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Re: Reading the Road to Middle Earth

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  • bkillian3
    I havn t read either of those books yet, but would like to very soon. Barfield did seem to have influenced Tolkien to some extent, but as a Catholic I am sure
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 9, 2003
      I havn't read either of those books yet, but would like to very soon.

      Barfield did seem to have influenced Tolkien to some extent, but as
      a Catholic I am sure Tolkien did not go for all of Barfield's ideas,
      or at least his interpretations of certain facts. I find Barfield
      very interesting, but it's difficult to really understand where he
      is coming from in some areas. The idea that Tolkien and Barfield
      seemed to share the most was the idea that language was supremely
      poetical at its very birth, and denoted a sort of iconic perception
      of the world, what Barfield would call 'concrete thinking'. Tolkien
      makes a reference to this in The Hobbit and again in LOTR.

      BTY...Why is the salvation of elves in question?

      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, bowring <bowring@b...> wrote:
      > Tom Shippey's Road to Middle Earth has finally been reissued in a
      new edition.
      > What a book! I am glad I read his Tolkien: Author of the Century
      first,
      > otherwise I would not have enjoyed it nearly so much--RME is so
      much better.
      > There are some interesting things to puzzle out, too. For
      instance, RME
      > doesn't so much as mention Owen Barfield's theories about
      language, whereas
      > Flieger, in her book Splintered Light, makes Barfield an important
      influence
      > on Tolkien's views on language. I am not steeped enough in all
      this to really
      > evaluate the two positions adequately, but I have two suspicions:
      (1) that
      > Tolkien's philological training had already largely immunized him
      against
      > "chronological snobbery", Barfield's important contribution to
      Lewis'
      > intellectual cadre; (2) that Tolkien went no further than Lewis
      did in the
      > direction of Barfield's key theories about the evolution of
      consciousness.
      > Large and important questions.
      >
      > (I have another pet suspicion: that because Barfield outlived all
      the other
      > principals by a good bit, and that many like Flieger got to know
      him and to
      > one degree or another came under his influence, he had a large
      hand in shaping
      > the reception of issues like the "Great War," theory of language,
      > interpretation on the Imagination, etc. I would also count him
      among the
      > writers that have most influenced my thinking on these issues, but
      the
      > evolution of consciousness business, at least in its
      Anthroposophical form,
      > just doesn't ring any bells for me--or rather, the bells jangle.
      I am not
      > entirely happy with such discussions of Lewis' and
      Tolkien's "philosophy" of
      > the imagination as I have thus far encountered.)
      >
      > I also find a lingering sense of pathos at Shippey's discussion of
      the
      > possibility of the salvation of elves, etc. Alas....
      >
      > Fortunately, Shippey's book is not entirely off the topic (he has
      at least a
      > toe over the border into my territory) of my dissertation. It has
      me
      > thinking.
      >
      > Kevin
    • bowring
      David (I hope we re all on a firstname basis here), Regarding Prof. Flieger, let me say that I find her book--as the saying goes--suggestive. And she is
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 11, 2003
        David (I hope we're all on a firstname basis here),

        Regarding Prof. Flieger, let me say that I find her book--as the saying
        goes--suggestive. And she is covering the philosophical dimension that is
        really of high interest to me. Again, I hate to speak too soon and when I am
        really out of my depth, but here goes. Prof. Flieger hinges here entire
        discussion of Barfield's influence on Tolkien on a single reported
        conversation. Unfortunately, my copy of Carpenter's The Inklings is about 100
        miles away from here, so I can't check the context, but the conversation reads
        like second hand information. My guess is that Carpenter got it from
        Barfield; if so, Barfield would have been recalling something many years after
        the fact. None of this is much of a problem, in general terms, except that
        Prof. Flieger makes so much hay out of Tolkien's reportedly having said that
        Barfield's conception had "modified his whole outlook."

        Now, I don't really want to seem as though I am quibbling over nothing, but to
        my mind there are very large and important issues here with respect to
        language, myth, and imagination that need to be sorted out carefully. I would
        have liked to see further textual evidence of Barfield's influence on Tolkien.
        For instance, there is precious little said in Tolkien's letters. I would
        really like to know, let us say, whether Tolkien's copy of Poetic Diction
        exists and whether it contains any marginalia.This might tell us a great
        deal--or not, as the case may be.

        In a certain sense, Prof. Flieger's using the reported conversation as a hinge
        was both unnecessary and perhaps even forstalled a potentially more
        interesting discussion. She could have easily said simply that Barfield's
        theories cast an interesting light on Tolkien; this would have been more
        judicious, in my judgment, when there seems to be little or no direct evidence
        of influence outside the reported conversation. Then we might have been
        treated to a discussion not only of the similarities but of what I suspect are
        real and deep differences in their appoaches.

        This is nowhere more apparent than on the issue of Rudolf Steiner and
        Anthroposophy. Barfield is quite explicit about the importance of Steiner's
        work, but this seems to get soft-pedalled all too often. It is hard not to
        suspect that this is happening in Splintered Light when Prof. Flieger says
        that the Inklings "found Anthroposophy more than a little difficult to grasp."
        Positive antipathy might be a more apt description, at least in the case of
        Lewis; Tolkien, as a faithful Roman Catholic, is hardly likely to have been
        more sympathetic than Lewis. Barfield's whole theory is geared towards an
        idea of the evolution of consciousness that it is hard to imagine would get a
        sympathetic hearing from Tolkien. This does not mean that there are not
        important convergences in their respective ways of thinking. But, it is
        important to understand both convergences and divergences, so that we can
        figure out where to go from here.

        I am trying to work out what I think about all this. I am working in Theology
        where even now, so many years after the Inklings with all their influence, the
        imagination is undervalued and poorly understood. Prof. Flieger has my
        gratitude for making a serious beginning--she certainly deserves your
        accolades. But it is very important to get the issues clarified to the extent
        that this is possible. When you say that the approaches of Shippey and
        Flieger are "more complementary that contradictory", I say: That's good. Now
        let's figure out how the "more" and the "than" really work out.

        My apologies for the undue length of this.
        Yours,
        Kevin
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