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9774Reading the Road to Middle Earth

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  • bowring
    Jul 8, 2003
      Tom Shippey's Road to Middle Earth has finally been reissued in a new edition.
      What a book! I am glad I read his Tolkien: Author of the Century first,
      otherwise I would not have enjoyed it nearly so much--RME is so much better.
      There are some interesting things to puzzle out, too. For instance, RME
      doesn't so much as mention Owen Barfield's theories about language, whereas
      Flieger, in her book Splintered Light, makes Barfield an important influence
      on Tolkien's views on language. I am not steeped enough in all this to really
      evaluate the two positions adequately, but I have two suspicions: (1) that
      Tolkien's philological training had already largely immunized him against
      "chronological snobbery", Barfield's important contribution to Lewis'
      intellectual cadre; (2) that Tolkien went no further than Lewis did in the
      direction of Barfield's key theories about the evolution of consciousness.
      Large and important questions.

      (I have another pet suspicion: that because Barfield outlived all the other
      principals by a good bit, and that many like Flieger got to know him and to
      one degree or another came under his influence, he had a large hand in shaping
      the reception of issues like the "Great War," theory of language,
      interpretation on the Imagination, etc. I would also count him among the
      writers that have most influenced my thinking on these issues, but the
      evolution of consciousness business, at least in its Anthroposophical form,
      just doesn't ring any bells for me--or rather, the bells jangle. I am not
      entirely happy with such discussions of Lewis' and Tolkien's "philosophy" of
      the imagination as I have thus far encountered.)

      I also find a lingering sense of pathos at Shippey's discussion of the
      possibility of the salvation of elves, etc. Alas....

      Fortunately, Shippey's book is not entirely off the topic (he has at least a
      toe over the border into my territory) of my dissertation. It has me

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