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Re: [mythsoc] White Query

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  • JP Massar
    ... http://www.scoop.co.nz/archive/scoop/stories/74/f0/200006281751.c16f3edb.html Not much there, but something...
    Message 1 of 13 , Sep 30, 2002
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      At 01:44 AM 10/1/02 -0400, SusanPal@... wrote:
      >Hello! Does anyone know if Tolkien ever read THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING? (I'd
      >imagine that he didn't, since he was so unenthusiastic about literature after
      >Chaucer, but wondered if anyone knows for sure.) Or, better yet, does anyone
      >know of articles dealing with with TOAFK and LOTR?

      http://www.scoop.co.nz/archive/scoop/stories/74/f0/200006281751.c16f3edb.html

      Not much there, but something...
    • Croft, Janet B
      I can t recall coming across any articles doing a point-by-point comparison of White and Tolkien, but Shippey includes T.H.White in his list of traumatized
      Message 2 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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        I can't recall coming across any articles doing a point-by-point comparison
        of White and Tolkien, but Shippey includes T.H.White in his list of
        "traumatized authors". His article "Tolkien as a Post-War Writer" goes into
        a bit of detail as to what he sees as White's response to evil in the 20th
        century.

        Shippey, Thomas A. "Tolkien as a Post-War Writer." Proceedings of the J.R.R.
        Tolkien Centenary Conference. Eds. Patricia Reynolds and Glen H. GoodKnight.
        Keble College, Oxford: The Mythopoeic Press, 1992. 84-93.

        There's also a little bit in his _Tolkien: Author of the Century_.

        I do have one article just on White in my files for future reference:

        Gallix, Francois. "T.H. White and the Legend of King Arthur: From Animal
        Fantasy to Political Morality". In _King Arthur: A Casebook_. Edited by
        Edward Donald Kennedy. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996. 281-297.

        A quick search on the MLA Bibliography online turns up only 15 articles,
        compared to hundreds and hundreds for Tolkien, so there is obviously plenty
        of room for research...

        Neither the Carpenter _Biography_ nor the _Letters_ mention T.H. White, but
        there is some mention of Arthur in both if you check the indexes. Tolkien
        started but never finished a poem about Arthur, and I don't know if it was
        included in _The History of Middle-earth_ somewhere or if Oxford or
        Marquette has it. But Carpenter quotes a few lines from it about Guenivere:
        "lady ruthless,/ fair as fay-woman and fell-minded,/ in the world walking
        for the woe of men." NOT the tragic heroine...

        (Actually Tolkien did like some science fiction at least and spoke highly of
        Asimov, and liked Dorothy Sayers before she introduced Harriet Vane to the
        Lord Peter Wimsey novels. He also enjoyed E.R. Eddison and Mary Renault
        (which surprises me because her books are sometimes earthily sexual and very
        tolerant of homosexuality, which doesn't entirely fit Tolkien's image). See
        Letters p.377. You know what I want? A list of all the books that were in
        his personal library at the time of his death...and in spite of being a
        librarian and being all for reader privacy, I'd like to know what he checked
        out of the library, too!)

        Janet

        -----Original Message-----
        From: SusanPal@... [mailto:SusanPal@...]
        Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 12:44 AM
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [mythsoc] White Query


        Hello! Does anyone know if Tolkien ever read THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING?
        (I'd
        imagine that he didn't, since he was so unenthusiastic about literature
        after
        Chaucer, but wondered if anyone knows for sure.) Or, better yet, does
        anyone
        know of articles dealing with with TOAFK and LOTR? It strikes me that there

        are certain similarities (treatment of epic and of a British mythology,
        etc.), although certainly there are also plenty of differences.

        Do any scholars work on White? I loved TOAFK when I was growing up -- and
        my
        parents, who haven't read JRRT, both love it too, even though they don't
        consider themselves fantasy fans -- but I never seem to hear people talk
        about it. Perhaps it's been too tarred with the "Camelot" brush? I took a
        poll in my Tolkien class today, and only three of my students have read it.

        It's a glorious book, and if folks aren't reading it, there needs to be a
        revival of some sort.

        Thanks,
        Susan

        The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        <http://www.mythsoc.org>

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      • David S. Bratman
        For what it s worth, in 1947 C.S. Lewis wrote to T.H. White, issuing him an open-ended invitation to visit Oxford and meet some admirers, probably a
        Message 3 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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          For what it's worth, in 1947 C.S. Lewis wrote to T.H. White, issuing him an
          open-ended invitation to visit Oxford and meet "some admirers," probably a
          reference to the Inklings. I don't think there's a record of whether White
          responded to this, and there's certainly no record that he ever came.

          (Info from an article by Joe Christopher - hi, Joe! - on Lewis letters held
          at the Univ. of Texas, published in CSL, Nov. 1980)

          A few years earlier, Lewis had written similarly to E.R. Eddison, who not
          only came and met some of the Inklings, but had such a good time he came
          back for another visit the next year, and might have done so again had he
          not soon died.

          - David Bratman
        • Croft, Janet B
          That reminds me that one of the articles in my quick & dirty MLA search compared Lewis and White. For what it s worth. Janet ... From: David S. Bratman
          Message 4 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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            That reminds me that one of the articles in my quick & dirty MLA search
            compared Lewis and White. For what it's worth.

            Janet

            -----Original Message-----
            From: David S. Bratman [mailto:dbratman@...]
            Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 10:45 AM
            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] White Query


            For what it's worth, in 1947 C.S. Lewis wrote to T.H. White, issuing him an
            open-ended invitation to visit Oxford and meet "some admirers," probably a
            reference to the Inklings. I don't think there's a record of whether White
            responded to this, and there's certainly no record that he ever came.

            (Info from an article by Joe Christopher - hi, Joe! - on Lewis letters held
            at the Univ. of Texas, published in CSL, Nov. 1980)

            A few years earlier, Lewis had written similarly to E.R. Eddison, who not
            only came and met some of the Inklings, but had such a good time he came
            back for another visit the next year, and might have done so again had he
            not soon died.

            - David Bratman



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          • David S. Bratman
            ... And some years before that, of course, Lewis also wrote to Charles Williams, in almost exactly the same terms in which he later wrote to Eddison and White,
            Message 5 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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              At 08:45 AM 10/1/2002 , I wrote:

              >A few years earlier, Lewis had written similarly to E.R. Eddison, who not
              >only came and met some of the Inklings, but had such a good time he came
              >back for another visit the next year, and might have done so again had he
              >not soon died.

              And some years before that, of course, Lewis also wrote to Charles
              Williams, in almost exactly the same terms in which he later wrote to
              Eddison and White, and Williams did attend as a guest, at least once or
              twice, before becoming a regular Inkling on his move to Oxford in 1939.

              So there's a pattern here, but it's more about Lewis than about White, let
              alone Tolkien. I would not take Lewis's comment that White had "some
              admirers" among his friends as evidence of Tolkien's views, given Lewis's
              record of over-assuming that his enthusiasms were shared. (In writing to
              Williams, he'd named Tolkien as one of those "buzzing with excited
              admiration" over _The Place of the Lion_: this appears to have been
              somewhat wide of the mark.)

              - David Bratman
            • SusanPal@aol.com
              Thanks to all of you for the extremely helpful information! Susan
              Message 6 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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                Thanks to all of you for the extremely helpful information!

                Susan
              • SusanPal@aol.com
                In a message dated 10/1/2002 9:16:12 AM Pacific Daylight Time, ... Right. And I strongly suspect that Tolkien would have been appalled by THE ONCE AND FUTURE
                Message 7 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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                  In a message dated 10/1/2002 9:16:12 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
                  dbratman@... writes:


                  > I would not take Lewis's comment that White had "some
                  > admirers" among his friends as evidence of Tolkien's views, given Lewis's
                  > record of over-assuming that his enthusiasms were shared.

                  Right. And I strongly suspect that Tolkien would have been appalled by THE
                  ONCE AND FUTURE KING on a tremendous number of stylistic levels, most notably
                  anachronistic language and authorial intrusion. But they certainly shared
                  (with each other, as with many other writers then and since) the project of
                  struggling with the notion of how to confront abuses of power. White's Round
                  Table functions as an anti-Ring, in that respect. And both are elegies for
                  lost cultures and possibilities.

                  I'll be especially interested to read the Lurie article Ernie mentioned. I
                  think Tolkien's view of evil is deeper and more disturbing than many people
                  give it credit for -- but White's may appeal more to modernist sensibilities.

                  Susan


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                • David S. Bratman
                  ... I agree that Tolkien is likely to have strongly disliked those aspects of OFK, but he would also have been attracted by the themes so congruent with his
                  Message 8 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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                    At 09:27 AM 10/1/2002 , Susan wrote:

                    >I strongly suspect that Tolkien would have been appalled by THE
                    >ONCE AND FUTURE KING on a tremendous number of stylistic levels, most notably
                    >anachronistic language and authorial intrusion. But they certainly shared
                    >(with each other, as with many other writers then and since) the project of
                    >struggling with the notion of how to confront abuses of power. White's Round
                    >Table functions as an anti-Ring, in that respect. And both are elegies for
                    >lost cultures and possibilities.

                    I agree that Tolkien is likely to have strongly disliked those aspects of
                    OFK, but he would also have been attracted by the themes so congruent with
                    his own. And since those are more important matters, and since White got
                    them right (by Tolkienian standards), he might, in the end, have admired
                    the book. He admired and liked the works of Eddison, dispite being
                    appalled by Eddison's nomenclature and philosophy: their splendid invention
                    and literary merit (also qualities shared by White) saved them for him.

                    - David Bratman
                  • jamcconney@aol.com
                    In a message dated 10/1/2002 7:40:16 PM Central Daylight Time, ... I really have some trouble imagining that Tolkien would have been appalled by a writer s
                    Message 9 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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                      In a message dated 10/1/2002 7:40:16 PM Central Daylight Time,
                      dbratman@... writes:


                      > >I strongly suspect that Tolkien would have been appalled by THE
                      > >ONCE AND FUTURE KING on a tremendous number of stylistic levels, most
                      > notably
                      > >anachronistic language and authorial intrusion.

                      I really have some trouble imagining that Tolkien would have been 'appalled'
                      by a writer's chosen style. He might not have liked it, and wouldn't have
                      dreamed of using it himself, but would he have written off a story just
                      because of style? I don't like "anachronistic language and authorial
                      intrusion" either--but I've read some very good stories where they were
                      intentionally used with good effect.

                      Anne


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                    • SusanPal@aol.com
                      In a message dated 10/1/2002 6:50:39 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... Well, David points out that JRRT liked Eddison despite stylistic differences. But if there s
                      Message 10 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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                        In a message dated 10/1/2002 6:50:39 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                        jamcconney@... writes:


                        > He might not have liked it, and wouldn't have
                        > dreamed of using it himself, but would he have written off a story just
                        > because of style?

                        Well, David points out that JRRT liked Eddison despite stylistic differences.
                        But if there's ever been a reader for whom style was nearly inseparable from
                        content, it was Tolkien, and I can imagine that some of White's stylistic
                        quirks might have been sufficiently distracting to severely compromise his
                        enjoyment of the narrative. That happens to me -- sometimes I have such a
                        style allergy to a story that I can't force myself to read it, even when I
                        can tell that the plot's original and interesting -- and I'm probably far
                        *less* sensitive to such things than Tolkien was.

                        And the anachronism issue is one on which he had vehement ideological views,
                        not simply stylistic tastes. See, for instance, Letter 171 (which,
                        coincidentally, I'm having my class read for tomorrow). He might have
                        acquitted White of the charge of "parochialism of time" on the grounds that
                        White *did* use more ancient language in some scenes; but the "modern" ones
                        surely would have been painful for him (and perhaps all the more so if he
                        knew that White *could* write more authentic language when he chose).

                        Samuel R. Delany has a wonderful essay in his collection THE JEWEL-HINGED JAW
                        arguing that style and content aren't separable, that the distinction is a
                        false dichotomy. I'm not sure I completely agree with him, but I do think
                        that the more style-sensitive the reader, the harder it is to divorce the
                        two.

                        Susan


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                      • jamcconney@aol.com
                        In a message dated 10/1/2002 9:43:14 PM Central Daylight Time, ... I agree. I m one of the style-sensitive readers myself, and I could count any number of
                        Message 11 of 13 , Oct 2, 2002
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                          In a message dated 10/1/2002 9:43:14 PM Central Daylight Time,
                          SusanPal@... writes:


                          > I'm not sure I completely agree with him, but I do think
                          > that the more style-sensitive the reader, the harder it is to divorce the
                          > two.
                          >

                          I agree. I'm one of the "style-sensitive readers" myself, and I could count
                          any number of books that I've put down and never finished because the style
                          was simply...what? ...offensive, painful, unreadable, what-have-you. But that
                          is a matter of personal taste and enjoyment. I think one has to make a
                          distinction between "this book isn't for me" and "this book is a rotten,
                          no-good book, period." The point I was making is that
                          I think Tolkien, as a scholar, would have been unwilling to make the second
                          of these judgments on style alone.

                          As a sort of tangential comment, there is one well-known fantasy writer whose
                          early books I was unable to read for just the reasons given, but who has
                          developed what seems to be a much better 'ear' and is now producing books I
                          love--so sometimes it pays to give a writer a second chance.

                          Anne


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                        • Pauline J. Alama
                          For T.H. White scholarship, I d look at an Arthurian journal I used to know -- it was called Quondam et Futurus when I published an article in it, but it
                          Message 12 of 13 , Oct 4, 2002
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                            For T.H. White scholarship, I'd look at an Arthurian journal I used
                            to know -- it was called Quondam et Futurus when I published an
                            article in it, but it merged with another Arthurian journal and I
                            think the combined name is Arthurian Interpretations. I am almost
                            certain that my grad school mentor Alan Lupack wrote about THE ONCE
                            AND FUTURE KING. Try the Camelot Project website of the University of
                            Rochester Library System.
                            http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/acpbibs/bibhome.stm

                            Pauline J. Alama
                            THE EYE OF NIGHT
                            Bantam Spectra 2002

                            In mythsoc@y..., SusanPal@a... wrote:
                            > Hello! Does anyone know if Tolkien ever read THE ONCE AND FUTURE
                            KING? (I'd
                            > imagine that he didn't, since he was so unenthusiastic about
                            literature after
                            > Chaucer, but wondered if anyone knows for sure.) Or, better yet,
                            does anyone
                            > know of articles dealing with with TOAFK and LOTR? It strikes me
                            that there
                            > are certain similarities (treatment of epic and of a British
                            mythology,
                            > etc.), although certainly there are also plenty of differences.
                            >
                            > Do any scholars work on White? I loved TOAFK when I was growing
                            up -- and my
                            > parents, who haven't read JRRT, both love it too, even though they
                            don't
                            > consider themselves fantasy fans -- but I never seem to hear people
                            talk
                            > about it. Perhaps it's been too tarred with the "Camelot" brush?
                            I took a
                            > poll in my Tolkien class today, and only three of my students have
                            read it.
                            > It's a glorious book, and if folks aren't reading it, there needs
                            to be a
                            > revival of some sort.
                            >
                            > Thanks,
                            > Susan
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