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Re: [mythsoc] LoTR in the canon

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  • Steve Schaper
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 6 , Oct 22, 2000
      > Message: 8
      > 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
      > discussions!!!
      >
      > Kati Hallenbeck
      > Western Washington University
      >

      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.
    • WendellWag@aol.com
      In a message dated 10/22/00 12:33:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... Although this is generally true, I should note that there s always been a substantial
      Message 2 of 6 , Oct 22, 2000
        In a message dated 10/22/00 12:33:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
        sschaper@... writes:

        > 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.

        Although this is generally true, I should note that there's always been a
        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
        following URL:

        http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2000/10/18/pullman/index.html

        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?

        Wendell Wagner
      • Ted Sherman
        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
        Message 3 of 6 , Oct 22, 2000
          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
          dissertation.

          Ted

          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
          Mythopoeic Literature
          Box X041, Department of English
          Middle Tennessee State University
          Murfreesboro, TN 37132
          615 898-5836; FAX 615 898-5098
          tsherman@...
          tedsherman@...
        • jen stevens
          ... I dunno about that. My grad school (U of Colorado), didn t seem to have any problems with him persay. However, I think that he may not be very studyable
          Message 4 of 6 , Oct 22, 2000
            At 11:31 AM 10/22/2000 -0500, 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.
            >

            I dunno about that. My grad school (U of Colorado), didn't seem to have any
            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...

            jen stevens
          • Kati Hallenbeck
            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
            Message 5 of 6 , Oct 23, 2000
              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.

              Cheers!

              Kati
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            • jen stevens
              ... Actually, I m very glad to hear that and happy to be wrong. I think that in retrospect, it wasn t the best school of criticism to use as an example. If
              Message 6 of 6 , Oct 23, 2000
                At 12:44 PM 10/23/2000 PDT, Kati wrote:


                >
                >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.
                >

                Actually, I'm very glad to hear that and happy to be wrong. I think that in
                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
                goes well!

                - jen stevens
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