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 Post subject: Tolkien Studies
PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 9:48 pm 
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AJ suggested a thread on this, and I agree it is a good idea. Tolkien Studies is an scholarly review published by West Virginia University Press, edited by renown Tolkien scholars Douglas Anderson, Michael Drout and Verlyn Flieger. The fifth volume has just been published, and I received my copy today. I will comment periodically on the various articles and reports, and I hope others will as well (from this, previous, and future issues).

The first thing I did upon receiving my copy of TS V was read the essay written by my friend, Jason Fisher, entitled "Three Rings for -- Whom Exactly? And Why? Justifying the Disposition of the Three Elven Rings." I was particularly interested in this essay not just because it was written by my friend, but also because it covers a subject that I find quite interesting.

I was not disappointed. The essay proves to be a scholarly little gem. Jason first sets up the difficulties involved in tracing the disposition of the Three Rings; laying out some of the intuitive misconceptions that some people have been subjected to. He then proceeds to lay out a strong, compelling case showing "that Tolkien eventually decided -- or intuited -- exactly where each of the Three Rings would best be bestowed." Along the way, he teased out some fascinating comparisons (none of which I am going to reveal, because much of the fun of reading the essay is having them spring up on you along the way. He then backs up his conclusions with a solid linguistic/philological analysis of the names. Finally, he concludes his analysis with an interesting sidebar about Tolkien's abandoned idea to have Galadriel give her (at the time unnamed) Ring to Aragorn, resulting perhaps in the people of Lebennin referring to him as the Lord of the Rings. For those of us who enjoy teasing out the intricacies and different pathways of Tolkien's unique creation, this essay is quite a pleasure.

Jason would be quited disappointed, however, if I didn't point out any quibbles that I had with the essay (I'm sure he is even now sharpening his claws waiting for Arda Reconstructed's release :P). I have two small ones.

First, he calls the first draft of the chapter "The Shadow of the Past" (originally called "Ancient History") "one of the oldest parts of the manuscript." Since he is actually following Tolkien's own lead here, Jason can hardly be blamed, but it simply isn't really true to call the first draft of that chapter "one of the oldest parts of the manuscript." In truth, Tolkien had drafted virtually all of what eventually was to become Book One (up through Rivendell) before he went back and wrote "Ancient History" and added it into the text after "A Long Expected Party", thus fundamentally changing the nature of the work with the addition of the true nature of the One Ring, and the development of the history of the rest of the Rings of Power.

The second is, I suppose, more of an observation than a quibble. Jason states, regarding the essay "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" (printed in The Silmarillion), "But though the essay had been at least roughed out by the middle to late 1940s, Tolkien must have continued to revise it all the way through the galley proof stage of The Lord of the Rings (some time in 1954), and perhaps well beyond it, since we know that key elements included in "Of the Rings of Power" -- most significantly, the names of the rings -- were not decided until that time." Alas, I have to disagree that we can make this statement with any degree of certitude. It is equally possible that the essay was simply edited by Christopher Tolkien to add such elements as the names of the rings. As Jason points out, Christopher does not include a history of the development of that essay anywhere in The History of Middle-earth. So there is no way of telling how much of published version was written by Tolkien, and how much was editorial.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:03 pm 
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Where can we get this V, and how much does it cost?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:10 pm 
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Al, you can order it through Amazon. It is available at amazon.co.uk; they have it listed new for £27.60 with "5 Used & new from £20.32."


To give an idea of the quality, the review of Rateliff's The History of the Hobbit is written by Tom Shippey. The lead article (which I am really looking forward to reading) is called "Revenge and Moral Judgment in Tolkien" by Brian Rosebury (author of the book "Tolkien: A cultureal Phenonenom"). There are two works by Tolkien himself: "Chaucer as a Philogist: The Reeve's Tale" and a translation of the The Reeve's Tale itself.

Here is TOC: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/tolkien_studies/toc/tks.5.html

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:03 am 
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I'm afraid I think thats overly expensive for a Journal. After all its simply a collection of papers, some of which I may have no interest in. I think I'll be passing on this one.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:20 am 
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Al, its actually a hard cover book, roughly the quality of something like Tolkien's Legendarium, for about a third of the price.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2008 11:55 pm 
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I finishing reading the lead article, "Revenge and Moral Judgment in Tolkien" by Brian Rosebury. I have heard good things about his book, Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, but I have not read it myself. After reading this article, I am going to seek out that book, for sure. This is an excellent article: well-crafted, well-argued, and chock full of worthwhile observations.

It seems that though revenge, in Tolkien's moral universe, is always wrong, there are gradations of judgment on particular acts of revenge, ranging from outright condemnation to what one might call non-approving respect.

Yes, indeed, Rosebury does in fact use that term, "Tolkien's moral universe," so familiar to many of us (the first time I have ever seen it used in a piece of Tolkien scholarship. One would think that this summarizing statement would either appear in the the introductory comments or in a final conclusory statement, but it actually appears roughly in the middle of the essay, following the statement "It is time to pull the analysis together." I really have to admire how he has crafted this essay. His first section, over a page long, does not even mention Tolkien, instead setting the table with a brief general discussion of revenge. He then adds Tolkien to the mix, asking the question in general terms of how Tolkien addressed this complex theme, particularly given his Christian faith and his "professional interest" in pre-Christian legends. Then he addresses several specific examples, before finally declaring that it was time to "pull the analysis together." He brings in still more specific examples in order to illustrate and elucidate his basic themes (which are, of course, much more complex and developed than the simple statement that I quote involves).

I am purposefully avoiding making any kind of more specific description of Rosebury's conclusions or even his examples, because I really think they need to be read and considered on their own merits. I came away from reading this essay feeling like my understanding of Tolkien's work had been increased. That is as high a praise as I can give.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:36 am 
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I apologize for not being overly active. Everything starts back up for me tomorrow and for the first time in 2 months I have had to really get engaged over the last week.

I throughly enjoyed the first article as well, and with you Voronwë feel it expanded my knowledge of Tolkien and his works. And though I don't want to touch on Rosebury's conclusions nor his examples that support those conclusions, the topic itself might have merit to be discussed on its own so that those who may not have a copy of Tolkien Studies could discuss the theme and their own views.

I've also read several other articles but it will be either mid week or next weekend before I post on those.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:07 am 
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It does sound very interesting, but am not sure I want to spend all that money right now. :P

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:19 am 
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Certainly understandable, Mahima. I'm sure that you are saving your money for that oh-so-important Tolkien book due to come out next year. :P

AJ, I would definitely be interested in discussing the issues of revenge and moral judgment in Tolkien's work. You may want to check out The Moral Universe of Middle-earth (and, if you are really ambitious, the threads linked to in the first post of that thread).

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:15 am 
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There is much in those posts that are very intriguing and that I find interesting. It looks like I am 2 or 3 years late in exploring these sites. . . in many ways. Perhaps The Moral Universe of Middle Earth will be a good place to bring up the subject and to discuss the issues of revenge and moral judgment in Tolkien's work.

Thanks Voronwë and I have to say that for me, it is the Sil. that also holds very deep interest for me because there, the characters are almost more "human" to me. That's probably because I relate to them in many ways more than the LOTR characters because in them, I see that real, "unveiled" side that Jynusa discussed that I see in me all too often. I'll see you tomorrow night in the Moral Universe Thread perhaps.

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:14 pm 
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I look forward to it!

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:31 pm 
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I'll be keeping an eye out for a used or discounted copy of this. It looks very interesting! (And I do have to save my money for that other scholarly work due out soon. ;) )


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:46 pm 
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One small but historically very important piece in the book is the first ever English translation of a short retrospective article written by George Steiner and published in the French newspaper Le Monde on September 6, 1973, three days after Tolkien's death. Steiner is considered to be perhaps the 20th century's greatest literary critic, and this laudatory article is particularly noteworthy given the scorn heaped on Tolkien by other famous literary critics such as Edmund Wilson and Harold Bloom.

I've looked on Amazon to see what kind of deals I might be able to get for used copies of the previous four volumes, and I'm afraid they are not that great. It seems that few people who purchase these volumes want to give them up. Bummer! After checking out this volume it definitely sparked my interest in getting the other volumes. But it's too rich for my blood, too (the main reason I got this one in the first place was that I promised Jason I would check out his article).

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:27 am 
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I signed up for a subscription in 2006. They were promoting at the Gathering of the Fellowship in Toronto. I think I got the first 3 volumes at a discount. I loved them and continued to subscribe every since. There is just so much good stuff in them.

The book reviews and year in review are particularly valuable for clueing you into some less well-known work. That's how I found out about Walking Tree Press and all their goodies for example.

I've read the first 2 articles. On the elliptical at the gym no less. I thought Rosebury's article was well-done but a bit thin. It read more like an abstract than a complete article. I think the meat of his work will be in his book. I liked the next one on poetry as well. Definitely a topic worth exploring more for those who know poetry.

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