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20865An Old Debate

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  • John Davis
    Oct 5, 2009
      A few months ago, there was a debate on this list about whether LotR was a solely Catholic work, or whether it was also, in addition, a Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Green/what-have-you work. Arguments were made on both sides, but neither really convinced the other, and eventually we got distracted, if memory servers, by moral relativity (as one does!).
      Now I am not about to open up this debate again, but it had stuck in my mind as it seemed strange that such a seemingly simple question could be disagreed about so completely by people who are knowledgeable about the subject. Then it occurred to me that what was being argued about was in fact something more general, namely whether a book is something written by an author and simply received by the reader in a one-way process, or whether it is also the interaction between the book/author and the reader, who thus combine to create something which might be different to what the author had anticipated. The former view upholds the belief that LotR is solely a Catholic work, whilst the latter suggests that if a reader sees in LotR a Pagan world-view and the text can support it, then LotR contains a pagan world-view.
      Both these definitions of a work of art - in this case a book - are of course well known and well accepted, so neither can really be said to be right or wrong. But it explains, I think, why those arguing failed to reach a consensus.
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