Saturday, May 20, 2023

Kalamazoo diversity


So, I’ve now had a chance to listen to the recording of the racism roundtable, and been able to confirm some of my in-person (virtual person, that is) impressions.

The first and foremost flaw, from my point of view, is DiNardo’s assertion (in the discussion following the papers) that, given the current crisis, Tolkien scholars needed to put aside biographical studies and exploration of Tolkien’s thought and instead focus their attention on Tolkien and racism and related issues. 

Tolkien’s invented languages were not mentioned but I can’t see how they’re not part of those marked for marginalization. Instead, she said, we need more RINGS OF POWER and especially MtG: Middle-earth. I concluded that she’s not really interested in LORD OF THE RINGS or THE SILMARILLION, et al, in themselves, as works of art, as in what can be done with them —i.e. as tools to fight racism.

My own belief is that as Tolkien scholars we’re all in this together. I don’t agree with the idea that Tolkien scholarship is a zero-sum game.

—John R.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

More on Kalamazoo diversity panel

So, unless I'm missing something (a very real possibility),  it looks as if the recorded sessions from this year's Medieval Congress are only available to those who registered for the conference. I didn't take any notes from the presentations for this roundtable but will try to listen to it over the next few days, schedule permiting. lf successful I'll post any resultant notes.

In the meantime, here's the list of presenters:

Kristine Swank (presider), Mercury Natis, Robin Reid, Luke Shelton, Toni DiNardo, Lars Johnson, and Mariana Rios Maldonado (respondent).


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

At Kalamazoo

 So,  Kalamazoo was an odd mix this year: a shrunken dealer's room (perhaps a third to half it's size in previous years) and far fewer people about (I heard estimates that this year's attendance was about two-thirds that in recent years). Yet in the meeting rooms there seemed to be a good crowd and no falling off in the quality of the papers and panels.

The first session, which I missed, was devoted to the Rings of Power series.

 That afternoon I attend the CSL session, which wrestled with Lewis's claim that there had never been a Renaissance in England, because the English hadn't needed one, never having had a 'Middle Ages'. The panelists were well-informed and mounted a well-spoken defense of what I suspect was more a case of Lewis being a gadfly than anything else.

Next up, the first Tolkien event I attended was devoted to controversy such as Tolkien and racism, gender issues,  colonialism, and the disturbing enthusiasm of white supremacists for his work. At least three of the speakers called for putting aside other forms of Tolkien scholarship, such as biographical studies, so we cd devote all our energy into meeting this the challenge. I was impressed, but part company when they put a 'MUST' into their thesis. 

Another session dealt with which major saints in the Church most influenced Tolkien, with Aquinas

and the Tomists winning out over Augustus; Bonaventure and Boethius came in for some mention but not, to my surprise, Francis.

I was struck by how far this session was from the Tolkien in Crisis session; it was as if the two groups came from different worlds.

Different again was a misc. panel that examined Tolkien as a translator, Tolkien and PEARL, et al. unfortunately the person who was to deliver the Numenor piece cdn't make it.

Last of all were the two back to back sessions devoted to Christopher Tolkien focusing on CT as a 

an editor of the legendarium. I think these together were my favorites of the whole conference.

There was much more, but this shd give an idea of what the revived Medievalist Congress was like. 

--John R

-- THE BATTLE OF MALDON (current reading: Tolkien's translation).

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT back in print

So, today is the release day for the American hardcover edition of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT (replacing the original two-volume set).  Unlike the original American edition, this is a one-volume book, like the recently re-released British edition.  It's been available in the UK as an e-book all along; now it's available over here as well. 

--John R., v. pleased to have my book reprinted. I put a lot of work into it and I'd like people like me who are interested in such things to have it readily available.

--'He who dies with the most copies of THE HOBBIT wins'

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Now at Kalamazoo

 So, I'm now at Kalamazoo. 

So far I've gotten their internet to accept my laptop (twice) --which I'll need, since some sessions at in-person, some virtual, and some mixed.

I've also Seen Someone I Know (in this case, Brad Eden)

and had my first poke into the Dealers' Room.

If shd surprise no one that I bought two books within the first ten minutes:




Last of all, I looked at the program book some more and tested the hang-out and socialize virtual room being hosted by Luke Shelton (hi Luke).

Now for some lunch, or at least a cup of tea, and then this afternoon it's off for the afternoon CSL session.

--John R.

--current reading: THE BATTLE OF MALDON by JRRT 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Anduin (Tolkien Manuscripts at Marquette)

 So, those who wonder what I've been up to for the last six years or so, here's a review of the project.

In brief, it involved Marquette's making high-quality scans of every page of manuscript, typescript, galley, proof, and misc (e.g. maps and small sketches) of LORD OF THE RINGS material and organizing them so it's now possible to trace through draft by draft to locate changes in phrasing and concepts.  Last fall's exhibit at Marquette shows the results.*

 Thanks to Brad Eden for the link.

--John R

*one important point to consider is that this increases access to the manuscripts while also preserving the originals.

Gawain before Kalamazoo

So, I'm now on the road, the first day of my trip to Kalamazoo.* After seeing the Glasgow panel I went back and re-read Tolkien's original lecture, which I had not looked at for a long time. The biggest takeaways for me include the speakers' use of the phrase "deep-rooted" to describe SGGK. They picked this up from Tolkien himself, who uses the these words at least three times in his essay, with great effect.

 Tolkien also makes several references to SGGK as a fairy tale, which may have struck the original audience as slightly odd but which a modern Tolkien reader will naturally link up with OF FAIRY-STORIES, first published just six years earlier. Similarly, a passing use of 'literary credibility' cd w. the benefit of hindsight be linked to OFS's secondary belief.

The part that really floors me is I think the same reason why this piece by one of the great scholars of his time (who specialized in fourteenth century literature) has been neglected. For Tolkien, Gawain's contest with the Lady is "a mere pastime" --not particularly important or interesting.  Instead, he argues that the most important event in the story is whether or not our hero made a valid confession before setting out for the final encounter with the Knight. I find it hard to accept that the Gawain-author wd have spent so much time and attention on what Tolkien sees as a side-issue and so little on what Tolkien argues is the main issue.

Still, I'm glad to see some belated attention come its way, and what others make of Tolkien's reading.

--John R.

--current reading: JRRT's THE BATTLE OF MALDON 

*so far we've got as far as Milwaukee

Monday, May 1, 2023

A Review of the Haggerty Tolkien Exhibit

For those who couldn't make it to the recent Tolkien Maps, Art, and Manuscripts exhibit at Marquette's Haggerty museum, here's a review that does a fine job showing what the exhibit space looked like as well as individual items on display : 

I was particularly pleased to see a description of the Archives' reprocessing project, which shd be of enormous help to future researches wanting to locate specific passages within the mass of manuscripts:

Before exiting the exhibition, one found a “bonus” portion across from the final named section that presented the complex navigation, reorganization, and ongoing digital humanities project that encompasses the Tolkien Archives. Here the curators contextualized Marquette’s initial acquisition of the Tolkien materials and how this exhibition coincided with the Raynor Memorial Library’s creation of the digital platform, AnduinTM. AnduinTM, named for the river that crossed most of Middle-earth east of the Misty and White Mountains, is the database system that is meant to resemble the “river of creativity flowing from Tolkien’s work.”

To highlight the ease of the new system of digital scanning in which you can view The Lord of
the Rings by book, chapter, chapter draft, and (eventually) individual passage, the curators included large interactive screens with which one could explore the database, a contrast in comparison with the cumbersome microfilm machines of the past and highlight of how far technological access has come for current and future Tolkien scholars and fans alike. For those wishing to access AnduinTM, please contact William Fliss ( at Marquette’s Special Collections and University Archives.

I'm planning to spend a day in the Archives after Kalamazoo , so we'll see how much I get through. 

--John R.

--current reading: several things, all of which are distracting me from each other.