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18606Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien studies as scholarship

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  • John D Rateliff
    Aug 17, 2007
      On Aug 16, 2007, at 10:15 PM, Robin Reid wrote:
      > Re: people who assume that some topics/subjects lack "substance."
      > This attitude is a common one those of us in popular culture,
      > feminist and
      > queer studies, and fan studies face. I have two responses:

      My response is much simpler. I don't think you can justify treating a
      book as a literary work; you just do it. Shakespeare scholars don't
      waste pages arguing that W.S. was a good playwright; Joyce scholars
      don't debate whether J.J. was an innovative wordsmith; they just
      carry on as if what they believe to be true is so. Either a work's
      value is self-evident to those who read and want to discuss it, or
      it's not, and you're unlikely to convert someone who doesn't see any
      merit in it into someone who does. In the early days of fantasy
      scholarship, writers like de Camp and Lin Carter wasted a lot of time
      trying to claim that practically all of modern literature was a side-
      track and that fantasy was the mainstream going back as far as the
      earliest written records; they would have served the field better
      simply by writing their essays better.

      > a quote from Gerald Graff, _Beyond the Culture Wars_ :

      > . . . what creates difficulty--and here is the point I have been
      > driving
      > at--is not just the object of study but the kind of question being
      > asked
      > about it. There is no functional connection between the status
      > level of a
      > text (however this may be measured) and the degree of complexity of
      > difficulty attained by the interpretation of it for some hypothetical
      > average reader.

      I may be reading him wrong, but Graff seems to me to be suggesting,
      with the Deconstructionists of the early 80s, that the quality of the
      work of art doesn't matter, only the cleverness and profundity of the
      critic. If so, I disagree. Thanks for posting the interesting excerpt

      --John R.
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