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Re: [mythsoc] Re: New article series: Interviews with the Scholars

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  • David Bratman
    ... I hadn t thought of putting those together, but yes: they re the same sort of thing, in terms of the kind of significance they lay on the story and the way
    Message 1 of 15 , Oct 15, 2011
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      Michael Martinez <michael.martinez@...> wrote:

      >> Part of Tolkien's genius is that throughout the
      >> journey (even with the full Fellowship) he always keeps the reader
      >> aware of the supplies situation and its effect on the plans for the
      >> journey, without ever getting boring or mechanical about it.
      >
      >Your comment reminds me of something Paul Kocher wrote in MASTER OF MIDDLE-EARTH
      >about Tolkien almost always noting what the weather was like. I remember when I
      >first read his book that I grabbed a copy of LOTR and started thumbing through it
      >and found that there were indeed many passing references to the weather.
      >
      >They were not obstructive to the story, but subtle enough to be informative (in
      >terms of setting the scene) and consistent.

      I hadn't thought of putting those together, but yes: they're the same sort of thing, in terms of the kind of significance they lay on the story and the way in which Tolkien conveys the information.

      Normally the first things we think about in "world-building" are bigger-scale and more permanent, but focusing on things like weather (Dr. Serjeant wrote a paper on how the geomorphology of Middle-earth affected its climate) and the practical side of agricultural distribution are important too in grounding the story in reality.

      And don't forget Tolkien's obsession with getting the phases of the moon consistent and the troubles that caused him.
    • davise@cs.nyu.edu
      Thanks to both Michael and Janet for the fascinating interview! From the article MM: Do you think there was anything similar in Sayers and Tolkien s writing
      Message 2 of 15 , Oct 15, 2011
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        Thanks to both Michael and Janet for the fascinating interview!

        From the article
        MM: Do you think there was anything similar in Sayers and Tolkien's writing that might have put off Wilson's personal interests?


        JBC: No, I wasn't aware that Wilson didn't like Sayers either. But I can see that there's a certain moral clarity and decisiveness to both of them that a critic like Wilson might read as absolutist and anti-modern, maybe even dictatorial and elitist.

        As regards Wilson's dislikes, it's worth keeping in mind that the comments on Sayers were part of an article "Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd" in which IIRC he dismissed all detective literature except Sherlock Holmes, and that he wrote another article in which he argued that Kafka was badly overrated. Wilson disliked lots of things.
      • Mike Foster
        Edmund Wilson apparently liked Edna St. Vincent Millay, based on the Nancy Milford Edna biography Savage Grace and her letters to him. But then all the boys
        Message 3 of 15 , Oct 15, 2011
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          Edmund Wilson apparently liked Edna St. Vincent Millay, based on the Nancy Milford Edna biography Savage Grace and her letters to him. 
           
          But then all the boys around the bar liked Edna.
           
          Mike
           
          Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 5:32 PM
          Subject: [mythsoc] Re: New article series: Interviews with the Scholars
           
           

          Thanks to both Michael and Janet for the fascinating interview!

          From the article
          MM: Do you think there was anything similar in Sayers and Tolkien's writing that might have put off Wilson's personal interests?

          JBC: No, I wasn't aware that Wilson didn't like Sayers either. But I can see that there's a certain moral clarity and decisiveness to both of them that a critic like Wilson might read as absolutist and anti-modern, maybe even dictatorial and elitist.

          As regards Wilson's dislikes, it's worth keeping in mind that the comments on Sayers were part of an article "Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd" in which IIRC he dismissed all detective literature except Sherlock Holmes, and that he wrote another article in which he argued that Kafka was badly overrated. Wilson disliked lots of things.

        • John Rateliff
          ... Yes, Wilson was in love with Millay. So much so that he s been accused of promotion her as a major talent simply because of his personal attraction. One
          Message 4 of 15 , Oct 18, 2011
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            On Oct 15, 2011, at 4:27 PM, Mike Foster wrote:
            Edmund Wilson apparently liked Edna St. Vincent Millay, based on the Nancy Milford Edna biography Savage Grace and her letters to him. 

            Yes, Wilson was in love with Millay. So much so that he's been accused of promotion her as a major talent simply because of his personal attraction.

            One thing that's useful to keep in mind when reading Wilson is that he disliked the English (much preferring French literature and culture), despised all things medieval (being a major advocate of modernism) and disparaged Xianity (he once wrote that T. S. Eliot's conversion to Xianity meant that nothing the man said henceforth could be taken seriously). So Tolkien's not the sort of writer who appealed to him.*

            I do think Wilson's article had a major impact, but only on Tolkien studies; people gave him an artificial importance because they kept quoting him and trying to refute him. It wasn't until Shippey's book in 1982 dismissed Wilson by pointing out he cdn't even get the characters' names right that the balloon got pricked. 

            Wilson did say once that his goals as a reviewer were to expose the pretensions of the overrated (in which category he included Tolkien) and to draw attention to those who he felt got overlooked (he was an early admirer of Edward Gorey, and the last major critic to praise Cabell, so far as I know). Oddly enough, he was also a fan of the Beatles' cartoon THE YELLOW SUBMARINE. Go figure.

            --John R.



            *although he did have some grudging praise for THE HOBBIT
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