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3587Re: [mythsoc] Re: Article on Tolkien in _Salon_

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  • David S. Bratman
    Jun 10, 2001
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      Michael Martinez -

      It's too difficult to try to make two superficially contradictory points at
      the same time: that the media is wrong in claiming that Tolkien fans form a
      Tolkien cult, and that there is in fact such a thing as a Tolkien cult. So
      I basically give up. Most of the places where you're puzzled by what I
      write result from confusion between these points. That's particularly the
      case where you get so upset by my reference to the Russians, but it comes
      up over and over again in your latest. I'm arguing point A, and you
      respond as if I was arguing point B. This may be partially my fault. But
      gee, when I talk about attitudes towards bestsellers that are strongly
      looked down upon by critics, that does not lead us back to your point about
      Shakespeare, because he isn't strongly looked down upon by critics. So I
      don't think it's entirely my fault.

      The media perception of a Tolkien cult, after the 60s and before now, is
      not a campus phenomenon. I gave specific examples of what I was referring
      to in an earlier post. I was not being "broad and generic."

      I said before, and will repeat it: academic arguments over the value of
      (e.g.) Faulkner and Twain are not the same thing as general dismissal, in
      certain circles, of Tolkien as critically valueless. The kind of flame
      wars you describe are entirely different from this. Just to give one
      example: when "Ulysses" topped one oft-noted list of the greatest novels of
      the 20th century (as I recall), there was no Germaine Greer to say that
      this was the embodiment of her nightmare.

      No doubt, for every esteemed author, there is some academic somewhere so
      high-minded as to scoff at anyone interested in that author. And there is
      no author so "low" that some junior-college professor, at the very least,
      won't write an article discussing that author. But it takes a particular
      combination of non-academic popularity and high-academic disdain to
      generate the kind of dismissal to which I refer, and which Staci Dumoski,
      for instance, took for granted in her post setting forth a query about
      whether Tolkien's own academic standing had anything to do with it. (An
      interesting question, Staci, and I wish I had time to address it now.)

      In today's New York Times, composer Bruce Beresford is described as having
      purchased "four discs of music by one of his favorite composers, Alan
      Hovhaness. 'But don't make too much of that,' he said of the Hovhaness,
      laughing. 'The classical music establishment doesn't think much of him.'"

      That's the sort of dismissal I'm referring to, and Hovhaness is very
      similar to Tolkien both in the nature of his mixed reputations, and the
      nature of his work that leads to those reputations. I'd love to talk about
      that sometime, but I don't have time to embark on that right now.

      Lastly, sir, I would advise you very strongly to look to your own house
      before you go around accusing people of being insulting, inflammatory, and
      most of all implying that they feel qualified to label things and that
      they're better than someone else.

      David Bratman
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