Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Newest Publication!

So, a few days ago I got the news that my newest publication is now out, the essay "The Missing Women: Tolkien's Lifelong Committment to Women's Higher Education", which appears in the collection PERILOUS AND FAIR: WOMEN IN THE WORKS AND LIFE OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN,* ed. Leslie A. Donavan and Janet Brennan Croft, from the Mythopoeic Press.  There doesn't seem to be any entry up for it yet on the Mythopoeic Press site (http://www.mythsoc.org/press/), though it's available for order through amazon.com:


I have not yet gotten my author's copy, but gather it shd soon be available as a e-book as well.

I have to say, I'm delighted to have this essay finally be in print. It's an idea I've had for years; at least since I first learned that there was now a J. R. R. Tolkien Professor at Oxford, an endowed chair, and that it was attached to one of the women's colleges (this wd have been about the time of the 1992 centenary conference or possibly before).  I kept waiting for someone better qualified than myself to write it. Ideally the author of this topic shd be a woman, an academic familiar with the Oxford system, preferably English and of an older generation. I'm none of these things, but eventually concluded that if I didn't do it myself it just wasn't going to get done. I hope that at the least I've started the ball rolling; raised the topic so that others now can join in and carry it in more directions than I cd in a single piece -- it's really more a topic for a book than an essay, though I did my best within what space I had. I think this all the more likely because when I delivered it at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo the year before last (May 2013), the comments I got on it from people who came up and talked with me afterwards all took the form of pointed out more examples I could use, things that would add to and expand my case.

In brief, I argue against the widespread notion that Tolkien was a man who spent most of his time, by choice, in exclusively male company. As a corollary of that, I lay out the evidence that Tolkien was throughout his entire career a staunch supporter of women pursuing advanced degrees (a viewpoint not universal at Oxford in his day -- C. S. Lewis being an unabashed advocate of the opposite view).

As for the book as a whole, I remember the bad old days when critics of Tolkien used to glibly talk about how Tolkien didn't have any female characters -- something true of THE HOBBIT but not so much of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, not to mention THE SILMARILLION.  The advent of the Jackson films did a lot to challenge that preconception: those who felt Jackson had gotten the characters of Arwen or Galadriel or Eowyn wrong were moved to discuss what they felt these characters' true natures to be, and that discussion, having long since drifted from film-and-text comparisons back to purely literary discussion, shows no sign of stopping anytime soon, as the contents of this collection show.

I'm looking forward to getting my copy so I can read through my fellow contributors' contributions. It shd be enlightening.

--John R.

current reading: THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS: An Inspector Morse novel by Colin Dexter [1992]
current dvd: AMERICAN RADICAL: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein [2009]

*I think my essay's inclusion is the reason for the 'and life' in the title;  I think mine is the only biographical piece in this collection.

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