Sunday, January 17, 2016

Someone says nice things about PERILOUS AND FAIR

So, thanks to Leslie Donavan for forwarding me the link to a blogger (N. Whyte or perhaps N. W. Hyte) discussing his or her picks from among the books that have made the 'long list' for the BSFA [British Science Fiction Association] award -- which, I'm happy to learn, include a collection I contributed an essay to: the Mythopoeic Press volume PERILOUS AND FAIR. Here's the link.

And here's the relevant passage:

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, eds. Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan

The relative invisibility of women in Tolkien's works is perhaps the most jarring aspect of them to a twenty-first century reader. As Una McCormack points out in the last of these essays, quoting an unnamed conference participant, there are more named horses than named women in The Lord of the Rings. These essays prove that you can write thought-provoking stuff about the flaws in the work you love. Though the case for Tolkien's defence can be made robustly, and John Rateliffe recounts his career of being considerably more active and enthusiastic about educating women (including Mary Renault) than was the norm for his day, C.S. Lewis being a sad counter example. There are a number of other very interesting essays, of which I particularly enjoyed Una McCormack's closing piece on fan fiction and Cami Agan's thoughts on Lúthien and bodily desire. I'm afraid there are a couple of silly pieces as well, one about Valkyries and the other about Éowyn, Twelfth Night and Carnival, but the majority of these are very interesting. (And the last footnote to Robin Reid's introductory bibliographic essay is heart-breaking.)

Reid's note (p. 36), which is indeed heartbreaking, reads as follows:

  "I directed [Stella M.] Ray's thesis* and include it here** for two reasons: first, it is the only work so far to deal in such depth with these four characters;*** second, the summer after she graduated, before she could begin the full-time tenure track job she had been offered, Ray was murdered by her ex-husband, who is now sentenced to death. As a result, plans she had for publishing articles from her dissertation will not occur, although I still hope to edit and publish a posthumous version of her work, with the copyright still held by her family."


*CONSTRUCTIONS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITIES IN J. R. R. TOLKIEN'S THE SILMARILLION and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, of which Reid says "the first (and so far only) of 47 dissertations indexed in the MLA International Bibliography that focuses entirely on female characters in Tolkien's legendarium"

**i.e., in her overview

***Varda, Ungoliant, Galadriel, and Shelob

1 comment:

N.E. Brigand said...

Ray's ex-husband arguably killed her because she'd written that dissertation. According to a news report:

"A popular English teacher at Caddo Mills High School, Ray had just completed her PhD in Literature at Texas A&M University at Commerce, and had told Brown when she found another job she would be taking the children away.

Brown meanwhile, had a history of minor arrests and drug use, which he says ultimately led to their divorce last year. 'She was ready to move on to a different life with a higher class of people.'"