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An Old Debate

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  • John Davis
    A few months ago, there was a debate on this list about whether LotR was a solely Catholic work, or whether it was also, in addition, a
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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      A few months ago, there was a debate on this list about whether LotR was a solely Catholic work, or whether it was also, in addition, a Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Green/what-have-you work. Arguments were made on both sides, but neither really convinced the other, and eventually we got distracted, if memory servers, by moral relativity (as one does!).
       
      Now I am not about to open up this debate again, but it had stuck in my mind as it seemed strange that such a seemingly simple question could be disagreed about so completely by people who are knowledgeable about the subject. Then it occurred to me that what was being argued about was in fact something more general, namely whether a book is something written by an author and simply received by the reader in a one-way process, or whether it is also the interaction between the book/author and the reader, who thus combine to create something which might be different to what the author had anticipated. The former view upholds the belief that LotR is solely a Catholic work, whilst the latter suggests that if a reader sees in LotR a Pagan world-view and the text can support it, then LotR contains a pagan world-view.
       
      Both these definitions of a work of art - in this case a book - are of course well known and well accepted, so neither can really be said to be right or wrong. But it explains, I think, why those arguing failed to reach a consensus.
       
      John
       
       
       
       
    • Carl F. Hostetter
      ... This is not an accurate description of the debate. No one was arguing that LotR is solely a Catholic work; rather, the argument was that the (arguably)
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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        On Oct 5, 2009, at 8:09 AM, John Davis wrote:

        > A few months ago, there was a debate on this list about whether LotR
        > was a solely Catholic work, or whether it was also, in addition, a
        > Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Green/what-have-you work.


        This is not an accurate description of the debate. No one was arguing
        that LotR is "solely" a Catholic work; rather, the argument was that
        the (arguably) pagan elements seen in it were in fact consistent with
        Catholic theology.

        Carl
      • John Davis
        Interesting. That is not my recollection of the debate - for if it were the case, then surely there would have been no debate? Rather, I thought that there
        Message 3 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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          Interesting. That is not my recollection of the debate - for if it were the case, then surely there would have been no debate? Rather, I thought that there were those who were arguing that LotR is _not_ a pagan work, meaning it must then be solely a Catholic one, and others such as myself arguing that it is both Pagan and Catholic and other things besides.
           
          But now I've gone and stirred up what was best left alone. And I didn't actually meant to send that email - I wrote it, then thought I'd deleted it rather than sent it.
           
          Sorry 'bout that.
           
          John
           
          ----- Original Message -----
          Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 1:39 PM
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] An Old Debate

           


          On Oct 5, 2009, at 8:09 AM, John Davis wrote:

          > A few months ago, there was a debate on this list about whether LotR
          > was a solely Catholic work, or whether it was also, in addition, a
          > Pagan/Neo-Pagan/ Green/what- have-you work.

          This is not an accurate description of the debate. No one was arguing
          that LotR is "solely" a Catholic work; rather, the argument was that
          the (arguably) pagan elements seen in it were in fact consistent with
          Catholic theology.

          Carl

        • Carl F. Hostetter
          ... This is also not an accurate description of the debate, as no one was claiming the former -- nor, for that matter, the latter, though the latter is
          Message 4 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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            On Oct 5, 2009, at 8:09 AM, John Davis wrote:

            > Then it occurred to me that what was being argued about was in fact
            > something more general, namely whether a book is something written
            > by an author and simply received by the reader in a one-way process,
            > or whether it is also the interaction between the book/author and
            > the reader, who thus combine to create something which might be
            > different to what the author had anticipated.

            This is also not an accurate description of the debate, as no one was
            claiming the former -- nor, for that matter, the latter, though the
            latter is obviously true. The real issue as regards this matter of
            reader interaction -- at least, the issue that is of common interest
            in a group discussion -- is whether what the reader sees in / derives
            from a work has anything other than personal, subjective validity. And
            that of course must be argued by that reader, in order to persuade
            participants in the discussion of its broader validity. Simply
            declaring that "my view of this work is valid for me" is neither an
            argument, nor of much interest to those who are not that reader.

            Carl
          • John Davis
            I ll have to disagree with you there, too. I believe, as I said, that all who were considering LotR solely a Catholic work were implicitly claiming the former,
            Message 5 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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              I'll have to disagree with you there, too. I believe, as I said, that all who were considering LotR solely a Catholic work were implicitly claiming the former, since the Pagan readers' opinion was repeatedly discounted, whilst those who thought it Pagan,Green, etc. implicitly  - and perhaps unconsciously - claiming the latter.
               
              You are right, though, in that the fact of seeing something in a work must, as you say, at least for it to have any broader validity, be justified by the text, and this I made clear in my email ('if reader sees in LotR a Pagan world-view and _the text can support it_').
               
              John
               
              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 2:08 PM
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] An Old Debate

               


              On Oct 5, 2009, at 8:09 AM, John Davis wrote:

              > Then it occurred to me that what was being argued about was in fact
              > something more general, namely whether a book is something written
              > by an author and simply received by the reader in a one-way process,
              > or whether it is also the interaction between the book/author and
              > the reader, who thus combine to create something which might be
              > different to what the author had anticipated.

              This is also not an accurate description of the debate, as no one was
              claiming the former -- nor, for that matter, the latter, though the
              latter is obviously true. The real issue as regards this matter of
              reader interaction -- at least, the issue that is of common interest
              in a group discussion -- is whether what the reader sees in / derives
              from a work has anything other than personal, subjective validity. And
              that of course must be argued by that reader, in order to persuade
              participants in the discussion of its broader validity. Simply
              declaring that "my view of this work is valid for me" is neither an
              argument, nor of much interest to those who are not that reader.

              Carl

            • not_thou
              ...
              Message 6 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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                ---"John Davis" <john@...> wrote:
                << A few months ago, there was a debate on this list about whether LotR was a solely Catholic work, or whether it was also, in addition, a Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Green/what-have-you work. Arguments were made on both sides, but neither really convinced the other, and eventually we got distracted, if memory servers, by moral relativity (as one does!). >>


                Posts to this list are archived, so if you wish, you can reread that discussion starting with this message from June by Alana Joli Abbott:

                http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mythsoc/message/20539

                -Merlin
              • Alana Joli Abbott
                Not to start this up again, either, but an item of interest -- my correspondent (the one whom I had told that Tolkien believed the work to be Catholic, whether
                Message 7 of 7 , Oct 5, 2009
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                  Not to start this up again, either, but an item of interest -- my correspondent (the one whom I had told that Tolkien believed the work to be Catholic, whether or not that was actually the case) did an very interesting analysis of British Catholicism and culture (as an American who has emigrated to Britain) and compared what she sees in the British attitude of the Catholic church to elements in the novels. Her notes were definitely a take I hadn't seen before, and I found them quite interesting. I'd be happy to paraphrase off list to people who were interested (with the note that my correspondent is not a fan of the novels, finding them far too pagan for her taste, as a Catholic herself).

                  -Alana

                  On Mon, Oct 5, 2009 at 3:18 PM, not_thou <emptyD@...> wrote:


                  Posts to this list are archived, so if you wish, you can reread that discussion starting with this message from June by Alana Joli Abbott:

                  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mythsoc/message/20539

                  -Merlin

                  .




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                  Author of "Nomi's Wish" (http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in Coyote Wild Magazine
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