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Re: JRRT Encyclopedia editorship, and "Middle-earth studies".

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  • not_thou
    While respecting and agreeing with Wayne Hammond s decision to withhold the names of those people who wish to keep private their decisison not to edit the
    Message 1 of 57 , Dec 1 6:26 PM
      While respecting and agreeing with Wayne Hammond's decision to
      withhold the names of those people who wish to keep private their
      decisison not to edit the Tolkien Encyclopedia, it gives nothing away
      to note that Michael Drout's introduction is available online at the
      Routledge website, in what looks (at a glance) to be the same text as
      in the published work:


      and there he thanks Marjorie Burns for "suggesting me as the editor
      of the project".

      Using Drout's introduction as a segue, I note that he there discusses
      his intent to include aspects both of "Tolkien studies" and "Middle-
      earth studies" in the encyclopedia. As an example of the value of
      the latter, he writes:

      "What kind of critical insights could a critic have about the madness
      and despair of Denethor without understanding what exactly it was
      that Denethor saw in the palantír?"

      (Presumably Drout is following Tom Shippey's reading here in
      preference to the neutral view taken by Wayne Hammond and Christina
      Scull in their LotR Reader's Companion.)

      I'm curious to hear people's opinions on is what they would consider
      to be other key examples of careful "Middle-earth" analysis that
      bears heavily on a "literary" reading of Tolkien. Or of examples
      where critics' misunderstanding of Tolkien's world led them astray on
      literary arguments.

      One impetus for this inquiry is that I recently read and then tried
      to lead an online discussion of Christine Brooke-Rose's chapter on
      LotR in her 1981 book, The Rhetoric of the Unreal, which I like for
      attempting to define fantastic fiction by rigorously examining
      fantastic texts and building from earlier theory by Northrop Frye and
      others... except that Brooke-Rose often falls victim to the same
      complaint she lodges against other critics, like Edmund Wilson, who
      misread Henry James's The Turn of the Screw:

      "The critics reproduce the very tendencies they so often seen in the
      governess: omission; assertion; elaboration; lying even (or, when
      the critics do so, let us call it error)."

      Brooke-Rose's LotR study is error-ridden; one of many examples comes
      when she complains that Aragorn's romance is underdeveloped: "the
      lady Arwen merely appeared briefly by her brother Elrond's side at
      the feast in Rivendell".

      But I think that her many errors are more symptomatic of a larger
      misunderstanding than themselves crucial to her work's failing. I'm
      not sure whether she sticks too closely to her theories, as Brian
      Rosebury suggests (in the endnotes to Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon)
      or whether she falls victim to another of her complaints against the
      critics: "It is in fact quite remarkable how often theorists abandon
      their own theories as soon as they analyze texts". Certainly she
      applies some very detailed analysis to works like The Turn of the
      Screw and Joseph McElroy's Plus -- for the latter, she counts the
      number of words expressing color in every chapter, in an effort to
      show that McElroy is riffing on a statement by Noam Chomsky -- that
      never come into play in her study of Tolkien, when they might
      profitably have been used: in the Q&A following Robin Reid's paper
      at Mythcon this summer, someone (Nancy Martsch?) noted that the color
      words in LotR had been examined in an early issue of Mythlore. In
      either case, I think Brooke-Rose fails spectacularly, or at least her
      very hostile reading of LotR bears no resemblance to my understanding
      of the text. (I don't yet feel qualified to answer all her tricky
      theoretical arguments, though -- thus my decision to present some of
      her arguments to a discussion group to see if others there could help
      me better understand how we differ. One previous strong response
      comes from Tom Shippey, in the 2003 edition of The Road to Middle-
      earth, who notes that Brooke-Rose's criticism -- which possibly can
      be broadly summarized as a complaint that LotR has too much realism
      for a fantastic work -- applies more to Tolkien's drafts than the
      finished work. But saying that LotR would have been overburdened
      with realistic detail if Tolkien hadn't cut a lot of "hobbit talk"
      does not prove that the amount of detail in LotR isn't too much.)

      But returning to the question: what do you think are crucial "Middle-
      earth studies" issues for "Tolkien studies" readings?

      Side-note: are my messages too long? I have noticed several
      references on this list to matters deemed too complicated for this
      format. Too frequent? Also somewhere in this list, I thought I saw
      something about restricting responses to certain subjects to a
      limited number (three?) per day.

      -Merlin DeTardo

      --- "Wayne G. Hammond" <Wayne.G.Hammond@...> wrote:
      > I know of one other person directly, and of others from reliable
      sources, but hesitate to name anyone in case he/she wishes the fact
      to remain private.
    • Diane Joy Baker
      Well said; I ve little love for PoMo. Off topic, anyway, and I prefer to discuss lit crit and literature I *like.* ---djb ... From: Jason Fisher To:
      Message 57 of 57 , Dec 4 6:45 PM
        Well said; I've little love for PoMo. Off topic, anyway, and I prefer to discuss lit crit and literature I *like.* ---djb

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Jason Fisher
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Friday, December 01, 2006 11:57 AM
        Subject: [mythsoc] Re: J. Chance / Tolkien Encyclopedia

        --- William Cloud Hicklin wrote:
        > The basic procedure for PoMo critical analysis:
        > Step 1) Find something in the text which might be vaguely
        > political
        > Step 2) Construct thereon a "political viewpoint" for the work
        > Step 3) Attack the author's politics
        > Extra credit if the politics marginalize a recognized victim
        > group.
        > Double extra credit if the "political viewpoint" is wildly
        > anachronistic.

        LOL, nicely done. I smell a new Foucault/Derrida drinking game in the offing. :)

        (This is verging on going off-topic, if it hasn't already, but I had to comment.)

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