Works of Tolkien scholarship

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Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:30 am

As a result of my increased reading and renewed attempts at writing about Tolkien lately, I ordered a couple of books about Tolkien from Amazon last week. The first of them (though the second I ordered) arrived a few days ago: Verlyn Flieger's Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology. I bought it almost solely because Doug Kane praised it and its influence on him back when he was doing press stuff for Arda Reconstructed, which is the book I'm still waiting on. I think it'll actually be good to have read Interrupted Music first.

Anyway, I was really impressed by the book at first, though as I get farther in I think there are some conclusions Flieger jumps to too quickly, and other possibilities not given sufficient attention. I might try to write a more formal review later, but I think she focuses on the "mythology for England" idea way too much, and doesn't really address the interpretation that Tolkien largely moved away from this idea post-BoLT. I found her discussion of the Númenórean time travel stories as a transmission method to replace and/or complement Eriol really interesting, though perhaps putting too much stock in an idea that never really went anywhere. Particularly strange in comparison to the exceedingly brief treatment she gives the Bilbo transmission, which seems to interest her far less.

Speaking of the Bilbo transmission, I strongly disagree with some of the points in her analysis of the Red Book idea. She claims that the "conceit" of The Hobbit being a translation of Bilbo's diary doesn't hold up because the narrator is clearly not Bilbo. But The Hobbit was never claimed to be a direct translation of Bilbo's diary, neither in its own (Second Edition) foreword nor in the notes surrounding the Second Edition of LOTR. Both works are presented as adaptations, or perhaps re-formulations, of the stories presented in the Red Book. Hence why there is no "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings" in an in-universe context, but rather a single "The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King", from which the real books were ostensibly derived, but not directly excerpted. Flieger does comment on there being a modern editor at a few points, but never identifies this editor with Tolkien himself. I think her reason for not doing so might be because Tolkien distanced himself from this idea when he rewrote the Foreword to LOTR, but he distanced himself from the entire conceit by doing so. That doesn't mean he abandoned the idea, just that he drew a distinction between his ostensible role as discoverer of the book, and his actual role as its original author.

Finally, and this is a relatively minor point, there are a number of really glaring and basic Lore errors throughout the books. The three that jumped out at me were claiming that the love of Beren and Lúthien was not forbidden (admittedly this was in contrast to incestuous and adulterous relationships in other myths, but it is at the very least poor phrasing), that Merry's dream/vision of being stabbed one of the "men of Carn Dûm" while in the Barrow-down was a memory of the Second Age (Carn Dûm and Angmar existed in the Third), and that Eru only intervened in Arda once after its creation (I assume she was referring to the Downfall here). The last is by far the most egregious error in my mind, since Flieger uses it as evidence that Eru is unlike the interventionist Christian God as a way of downplaying the Christian elements of Tolkien's work. I disagree with her overall point here, but regardless, it ignores several other clear interventions by Eru that have a definite impact on the religious and cosmological aspects of Arda. (Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Eru giving life to the Dwarves, of him restoring Gandalf to life post-Balrog fight, and his eucatastrophic intervention in Gollum's falling over the edge of the Crack of Doom [cf. Letter 192].)

Anyone else ever read Interrupted Music? Or or any other such works like this. It's been a long time since I've read a new (new to me) book of Tolkien scholarship at this level before. And despite my complaints above I do think it is a good book -- clearly a lot of work and learning went into it -- and a fascinating perspective on the legendarium. Hope you guys will feel free to post about other such works in here; I plan on posting some thoughts on Arda Reconstructed once I take a crack at that.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:50 am

Regarding the "Bilbo transmission", I find Elthir's thread about this topic from about 18 months ago to be more convincing than anything in Flieger's book.

http://www.hobbitmovieforum.com/t1068-who-is-stronger-elfwine-or-bilbo

Although re-reading that thread now, I am struck by the line from Morgoth's Ring where Tolkien states that the Great Tales must have been Númenórean in form. Of course, his opinions seem to have been in flux at this point, but I am curious whether he abandoned this idea in favor of "Translations from the Elvish" when that idea (seems to have) gained favor in the 1960s, or whether we should suppose that Bilbo had access to works of Númenórean and Gondorian Lore in the library of Rivendell.

Neither this interpretation nor the idea that the Great Tales were added by Peregrin or Findegil or someone else working in Minas Tirith is incompatible with the Red Book transmission as a whole, but I am inclined to go with the "Translations from the Elvish" idea on the basis of published text taking precedence (this first and foremost) and since it was probably the later idea, as per Elthir's thread.

Thoughts?
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Mon Apr 18, 2016 2:03 pm

Eldorion wrote: Speaking of the Bilbo transmission, I strongly disagree with some of the points in her analysis of the Red Book idea. She claims that the "conceit" of The Hobbit being a translation of Bilbo's diary doesn't hold up because the narrator is clearly not Bilbo.

I read this book too Eldo, but so long ago now I don't really remember it much... anyway trusting your characterization without checking for myself (not very scholarly of me, but I trust you Eldo) I strongly disagree with VF about this too, and I find it a bit odd that she didn't give fuller consideration to the art of translation.

I think her reason for not doing so might be because Tolkien distanced himself from this idea when he rewrote the Foreword to LOTR, but he distanced himself from the entire conceit by doing so. That doesn't mean he abandoned the idea, just that he drew a distinction between his ostensible role as discoverer of the book, and his actual role as its original author.

Huzzah Eldo! As I think I said in a recent canon related post, I much prefer the original Foreword and view it as canon. Also (to state the obvious perhaps) the translator is clearly a man who rendered the book into Modern English... thus not Elfwine (old scenario), and of course not Bilbo or any scribe from before Modern English arose -- which is not that long ago in Primary World history compared to the imagined thousands of years of history between Frodo's day and our day (1950s particularly).

Of course other options, besides Tolkien himself, remain available in theory, but anyway JRRT never revised the (author published) Elvish writing that marks him by name as the modern translator.

Finally, and this is a relatively minor point, there are a number of really glaring and basic Lore errors throughout the books.

Good to see you not just accepting a loremaster's lore... it should be done more often... except... well, you don't need to bother checking anything I post, as most of my stuff is made up anyway.

Although re-reading that thread now, I am struck by the line from Morgoth's Ring where Tolkien states that the Great Tales must have been Númenórean in form. Of course, his opinions seem to have been in flux at this point, but I am curious whether he abandoned this idea in favor of "Translations from the Elvish" when that idea (seems to have) gained favor in the 1960s, or whether we should suppose that Bilbo had access to works of Númenórean and Gondorian Lore in the library of Rivendell.

I've gone round the horn (is that an expression?) about an aspect of this with W. Hicklin: my view is that the Numenorean transmission fit right in with Bilbo, and is essentially the Bilbo transmission (as it would come to be imagined). Mr. Hicklin's major issue here (apologies if I have it wrong) seems to be that Bilbo would not translate incorrect or confused texts... especially when he had living Elves to consult...

... I say (and think it quite natural actually) that Bilbo would not correct such texts, even if Gildor or Glorfindel knew the truth about something. As Elfwine faithfully translated Eressean lore into Old English (in an old conception at least), Bilbo faithfully translated certain lore in the Rivendell archives, and it not only wasn't his job to correct ancient texts, why should he want to? These are works of art as well as legendary history! If I was tasked to translate some ancient chronicle, I wouldn't dream of making "corrections" to it*... and if one of them said the world was once flat, I would consider it my job to translate that.

"These two pieces [poems 6 and 16], therefore, are only re-handlings of Southern matter, though this may have reached Bilbo by way of Rivendell. No. 14 also depends upon the lore of Rivendell, Elvish and Numenorean, concerning the heroic days of the end of the First Age; it seems to contain echoes of the Numenorean tale of Turin and Mim the Dwarf."

JRRT, Adventures of Tom Bombadil

And if my "conclusion" and chronology (earlier thread) hold water, I think Tolkien considered Bilbo to be the translator of Numenorean and Elvish material in Imladris, and that Translations from the Elvish could easily refer to language in general, and include some Elvish works, or oral tales, as well. I imagine a measure of linguistic texts could have been Elvish (in authorship), or Bilbo could have used the living Noldor for consultation. Elvish memory was precise and long, but Quenta Silmarillion had become a largely Mannish affair.

Or so it seems to me  Very Happy

*except to distinguish grey from white you-know-whats. Such confusion as this is another animal altogether.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Mon Apr 18, 2016 4:27 pm

Also, I'll add that the re-characterization of the Silmarillion as a Mannish affair can be dated both to the "Myths Transformed period" and again in late texts, sandwiching the revised edition Note on the Shire Records (Bilbo and so on) and the revised start to Appendix A... and as I feel that these ideas do not conflict (including that the Numenoreans are Men and I think are meant to be included* in late references as part of the transmission of Mannish texts), for me the Bilbo/Numenorean tradition is both author-published and late.

If that makes sense and-or holds water, that is.

*I can't recall at the moment if any of these late "Mannish references" actually refer to the Numenoreans by name, but given the author-published reference to ATB above for example, we know that Numenorean lore was part of the library at Imladris.

:looks around, dabbles in old posts:

Ahh... a note to The Shibboleth of Feanor (note 17) reads in part: 'As is seen in the Silmarillion. This is not an Eldarin title or work. It is a compilation, probably made in Númenor (...) All however are 'Mannish' works.

Drat that "probably"... but still Very Happy
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon Apr 18, 2016 5:37 pm

Thank you for the very thought reply(ies), Elthir! Lots of good stuff to think about here. I wanted to just real quick transcribe the quote from Flieger that I disagreed with regarding her comments about the narrative voice of The Hobbit. Far be it from me to disagree with a scholar of Flieger's pedigree without being able to show my work. No

This is from chapter 4, in the section "a great big book with red letters" (pages 67-68 in my paperback edition):

Verlyn Flieger wrote:To do this, Tolkien had to develop a credible book tradition, of which the best-known example is The Lord of the Rings, the text of that is most familiar to readers. To underpin and validate the existence of this story, Tolkien went to elaborate lengths, over time creating a detailed fictive, interior "book" tradition--Bilbo's "diary", his "Translations from the Elvish,"his many references to finishing his book and giving it a happy ending, the masses of notes and paper in his room at Rivendell. A careful look will show that this tradition could be said to begin even before the conception of The Lord of the Rings with The Hobbit, which was presented from the very beginning of its published life (albeit obliquely) as Bilbo's memoirs, "compiled" by Tolkien himself. The runes on the jacket of the first and subsequent editions, when translated into English, read: THE HOBBIT OR THERE AND BACK AGAIN BEING THE RECORD OF A YEARS JOURNEY MADE BY BILBO BAGGINS OF HOBBITON COMPILED FROM HIS MEMOIRS BY J. R. R. TOLKIEN AND PUBLISHED BY GEORGE ALLEN AND UNWIN LTD. Like Poe's purloined letter, the evidence has been in plain sight, so obvious that it is easy to overlook. The idea falls apart on close examination, however, since the narrator of The Hobbit frequently addresses the reader in an authorial voice that is clearly not Bilbo.

There's a endnote at the end of this paragraph which refers to an essay about Tolkien's narrators in Flieger and Hosteter's Tolkien's Legendarium, which I do not have a copy of, but in any event this seems a bizarrely brief treatment of such an important subject, and a curiously flippant dismissal for an (in my opinion) poorly thought out reason. Flieger spends the rest of this section discussing LOTR (both editions), referring to "compilers" separately from Tolkien, and suggesting that the conceit of translation should perhaps not be taken that seriously.

It was all very strange to me, because the Red Book conceit is to me at the very heart of textual analysis of both The Hobbit and LOTR (to pick just one example, you can't possibly discuss the reliability of a narrator without having established who the narrator is). To my memory her book does not address the note in the Appendices establishing the difference between Tolkien-as-translator's own comments and the direct quotations from in-universe sources that make up the bulk of Appendix A.

It's even weirder since she devotes an entire section of chapter 4 to talking about Tolkien's facsimile pages from the Book of Mazarbul, and the better part of two chapters discussing Tolkien's (abandoned) ideas about Númenórean time travel stories. I couldn't help but feel that there was a measure of personal bias or preference affecting the analysis, since in the final chapter Flieger's states that Tolkien's abandonment of The Notion Club Papers was:

Verlyn Flieger wrote:a pity, and the Tolkien canon thereby suffered a great loss, first, because the shift from mythic fantasy to science fiction in the Atlantis story would have had a narrative style and direction hitherto untried, and, second, because each venture had, in a different way and at a different period in its author's creative life, explored uncharted narrative ground--the Eriol-Saga by marrying actual history and real-world myth to a fictive mythology, and the Atlantis stories by using memory as a vehicle for time travel.

Nowhere does Flieger engage in this level of editorializing about LOTR, though further down that same page she states that "these devices [the framing device in the preludes to TH, LOTR, and ATB] notwithstanding, his death left unfinished and unpublished one promising and innovative science fiction novel, and left tacitly unframed the work that started the whole idea, the Silmarillion in all its untidy and unfinished glory." I have a hard time parsing this as anything but a theory being rejected on the grounds of personal disappointment, which to me undermines a good portion of the whole book.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon Apr 18, 2016 5:49 pm

Elthir wrote:Huzzah Eldo! As I think I said in a recent canon related post, I much prefer the original Foreword and view it as canon. Also (to state the obvious perhaps) the translator is clearly a man who rendered the book into Modern English... thus not Elfwine (old scenario), and of course not Bilbo or any scribe from before Modern English arose -- which is not that long ago in Primary World history compared to the imagined thousands of years of history between Frodo's day and our day (1950s particularly).

Of course other options, besides Tolkien himself, remain available in theory, but anyway JRRT never revised the (author published) Elvish writing that marks him by name as the modern translator.

I recalled your post about the First Edition, and I quite wish I had a copy of it myself. Laughing Our recent canon discussions were part of the reason I bought Flieger's book and were in the back of my mind as I was reading it. I had not considered the notion of a modern figure out than Tolkien being the translator, though I suppose its possible in theory. One potential whole in the Red Book transmission is how Tolkien was able to understand Westron (a problem the Eriol transmission, with assistance, into Old English first does not have). My understanding is that the Second Edition of LOTR downplays references to Hobbits surviving into the modern era, but the Prologue still states that they survived and its not a huge leap (in light of Tolkien's comments about the location of Hobbiton) to imagine they were the vehicle for the perservation of the Red Book.

... I say (and think it quite natural actually) that Bilbo would not correct such texts, even if Gildor or Glorfindel knew the truth about something. As Elfwine faithfully translated Eressean lore into Old English (in an old conception at least), Bilbo faithfully translated certain lore in the Rivendell archives, and it not only wasn't his job to correct ancient texts, why should he want to? These are works of art as well as legendary history! If I was tasked to translate some ancient chronicle, I wouldn't dream of making "corrections" to it*... and if one of them said the world was once flat, I would consider it my job to translate that.

I think that makes quite a bit of sense. I could imagine Bilbo faithfully translating the Great Tales while also making separate editorial comments regarding the reliability of the Mannish mythological elements that might somehow have been the basis for "Myths Transformed", but I suspect this might be blending the in-universe and out-of-universe too much. In any event, fascinating thoughts on the matter, and I especially appreciate you highlighting that quote from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

Ahh... a note to The Shibboleth of Feanor (note 17) reads in part: 'As is seen in the Silmarillion. This is not an Eldarin title or work. It is a compilation, probably made in Númenor (...) All however are 'Mannish' works.

Drat that "probably"... but still Very Happy

Good stuff nonetheless. Thumbs Up
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:21 pm

Thanks for the context Eldo!

Eldorion wrote: There's a endnote at the end of this paragraph which refers to an essay about Tolkien's narrators in Flieger and Hosteter's Tolkien's Legendarium...

Yes that's Paul Edmund Thomas' essay, which at one point, states: "The narrator of The Hobbit reveals all his most salient qualities in the first chapter. The masculine personal pronouns may be used to refer to this narrator because it seems reasonable to assume that the narrator has a masculine voice resembling the author's. Nevertheless, the narrator's voice is not and cannot be precisely equivalent to Tolkien's voice, because Tolkien stands both inside and outside the novel. Tolkien permeates the whole of the words to the text, so every voice within it is his, and yet Tolkien also looked upon his text objectively. Thus the narrator is, from one perspective, just as much a character as Bard, Balin, and Bilbo. And yet the narrator is a special character: as a third-person narrator, he is merely a voice, and he is in the story but not in the plot, and of course his voice has a much closer relationship to Tolkien's voice than that of any other character."

Of course the essay itself is much longer, and looks at draft texts and so on, but this is (based on a quick scan of my copy) the most direct claim about the narrator being "not Tolkien" that I could find, if you're interested.

One potential whole in the Red Book transmission is how Tolkien was able to understand Westron (a problem the Eriol transmission, with assistance, into Old English first does not have).

Lately I've been going (partly) with: JRRT being aided here by dream-transmission (idea lifted from NC Papers) Wink

I could imagine Bilbo faithfully translating the Great Tales while also making separate editorial comments regarding the reliability of the Mannish mythological elements that might somehow have been the basis for "Myths Transformed", but I suspect this might be blending the in-universe and out-of-universe too much.

Also in Tolkien's Legendarium, Charles Noad implies that the new transmission is still somewhat problematic, as there would be living Elves in Imladris who would know the 'truth' of things and thus could correct wrong Mannish notions...

:agreeing with WCH I guess, but I still disagree:

... he adds however that possibly JRRT would be thinking of including something like the note on the back of the 'Túrin slip': 'A note should say that the Wise of Númenor recorded that the making of stars was not so, nor of Sun and Moon'.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon Apr 18, 2016 9:17 pm

Elthir wrote:Thanks for the context Eldo!

Of course. Smile I appreciate the quote from Tolkien's Legendarium. I keep hearing about this book during my recent reading and research, so I think that purchasing a copy will have to be the next item on my book shopping to-do list. It sounds very interesting.

Of course the essay itself is much longer, and looks at draft texts and so on, but this is (based on a quick scan of my copy) the most direct claim about the narrator being "not Tolkien" that I could find, if you're interested.

I don't want to judge Mr Thomas' essay before having had a chance to read the whole thing in context, but my initial reaction is that I am rather skeptical of the claim. I personally don't see a problem with saying that Tolkien wrote himself into the story in his fictitious role as discoverer and translator, while still acknowledging his true role as author. I get the sense that this is kind of what happened with the Second Edition of LOTR. Things got blended in the original Foreword, but the 2E Foreword is clearly written by Tolkien the author (talking about the reception of the book, the WW2 non-allegory, etc.) while the Prologue is clearly written by the translator and, perhaps, "curator" of the Red Book (as is the introductory note to the Appendices). I'm perfectly willing to treat this curator as Tolkien, though I suppose I could and should try to find more textual references for this.

That said, it's hard to imagine who else the translator might be. The narrator of The Hobbit is clearly a modern figure, based on many of his asides, but so is the narrator of The Lord of the Rings. Consider the infamous "express train" line, for one. There is no one else referenced in Tolkien's writings as a modern-day figure who is aware of the Red Book and related texts, so even though he backed off the conceit somewhat post-First Edition, process of elimination (and the continued presence of the runes) suggests only one viable candidate for the position.

Lately I've been going (partly) with: JRRT being aided here by dream-transmission (idea lifted from NC Papers) Wink

This is a fascinating idea and one that I would love to see explored further.

Also in Tolkien's Legendarium, Charles Noad implies that the new transmission is still somewhat problematic, as there would be living Elves in Imladris who would know the 'truth' of things and thus could correct wrong Mannish notions...

:agreeing with WCH I guess, but I still disagree:

... he adds however that possibly JRRT would be thinking of including something like the note on the back of the 'Túrin slip': 'A note should say that the Wise of Númenor recorded that the making of stars was not so, nor of Sun and Moon'.

I think we're on the same page here. I see Flieger's own comments about the internal source traditions in the legendarium being relevant here. Tolkien went out of his way to establish various fictitious versions of e.g. the Great Tales and he discussed who the various scholars and authors of different works were. There is no reason to think that there weren't multiple competing versions of various tales floating around in the libraries of Rivendell or Gondor. That's not to say that every single draft Tolkien wrote should be considered as having a story-internal existence (and, as Flieger notes, there are texts referenced internally that Tolkien never actually wrote). In fact, for Bilbo to make a book called Translations from the Elvish would imply that he was presenting the texts faithfully, not editing them for correctness, though it's easy to imagine some Christopher-esque editorial commentary and perhaps original essays of Bilbo's own devising to explain and frame the texts he presents.

Drifting into speculation here, but it seems more plausible to me than the alternative. Shrugging
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:24 pm

I bought Interrupted Music and Splintered Light after attending a public round table with Verlyn Flieger (she's in the English Department at University of Maryland, and teaches a course on Tolkien). She was quite delightful in this session, and I was impressed enough to buy the books.

Then I read the books, and was not at all impressed. There seems to be a bit too much of the typical masturbatory writing you too often find in literary criticism of 'important' books: more unintelligible stylings than clear explication. I still think she's a wonderful guide to Tolkien in person, but gets away with herself in writing.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 1:25 am

There were certainly a few parts where I felt like there was a culture gap between myself, having come up in a relatively more empirical social sciences field, and the English Department background that Flieger has.

Anyway, the cheapest (used) copy of Tolkien's Legendarium on Amazon is still over $100, so I dunno if I'll be getting a copy of that after all. It's better than the Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, however, which is going for a bargain basement price of $425. Laughing The Tolkien Society website has the proceedings of their 2005 and 2012 conventions available for £12 and £10 respectively but no mention of the 1992 one. No

Edit: well, I can swing by my old university library and read Tolkien's Legendarium (county library didn't have it, of course), but no luck on the Proceedings so far. Had really wanted to read "A Mythology? For England?" too since it was recommended to me years ago...
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by malickfan on Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:39 am

I haven't read any of the books mentioned above, but I'd definitely recommend reading The Road To Middle Earth (3rd Edition 2004/5) and Tolkien And The Great War if you haven't, the former is considered by many to be the best single most important work of literary criticism about Tolkien ever written, whilst the latter is simply a fascinating engrossing read that made me reconsider the BOLT era material from very different angles.

Anything by Hammond and Scull is excellent as well.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Tue Apr 19, 2016 12:30 pm

Having a chance to read through the above discussion in depth, I feel a need to defend Fleiger a bit. There's a very good reason she addresses the author/editor/translator/voice thing mainly with respect to the Hobbit rather than LotR: only in the Hobbit is the reader addressed directly, given rise to a multitude of framing device problems. The reason he did so of course is by origin the Hobbit was more of a children's book, and he addresses the reader as though telling the story to children with the usual asides and commentary.

I think here Fleiger's less analytical approach is more appropriate - Tolkien was playing things by ear, more so in the Hobbit than in the LotR. The LotR Houghton-Mifflin introduction clearly shows him as author rather than translator, for that was the role this introduction played: explaining why an American edition was needed. Analytical textual analysis doesn't hold here; you have to examine the reality of the author's motivations.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:56 pm

Eldorion wrote: Had really wanted to read "A Mythology? For England?" too since it was recommended to me years ago...

In ancient days one could order a copy from... :memory wanders:... a library in Engleland maybe? I probably could have narrowed it down better.

I don't think it was too expensive but of course I can't remember the cost either. Anyway I ordered "A Mythology For England" (C. Hostetter, A. Smith), and received "A Mythology? For England?" (A. Stenstrom) -- and later, recognizing their easy-to-make-mistake, whoever sent the latter sent the former for free. I have no idea where both papers are at the moment, or (as it seems) how I got them and from where :unhelpful emoticon:... but I thought this was humorous... at one point.

Anyway, I don't think even inventing a modern narrator -- if so that is -- need send Tolkien over his horse's crupper as translator. I think Tolkien can be the last in a line of translators (or scribes or something) who have taken up the task of presenting a story to "modern day" readers, and so his artistic sensibilities are in play: want to use express train similes or metaphors, or employ a "narrator" to help -- especially for a tale arguably written for younger Hobbit children -- and provide illustrations too... I think these things are up to the artist.

It's interesting that in the unused Epilogue Sam [who has been given the task of finishing the book] notes that the question-and-answer format isn't suitable to the story as Frodo wrote it, and he will have to try to write something more appropriate, and possibly get Mr. Meriadoc...

... I mean Mr. Kalimac...

... to help.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:08 pm

@Malickfan I've read a good deal Hammond & Scull stuff and have been revisiting The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion more recently. I stumbled across a copy of the Chronology in a used book store completely by accident a couple years ago, and I just recently ordered the Reader's Guide to go along with it. Razz Have never actually read Shippey, for whatever reason, but I might see if I can find his stuff in the library.

@Elthir I noticed that when I was looking over the contents of the Proceedings. Having looked around for reviews and in the citations of some other works, I'm not sure Stenstrom's essay is necessarily as relevant as I initially thought, though it would still be nice to be able to tell for sure. Poking around a bit more today, the Tolkien Library (the website) had a copy for sale a while back but no more, and all the other sites I can find are out except for a really expensive third party sellers. According to WorldCat the closest library to me that has a copy is the Library of Congress, so maybe it's time for another daytrip to DC and to renew my LOC reader's card. Razz
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by David H on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:13 pm

Eldorion wrote:so maybe it's time for another daytrip to DC and to renew my LOC reader's card. Razz

jealous No

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:14 pm

halfwise wrote:Having a chance to read through the above discussion in depth, I feel a need to defend Fleiger a bit.  There's a very good reason she addresses the author/editor/translator/voice thing mainly with respect to the Hobbit rather than LotR: only in the Hobbit is the reader addressed directly, given rise to a multitude of framing device problems.  The reason he did so of course is by origin the Hobbit was more of a children's book, and he addresses the reader as though telling the story to children with the usual asides and commentary.

The narrator/translator/whoever directly addresses the reader in the Prologue and Appendices to LOTR as well (Flieger comments on this in the Prologue but not the similar moment in the Appendices in Interrupted Music). But my main issue is her dismissal of the translator conceit in The Hobbit on the basis of (in my opinion) a misunderstanding of what Tolkien was going for.

I'm afraid I'm not really sure what you mean about TH causing "framing device problems". Shrugging

I think here Fleiger's less analytical approach is more appropriate - Tolkien was playing things by ear, more so in the Hobbit than in the LotR.  The LotR Houghton-Mifflin introduction clearly shows him as author rather than translator, for that was the role this introduction played: explaining why an American edition was needed.  Analytical textual analysis doesn't hold here; you have to examine the reality of the author's motivations.

I thought that Flieger was a little quick to jump to conclusions in a few places but I still found her book very interesting and the newness of the approach (to me) very thought-provoking. Clearly there is a broad range of literary analysis possible purely from the story-external perspective (most literary analysis, I'd imagine) and the "conceit" is largely irrelevant there. But Flieger made a very strong point in my opinion that since Tolkien was writing in a mythic style it's important to know who the myths were supposedly being told by, and to whom, from the story-internal perspective. I do think that affects how we as real world readers should look at Tolkien's work, but her answers to these questions ("whose myth is it?" as she asks in the book) is where I principally disagree with her.


Last edited by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:24 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:16 pm

David H wrote:jealous No

It's free to do if you're ever in DC, though they discourage tourists from doing so just to get access to the reading rooms. Definitely recommended if you ever have the chance. Reading in the main room especially is a really wild experience. I got to go a couple times during college; the first time I was technically too young but the professor I went with sweet talked the staff into letting me in.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by David H on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:36 pm

I've only made it to DC once, and that was only for 6 hours on that random round-the-world train trip, and I was wearing a Chinese Olympics knit cap and and had a Russian switchblade in my pocket which I had to stash to get through security in any public buildings. I doubt if I looked like a bona fide researcher just then. Suspect

I definitely need to go back sometime with a trimmed beard and my academic khakis, but what's a day trip for you is as as long and expensive as a trip to Hawaii for me.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:48 pm

I get your point. They let me in wearing shorts and a t-shirt though so if you ever end up on the East Coast for more than a day for any reason.... Though I suspect they're more wary of knives nowadays.

Hit me up if you're out here, too. I'll let you know if I'm ever in the Pacific Northwest again (which I certainly hope to be).
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by David H on Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:58 pm

Eldorion wrote:
Hit me up if you're out here, too. I'll let you know if I'm ever in the Pacific Northwest again (which I certainly hope to be).

Definitely!

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:50 pm

Raiding the University library with my shiny new alumni card.



{{{Dunno if I'm gonna get all of these yet ... they're only a small portion of their overall Tolkien studies collection. Unfortunately Dimitra Fimi's book is already checked out but oh well. Razz}}}
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:56 pm

Saw the opportunity to flip through J.E.A. Tyler's Companion for the first time but so far I'm not very impressed. Steuard Jensen's warning seems to hold true.

Tolkien's Legendarium has been as intriguing as I hoped so far. Only read two of the essays so far though.

Already own The Book of Lost Tales Part 1 but haven't had it with me for a while and I wanted to consult the Foreword.

Haven't read anything from Tolkien Studies 1 but some of the articles look promising. They have #5 here too but I don't want to have to carry too much. Laughing

Have heard so many good things about Tolkien and the Great War that I know I'm gonna bring that home. Similar situation with Shippey though I did read a bit of his introduction first.

Decided to get just one of the Jane Chance books (Tolkien's Art) though I'm not totally sold on it.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:10 pm

Eldorion wrote:
David H wrote:jealous No

It's free to do if you're ever in DC, though they discourage tourists from doing so just to get access to the reading rooms. Definitely recommended if you ever have the chance. Reading in the main room especially is a really wild experience. I got to go a couple times during college; the first time I was technically too young but the professor I went with sweet talked the staff into letting me in.


Even if you don't get into the reading room, the Library of Congress is perhaps the most gorgeous interior in DC. I've only seen the reading room looking through those windows from the main lobby, but that's a worthwhile experience by itself. And if ever in New York, don't miss the New York Public Library. People took reading more seriously back then.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:01 am

In addition to all of the library books, my copy of Arda Reconstructed did arrive several days ago, and I have been reading that, though not all in order. I'm afraid I have quite mixed feelings on the book so far. On the one hand, it is a fascinating reference work in terms of the connections Kane was able to draw between the published Silmarillion and the various "source" texts in The History of Middle-earth. On the other hand, the texts in HoMe are not in fact the sources -- those are the manuscripts. Christopher could not possibly have shown every miniscule change in from draft to draft in HoMe, nor did he ever attempt or claim to. Kane acknowledges this at several points, but does not seem to appreciate that his definitions of "significant" and related words may not necessarily be the same as Christopher's. Kane was taken to task for this at the time of publication by Carl Hostetter and William Hicklin on his forum (a thread I recall reading at the time), and in my opinion he never offered a satisfactory rebuttal to these criticisms. In fact, I do not think it possible for him to do so, as the simple fact that Kane did not have access to the manuscripts makes many of the confident assertions throughout the book (occasional disclaimers notwithstanding) impossible to support. I do not think that this removes all value from the book, but it requires a healthy measure of skepticism on the part of the reader.

All this said, I am actually very sympathetic to Kane's goals and many of his opinions. While I find his finger-wagging at Christopher to be presumptuous and his assertions of misogyny utterly lacking in merit*, there are many places where I agree that the more expanded versions of stories (largely those found in "the Later Silmarillion" volumes of HoMe) are substantially more interesting pieces of writing. They frequently provide far greater depth of character as well as greater immediacy in the style of prose. It has been more than half a decade since I last read "the Later Silmarillion" thoroughly, so some of the specifics had slipped my mind, but omissions clearly irk Kane and he describes many of them in detail. For example, he recounts the more expansive version of of the destruction of the Two Trees, the report of the death of Finwë, and the Oath of Fëanor and it is hard not to feel a twinge of regret that these memorable moments did not make the editorial cut. However, Jason Fisher makes the important observation that Tolkien himself likely would have used the compressed style in much of a hypothetical finished "Silmarillion". Furthermore, we must keep in mind the fact that Christopher did not have the hindsight of decades of work on The History of Middle-earth or the confidence that such scholarly works would be commercially successful to guide him while editing The Silmarillion. It is also quite plausible to suggest that the success of HoMe was only possible due to a coherent Silmarillion being published first and that jumping right into the even denser version might have proved fatal to the whole project of posthumous Tolkien publications.

In any event, Kane wrote an interesting and thought-provoking book, and if his ambition exceeded his reach, the vocal responses (both positive and negative) that his book received and continues to receive are a testament to the importance of the issues he raised. Kane described his wish that Arda Reconstructed would "help open the door" to further scholarship, and while I am not aware of any book-length response to or extension of Kane's work as of yet, he certainly started a valuable conversation.

*What Kane identifies as a trend in downplaying the role of female characters is in fact a trend in downplaying the role of secondary characters of both genders -- an inevitable side-effect of compression -- and it is of course not Christopher's fault that most of the female characters in "The Silmarillion" are secondary ones.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Thu Apr 21, 2016 12:30 pm

Eldorion wrote:Saw the opportunity to flip through J.E.A. Tyler's Companion for the first time but so far I'm not very impressed. Steuard Jensen's warning seems to hold true.

Also, I think Tyler's revised version includes Unfinished Tales, which then (at least possibly) involves silent decisions being made for the reader.

:confusion alert:

Although my personal canon does not include the constructed Silmarillion, at least it's...

... a communal read, so to speak, if the more detailed legends of the First Age are to be added to any Companion that desires an internal approach (beyond the servings of the First Age found in the author published corpus of course)...

... so for a Companion that seeks to be "internal" -- that is, provide the History of Middle-earth [including the First Age] rather than provide the history of the author's creation of Middle-earth -- I think the constructed Silmarillion is really the best choice...

... after all, one can hardly make a companion to the Elder Days based on one's personal design of the Elder Days. Every such "companion" would, in theory, be different at various points. All readers can, however, treat the constructed Silmarillion as an objective source (in the sense needed here), before interpretation begins, which a good scholar should be able to be descriptive about, and make it clear where opinion is edging in.

I'm not sure the average reader even wants an external approach, but if they do, Hammond and Scull's Companion and Guide goes through each chapter of the constructed Silmarillion and brings the goods in a scholarly fashion.
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