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Fw: Tolkien Online Course Running Again in May

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  • Edith.Crowe@sjsu.edu
    FYI, all-- Edith L. Crowe | (408) 808-2037 | edith.crowe@sjsu.edu Corresponding Secretary of the Mythopoeic Society (http://www.mythsoc.org) ... Dimitra Fimi
    Message 1 of 10 , Mar 15, 2006
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      FYI, all--

      Edith L. Crowe | (408) 808-2037 | edith.crowe@...
      Corresponding Secretary of the Mythopoeic Society (http://www.mythsoc.org)
      ----- Forwarded by Edith Crowe/SJSU on 03/15/2006 08:37 AM -----

      "Dimitra Fimi" <fimid1@...>
      03/15/2006 07:05 AM

      To
      <email@...>,
      <newsletter@...>, <maggot@...>,
      <edith.crowe@...>, <news@...>,
      <charles_wms_soc@...>, <beyondbree@...>
      cc

      Subject
      Tolkien Online Course Running Again in May




      Dear Sir/Madam,
      I would be grateful if you could post on your website and/or inform your
      members of the updated information on our Tolkien Online Course at Cardiff
      University, which will be running again, for a third time this academic
      year,
      starting on 1 May.
      Thank you in advance for considering my request,

      Best Wishes,

      Dr. Dimitra Fimi

      Tolkien Online Course at Cardiff University (open to adult learners)
      running
      again in May

      Due to popular demand, the online Course on Tolkien hosted by Cardiff
      University during the Autumn and Spring Semesters (October 2005 and
      February
      2006) will be run again later on this semester starting on 1 May. Both
      students
      and adult learners can enrol, and explore the rich background of myth,
      languages
      and contemporary ideas of Tolkien's creative writing.
      For more information visit the Course's website:
      http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn/english/Tolkien_online.php
      Or contact: FimiD@...

      Dr. Dimitra Fimi
      Online Tutor
      Cardiff University Centre for Lifelong Learning
      Senghennydd Road
      Cardiff, CF24 4AG


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • John D Rateliff
      A few days ago two new books on Tolkien I hadn t heard about until recently arrived: THE KEYS TO MIDDLE EARTH by Stuart D. Lee & Elizabeth Solopova
      Message 2 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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        A few days ago two new books on Tolkien I hadn't heard about until
        recently arrived: THE KEYS TO MIDDLE EARTH by Stuart D. Lee &
        Elizabeth Solopova (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005) and READING THE LORD OF
        THE RINGS: NEW WRITINGS ON TOLKIEN'S CLASSIC, ed. Rbt Eaglestone
        (Continuum, 2005). The amazon.com entries on both were extremely
        uninformative, so here's a little about both for anyone who's
        wondering whether to pick them up.

        THE KEYS OF MIDDLE-EARTH is essentially a reader of Tolkien sources &
        analogues from medieval literature, reprinting snippets from the
        Elder Edda, Beowulf, Sir Orfeo, Pearl, Gawain & the Green Knight, &c.
        in the original Old or Middle English with a modern English
        translation on facing pages. Each piece also has an introduction
        setting it in context and is followed by notes on specific points.
        It's a great concept but I can't tell from a quick glance how well
        they do on execution; some things I'd include are missing while I'm
        dubious about the relevancy of some of what they do include. In any
        case it'd be a great starting place for anyone who hasn't already
        looked up a lot of this stuff on his or her own or who has limited
        access to a university library.

        READING THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a collection of twelve essays,
        mostly by British academics, most of whom try to apply modern
        critical theory to Tolkien's work. The only contributor I'd heard of
        before was Michael Drout. I'm a third of the way through this one and
        so far am underwhelmed; it reminds me strongly of Rbt Giddings'
        collection JRRT: THIS FAR LAND (1983). For example, three of these
        essays approvingly cite Brenda Partridge's "No Sex Please, We're
        Hobbits", possibly the single worst essay ever written on Tolkien's
        work, which had appeared in Giddings' book. And the three page
        annotated bibliography devoted to "Further Reading" seems to be a
        random listing of sixteen works the editor happened to come across
        (for example, it omits Carpenter's biography but praises Moseley's
        little chapbook) and can't even be taken as a 'recommended reading'
        list (some of what he includes he describes as "tendentious",
        "meandering", "lack[ing in] . . . critical rigour" , or "crass and
        simplistic").
        There are some insights--enough that I'm going to keep reading--
        but anyone put off by jargon such as "Low High Fantasy" (by which she
        means sword & sorcery) or sentences like "Much of this effect relies
        importantly on Tolkien's modulation of what Mieke Bal . . . terms
        'focalization': the manipulation of the narrative perspective(s) from
        and through which knowledge of the diegesis is brought to the reader"
        or "a practice of interpretation that takes for its telos the
        discovery of what the author really meant by his or her text is
        epistemologically flawed" should steer clear.

        --JDR
      • Carl F. Hostetter
        I too picked this up recently, on the strength of Drout s name being attached to it. I ve only read a bit of it so far, but like John I am so far underwhelmed.
        Message 3 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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          I too picked this up recently, on the strength of Drout's name being
          attached to it. I've only read a bit of it so far, but like John I am
          so far underwhelmed.

          Drout calls for the application of theoretical-critical approaches to
          Tolkien (and vice versa), in the expectation that it will shed light
          on regions that have thus far gone unexplored (and, again, vice
          versa). I must admit to being dubious about both the prospects and
          the proposal itself, since to me the best thing about the best
          Tolkien criticism to date has been its _freedom from_ reliance on
          "theory", or psychoanalysis, or any of the various "isms" that seem
          in effect, if not by intent, always to shed _far more_ heat than
          light on their (putative) subject. Thus one book by a philologist
          like Shippey or a close-reading literary mythologist like Flieger can
          tell us far more about Tolkien's work than a whole library of
          deconstructionist/gender/class/race/orientation/etc. "theorists" have
          or (I expect) ever will.

          Esther Saxey's contribution to this book, "Homoeroticism", is an
          unfortunate case in point. She spends 13 pages forcing and justifying
          a "maybe" answer to the question of whether Sam and Frodo are
          homosexual lovers (and for Saxey, there is no love that is not
          sexual, esp. not between males), ultimately on the grounds that if
          you don't agree with her, it can only be because you are afraid of
          gay people. Whereas of course the answer is unequivocally _no_. 13
          tendentious, posturing pages building to a completely false
          assertion, and that in fact tell us nothing about Tolkien (but
          naturally a great deal about Saxey and her theory "creds"), vs. two
          letters of plain truth. I think I like the non-"theoretical" approach
          better. (But then, I'm a straight white middle-class American
          Christian male, so what do I know?)
        • Carl F. Hostetter
          A P.S., if I might: Saxey makes a great deal of the fact that Sam actually touches Frodo on occasion, including stroking his hand in moments of extreme concern
          Message 4 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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            A P.S., if I might:

            Saxey makes a great deal of the fact that Sam actually touches Frodo
            on occasion, including stroking his hand in moments of extreme
            concern for Frodo. For Saxey, this counts as overwhelming evidence
            that Sam has sexual feelings for Frodo. And so Sam and Frodo might
            indeed be homosexual lovers. Q.E.D.

            An approach to all this that _would_ actually tell us something about
            Tolkien and his work would start with the plain fact that Tolkien
            most certainly did _not_ consider Sam and Frodo to be homosexual
            lovers, and then proceed to the obvious corollary that _he_ did not
            consider touching and concerned hand-stroking among men to be sexual.
            The critic could then proceed to explain to the modern reader (at any
            rate, the modern American reader), who has indeed been conditioned to
            see such touching among men as necessarily sexual, just how it is
            that for Tolkien such gestures could be neither sexual nor unmanly,
            but instead reflect a different time and attitude towards male
            relationships, and a recognition that not all intense feelings of
            affection are sexual. In other words, the thoughtful critic could use
            this as a means to permit the reader a glimpse into a different
            worldview, by using the lens that Tolkien's work provides. Instead,
            we are (as usual in what passes for criticism these days) required by
            Saxey to view Tolkien's work only though the lens that "theory"
            provides, that is, through the postured, eroticized eye of a twenty-
            first-century queer-theorist, and if we don't agree that this lens
            provides an accurate, undistorted view, and judge Tolkien and his
            work according to it, then we must simply be afraid of gay people.

            Yay.
          • David Bratman
            ... My experience with applying packaged theoretical-critical approaches to literature, whether the literature be by Tolkien or anyone else, is that it s like
            Message 5 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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              At 03:27 PM 3/16/2006 -0500, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:

              >Drout calls for the application of theoretical-critical approaches to
              >Tolkien (and vice versa), in the expectation that it will shed light
              >on regions that have thus far gone unexplored (and, again, vice
              >versa).

              My experience with applying packaged theoretical-critical approaches to
              literature, whether the literature be by Tolkien or anyone else, is that
              it's like viewing something through colored glasses. You can see
              interesting things that way, but most of the time you will learn more about
              the color of glasses you're wearing than about the thing you're looking at.

              >I must admit to being dubious about both the prospects and
              >the proposal itself since to me the best thing about the best
              >Tolkien criticism to date has been its _freedom from_ reliance on
              >"theory", or psychoanalysis, or any of the various "isms" that seem
              >in effect, if not by intent, always to shed _far more_ heat than
              >light on their (putative) subject.

              This is because they start with the theory used to study, rather than the
              literature being studied.

              >Thus one book by a philologist
              >like Shippey or a close-reading literary mythologist like Flieger can
              >tell us far more about Tolkien's work than a whole library of
              >deconstructionist/gender/class/race/orientation/etc. "theorists" have
              >or (I expect) ever will.

              A good critic, having examined the work itself, then puts on a pair of
              glasses whose color will bring out new features in the work itself. For
              good literature there will be more than one pair of glasses that do this,
              and they may even conflict (Shippey and Flieger have their disagreements).
              But they are the ones that work for this literature. For other literature,
              other glasses work better.

              I find that good theoretical approaches enrich and enlarge one's
              understanding of a good work of literature. Bad ones reduce the work and
              make it petty. And that is the big difference between great and lousy
              criticism.

              - David Bratman
            • Croft, Janet B.
              If you re old-fashioned, I am too. That s the sort of criticism I like -- something that explains what the author did and why, rather than something that
              Message 6 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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                If you're old-fashioned, I am too. That's the sort of criticism I like
                -- something that explains what the author did and why, rather than
                something that tries to squeeze it into a critical box where it really
                doesn't belong, with odd bits hanging over the edges or chopped off if
                they don't fit. Theory should be a tool that you can pick up to see if
                it works for the job you're doing, and if it doesn't, then you put it
                down and pick up another one. Or to use your metaphor, if one lens gives
                you a distorted and unhelpful picture of what you're examining, you try
                to look through another one. You don't keep using the one that doesn't
                give a clearly focused picture as if it's the only lens available. The
                particular instances you are looking at, for example, might be better
                explored by looking at the balance of traditionally feminine and
                masculine traits in many of Tolkien's characters and what that implies
                (about his sources, his environment, his opinions on women and men,
                etc.; whatever can be supported by internal and external evidence).
                Queer theory is manifestly the wrong tool to figure out what point
                Tolkien was making. (However, it could be appropriately applied to fan
                fiction which _does_ interpret the Frodo/Sam relationship this way. In
                some cases it could then be the appropriate lens for the job.)


                And David Bratman's addition to this discussion, which came in while I
                was typing, says all this and more with greater clarity. Thank you!
                It's like Lewis said in An Experiment in Criticism -- "receive" the work
                first, then start figuring out how to figure it out. Approach it with
                open eyes, not with a pair of lenses already firmly clamped in place.

                Janet Brennan Croft

                -----Original Message-----
                From: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mythsoc@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
                Of Carl F. Hostetter
                Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 2:52 PM
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: _Reading The Lord of the Rings_ (was Re: [mythsoc] New
                Arrivals)

                A P.S., if I might:

                Saxey makes a great deal of the fact that Sam actually touches Frodo on
                occasion, including stroking his hand in moments of extreme concern for
                Frodo. For Saxey, this counts as overwhelming evidence that Sam has
                sexual feelings for Frodo. And so Sam and Frodo might indeed be
                homosexual lovers. Q.E.D.

                An approach to all this that _would_ actually tell us something about
                Tolkien and his work would start with the plain fact that Tolkien most
                certainly did _not_ consider Sam and Frodo to be homosexual lovers, and
                then proceed to the obvious corollary that _he_ did not consider
                touching and concerned hand-stroking among men to be sexual.
                The critic could then proceed to explain to the modern reader (at any
                rate, the modern American reader), who has indeed been conditioned to
                see such touching among men as necessarily sexual, just how it is that
                for Tolkien such gestures could be neither sexual nor unmanly, but
                instead reflect a different time and attitude towards male
                relationships, and a recognition that not all intense feelings of
                affection are sexual. In other words, the thoughtful critic could use
                this as a means to permit the reader a glimpse into a different
                worldview, by using the lens that Tolkien's work provides. Instead, we
                are (as usual in what passes for criticism these days) required by Saxey
                to view Tolkien's work only though the lens that "theory"
                provides, that is, through the postured, eroticized eye of a twenty-
                first-century queer-theorist, and if we don't agree that this lens
                provides an accurate, undistorted view, and judge Tolkien and his work
                according to it, then we must simply be afraid of gay people.

                Yay.




                The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org Yahoo! Groups
                Links
              • Carl F. Hostetter
                ... Amen! This is why I always put theory in this sense in scare- quotes. It is tomy mind really rather the _opposite_ of theory, proper, since it forces the
                Message 7 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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                  On Mar 16, 2006, at 4:08 PM, David Bratman wrote:

                  > This is because they start with the theory used to study, rather
                  > than the literature being studied.

                  Amen! This is why I always put "theory" in this sense in scare-
                  quotes. It is tomy mind really rather the _opposite_ of theory,
                  proper, since it forces the available evidence to fit the explanation
                  it offers, rather than presenting an explanation of the evidence
                  derived from that evidence.
                • Stolzi
                  ... From: Carl F. Hostetter ... Seems like she s spelling her name wrong. Diamond Proudbrook
                  Message 8 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@...>

                    >
                    > Saxey

                    Seems like she's spelling her name wrong.

                    Diamond Proudbrook
                  • Walter Padgett
                    ... Procrustean! [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    Message 9 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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                      On 3/16/06, Croft, Janet B. <jbcroft@...> wrote:
                      >
                      >
                      > something that tries to squeeze it into a critical box where it really
                      > doesn't belong, with odd bits hanging over the edges or chopped off if
                      > they don't fit.
                      >


                      Procrustean!


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • David Bratman
                      There are ways in which it can be appropriate to study a work of literature through the lens of a critical theory that doesn t quite fit. One can - instead of
                      Message 10 of 10 , Mar 16, 2006
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                        There are ways in which it can be appropriate to study a work of literature through the lens of a critical theory that doesn't quite fit. One can - instead of trying to make the book fit the theory, be engaged in the project of finding out just how far the book fits the theory, and why it doesn't fit any farther than it does, or to see what sort of things arise if you look at it that way, without trying to claim that this is the actual meaning. Or, one can study the theory itself, to see which books do and do not fit it.

                        Some studies of Tolkien roughly meet this description. Randal Helms's Freudian interpretation of The Hobbit, though he takes it more seriously than an ideal enquirer would, is essentially an exercise to see how well a Freudian interpretation fits. And Brian Attebery studies some theories of fantasy that other books fit to see why The Lord of the Rings doesn't - though he's mostly critiquing critics who try to make it fit, and then get cross at Tolkien when it doesn't.

                        David Bratman
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