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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 11:44 pm 
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Mith, thank you. That's exactly the point that I was trying to make. I glad that you thought it was worth making. I agree it probably could have been expressed differently.

Now I'm off to read Dawn's review! Thanks for pointing that out, as well.

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Another really meaty review! And she agrees with you, Jason, on some of your major points.

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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 9:18 pm 
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She wrote her review before reading his, but yes, she does make some of the same points.


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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:11 pm 
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Of course, she and her readers also disagree with Jason on some important points, too. I've enjoyed reading the discussion there.

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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Of course, she and her readers also disagree with Jason on some important points, too.

Yes, but they're wrong. :rofl:

(Just kidding, of course.)

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They are women who seem to have devoted a great deal of time to considering what the term 'misogynist' means as applied to literature, in particular fantasy literature.

Tread carefully. :twisted:


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:10 pm 
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Here is a nice review (even though he says it isn't a review) posted by klemenko at the LOTR Plaza:


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And I will add my two cents. I will not attempt to write a review, because I’m not very well oriented in Tolkien’s texts on which the published Silmarillion was based. Moreover, I read it in a hurry (I borrowed a copy from my friend M.L.) and did not have enough time to make notes. Nevertheless I want to share my impressions.

I took Kane’s book as a check-list on how to improve The Silmarillion, even if Kane did not write that Christopher should have done this or that. He simply asked many questions concerning omitted passages which he considered worth to retain and those omissions depleted the final text. Kane is quite firm in criticizing Christopher in those particular cases – even if he is far from criticizing Christopher for everything. The most striking point in Kane’s criticism is Christopher’s inconsistency or lack of clear criteria in omitting various details. He considers Christopher decisions arbitrary and points out that Christopher cut many interesting details from the first 18 chapters (leaving them a sort of laconic) while he retained developed narrative in very long chapters 19 and 21 (Of Beren and Lúthien and Of Túrin Turambar).

Due to those omissions we not only don’t learn many interesting details, but some situations became less clear (Fëanor’s reaction when he heard the news of Finwë’s death) and less dramatic, characters became somehow “flatter”. Fragments important from the point of view of the Legendarium as a total were omitted too, e.g. information on Elves’ fate after death, laws and customs (in the context of Míriel), more developed description of Olórin in Valaquenta, second prophecy of Mandos, etc.

At the end of the day female characters suffered in the whole process (exceptionally striking is attribution of Nerdanel’s characteristics to Fëanor), cases of which Kane enumerates meticulously. However, I wouldn’t go so far in blaming Christopher for purposeful reduction of the role of female characters. I think it was not his anti-feminism but a desire to get rid of all “unimportant” details. Nevertheless, I agree with Kane that it was a particularly big loss for The Silmarillion.

Some of Christopher’s decisions seem to not to be understandable at all, especially when newer texts were replaced by older ones. Sometimes strange things appeared, like Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, a name made by Christopher from two alternative names of Fingolfin’s daughter.

In many places Kane praises Christopher’s decisions, even the scene of killing Thingol in Menegroth which was totally made up by him. He also recalls the cases where Christopher himself admitted his mistakes in his commentaries to HoMe (moving the location of Mandos or making Gil-galad Fingon’s son).

Some on-line fans go very far in criticizing The Silmarillion for being made up by Christopher. I even heard it being called “fanfiction by Christopher Tolkien”. Kane provides evidence on how much of the text (vast majority, except for few passages) was written by Tolkien himself. When it comes to Chapter 22, a flagship argument for those criticizing Christopher, what stroke me is not what Christopher added, but what he omitted (from the Wanderings of Húrin. Of course, Kane was very hard on Christopher for making up the story of bringing of the Nauglamîr to Menegroth.

I agree with Kane that it would be better if Athrabeth, Laws and Customs and a sort of chronology were added to The Silmarillion.

Concluding, I’m paying tribute to Kane for such a hard job and very good final product. The only thing that annoyed me in Arda Reconstructed were the tables put breaking the chapters (why didn’t the publishers put them at the end of each chapter?). Even if someone detests the idea of criticizing Christopher, he or she can still use AR as an index book.

And finally, I wish such book had appeared 10 years ago when Christopher prepared the second edition of The Silmarillion, in which he limited himself to purely editorial changes (except fixing the list of Númenorean kings). I wish he took into account at least his own commentaries from HoMe. Being grateful to Tolkien’s son for his gigantic work in editing of The Silmarillion, UT and HoMe, I have an impression that he considers his work as written in the stone, unlike his father who constantly emended his works. I know that it is too late to have a new, better Silmarillion (although I wish Christopher the longest life). Pity, especially as Kane came up with many good ideas…


http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=230053&PID=7038760#7038760

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:21 pm 
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Volume VI of Tolkien Studies is now available online for those lucky folks that have access to Project Muse. In addition to some really wonderful material (including a previously unpublished essay on Fate and Free Will written by Tolkien and edited by Carl Hostetter - Aelfwine to our readers here - and an essay on that subject by Verlyn Flieger), there is a very excellent review of Arda Reconstructed by Nicholas Birns, who reviewed The Children of Húrin in last year's issue of TS.

Here's the link to the full issue: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/tolkien_studies/toc/tks.6.html

And here's the link to the review: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/tolkien_studies/v006/6.birns.html

The review is hardly 100% favorable (very few are). And I have few quibbles about some of the things that Mr. Birns says (including one point that simply isn't accurate). But overall the review is so insightful about what I was trying to do, where I succeeded, and where I did not, that these things don't really matter. It is an honour to have such a thoughtful review of my book in the most important Tolkien-related periodical.

Much as I would like to do a paragraph by paragraph commentary on the review, as I did with Jason Fisher's review in Mythlore I don't think that it would be appropriate for me to do so, since the review is not available for free online without a Project Muse registration. So I'll just quote a few brief passages, and make a few additional comments.

The review begins very appropriately by acknowledging that my " diligently researched book takes the reader through the process behind an earlier diligent effort, that of Christopher Tolkien (assisted by Guy Gavriel Kay) in editing the 1977 Silmarillion." Mr. Birns notes that in detailing "exactly what sources Christopher used" I show the "truly astonishing inventiveness he showed in assembling them into a steady narrative." I was really pleased to see that acknowledged. Then, after mentioning that the use of the tables "lends clarity and organization to what might otherwise be an overwhelming amount of detail" he makes the following absolutely wonderful observation about Breogan's artwork:

Quote:
Finally, the potential dryness is relieved by absorbing illustrations supplied by Anushka Mouriño; these, more realistic in terms of human portraiture than most Tolkien-inspired art, subtly fortify Kane’s tacit argument that the “Silmarillion” material has more moments of gripping interpersonal drama than the published version revealed. Mouriño’s depiction of the spirit of Míriel appearing before Mandos and Manwë has a Pre-Raphaelite lushness, and also embodies Kane’s point that Christopher’s recension excessively cropped back Míriel’s role.

:love:

He then makes the following observation, that I also must quote in full:

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One of the questions Kane’s study puts to rest totally is the old conjecture about whether The Silmarillion is all Tolkien’s work. Other than a very few instances (such as tying the Nauglamír more closely to Thingol in “The Ruin of Doriath”) no significant line in the book was “written by the editor” (24). Kane’s well-known online epithet, “Voronwë,” is very suitable for his execution of this task, as watchful and respectful as Mardil the Good Steward’s rule no doubt was in the wake of the disappearance of King Eärnur. Kane’s textual scholarship is rigorous and is a model not only for Tolkien scholars but for scholars of more canonical authors, whose textual study is often pursued with less enthusiasm.


I was really thrilled to see this passage, because to me the demonstration that the vast majority of the published Silmarillion really is Tolkien's own words is one of the most important parts of the book. So I was glad to see this acknowledged so firmly. And the reference to my "well-known online epithet" really touched my heart.

Just as insightful are his comments about where he feels that I fall short.

Quote:
Where Kane’s treatment is less complete is in his own evaluation of the merits of Christopher’s editing and editorial choices. Kane makes some very good points, and convinces the reader there was good material in the sources available to Christopher that he did not sufficiently deploy. Although acknowledging that The Silmarillion choices were motivated by “the most coherent and literary text possible” (26), Kane often gives short shrift to the ways in which these choices were motivated by purposeful literary intent.


He then goes on to do what I had liked to have seen from some of the other people who have made similar observations: he gives a series of examples. I'm not going to quote them here; I hope that people will be purchasing the issue and reading not just this review but the rest of the extremely valuable material contained it it, so I don't want to give too much away. But he makes some very interesting and worthwhile points, concluding finally:

Quote:
The overall thread here, which Kane understands but about which he could be much more articulate, is that Tolkien and later Christopher Tolkien were revising and re-presenting the “Silmarillion” to an audience used to The Lord of the Rings, that liked The Lord of the Rings, and one which wanted The Silmarillion to fit conveniently into the world of The Lord of the Rings.


Unlike Fisher and some other folks who have commented on the book (but like Nancy Martsch in her review in Beyond Bree), Birns largely agrees with my point about the edits to the female characters, though he takes a broad view of it:

Quote:
Though a broader compositional perspective is thus only lurking in Kane’s analysis, at times he makes his own views explicit. Kane notices that revisions in The Silmarillion consistently “lessened the female presence” (83) in the stories, especially lamentable given the common complaint that Tolkien generally under-represented women. This is particularly true, argues Kane, of the women in Fëanor’s life: both his mother, Míriel, and his wife, Nerdanel, have unconventional and tragic life stories which get short shrift in the 1977 version as compared to what could have been pieced together with the resources at hand. Kane is on to something here, and this cannot be explained away by merely compositional rationales. Yet The Silmarillion already has far more to do with gender relations than The Lord of the Rings; even the happier of the two full-fledged great tales, that of Beren and Lúthien, is full of untold suffering amid the glory of a great love. The material Tolkien added latest to the “Silmarillion” cycle, such as the story of Maeglin, his ill-starred mother, Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, and her marriage “beneath herself” to a Dark Elf, is one of a series of Tolkien’s late tales about the complicated relationships between men and women (for example, Aldarion and Erendis, even Celeborn and Galadriel). It adds tremendously to the emotional depth and moral realism of The Silmarillion. Kane’s suggestions that expanded roles for the Fëanorian ladies would have amplified this strength are well argued.


Birns goes on to state that "As welcome as the scrupulous registering of minute changes is, the book excels most when it points to these larger choices." He particularly appreciations the discussion about Fëanor, and though he somewhat garbles the history of the telling of the tale of the murder of Finwë and the rape of the Silmarils, the basic thrust comes through nicely.

Birns correctly points out that many of my criticisms "fall into the genre of Monday-morning quarterbacking" and that the reason I am able to make them is that we so much posthumously-published material. Birns suggests that "we know more than Christopher Tolkien did when he compiled The Silmarillion because he compiled The Silmarillion in the way he did, and the book sold enough copies for the publisher to present the later, more archival material in The History of Middle-earth." Birns says that though he shares my high opinion of the Athrabeth, he feels that its inclusion, not to mention that of the Second Prophecy, "would have imbalanced the tableau" and that the "emphasis on what the hobbit-reader would have found as reassuring possibly explains the curtailment of the philosophical and religious aspects of The Silmarillion."

Birns observes in conclusion that this "also gives a rationale for the excision of some more psychologically probing details in what was already, compared to the Tolkien writings that had been published previously, a far more somber set of narratives." He makes an interesting parallel to the Star Wars prequels (and notes that I "amusingly connects the two universes" when I compare "the inversions in Míriel’s speech to those of Yoda"):

Quote:
In both universes, the prequels (in Tolkien’s case, of course, originally conceived far earlier), The Silmarillion and the late 1990s-early 2000s Star Wars films, had the difficult task of maintaining narrative continuity while dealing with far darker subject matter. Kane’s absorbing study shows that Christopher made choices the reader might regret. But he generated a published text that paved the way for the continuing posthumous growth of Tolkien’s reputation.


It is interesting that all three major reviews of the book thus far (in Beyond Bree, Mythlore, and Tolkien Studies) touch make the point that the readership was somehow not ready for the fuller Silmarillion text that I argue for. And I still am not convinced that it is true. I am convinced that a significant percentage of the audience would have appreciated the more pyschologically probing details and the greater spiritual depth that such a work might have contained. But, as Birns and others have pointed out, at least we do have access to all of that material. And, of course, we have Christopher Tolkien to thank for that.

The thing that I like best about this review is that it feels like it helps to open the door to a more extended discussion. I certainly appreciate the fact that Birns gives the book due credit for what it does well, and it certainly is as favorable a review as I could possibly have hoped for. But it does more than that. It also shows areas in which the subject matter could be continued to be explored in different ways. In fact, I get the sense that Nicholas Birns himself is probably pretty well-equipped to tackle some of those explorations. I hope that he and/or others do step through that door, and that Arda Reconstructed is eventually seen as just the first step in new wave of Silmarillion scholarship.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:34 pm 
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A fourth review has appeared at Amazon; the first from someone that I don't know (on-line). Perhaps not surprisingly, it is also the first not to give five stars, though it does give four, and is mostly positive. Some of his comments are a bit puzzling, particularly this one:

Quote:
An example is Kane's apparent disappointment at the exclusion of the Second Prophecy of Mandos from the published Silmarillion. No account is taken of its incompatibility with Tolkien senior's Christianity, or the reduction in importance that was placed on the Prophecy in Tolkien's later writings.


As I discuss in the book, the Second Prophecy is actually directly derived in large part from Tolkien's Christian beliefs, and its inclusion would have made The Silmarillion more compatible with Tolkien's Christianity, not less. I'm not sure what he is talking about when referring to "the reduction in importance that was placed on the Prophecy in Tolkien's later writing."

Another amusing comment is this one: "Despite apparently being his first published work, Kane seems not to have sought any professional editorial guidance. Grammar and English usage are all too often unworthy of an academic-style treatment ... ." Hmmmm?

Much-needed book

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:37 pm 
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:scratch: There is nothing wrong with your grammar and usage. Both were fine even before anyone edited the text. What an odd criticism.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:49 pm 
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I agree. The only thing I can think is that you speak in the first person, sharing your personal opinions. Did the reviewer think you needed to speak more formally?

(I don't agree with that view, btw.)

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:52 pm 
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Strictly formal academic writing in the humanities is not done in the first person, since one is supposed to be discussing objective truth. :rofl:

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:47 pm 
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Oddly enough, in the sciences, which actually does deal in objective truth (or at least, in empirical observation), that convention is fading away entirely. I am allowed to edit "In the experience of the author" to "In my experience," for example.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:32 pm 
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A long, meaty review by Brian Henderson at the Tolkien Library:

http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/press/897-Review_Arda_Reconstructed.php

I'll probably make some comments about it once I have digested it.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:12 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
Oddly enough, in the sciences, which actually does deal in objective truth (or at least, in empirical observation), that convention is fading away entirely. I am allowed to edit "In the experience of the author" to "In my experience," for example.


I don't find that odd. The sciences DO deal with objective truth, or are at least much closer to it, and so perhaps do not feel the need to bolster their insecurities in this area. ;)

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:21 pm 
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V-man--

Henderson makes much of the impact of our not having access to the original mss. While I think one has to admit the possibility of AR including different examples, or even reaching different conclusions, had the case been different, I am curious as to whether you think the project would have taken a different shape as a whole.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:30 pm 
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Brian Henderson has this to say about the tone of AR

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It is worthwhile to discuss Kane’s opinion and comment throughout Arda Reconstructed. As he himself admits “it would be impossible for me to fail to express my own opinion regarding how successful Christopher was in achieving this task” [of creating the published Silmarillion], and “with so little commentary regarding many of Christopher’s editorial choices, we are left with no option but to speculate as to his reasoning, based on the material available” (AR, 25).

His argument that he was left with no option but to speculate sometimes leads Kane into problems. Frequently the comment and speculation are bold, and the manner and tone in which they are put forth may not be to everybody’s liking. As example, commenting on the aforementioned switching back and forth between source texts Kane states “I think Christopher might have better served his father if he had stuck more closely to one text at a time”(AR, 61). And, in discussing the omission of much of the philosophical material touched upon in Tolkien’s writings on Finwë and Míriel, Kane comments that Christopher “was both underestimating the audience and doing a disservice to his father’s legacy” (AR, 82).

The removal of these comments from their context perhaps does Kane a disservice, and is a little unfair. Kane’s willingness to put across his own personal thoughts on the matter and his passion for the subject are to be applauded. But it might be observed how at odds this is with the general tone of criticism in scholarly and academic Tolkien studies. It could be argued that much of the speculation could have been avoided, and serves to highlight the very real limitations of this work: the lack of access to Tolkien’s original manuscripts, and the understanding this may have provided.


Of course, the truth is that the book likely would not have been published had I avoided the speculation and the expressing of my own opinions. And, for some at least, it would have been a much less interesting book. Still, it certainly is true that some of it is at odds with the general tone of criticism in scholarly and academic Tolkien studies. Which perhaps says as much about scholarly and academic Tolkien studies as it does about Arda Reconstructed.

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axordil wrote:
V-man--

Henderson makes much of the impact of our not having access to the original mss. While I think one has to admit the possibility of AR including different examples, or even reaching different conclusions, had the case been different, I am curious as to whether you think the project would have taken a different shape as a whole.


That's a very excellent question, Ax, and one that I myself was thinking about. Obviously, I can't say for sure, since I did not have access to those manuscripts, but my sense is that unless Christopher Tolkien did a much less complete job with HoMe than I think he did, the answer is that it would not have taken much of a different shape as a whole.

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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Brian Henderson has this to say about the tone of AR
Quote:
...But it might be observed how at odds this is with the general tone of criticism in scholarly and academic Tolkien studies.

...Still, it certainly is true that some of it is at odds with the general tone of criticism in scholarly and academic Tolkien studies. Which perhaps says as much about scholarly and academic Tolkien studies as it does about Arda Reconstructed.

If Henderson's meaning is that few scholarly works find fault with Christopher Tolkien's construction, I think that is because, while some people had a rough sense (or more than that: witness solicitr's private exercise, which he has mentioned) of how The Silmarillion was put together, no one had yet attempted the systematic examination that you undertook and and saw through to publication. Michael Drout < wrote > in 2004 that the appearance of The History of Middle-earth had set Tolkien studies back a decade or more: "When it became clear that there would be a volume per year published for about twelve years, it seemed like scholarship dropped off as everyone just tried to absorb the enormous quantity of material." Some post-1996 scholarship makes use of various HoMe texts or of The Silmarillion, but not much considers the two together, and until someone else had taken on that project, they were content to let the questions of their differences wait: the Tolkien studies world was waiting for someone like you.

If Henderson's meaning is that negative comments on Tolkien's texts are rare in Tolkien scholarship, I would agree while noting two major exceptions: Tom Shippey, who does find fault with parts of The Silmarillion in The Road to Middle-earth, and Brian Rosebury, who has complaints about several of Tolkien's works.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:36 pm 
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Interesting point, N.E.B. I think I took Brian's comment to mean a little of both. It is, perhaps not surprising that Tolkien scholars are reluctant to criticize Tolkien; after all they have become "Tolkien scholars" due to their love of Tolkien's work. Still, one may still criticize what one loves. I agree with your two examples of scholars who have been willing to be critical of Tolkien's work, and I don't think it is a coincidence that they are two of the best.

Quote:
Some post-1996 scholarship makes use of various HoMe texts or of The Silmarillion, but not much considers the two together, and until someone else had taken on that project, they were content to let the questions of their differences wait: the Tolkien studies world was waiting for someone like you.


I very much appreciate that comment. I certainly have no illusions about having any special insights that qualified me for the project. I think in some ways my main qualification is that I have always been outside the Tolkien scholarship community. I certainly hope that AR turns out to open the door to more scholarship in this area, even I dare say, better scholarship or at least scholarship by people better equipped to explore some of the areas that I am not particularly well-equipped to explore. It may even be that such scholarship renders AR obsolete, particularly if it is done by someone who does have access to the original manuscripts. If so, I would applaud.

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