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RE: [mythsoc] White Query

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • 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 9 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 10 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 11 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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