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RE: [mythsoc] Some questions for a Thesis

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  • Croft, Janet B
    It seemed pretty clear to me that his thesis was almost complete and he was looking for a few comments from general readers to beef up some of his conclusions.
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 3, 2003
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      It seemed pretty clear to me that his thesis was almost complete and he was
      looking for a few comments from general readers to beef up some of his
      conclusions. (Maybe he'd been directed to do so by his thesis advisor?)
      Didn't sound too unreasonable to me - I often poll library discussions lists
      at some point in a paper I'm writing to see what other people are thinking
      and if I'm on the right track or not, or to support my conclusions with
      evidence from what I clearly label "an informal poll of such-and-such a
      list". I may or may not use their comments but credit them if I do. But
      that said, Mr. Karpouzian should know, as Wendell points out, that this list
      does skew more scholarly and the responses he gets here will differ from
      those on more general fan lists.



      Janet Brennan Croft

      -----------------------------------------------------------------

      Hubris is stealing fire from the gods. Chutzpah is offering to sell it back.



      _____

      From: WendellWag@... [mailto:WendellWag@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2003 9:03 AM
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Some questions for a Thesis



      In a message dated 12/3/2003 9:39:16 AM Eastern Standard Time,
      daniel@... writes:

      > I would hardly ask someone to 'do my homework' for me.
      >

      It's not clear what you wanted in your post. Are you just trying to do a
      survey of what Tolkien fans think about the issues you mention in your
      questions?
      That's a reasonable thing to ask, although if you're going to report the
      results of this survey in your thesis, you should mention that this isn't a
      scientific survey of a representative sample of Tolkien fans. (In
      particular, the
      people on this list are considerably more well-read on Tolkien than the
      average person who calls themself a fan.) It sounded like you were asking
      for ideas
      to use in your thesis, which is asking for someone to do your homework.

      Wendell Wagner


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    • Croft, Janet B
      Below are a few responses for you. If you go to my webpage you will see some of my publications in Tolkien studies listed. Janet Brennan Croft Head of Access
      Message 2 of 7 , Dec 3, 2003
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        Below are a few responses for you. If you go to my webpage you will see
        some of my publications in Tolkien studies listed.



        Janet Brennan Croft

        Head of Access Services

        University of Oklahoma

        Bizzell Library NW104

        Norman OK 73019

        405-325-1918

        fax 405-325-7618

        jbcroft@...

        http://libraries.ou.edu/ <http://libraries.ou.edu/>

        http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/C/Janet.B.Croft-1/
        <http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/C/Janet.B.Croft-1/>

        -----------------------------------------------------------------

        Hubris is stealing fire from the gods. Chutzpah is offering to sell it back.



        _____

        From: Daniel B. Karpouzian [mailto:daniel@...]
        Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 6:25 PM
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [mythsoc] Some questions for a Thesis



        I am just finishing up a thesis on Tolkien, involving different allegory
        and different meanings that people see and draw from J.R.R. Tolkien's
        writing, and I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE answers to the following few
        questions. And also, a quick answer would also be appreciated! :-)




        1. Have you read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and/or The
        Silmarillion?
        If so, which, and how many times?



        Read The Hobbit and LotR at least 25 times the whole way through.
        Silmarillion - probably only 3 times the whole way through. With all of
        these I dip in from time to time. I've also read Tolkien's other works
        varying numbers of times.


        2. Have you seen the movies? Yes
        Did you think they were an accurate representation of the
        books? No; poor screenwriting, but good scenery and costumes. Some casting
        and makeup was off. But the script changed too many things, including the
        characters, which is the most important thing.


        3. Which is your favorite and why? Favorite book or movie? This is
        somewhat unclear. LotR is my favorite Tolkien long work, and I count it as
        one unit because that's how Tolkien wrote it. I like Farmer Giles of Ham
        best among the short works, simply because it is a wonderful combination of
        earthy and intellectual fun. Favorite movie? I guess I dislike The
        Fellowship the least. I don't really like either of them, and don't
        anticipate liking RotK, considering what scenes Peter Jackson has dropped.


        4. Do you see any specific allegories that Tolkien may have written
        into his writing?



        As you know, Tolkien disliked allegory - or said he did. There is a very
        specific allegorical passage in his essay Beowulf and the Critics. His
        short story Leaf by Niggle is probably his most allegorical. Smith of
        Wootten Major is also allegorical, but more in a more obscure and personal
        way; in many ways Smith represents Tolkien, but the precise meaning of his
        adventures and what they relate to in Tolkien's personal life is hard to
        tease out. As far as LotR, of course many people thought the Ring was an
        allegory for the Bomb. But that is too specific. It's more an allegory of
        the corrupting effects of power in general - and since it's general, it's
        more of a symbol than an allegory.


        5. Do you see any meaning Tolkien was attempting to portray?



        Many meanings. LotR is a multiple-layered work. But the problem of power
        seems central to me, at least in my most recent readings.


        6. Do you have a religious or spiritual orientation? (ie. Atheist,
        Agnostic, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist, etc.)



        Agnostic.


        7. Are there any particular parts of any of those books that hold
        significant meaning for you? If so, why?



        "It's all good", as the saying goes. I suppose in my recent readings the
        Scouring of the Shire has become more meaningful, with its explorations of
        post-traumatic stress syndrome, the shortcomings and strengths of pacifism,
        and the responsibilities of maturity.


        8. What background information, if any at all, do you see Tolkien
        drawing from, and if so, what specifically do you see? (ie. Anglo-Saxon
        lit, Icelandic lit, Nordic lit, Celtic lit, Classical lit)



        All of the above, and then some. He was very widely read.


        9. What do you think Tolkien 'meant' in his writing?



        This seems to repeat question 5 above.


        10. What similarities and differences do you see between the writings
        of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien? Specifically in reference to themes
        such as good and evil, the
        use of magic, and things of that nature.



        I think it's too early to really do a serious comparison of the two; I'd
        wait till she finishes the series. But I will say at this point the
        good-vs-evil theme is similar. But their approach to magic is very
        different. For Rowling, it's simply a tool, with no good or evil
        connotations per se; it depends on how it is used. For Tolkien magic is
        more problematic and subtle; he sees a difference between magic and
        enchantment, and likens magic more to technology. And his approach to magic
        is tied in with his thoughts on creativity, and on possessing or letting go
        that which one creates.



        Thank you all so much for your help, and you will be cited if I use your
        answers. If you would like a copy upon its completion, pls. let me
        know! :-)



        I'd be interested in seeing your completed thesis.




        I remain,
        -Daniel B. Karpouzian
        ----------
        Mat 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of
        heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.



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      • Elizabeth R. Milner
        Sorry if people have been a bit snappish toward you on the list serve. Since Tolkien didn t like simplistic allegorical interpretations of his writings, it s
        Message 3 of 7 , Dec 9, 2003
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          Sorry if people have been a bit snappish toward you on the list serve.
          Since Tolkien didn't like simplistic allegorical interpretations of
          his writings, it's not surprising that your attempt to discover
          allegory in LOTR has raised some hackles. It also would have been
          good if you'd provided an off-line email address. This eats up a lot
          of message space and people will get tired of seeing the same
          questionnaire over and over again.

          Where are you studying? Will we get to see your results? You really
          should come to Mythcon and do in-depth interviews.

          Here are my answers to your questions.

          1. Have you read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and/or The
          Silmarillion?

          LOTR: Innumerable times since the pirate (ACE) edition came out
          (I was 8 or 9 at the time). I read an ACE and a Ballentine paperback
          to shreds.
          The Hobbit: 2 or 3 times
          Silmarillion: twice
          History of Middle Earth: once, some volumes more than once.

          2. Have you seen the movies?

          I've seen Peter Jackson's FOTR and TT

          Did you think they were an accurate representation of the books?

          FOTR-yes, most of the changes seemed valid to me from a script
          writing point of view. (It gives me the shivers to think of how they
          would have handled Tom Bombadil--Robin Williams, no doubt, in a
          performance so sticky sweet it would rot the teeth right out of your
          head!)
          TT-felt writers had made huge departure from the book and had dumbed
          it down. Also, I loved the book because the Hobbits learn to take
          control of their destinies and don't depend on generals with great
          abs and big swords to save them. In the movie it's just the opposite.
          3. Which is your favorite and why?
          Of the Peter Jackson Movies, The Fellowship. Of the Books, The Two
          Towers because it doesn't have the tedious first chapters of the
          Fellowship,because it's the middle, so I don't have to worry about
          finishing too soon, because I enjoyed Pippin's outsmarting the orcs
          and bonding with Treebeard, and especially because of the "Dead
          Marshes" scene. My father was a military historian and our house was
          full of battle photos.
          When I read the Dead Marshes chapter, my hair stood on end. This was
          not only because the description of the marshes by moonlight was so
          eerie and beautifully written, but because I felt I recognized the
          place Tolkien was describing without being able to remember why it
          all seemed so familiar.

          4. Do you see any specific allegories that Tolkien may have written
          into his writing?

          Tolkien was a fairly subtle writer who didn't drive his lessons
          home with a hammer, so attempts to relate specific scenes to specific
          allegories will, I think, prove unprofitable.

          There are allegorical elements, certainly. In the Two Towers there are
          several instances where one of the sundered fellowship will look
          up at the moon or observe a change in the weather and then
          despairingly wonder about another member of the sundered fellowship
          who, at that very moment and only a few miles a way is also observing
          the same change in the moon or the weather and thinking despairingly
          of the probable fate of his absent friend. And both will despair,
          not knowing the change they've just observed heralds one of
          Tolkien's "eucatastrophes." While the characters only see ruin, the
          reader is given a gods-eye view and --yes!--The cavalry is just
          around the corner!

          5) This, I suppose is an allegory for the role divine providence
          plays in human affairs. It also makes for a cracking good yarn!

          6. Do you have a religious or spiritual orientation?
          Jew raised in a Catholic neighborhood.

          7. Are there any particular parts of any of those books that hold
          significant meaning for you? If so, why?

          Tolkien depicts the ennoblement of the hobbits. For me, the story of
          a person learning to be "more than the sum of his parts" is very
          moving. Frodo has to discover his integrity and find the courage to
          pursue a heartbreaking and impossible quest without the usual
          trappings of the romance hero -- he is as small and helpless and
          insignificant as you can get. Also, Frodo is an overeducated nerd
          who proves himself worthy outside of academe by saving the world.
          Now that's a fantasy that resonates with me!

          8. What background information, if any at all, do you see
          Tolkien drawing from, and if so, what specifically do you see?

          My God! What didn't he draw from! Philology, Folklore, Myth,
          Catholicism,Paganism, you name it! Like all good writers he was a
          sponge and absorbed everything. Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger are
          good sources for his influences.

          9. What do you think Tolkien `meant' in his writing?

          What does any good writer "mean." Your never going to get Tolkien
          down to one message. For that you should call Western Union!
          (Neanderthal movie joke). Tolkien was creating a world, a universe,
          that one can inhabit, not a freaking telegram!

          Tolkien's writing was often a play of ideas, a thought experiment.
          He couldn't live forever, but through the elves he got a taste
          of what it might be like. In part Tolkien was creating an alternate
          world where he could test what our world really means.

          10. What similarities and differences do you see between the
          writings of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien? Specifically in
          reference to themes such as good and evil, the use of magic, and
          things of that nature.

          I'm going to be no help to you on this one. Rowling's writing bores
          me to tears. It has no depth, no texture, it's about cardboard
          cutouts.

          Hope this is some help and I hope to see you at Mythcon. If
          possible, can you summarize what your paper's about?
          > >
          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Daniel B. Karpouzian" <daniel@k...>
          wrote:
          > I am just finishing up a thesis on Tolkien, involving different
          allegory
          > and different meanings that people see and draw from J.R.R.
          Tolkien's
          > writing, and I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE answers to the following
          few
          > questions. And also, a quick answer would also be appreciated! :-)
          > 1. Have you read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and/or The
          > Silmarillion?
          > If so, which, and how many times?
          > 2. Have you seen the movies?
          > Did you think they were an accurate representation of the
          > books?
          > 3. Which is your favorite and why?
          > 4. Do you see any specific allegories that Tolkien may have written
          > into his writing?
          > 5. Do you see any meaning Tolkien was attempting to portray?
          > 6. Do you have a religious or spiritual orientation? (ie. Atheist,
          > Agnostic, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist,
          etc.)
          > 7. Are there any particular parts of any of those books that hold
          > significant meaning for you? If so, why?
          > 8. What background information, if any at all, do you see Tolkien
          > drawing from, and if so, what specifically do you see? (ie. Anglo-
          Saxon
          > lit, Icelandic lit, Nordic lit, Celtic lit, Classical lit)
          > 9. What do you think Tolkien `meant' in his writing?
          > 10. What similarities and differences do you see between the
          writings
          > of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien? Specifically in reference to
          themes
          > such as good and evil, the
          > use of magic, and things of that nature.
          >
          > Thank you all so much for your help, and you will be cited if I use
          your
          > answers. If you would like a copy upon its completion, pls. let me
          > know! :-)
          >
          >
          > I remain,
          > -Daniel B. Karpouzian
          > ----------
          > Mat 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the
          kingdom of
          > heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
          >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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