Re: [mythsoc] LoTR in the canon
> Message: 8I wish you well. Are your dissertation advisors in agreement? I'm afraid
> Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 18:52:52 PDT
> From: "Kati Hallenbeck" <k_hallenbeck@...>
> Subject: Tolkien and Literary Theory
> Dear E-Group,
> I'm a graduate student looking to write a paper on Tolkien's "The Lord of
> the Rings" and how it should be included into the classical canon of
> literature. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how I might
> approach Tolkien from a theoretical point of view (since there's such an
> overall lack of it to begin with), what really good websites exist out there
> that look at his work critically, and books that exist that I might
> purchase. Thank you so much for your time... I've been enjoying the
> Kati Hallenbeck
> Western Washington University
Tolkien is not welcome in academia at present, because he is a
Christian, and not a follower of the Nietsche/Heidegger/de Mann/Deridda
tradition. As my sister discovered in getting her Ph.D. in English,
ideology is all.
- In a message dated 10/22/00 12:33:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> I wish you well. Are your dissertation advisors in agreement?Although this is generally true, I should note that there's always been a
> I'm afraid Tolkien is not welcome in academia at present,
> because he is a Christian, and not a follower of the
> Nietsche/Heidegger/de Mann/Deridda tradition. As my sister
> discovered in getting her Ph.D. in English, ideology is all.
substantial minority in academia that have bucked this trend. There have
always been a small but steady stream of papers and theses about the Inklings
coming out of English departments. The real problem is that these people
seemed to end up teaching in what are generally considered less prestigious
universities. (Some of us were debating once which Inklings scholar taught
in the most prestigious department. It seems to be Verlyn Flieger at the
University of Maryland.) I would say that you should do your thesis in what
you want (given that your advisors allow it), but you should realize that you
have an uphill battle convincing some of your colleagues of its importance.
Incidentally, take a look at a review of the new Philip Pullman book at the
The interesting thing about this review (written by Polly Shulman) for me is
the final paragraph. It's another case where someone writing for _Salon_
praises Tolkien. There seems to be a critical mass of Tolkien fans at Salon.
Not only was the entry on Tolkien (written by Gary Kamiya) favorable in _The
salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors_ (found on pages 374-6), but
there's a list of Michael Korda's 5 favorite novels on page 375 that includes
_The Lord of the Rings_. (The others in the list are _Brighton Rock_,
Brideshead Revisited_, _After Many a Summer Dies the Swan_, and _The Last
Picture Show_.) Let's not give up on academia. Trends come and go, so who
knows what will happen in the future?
- The problem with sweeping generalizations is they're never true. As with any
dissertation topic, the student must determine what is the best school for
pursuing a particular topic. There are schools where working on Tolkien (or any of
the Inklings) would be impossible for a variety of reasons, but there are also
schools where working on Tolkien would be encouraged. Of course, where one earns a
Ph.D. will largely determine (or at least strongly influence) the kinds of places
that will hire one for a teaching position. The first thing to do would be
determine which schools have both Tolkien scholars and doctoral programs, then to
write those scholars to determine their willingness to direct a Tolkien
Steve Schaper wrote:
> I wish you well. Are your dissertation advisors in agreement? I'm afraid--
> Tolkien is not welcome in academia at present, because he is a
> Christian, and not a follower of the Nietsche/Heidegger/de Mann/Deridda
> tradition. As my sister discovered in getting her Ph.D. in English,
> ideology is all.
Dr. Theodore James Sherman, Editor
Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and
Box X041, Department of English
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
615 898-5836; FAX 615 898-5098
- At 11:31 AM 10/22/2000 -0500, Steve Schaper wrote:
>I wish you well. Are your dissertation advisors in agreement? I'm afraidI dunno about that. My grad school (U of Colorado), didn't seem to have any
>Tolkien is not welcome in academia at present, because he is a
>Christian, and not a follower of the Nietsche/Heidegger/de Mann/Deridda
>tradition. As my sister discovered in getting her Ph.D. in English,
>ideology is all.
problems with him persay. However, I think that he may not be very
studyable with the current popular methods, which may be similar to what
you were saying. That is, he doesn't seem very applicable to close reading,
new historicism, Derrida, Foucoult, etc (well, hmm, maybe Foucoult's theory
of power could be useful :). I know that my BA thesis on the narrative
structure of LOTR was not especially exciting reading, but maybe I just
wasn't hitting on the right approach.
I've heard about some really interesting work done with his linquistics and
mythologies, as well as his identity as a post-world war i writer. And he
is very fondly remembered among english lit medievalists for his
professional work on Beowulf (before Tolkien, Beowulf was rarely, if ever,
considered "literary" - Tolkien argued that Beowulf was more than a
historical relic anf got people to look at it as literature too).
Yes, ideaology is a big deal in english lit crit. But it isn't quite all...
- Thank you all for your replies! The paper I'm writing isn't a dissertation,
but a smaller 20 page research paper. I have found several of the books you
all mentioned... however, I'm still fighting with trying to find an approach
that I can back up. His work has been ignored by academia, but I believe
that we're entering an age that will see it for the true genius it is.
Jen, I would however disagree that New Historicism doesn't lend itself well
to Tolkien's LoTR. Almost ever person I've talked to (in my circle of
friends) say that when they read LoTR they immediately thought that it was
in some way influenced by WWI and WWII. Regardless of what Tolkien himself
stated, this is an avenue of exploration easily backed up by Saussure (sp?)
and New Historicist critics.
Anyway, thank you again. I will write some of you personally later in the
week as I get my working bibliography drafted.
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- At 12:44 PM 10/23/2000 PDT, Kati wrote:
>Actually, I'm very glad to hear that and happy to be wrong. I think that in
>Jen, I would however disagree that New Historicism doesn't lend itself well
>to Tolkien's LoTR. Almost ever person I've talked to (in my circle of
>friends) say that when they read LoTR they immediately thought that it was
>in some way influenced by WWI and WWII. Regardless of what Tolkien himself
>stated, this is an avenue of exploration easily backed up by Saussure (sp?)
>and New Historicist critics.
retrospect, it wasn't the best school of criticism to use as an example. If
anything, I think I was thinking more of the New Critics (and their
literary preferences). But I'm likely wrong there too. Hope that your paper
- jen stevens