazer, and Freud as Imaginative Writers. New York: Atheneum, 1962. An interesting study of the major popular social theorists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Manganaro, Marc. Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority: A Critique of Frazer, Eliot, Frye, and Campbell. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992. This study of mythological theory in literature provides a critique of Frazer’s anthropological theories in terms of their effect on literature.
Vickery, John B. The Literary Impact of “The Golden Bough.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973. Traces the influence of The Golden Bough on numerous works of literature.