Interpreting LOTR: Authorial Intent: Does it matter?

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halfir 30/Jun/2006 at 11:23 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Interpreting LOTR: Authorial Intent: Does it matter? Some observations with particular regard to Tolkien’s views on LOTR

 

 

As I was working on the next section of my Tom and the Nature of Power  post  and striving to identify what Tolkien could have meant in his very complex response in LOTR to war and power and control, I was visited by the God Loki- who- true to form- whispered in my ear the heresy:

 

Does it matter’?

 

This trickster – the ‘enemy within’ of the Aesir is, of course, known for more significant acts than wasting time asking me awkward questions {Ragnarok and the giants ring any bells?} but, foolish mortal that I am, and, being flattered to be in the presence of a God (I won’t enter here into the disputes as to whether or not  he was an Aesir or just counted as one because he dwelt among them), I decided to ponder his question.

 

Which of course, led me to this post.

 

We frequently have feisty – and sometimes acrimonious - debate  here on the Plaza as to what Tolkien meant by a particular word or phrase or passage  in LOTR. And we often pray in aid the Letters – where they illuminate his text- to settle our interpretive disputes.

 

But one school of thought would see our approach as that of ‘same o’l, same ol’  antiquarians grubbing for facts from ‘received authority’ – the author -accumulators of ‘dry as dust’ misinformation, rather than pioneers  empathetically interacting with the text and getting our answers that way.

 

Indeed, it would see our ‘standard’ approach of ‘authorial intent’  as irrelevant.

 

So, prodded by the God of Mischief (not to say malice) I thought it might be fun to do a little ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking on the subject and see just how different Plaza members would respond to the thesis that :

 

what Tolkien later consciously thought about it {LOTR} is interesting, but not authoritative as to the work’s meaning {Cantor: reference details below}

 

To help us on our way I have given some quotes which enlarge upon the concept that Roland Barthes immortalized in his comment:

 

the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.

 

 

“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is the neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing….

 

The author is a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as, emerging from the Middle Ages with English empiricism, French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation, it discovered the prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the "human person." It is thus logical that in literature it should be this positivism, the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the "person" of the author. The author still reigns in histories of literature, biographies of writers, interviews, magazines, as in the very consciousness of men of letters anxious to unite their person and their work through diaries and memoirs. The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centered on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions, while criticism still consists for the most part in saying that Baudelaire’s work is the failure of Baudelaire the man, van Gogh’s his madness, Tchaikovsky’s his vice. The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author "confiding" in us.

 

The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after. The Author is though to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecedence to his work as a father to his child…….

 

A text is not a line of words releasing a single "theological" meaning (the "message" of the Author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash…….

 

Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing…..

 

Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations to dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination

 

Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature.

 

We know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the {Authorial} myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.”

 

{Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author" (1977)}

 

 

The LothR exists, apart from what Tolkien said at one time or another it was supposed to mean. It was largely a product of the realm of fantasy in the unconscious: that was the ultimate source. Therefore, what Tolkien later consciously thought about it is interesting, but not authoritative as to the work’s meaning”

 

{Norman F Cantor writing in Inventing the Middle Ages. The Lives, Works and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century, William Morrow, New York,  1991, pp. 230-231}

 

“I do not ‘.know all the answers’. Much of my own book puzzles me; & in any case much of it was written so long ago (anything up to 20 years) that I read it now as if it were from a strange hand.’ {Letter # 211}

 

“Of course The L.R. does not belong to me. It has been brought forth and must now go its appointed way in the world, though naturally I take a deep interest in its fortunes, as a parent would of a child.” {Letter # 328}

 

N.B. {my emphasis and underline in all instances; italics by the original authors.}

 

  

So, how do we respond to the proposition that:

 

what Tolkien later consciously thought about it {LOTR} is interesting, but not authoritative as to the work’s meaning?

 

 

Lady d`Ecthelion 01/Jul/2006 at 12:19 AM
Doorwarden of Minas Tirith Points: 5312 Posts: 4083 Joined: 14/May/2003
Quote: Originally posted by halfir on Friday, June 30, 2006
Interpreting LOTR: Authorial Intent: Does it matter? Some observations with particular regard to Tolkien’s views on LOTR

As I was working on the next section of my "Tom and the Nature of Power" and striving to identify what Tolkien could have meant in his very complex response in LOTR to war and power and control, I was visited by the God Loki- who- true to form- whispered in my ear the heresy:

Does it matter’?


It surely does!
Besides, Master T. has said it himself (in "On Fairy stories" - essay) :

"By “the soup” I mean the story as it is served up by its author or teller, and by “the bones” its sources or material—even when (by rare luck) those can be with certainty discovered. But I do not, of course, forbid criticism of the soup as soup. "

But I send my love to that Loki God, for having inspired you to open this thread, Master!

Ah! And one more thing, if I may, coming again from the a.m. essay, that I think might refer to the topic:

"But if we speak of a Cauldron, we must not wholly forget the Cooks. There are many things in the Cauldron, but the Cooks do not dip in the ladle quite blindly. Their selection is important. The gods are after all gods, and it is a matter of some moment what stories are told of them."

So, does the authorial intent matter?
I don’t know about ’the intent’ itself, but IMO it does matter what selection has the author made at "dipping in the ladle".

And from here methinks, that whatever "flavour" the reader then tastes in the "served portion" of that "soup", he still deals with what has been "served" in his "plate" - and that has been the selection of the author... don’t you think?



Captain Bingo 01/Jul/2006 at 01:00 AM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 1573 Posts: 957 Joined: 31/Jan/2006
Well, Tolkien was the writer, so his opinion should be given weight, but I think we have to take his opinions/interpretations of the Legendarium & the Legendarium itself. Tolkien stated LotR is a ’fundamentally religious & Catholic work’. I don’t think it is. Clearly he believed it was, but that doesn’t make it true. The Letters, in particular, are a bad guide in terms of what it all really meant. First of all, we don’t have the letters he was responding to, so we don’t have context for them. Secondly, he was often writing what came to him at the moment, rather than sitting down for a long period of time & thinking through his interpretation.

When Tolkien writes that Frodo claimed the Ring & it was taken by Gollum who then tripped & fell in to the Fire, that’s a fact. When he, years later, tells us what the significance of the event was, invoking the Lord’s Prayer, etc, its an opinion & is no more valid than any other (informed) reader’s.

I think Tolkien was occasionally guilty of confusing applicability with fact - if I can put it that way. He would ’apply’ a Catholic interepretation & to his works & tell his correspondents that that interpretation was the real meaning. My take on the events of the stories often clashes with Tolkien’s own. I don’t see LotR as ’fundamentally Christian’. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems a fundamentally secular work. The One (ie ’God) crops up only in the Appendices, the Valar get a mention at Aragorn’s crowning, but these references can be missed & will only be relevant to readders who know the Silmarillion, not to the general mass of readers (& certainly not to those readers who took LotR to their hearts in the 50’s, 60’s & early-mid 70’s, who had no access to other works in the Legendarium - & please no one bring up AoTB or TRGEO).

LotR, if read as a stand alone work (including TH or otherwise), certainly depicts a world where there is religious belief among Elves & certain Men, but the element of actual Divine intervention is down to the reader’s own opinion/interpretation. LotR can be read as a secular work, about, in Tolkien’s own words, ’Death, the inevitability of Death’. Whether Tolkien would have approved of that kind of reading is really neither here nor there.

There is a great danger in the approach, typified by those who call Tolkien ’The Master’, of treating every word he wrote (even in some dashed off note to Mr Bloggs of Croyden in 1967) as ’Holy Writ’.

Tolkien was not ’The Master’ (a term which would, I suspect have appalled such a humble & self effacing man). He certainly had an agenda in terms of wanting to present his work as Fundamentally Catholic. Nothing, in LotR certainly, is anything of the sort - if it was it would have been too close to allegory (in the sense of one story being in the service of another).

If it has a ’meaning’ - which I’m not sure it does - it is a meaning contained within & in the main only relevant to, the characters within the story. Any relevance it has to our own personal lives is down to what he called ’Applicability’.

In short, I give no special weight to Tolkien’s interpretations (often formulated long after the fact). Of course, his personal philosophy/world view shaped the story in part, but so did many other things, & that worldview changed throughout his life. Anyone who has read Garth’s biography will no doubt have been quite surprised by the worldview Tolkien shared with members of the TCBS, & comparing this to his words in the Introduction to the Second Edition of LotR will show clearly that what he thought at one point in his life was very different to what he thought at another. His intentions changed as he grew older, & so did his understanding of his own work, & his perception of what that work meant to him & to others.
Captain Bingo 01/Jul/2006 at 01:14 AM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 1573 Posts: 957 Joined: 31/Jan/2006
Compare (From Garth’s Biography)


Quote: (p14)Tolkien once compared the TCBS to the pre-Raphaelites, probably in response to the Brotherhood’s preoccupation with restoring Medieval values in Art.

(p56) Tolkien maintained that the society was ’a great idea which has never become quite articulate’. Its two poles, the moral & the aesthetic, could be complemantary if kept in balance...While the Great Twin Brethren (Tolkien & Wiseman) had discussed the fundamentals of existence, neither of them had done so with Gilson or Smith. As a result, Tolkien declared, the potential these four ’amazing’ individuals contained in combination remained unbroached.’

(p105) Gilson proposed that feminism would help by banishing the view that ’woman was just an apparatus for man’s pleasure’

Smith declared that, through Art, the four would have to leave the world better than they had found it. Their role would be ’ to drive from life, letters, the satge & society that dabbling in & hankering after the unpleasant sides & incidents in life & nature which have captured the larger & worser tastes in Oxford, London & the world ... To re-establish sanity, cleanliness, & the love of real & true beauty in everyone’s breast.

Gilson told Tolkien that, sitting in Routh Road... ’I suddenly saw the TCBS in a blaze of Light as a great Moral reformer ...Engalnd purified of its loathsome moral disease by the TCBS spirit. It is an enormous task & we shall not see it accomplished in our lifetime.

(p 122) Rob Gilson: I like to say & to hear it said & to feel boldly that the glory of beauty & order & joyful contentment in the universe is the presence of God....GB Smith was closely attentive to Tolkien’s vision & in some measure shared it....Smith saw no demarcation between holiness & Faerie.

(p136) TCBSianism had come to mean fortitude & courage & alliance. ...But the TCBS had absorbed patriotic duty into its constitution not simply because its members were all patriots. the war mattered because it was being fought ’so England’s self draw breath’; so that the inspirations of ’the real days’ of peace might survive’...

Gilson: ’I have faith taht the TCBS may for itself - never for the world - thank God for this war some day.

Tolkien already believed that the terrros to come might serve him in the visionary work of his life - if he survived.

(p174) Tolkien: ’Regarding, presumably, those same ’idle chatterers’, the journalists& their readers whom Smith execrated, he wrote that ’No filter of true sentiment, no ray of feeling for beauty, women, history or their country shall reach them again.’

(p180) Smith (after Rob Gilson’s death in battle) ’The group was spiritual in character, ’an influence on the state of being’, & as such it transcended mortality; it was ’as permanently inseperable as Thor & his hammer’. the influence, he said, was, ’a tradition, which forty years from now will still be as strong to us (if we are alive, & if we are not) as it is today.

(Tolkien) ’the TCBS may have been all we dreamt - & its work in the end be done by three or two or one survivor ... To this I now pin my hopes..’

(p253) Smith had wanted them to leave the world a better place than when they found it, to ’re-establish sanity, cleanliness, & the love of real & true beauty’ through art embodying TCBSian principles.

(p308) ’The 24 year old Tolkien had believed just as strongly in the dream shared by the TCBS, & felt that they ’had been granted some spark of fire ... that was destined to kindle a new light, or, what is the same thing, rekindle an old light in the world

(p309) But The Lord of the Rings, the masterpiece that was published a decade & a half later, stands as the fruition of the TCBSian dream, a light drawn from ancient sources to illumnate a darkening world’.




To (from The Preface to the Second Edition of LotR)

The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault. Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer. But even from the
points of view of many who have enjoyed my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, or to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short. As for any inner meaning or ’message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.
halfir 01/Jul/2006 at 04:41 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

aldoriana: And from here methinks, that whatever "flavour" the reader then tastes in the "served portion" of that "soup", he still deals with what has been "served" in his "plate" - and that has been the selection of the author... don’t you think?

The ingredients have certainly been chosen by the author, but the "flavour" the reader then tastes as we see so frequently from posts here on the Plaza differs both from reader to reader and reader to author!

Captain Bingo: I do not have the time to do your excellent posts justice at the moment -but I will certainly return shortly.

As one who calls Tolkien ’The Master’ I should perhaps explain that I do so in the context of one who is a master of his craft- in his instance- storytelling. Here in the east (I am a Westerner living in Thailand for nigh on 17 years) we pay great respect to the great Masters- e.g. Zen Masters - for their mastery both of their area of study and, much more importantly, of themselves. (I will be dealing with this concept in the current section of my opus on Tom in AL  -Tom and the Nature of Power).

And Tolkien’s mastery lay in the fact that he created a legendarium which -was spellbinding - and as he himself tells us in his essay On Fairy Stories:

spell means both a story told and a formula of power over living men’

a perfect description of LOTR!

But-as usual -I digress- which leads me on to my second digression!X(

I wanted to comment briefly on one of your Garth references:

(p308) ’The 24 year old Tolkien had believed just as strongly in the dream shared by the TCBS, & felt that they ’had been granted some spark of fire ... that was destined to kindle a new light, or, what is the same thing, rekindle an old light in the world

This is, of course, from Letter # 5:

’what I meant... was...that the TCBS had been granted some spark of fire - certainly as a body if not singly- that was destined to kindle a new light, or, what is the same thing, rekindle an old light in the world;that the TCBS was destined to testify for God and Truth in a more direct way even than by laying down its several lives in this war (which is for all the evil of our own side with large view good against evil’.){my bold emphasis}

When I first read this letter I was struck by the similarity  between the TCBS and the  -unstained-  Istari , and TCBS’s  view of their mission- which Gandalf at least exemplifes with that of the Istari. Even the language is similar:

’For this is the Ring of Fire, and herewith ,maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill. {Cirdan to Gandalf- The Silmarillion Of The Rings Of Power - my bold emphasis}

’Warm and eager was his {Gandalf’s} spirit ( and it was enhanced by the ring Narya), for he ws the enemy of auron , opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire than kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress: but his joy , and his swift warth, were veiled in garmenst greay as ash, so that only those that knew him glimpsed the flame that was within.....

Yet is is said that in the ending of the task for which he came he suffered greatly, and was slain,and being sent back from death for a brief while was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame (yet veiled still save in great need).{UT-The Istari}

 

Nieliqui Vaneyar 01/Jul/2006 at 06:47 AM
Bowmaster of Lothlorien Points: 8191 Posts: 8480 Joined: 14/Feb/2003

<sigh>  well, here is my quite simplistic response that I have been whining about for much too long on the plaza.

If we are to take Tolkien as the author of these stories, then I believe we should be looking at authorial intent.

If we are to take Tolkien at his conceit - having translated the stories - then I think we can open up the discussion more to comparable writings, personal revelation, etc.

And, finally, I think sometimes we should divide some of these Lore threads up into something like that division.  One where we can argue authorial intent until the cows come home, and use each and every reference Tolkien ever wrote even marginally involving M-e. And the other, where there are no holds barred and the poster that wants to drag in obscure Tolkienisms is drowned out in a cacaphony of ’that’s not my interpretation’.  Or maybe something not quite so harsh.

(I guess I was laughing too much in reading the following to think clearly anymore, sorry! - http://www.mark-shea.com/LOTR.html)

halfir 01/Jul/2006 at 08:29 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

NE: Mr. Shea’s send-up of Tolkien criticism is amusing, but, like all such spoofs only stresses yet again the power of the original work in the first instance to engender such approaches. In other words it attests to the on-going fascination we all have with LOTR.

But it’s a great read! Thanks for the reference.X(

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 03:07 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

My Lord halfir, I have been away from the plaza for quite a while but this topic, and timing, is one I obviously cannot avoid having a say on.

Barthes spins my head, as it is too weighty in its own way. I think the most important issue further down, in your Cantor quote, who I do not know of: It was largely a product of the realm of fantasy in the unconscious: that was the ultimate source.

I think this a good place to approach intent, and the rights of readership. There is an illusion that fantasy is only that, that the unconscious is only that, namely, what we already knew oh so easily. I would say, instead, that intent is, to begin with, not separable from the notion of true wholeness. Is that writer a whole person, yes, or no? That can only be judged on the basis of the man`s whole life, and probably to get close to that assessment, a mixture of the two approaches are necessary. There has to be something like scholarship examining the data, in this case, the Master`s books, his Letters, but also the statement of his pictorial art, and whatever we can glean, not always easy, of his deeper experiences -- not beliefs! -- 
in matters like openness to dreams, to symbols, to healing, and to maximizing the basic strength of life-force, personal, and, gosh, planetary.

The 
reader, in return, has access to the unconscious on the basis of that work. Of any work. This will be true regardless of whatever cultural product is there. So no book, whatsoever, and this will always be true, prevents us from examining the composite of good readership plus real access to the unconscious, via fantasy.

Fantasy is nothing more than active imagination, taken seriously by the self. A good reader, good writer, has an uncanny ability to live such realms of the mind, via vision, meditation, etc.

Any reader who comes away from TLOTR not believing at all in a fruitful unconscious, is simply not tasting the true thing in all its simple glory. With Barthes, I suspect some other agenda, vaguely this, vaguely that, and with a bit of topical Marxism or whatever to gussy it up. A reader can only get the best out of TLOTR based on an real and ongoing personal experience with that other side of the mind. Which is never tired, never jaundiced on life. It goes to the source, thrives on it.

So it is not as if the reader, as mere reader, can do anything he or she wants with the book. That has to be validated as well by how these two parts of the mind come together.

I love how you point out that mission sense of Tolkien`s and how, precisely, he located it in a group context. This too is an issue not often located, especially in the West, with its faith in the doingness of the solitary individual. There must be the right group spirit, however small, for the best kind of reading to happen, whether of the traditional, scholarly sort, or of the wild reader, heading out eventually on his or her own personal adventure of life, which no academic circle takes all that seriously. Only interested ion the extensive footnotes! and whether or not, you, too, payed your dues, so to speak. Laugh.

That fire angle you point is, as you will sense, of deep, deep import. I would say that one who has access to the unconscious, in its truest sense, grasps on a mysterious level how any answer to a question sends out messages to all kinds of individuals. Unfortunately, when we discuss matters like the reader, the writer, we as humans end up too much thinking it is some 1-1 test of wills, of intellect, of skill in reading. The better sort of dialogue knows, rather, that it is talking to all minds as a result, and encouraging all kinds of personal truths, yet which follow our own bloodborn need for logic, lucidity, and if at all possible, consensus. The better sort of readership, of scholarship, locates a second layer of mind within itself? Why would it not? Surely the simple notion of Self as Ego, as that mind, partial, cannot satisfy the individual. The best of either approach grows beautifully. It must, or it is rootless, not at home in the world.

Question. Does Cantor truly understand this need for the union of two minds? I sense somebody who thinks it, well, only fantasy. I could be wrong, not knowing the man, nor the full import of his work.

But the truth, essentially Jungian, of the psyche is this. Any datum for the psyche is real on that level. So it must be respected, and in fact regarded as totally appropriate.

Master Tolkien, I believed, lived this wholeness. When we read TLOTR, we must do so as believing in the underlying message, that adventures in this precise mode are possible, in fact are even going on right now, as they always are.

That means not all is up to the reader, for the underlying union of those two minds, to the degree possible, is simply a ritual that follows the innermost needs of the human being. It cannot be invented out of the blue, and you follow it with deep belief, the best of your whole four faculties (reason, feeling, intuition, sensation, not to mention sheer playfulness, a fifth faculty), respect for human solidarity, meetings, frequent, with the 
book itself, or whatever outside, in cultural item, moves you deeply, and and thus encounter parallel worlds, within yourself, and equally outside, where, yes, those two minds do coalesce.

Eladar 01/Jul/2006 at 03:23 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

As far as I can tell, this is simply a personal opinion thread.  If you believe what Tolkien thought is important, then authorial intent is important.  If you don’t really care what Tolkien thought, then it doesn’t matter.  It is as simple as that.

Welcome back Rohanya.

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 03:33 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Thanks, Eladar!

Let us think outside of the box. You say what Tolkien `thought` so I assume you mean precisely that, what he had as thought product in his self-conscious mind.

Is that a fair assessment?

I am interested in intent that goes beyond that. What did he feel, what did he sense, what did he intuit? Why must it be assumed that the intention of the writer is only thought product, which is not the complete person?

If you are interested in Master Tolkien, you are interested in exploring, to the best of your ability, all four aspects of his personality. Nor is the matter of the unconscious, and its reality, anything to do with mere personal opinion. It is the other side of the mind, and natural need of any individual who has ever lived. So JRR`s intent, in a broader perspective, was to bring those two together, to heal himself, so to speak, to help others.

Let us see where this goes, hopefully somewhere of benefit to all.

Like my flower? Laugh. Daffodil.
Eladar 01/Jul/2006 at 03:45 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

Let us think outside of the box. You say what Tolkien `thought` so I assume you mean precisely that, what he had as thought product in his self-conscious mind.

As a work in progress or as he wrote it the first time?  I view it as he viewed it, a work in progress.  When I say it, I mean the LotR and the Legendarium.

I am interested in intent that goes beyond that. What did he feel, what did he sense, what did he intuit? Why must it be assumed that the intention of the writer is only thought product, which is not the complete person?

Tolkien contemplated how his story was much more than what he consciously wrote.  He attributed this to God.  He believed that God used him as an instrument to write the story he wrote.  Although the Catholic ideas he originally unconsiously introduced into the story were not intentional, he later came back to his stories and amended them in a conscious effort to make them more Catholic.

Let us see where this goes, hopefully somewhere of benefit to all.

I’m afraid that my view is in line with Tolkien’s in respect to the existance of the Christian God.  So while many dismiss the possibility of being an instrument of God, I see it as an interesting possibility.  According to some Catholics I’ve run across on the internet, I might go so far as to say probability.

Sorry for being such a party pooper, but with so many intellegent people around who approach Tolkien’s works in a way that fits with yours, I’m sure someone else will join in and take my place.

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 03:51 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
OK, Eladar...you being an extremely lucid thinker on your own ground have a right, naturally, to partake or not. I shall at least append a few comments. It could be that we agree on basic issues.

I think you forget how JRR was at least three items, for he also did pictorial art, and thus we should examine it as well. We have to see those images, not just the words he wrote.

We agree, then, on access to a divine source. That would be precisely as you say it is, in a sense, very real, an instrument of that higher power, whatever one chooses to name it.

Eladar 01/Jul/2006 at 04:18 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

Thanks for the complement.

I think you forget how JRR was at least three items, for he also did pictorial art, and thus we should examine it as well.

I don’t like Tolkien’ art work.  I don’t like Tolkien’s poetry either.  What I do like is reading Tolkien’s stories.

We have to see those images, not just the words he wrote.

Perhaps art is your cup of tea, but it isn’t mine.  I am rather blue collar in my view of drawings and paintings.

We agree, then, on access to a divine source.

I guess we do, but we don’t agree on how we define that source.  How that source is defined lays the foundations on how we view Tolkien’s work.  What is the nature of good and evil?  People with different views of divinity often disagree on how good and evil works in Tolkien’s Middle-earth too.

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 04:37 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Eladar, may I therefore have permission to try and engage your mind a little further? If so, intent of the self just has to be given total respect. So the fact that JRR did poems as well as pictures (and I thank you for pointing out that vital fourth I had left out, poetry) is the nuts and bolts of intent. There is no understanding of this very amazing man without examining all that he produced.

Returning to what Lord halfir asked, what Master Tolkien consciously thought about his work, and here you and I can agree on the thing in progress for the purposes of discussion, just has to include what he drew, what he penned in terms of poetry. Perhaps others can explain the notion better than I. Would it be the rational conclusion, however, to regard your interpretation of intent, being minus the pictures and poems, due to personal inclination, as objectively insufficient?

No challenge, just your rational conclusion asked for.

halfir 01/Jul/2006 at 04:55 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

What I find interesting about the quotes that I used to introduce this thread (or-to ensure that I do not arouse the anger of the god- that Loki inspired me to introduce!X() is that while they all emanate from very different personalities and philosophies, there is some commonality between them- and that is perhaps best summed up in the phrsae that Tolkien used in his Introduction to FOTR when he was voicing his hostility to allegory.

Tolkien speaks there, very clearly, about the

’freedom of the reader’

as opposed to the

purposed domination of the author’.

Barthes observes:

A text is not a line of words releasing a single "theological" meaning (the "message" of the Author-God) ;

in similar vein albeit for different reasons Cantor states:

what Tolkien later consciously thought about it is interesting, but not authoritative as to the work’s meaning”

and Tolkien himself- in objecting to the ’purposed domination of the author’ tells us that in any case he does not ‘know all the answers’ and that Of course The L.R. does not belong to me which certainly has a flavor, if not the full philosophy of Barthes’ comment:The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination

 In the opening  post of my  a thread –long since archived, entitled Externalization and LOTR - a speculation  (May 22 2002)

http://www.lotrplaza.com/archive/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=46&TopicID=9881&PagePosition=7

I wrote the following, which I think is germane to this discussion:

"Tolkien made two observations which I think are insightful into how he viewed the intrepretation of his work by his readers, particularly LOTR.

The first is contained in the Foreword to FOTR and deals with the concept of applicability. The second is contained in Letter# 211 and deals with the externalization of potentiality.

In the Foreword to FOTR Tolkien asserts his dislike of allegory ( a dislike reaffirmed in his January 1971 BBC Radio 4 interview). His reasons  throw light on his approach to the way he feels literature should be interpreted:

"I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ’applicability’ with ’allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author." ( my bold emphasis).

In Letter #211 Tolkien inter alia  talks about the Ring of Sauron:

’The Ring of Sauron is only one of the various mythical treatments of the placing of one’s life, or power, in some external object, which is thus exposed to capture or destruction with disastrous results to oneself. If I were to ’philosophize’ this myth, or at least the Ring of Sauron, I would say it was a mythical way of representing the truth that potency (or perhaps rather potentiality) if it is to be exercised, and produce results, has to be externalized and so as it were passes, to a greater or less degree, out of one’s direct control." (my bold emphasis).

Unlike his friend and fellow writer C. S. Lewis, Tolkien eschewed allegory as a literary form, as he saw it as inhibiting the freedom of the reader. He clearly felt that a reader’s thoughts and experience had an important part to play in the interpretation of the literary work, whereas the allegorists sought to dominate that process by authorial propaganda - the author’s ’message’  was effectively the be all and end all and the reader brought nothing of consequence to the party. (I deliberately state the allegorical case in extremis in order to emphasize the point).

But allowing the reader that freedom - of thought and experience - carries a penalty for the author, and that he draws attention to in Letter # 211 albeit talking about the Ring. If we replace the Ring with Tolkien’s literary creations as the ’external object’, and more specifically LOTR, we get an interesting insight into the problems that a writer holding to Tolkien’s view of reader interpretation can face. 

The exercising and production of results - the externalization - is the creation of LOTR. The passing out of direct control, is the publication of the work. The exposure to capture or destruction, with disastrous results to oneself resides in the fact that any reader can now take control of what has been written and interpret it at will. (We have only to see the effect on Tolkien of some of the earlier critical reviews of LOTR which while not perhaps producing ’disastrous results’ certainly had a very bruising impact.). Moreover, the attempt by some fundamenatalist Christians to hijack LOTR for their own purposes, or of the environmental lobby to adopt the work as an apologia of environmental protectionism, shows how dangerous the thought and experience of the reader can be, and how the literary work can be ’captured’ or  even ’destroyed’.

It seems to me that in being granted this freedom to bring our own thought and experience to the interpretation of his work, we owe it to the author to exercise that freedom responsibly and  always with respect to the overall textual context . Otherwise the "Music of the Ainur’ that is LOTR will be given its own version of Melkor’s discord, with attendant disservice to the plan of Iluvatar - J R R Tolkien."

 

 

Eladar 01/Jul/2006 at 06:32 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

halfir,

If what you are saying is accurate, then why did Tolkien bother giving his view or trying to explain how things worked?  It seems to me that he believed that his views were unimportant he would have simply said "just read the story and make up your own mind".

 

Rohanyamato,

Eladar, may I therefore have permission to try and engage your mind a little further?

Sure!

There is no understanding of this very amazing man without examining all that he produced.

I think we have hit one difference in point of view, you attempt to understand the man while I am trying to understand the story.  They are not one in the same.  

 Would it be the rational conclusion, however, to regard your interpretation of intent, being minus the pictures and poems, due to personal inclination, as objectively insufficient?

That all depends.  Do the pictures and poetry add something new which can’t be understood from the text itself? 

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 06:34 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

My Lord halfir, very thoughtful. The externalization angle you mention is of course of great profundity, if we consider its ramifications: potency has to be externalized. This would mean, in my holistic framework, that intent of the author, at its root source, is precisely that, to externalize mysteriously his or her deepest nature, which is both an act of nature, naturing, and of the spirit.

Barthes approach is too shallow. Is Man of greatness within, or not? If scholarship has personal experience of its own individual greatness, then it will probably have better social results than scholarship based on subservience to some inner image of working-overtime for science, or whatever, anything that fails to respect the true wonder of the species, which just must include a great deal of traditional spiritual truth.

So what Tolkien is actually saying, on a deeper level, is this -- it is precisely that inner image within that holds one in bondage, himself as well, which he could only heal by living the way he did, meaning that a better image is gestated within, and then poured out, or externalized via this ongoing process of becoming whole.

It is not as if a mere man is only in the process of getting these things out there, published. He is undertaking a ritual of wholeness, as he must be. So his explanation of allegory, and dislike for it, is in fact metaphysically instructive. It warns us to be wary of being dominated by, surprisingly, internal images. For man can easily be enslaved by illusion. We all know this is true, and have seen it enough in ourselves, neighbours.

No, freedom of the reader is not, therefore, totally open. It surely must undergo the same fundamental experiences, on some level, that we as human beings have always been capable of generating. Otherwise it is dancing on the surface, but there, I think, often harmlessly enough.

And look at me, a daffodil!

It is not simply a case of ethics here, as if for instance the reader ought to be free to interpret. Nor will a total explanation of the universe simply in terms of Moral Truth work. That is bondage to an image, internal. A complete answer will include all important fources in the lifeworld, these being spiritual, sexual, creative, practical, loving, the source beyond all explanations, and so on. 

There is a source beyond all explanations. See that, and of course visions have to be shattered to maintain their ongoing vitality.

Having fun is important too. Geez I am profound these days! Laugh.

So when you speak of the need for responsible reader it actually has to be responsible in a far more challenging way than is usually thought to be the case. For all those things above, and whatever pops into your mind, have to be respected. When the ring is melted in the fire of the soul, out springs new life, bingo!



Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 06:36 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Sorry Eladar, you must have been writing at the same time. Will respond as politely as I can.
Eladar 01/Jul/2006 at 06:49 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

Sorry Eladar, you must have been writing at the same time. Will respond as politely as I can.

No problem and no need to be sorry, nor is there a need to be polite.

halfir 01/Jul/2006 at 07:06 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Eladar:

If what you are saying is accurate, then why did Tolkien bother giving his view or trying to explain how things worked?  It seems to me that he believed that his views were unimportant he would have simply said "just read the story and make up your own mind".

To start with  he bothered because he was a courteous man responding to individual reader requests for information. He bothered because he recognized that aspects of his text -lacking the background of The Silmarillion would not be entirely clear. He bothered because naturally he had his own particular views as to what he had written  and wanted to share them with others who requested that.  He bothered because aspects of the LOTR text are capable of a variety of interpretations and Readers had requested his.

At no point have I said that Tolkien’s views were unimportant or that he believed them to be so.BUT apart from one or two newspaper and radio and TV interviews all his responses were made privately in response  to private individuial requests with no thought of publication, and , as I have said repeatedly before, and Captain Bingo’s earlier post reinfoces this- were said at the moment he wrote them and without -necessarilly- any thought that they might be subject to the public scrutiny we have given them.

The glib assertion made by simple minds that because Tolkien wrote it in a Letter that’s what the text means is absurd- the letters (responses)  are only the tip of an iceberg and we know little or nothing, in some cases, of what the other two thirds of the iceberg are.Moreover, how did he write each particular letter -as author, as editor, or as commenatator? He wore several hats and on occasions is not sure which one he is putting on!

And in any case we are examining in this thread a wider epsistemological proposition  about the nature of interpretation and the relationship  between author/ reader/ text in order to establish- if we can- some common parameters.

Rohanya:  you wrote: For man can easily be enslaved by illusion. We all know this is true, and have seen it enough in ourselves, neighbours.

Remember this:

’It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power.’?X(

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 07:11 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

Eladar, okay I will lighten up a tad. However being half-Canadian, half-Japanese in spiritual substance gives you a double injection of the politeness thing.

Okay, back to the fundamental question. I think you have agreed that whatever was in the self-conscious mind of our JRR, during the process of the work, matters. And if in that process you pick up a pen, and throw down a poem, or draw a picture, this is an intentional act, in a sense, at least deciding to do so. After that, much is sheer tap on and the gush of life pours out.

So you ask me Do the pictures and poetry add something new which can’t be understood from the text itself?  Well, if intent of the author matters, then your question is, already answered. If I want to understand a man’s books and beliefs, I have to take his intent at full value; he obviously regarded poems and pictures as of great importance to him. Nor is any theory of the unconscious necessary here. You know, what does the man intend in his self-conscious moments?

They show proof of these things -- that creativity must be part of the total answer of who this being is, and of ourselves as a species, I claim. They also at least prove, do they not, the existence of another mind, working in ways quite independent to the other mind? That is what we call the unconscious, the generator of symbols, often puzzling, as in the case of sleep. Those two are what selfhood is. A person just is those two minds, that simple.

Nor can man and story be separated. For what is a man but on some level some profound ritual of the sacred in action? To understand the story is to see what stories help do. They generate better images for the writer, for society at large, though in loving devotion. Fail to see that and there is bondage to symbol. The symbols of great profundity, Christian, Buddhist, Existential, etc. have always bounced along with us. They are parts of these inexpressible rituals.

If you cannot accept the imaginative poems and pictures on a meaningful level, then I would assume it is because you are in bondage to some limited understanding of what the imagination is. However, don’t know if we will have a falling out as a result. I hope I remain your friend.


Eladar 01/Jul/2006 at 07:22 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

I have to take his intent at full value; he obviously regarded poems and pictures as of great importance to him. Nor is any theory of the unconscious necessary here. You know, what does the man intend in his self-conscious moments?

I’m not so sure that pictures and poetry were meant to add anything new to the story.  Perhaps if you can give me an example I can better understand where you are coming from.

 Nor can man and story be separated. For what is a man but on some level some profound ritual of the sacred in action?

But Tolkien did not believe he wrote the story.  He believed that God wrote the story.  That is what he meant when he claimed that he was God’s instrument.  If you have Letters, then please look up and read letter 328.  If you don’t have letters I can tell you where you can find it in another thread.

If you cannot accept the imaginative poems and pictures on a meaningful level, then I would assume it is because you are in bondage to some limited understanding of what the imagination is.

Perhaps I have a limited understanding.  I’m not very artsy fartsy.

However, don’t know if we will have a falling out as a result. I hope I remain your friend.

As well as one can have on an internet message board.

 

 

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 07:37 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Eladar, I have great faith that there will be, in the days and weeks to follow, stunning transformations in understanding, and I am not just speaking of myself. I have every faith that you will teach me something equally profound, that I had not been able to see in myself, in return.

Okay, I shall try to get you there to my way of seeing things. I would have to agree, Master Tolkien did view himself in some very real way as a vehicle of God, in his case, a personal Christian one. This is what happens, just as simple but ineffably beautiful fact when the whole person is acknowledged, respected. For the divine source just must be respected on every level consonant with our deeper humanity.

The Imagination is part of that deeper humanity. What does it do and why is it there? If you are willing to accept or at least consider the notion of two minds in a divided self, then the imagination is that which constructs the bridge between. Some might see it as a holy spirit; that is precisely what it feels like often enough. It at least generates symbols, these are meant a) to be objects of deep veneration and b) to heal that schism to begin with, which is on one level of course a source of pain, shame, lack of vitality, confusion, etc.

I think you have an internal notion which is preventing you from seeing these points. Furthermore, on the mere level of imagination, as the producer of meaningful and entrancing symbols, what difference is there between pictures and poems on the one hand, stories of the prose sort on the other? They are totally the same thing. So if you have subjective problems with symbols of the pictorial self, you have to create a beautiful and deep  ritual to bring that part of you into consciousness, soon afterwards, conscious control. You know, just be creative, of deep belief, and the thing will enter your life, from that amazing source.

Or put it this way, seeing self only as ego and the picture of anything will be distorted; see self as only unconscious and that, too, is a distortion. When they fuse to the degree possible, all becomes fresh, meaningful, beautiful, endlessly creative.

And which generate visions. I think by the way a full grasp of JRR’s intent has to bring in this willingness on his part to receive visions.

Intent. Here was a man, JRR, who intended to experience the godhead, and I am sure he did.
halfir 01/Jul/2006 at 09:52 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

But Tolkien did not believe he wrote the story.  He believed that God wrote the story.  That is what he meant when he claimed that he was God’s instrument.  If you have Letters, then please look up and read letter 328.  If you don’t have letters I can tell you where you can find it in another thread.

Eladar: you intrepretation of Letter #328 most certainly does not accord with mine, and nowhere does Tolkien make such a grandiose claim that God wrote the story. That is typical of the errroneous gloss those who try and promote the view that LOTR is a Christian apologia seek to put across. And even if he had made such a hubristic claim- which he didn’t- it would be of no particular force if those interfacing with the text could not see how that claim could be substantiated.

{I will not here rake over old coals about what ’chosen instruments’  (Letter #328 ) in inverts  and pluralised does or does  not mean  as this is not the purpose of this thread).

And in any case, to hang an argument on one Letter alone is hardly the sign of exercising discriminatory critical faculties!

But I don’t want, and I won’t let this thread degenerate into another Christian v Non Christian intrepretation of Tolkien. This thread is designed to explore the dynamic relationship between reader and text, reader and author -as opposed to text, and author and text-as I said before its is essentially a discussion on the epsistemological proposition  about the nature of interpretation and the relationship  between author/ reader/ text in order to establish- if we can- some common parameters.

Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 10:13 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
My Lord halfir, I think I can step into the breech and perhaps clarify what Eladar is saying in his fashion, me in mine. There would be some link to spiritual forces, and if Master Tolkien alludes to that in some tiny corner of the entire corpus, I can certainly live with it. Geez, this book, as we all know, is surely a profound one.

Laugh.

That said, can we agree that intent is a much deeper issue than usually thought to be the case? That single word is I think suggestive. We just assume that what matters is the thoughts of the writer. As for me, and I think you, and even for Eladar, the person is at least the four traditional parameters of personality. These are feeling, thought, intuition, and sensation.

So both the reader, finding his or her own personal meaning, as well as the scholar, perhaps defending the traditionally sacrosanct notions of the text, writer intended, should I think experience all four, notably in how he or she interacts with others. Four all four, always.  

It is not easy but I do think, for example, there is little danger that the book will be hijacked, so to speak, by radicals. The deep epistemological need, as I see it, is for the reader to find some purely personal truth in some portion of the story. That is simply a feeder system, supporting his or her own growth. But that does not make everything subjective. There we learn from scholars, learn from traditional truths, even modern ones, more playful.

The other deep epistemological need is of course to find deep deep meaning in the world out there, within also.

Does that help the thread, or not? Let me know. Let us know.
Lady d`Ecthelion 01/Jul/2006 at 10:30 PM
Doorwarden of Minas Tirith Points: 5312 Posts: 4083 Joined: 14/May/2003
Can we, please, leave God and all and everythin "divine" out of this?

Master,
Quote:
The ingredients have certainly been chosen by the author, but the "flavour" the reader then tastes as we see so frequently from posts here on the Plaza differs both from reader to reader and reader to author!


But then we shall have to probably ask the question with a twist and generalizing the issue, namely:

Do you believe that an authort of a piece of art produces it with the explicit intent of addressing it to the attention of an audience, or of satisfying his inner artistic urge to express what’s on his mind (that is - his understanding and interpretation of life and all issues related, which ’immaterial’ he feels the need to "pour" out and embody into a material form - speech, tone, colour etc. )

For I think that in the first case, we may very well agree that the author’s initial intent in creating his/her piece of art, does not matter too much. The piece of art was created for the audience, hence it is the right of the audience to interpret it as it suits it, or as it pleases each one of the individuals that form the audience-entity (though, unfortunately, the latter happens so rarely!)

While in the second case, the author’s initial intent(s) does(do) matter a lot and significantly.

Then ... applying the above more general question to Master T. in particular, we might have to find out which was his case.

The other thing that your answer evokes is the question of who the reader is, and how much the reader knows - hence the different "flavours".
Rohanya 01/Jul/2006 at 10:37 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Aldoriana, not true as it is a natural need, right, duty to challenge in some way that particular audience. Master Tolkien was of course a teacher. Teachers challenge on some very real level.

But happy to walk by your side.

You say the notion of religion is not happening in the right way. I therefore assume it ought to be left out, in your estimation. Now how can that be, as the author was extremely religious, and that we, in our current state of being, can only go on what the species has practiced in the past?

I think Eladar and I are in agreement here. That has yet to be conceded by academia, believing essentially in something else. However, the Plaza, in its wisdom, has banned religious topics. I shall say no more, bowing.

However, I probably write too much. Happy of course to encounter you again. If only that, that.
Princess Gia 01/Jul/2006 at 11:23 PM
Historian of Lothlorien Points: 4608 Posts: 9844 Joined: 19/Jan/2002

Yes, Authorial Intent does matter, but I think the main point of this is that everyone who reads it will have their own idea of what they think the story means, regardless of what the author says. While he or she may have intended one thing, people have a way of seeing what they want, regardles of wether it’s really there or not. It of course depends on the person, and I only speak for myself, but I do take the author’s intent into heavy conisderation, but what I think the story means also takes a great weight as well.

I have skimmed over this thread, and I must applaud you all for such deep, complex, and well thought out responses, which I should expect nothing less. (As it’s late/early, many of it goes over my head.) Very interesting discussion, though.

halfir 02/Jul/2006 at 02:54 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Rohanya wrote: Question. Does Cantor truly understand this need for the union of two minds? I sense somebody who thinks it, well, only fantasy. I could be wrong, not knowing the man, nor the full import of his work.


 

Norman Cantor, one of the most controversial and celebrated American medievalists of the past half century died in 2004. Best known for his The civilization of the Middle Ages: A completely revised and expanded edition of Medieval history, the life and death of a civilization which still remains a classic university text, he achieved infamy and notoriety in academic circles in the 1990’s with the publication of Inventing the Middle Ages : The Lives, Works and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century.

 

This was a classic work of historiography in the tradition of Pieter Geyl’s Napoleon and the Historians, but Cantor went far beyond the pale of traditional historiographical  convention in introducing personal details of those of whom he wrote – he knew many of the scholars he discusses intimately, almost all of whom were larger than life  characters  in their own way,and his gossipy accounts of their lives and ways reminds one at times of Creevey and Horace Walpole!

 

Among those covered in his work were Knowles, Schramm, Powicke. Maitland, CS Lewis, Tolkien, Bloch, Gilson, and Southern.  

 

Cantor was always contentious. As a young don asked to lecture on St Augustine he gleefully reports on himself:

 

I focused on Augustine’s powerful sex drive,and, as a native North

African, his contempt for Rome, and his authoritarian belief in the use of violence

against heretical Christian minorities”

 

Both his selection of, and his comments on, those whom he to study chose for Inventing the Middle Ages caused outrage. Many academic historians resented the inclusion of Tolkien and Lewis whom they saw as straying in from the ‘Lang and Lit’ departments, and Cantor’s viperous portrayal of  Percy Ernst Schramm and Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz whom he called ‘The Nazi twins’, and his revelation that the respected Dom Bernard Knowles Catholic scholar and monk had a mistress (very much in keeping with the Medieval period he wrote aboutX() caused ructions.

 

Yet none of this should obscure the credibility of Cantor as a leading medieval historian or obscure the value of his book Inventing the Middle Ages which in essence sought to demonstrate  show how the characters and personal traumas of the medievalists he wrote about  shaped the history books they wrote.

 ’If you want to understand history study the historians’ is an age-old dictum. Cantor did it with a raciness and brio that many of his more staid academic contemporaries found unappealing- particularly as his writings also had popular appeal!

And Rohanya one critic accused him of being ’too credulous of Freud’ - not Jung!X(

 

 

Rohanya 02/Jul/2006 at 03:18 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

My Lord halfir, If too credulous of Freud, even as hearsay, I have to be leery. Middle Earth is, I suspect, an inventing of a Middle Ages. It moves in that same ambit, surely, but with the divine reinterpreted. Just as spiritual, true, yet requiring us to reinterpret our notions of what is.

Let us think of it as the undercurrent in that age. I would however offer a word of caution. Just to present a middle earth, middle ages, in such a cosmic setting, of world scope, so spiritual is food for thought. Again, I agree with Eladar. This is more than the modern myth accepts. However, unlike him, I try to bring in as many as I can experience. I think that the only way to accept the greater intent, out there, beyond.

In the Eastern perspective, there has to be imagination, and intent of the dual sort, conscious and unconscious, to bear fruit. Intent of the self-conscious sort, believing in that other mind, pours into the unconscious. And the unconscious, not surprisingly, responds.

Do we agree that that is a true epistemological dynamic? Epistemology is whatever you know. We just assume that it has to conform to the contours of the ordinary, everyday mind.

Now why should epistemology, as sheer introduction to the world, via philosophy, Western, limited, avoid psychology? They always do so believing in that two-thirds theory, that the self is just the self conscious mind.

If I am to honour Eladar, I will press him. When you say that poems and pictures do not matter to the total meaning, can you honestly square this with what the totality of JRR, at that time, was saying? I would have to say no. He drew pictures, penned poems, to speak of their equal role. That is as concrete as I can get for the time being. Pictures, poems are equally as important, for they are at least facts to the self, evolving in beautiful ritual. When that is acknowledged, if only as step across the river, you will have visions. He did, or do you doubt that. Not the same thing as conclusions, rational, afterwards.

Eladar, I can say this. The imagination lets you think outside of the box. and doing that, vitalize. You feel vital, or not, at present. You seek for true trans-cultural consensus, or not. Only  you can answer this. Anyway, waiting to hear. We remain the three, seeking consensus, Lord halfir, Rohanya, You. I am pretty sure, however, we can become friends, and beyond the internet paradigm. At your leisure, Thinker of Depth. 

My Lord halfir, this is, clearly in my mind, a very physical datum. It is poured out, lovingly. What I believe. For all traditional ambits of experience as the human species has discovered, in its journey.




halfir 02/Jul/2006 at 03:21 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Rohanya: There would be some link to spiritual forces, and if Master Tolkien alludes to that in some tiny corner of the entire corpus, I can certainly live with it.

I have no problem with that, or indeed Eladar’s considered view (which I do not share)  that he and Tolkien believe Tolkien’s work is inspired by God. The point is it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this thread what the author’s views or intents are- what we are questioning is how relevant are they  in the reader-text interaction?

It matters not one jot nor tittle what my intent is as an author unless my text clearly demonstrates that fact.And the arbiter of that is the Reader - except there are millions of them, all with very different response mechanisms.

Oscar Wilde- a playwright and critic of whom I doubt  old Tollers would approve too much would say :

’The artist is his work of art’

Thus he stands and falls by that -whatever his intent. The problem is the artist encodes - in the instance of Tolkien with words- and we decode - but do encoder and decoder perceive in the same fashion?

W. B. Yeats- the great Irish nationalist and poet put Wilde’s point another way:

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

{Among School Children}

Consider this:

LOTR was published 1954-55. The Silmarillion came out in 1977, UT in  1980, the Letters in 1980, The Monsters and the Critics in 1983, HOME 1983-1996.

Between 1954 and 1977some 20 years, other than his publishers, some reviewers, those who wrote him, and two or three Radio, TV and newspaper interviews none of the detailed information that we use, including the host of secondary works, was available to the majority of Tolkien’s reading public, who by that time numbered millions. They had no idea what his intent was-other than that they derived from their interaction with the text.

A personal context:

I started reading LOTR at the age of 14. I had no idea who Tolkien was , or of his concept of faery or of his Catholicism or anything else about him. I did however know one thing. Here was a work that stirred me like few others ever had (The Norse myths and Homer come to mind)  and it was one I knew- then and there at the age of 14- that I would be reading for the rest of my life.

Over time I have become almost a Tolkienian vivisectionist- laying out his text ’like a patient aetherized upon a table’ seeking to ’cut open the ball in search of its bounce’  at times- ignoring the warnings of Gandalf- ’break{ing} a thing to find out what it is and leaving ’the path of wisdom’. And I have , of course, had the benefit of the combined wisdom of many others’ thoughts on the Master.

But one thing I have always done and always will do, irrespective of peer pressure, expert commentary, and even authorial intent- and that is remained true to the text as I understand it.I never try to warp it or shape it to fit my preformed agendas, theories, or beliefs  or value system.

I concede that my understanding at times may be incorrect or muddled- I hope not too often- but to me the sine qua non of LOTR is not the views, intents, comments, interpretations of the man who wrote it, venerate him though I do- but the text that he wrote.


Rohanya 02/Jul/2006 at 03:40 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
My Lord halfir, I can say, with a relief, that because of you I actually heard the full worth of Barthes, in those long quotes, though only after several sessions.

You have to reconsider your assumptions. Is there some outside perspective, not yours, not mine, not of academia, not anybody’s? I would say yes, and gloriously so.

There is always a shout from outside. That could only be because there is a shout from outside. Do you want nothing, from outside? Me, I hope and long for it, in whatever guise.

So let us go back to your initial post. Here you spoke of a Loki experience and I have to take that at face value. It cannot be purely a thing of fun, not really. If you say Loki, it is Loki. So that is the true datum real of Jung, and you honour it deeply by accepting its total meaning, in your system, in the world at large, as total explanation.

What is this Loki entity? Eladar is not yet there, though I am totally acceptive of what just has to be the Master’s counter-current of earlier, more primitive, Germanic religion. Eladar, if he is to win my ongoing respect, which is not the same thing as current respect, immense, has to think through the dualism. Show!

I hope to see consensus. We three are capable of it. Let us have no doubts in that sense.



Ragnelle 02/Jul/2006 at 06:12 AM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Fair daffodil (I could not resist, I’ve been singing Britten )

to me the sine qua non of LOTR is not the views, intents, comments, interpretations of the man who wrote it, venerate him though I do- but the text that he wrote.

I think that is a very good summary halfir, of what I thought when I first saw the toppic. That does not mean that I think every interpetation of the text is a good, or even valid, one, but it is the text we interpit, not the man.

There is of course more to be said, but I must return to it later. (BTWit is great to see you again, Rohayna)

 

halfir 02/Jul/2006 at 07:46 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Rohanya: You wrote: There is always a shout from outside.

Indeed there most certainly is, and both Lewis and Tolkien heard it!

I heard a voice that cried,
’Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead.’
And through the misty air
Passed like the mounful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes.’

{Longfellow’s transaltion of Esaias Tegner’s version  (1825) of Drapa

C S Lewis wrote:

I knew nothing about Balder..but instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote) and then, as in the other examples, found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.

Lewis had two other similar experinces, evoked -or perhaps invoked for surely the Gods were present here and the awen was beginning to flow - by similar verbal passages, which , he said, had in common:

’an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy...It might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want.’

{Quoted in C S Lewis:A Biography Hooper & Green Chapter 1 Early Days}

For Tolkien it was  the OE poem Crist which he read in late 1913 or early 1914.

Eala Earendel  engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard  monnum sended

He wrote:

’I felt a curious thrill , as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English’.

{Quoted in JRR Tolkien:A Biography Humphrey carpenter Chapter V1 Reunion}

 

 

 

halfir 02/Jul/2006 at 06:25 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Aldoraina wrote: Do you believe that an authort of a piece of art produces it with the explicit intent of addressing it to the attention of an audience, or of satisfying his inner artistic urge to express what’s on his mind (that is - his understanding and interpretation of life and all issues related, which ’immaterial’ he feels the need to "pour" out and embody into a material form - speech, tone, colour etc. )

For me it is quite clear that the great works of art, as opposed to the ’penny dreadfuls’ of writers like the late Barbara Cartland, are driven by the author’s desire to produce, not by his or her expectation of a reading audience’s reaction. (Unless of course the author is a died-in-the-wool allegorist or polemicist, in which case the book is targeted at a certain audience or designed to proseletyze a particular cause).

The great writers evince the responses they do in their audiences because in the externalization of their need to express themselves - i.e. their books- they touch upon aspects of significance which appeal to all humanity- or a lat least that of it which reads intelligently. They subsume- in their writings- those fundamentals which affect all our lives- and  in so doing they touch chords within us -sometimes subsoncsiously, that make us respond to their text. But it is our response to their text that is the determining factor.

And therein lies the rub. Because it is the interaction of the individual reader with the text that actually defines the parameters of how the book is understood, not the original intent of the author- if he or she ever started out with one, which in most cases, I very much doubt.  The need to write is the overarching driver in most cases- the explanation of the need ex post facto is- I suspect - just that- a rationalization of why something was written, often some long time after it has been produced. But either ways, authorial intent is irrelevant if the reader- text interaction do not evince the intended response.

Knowing what the author intended will not make us like or understand  the book any the more if we respond negatively to its text, or interpret it in a different way.

Conversely, I personally accept that understanding the authorial intent of a book I have responded to positively -as is the case with LOTR- can enhance both my understanding  and my enjoyment of it - although that is not a sine qua non of the book’s acceptability to me.

But ultimately- as in Hamlet - ’the plays the thing’ - although in this case it’s a book!X(


 

 

Rohanya 03/Jul/2006 at 02:47 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

My Lord halfir, your huge offering is too much for me to grasp at a single gallop of the elf minus horse, once a minion.

But I sense it consonant with your own wholeness, which is what life is all about. Incidentally, I am beginning to win through to the conception that you are only playfully the sobre, demanding scholar. I think you are in essence of pure intuition, and just choose for purposes of your own, mysterious and intriguing, while developing your own essentially identical lands, for the reason of...obviously, play, in its sheer joy.

Now intent is important. For Eladar, his books have four intents: I am doing prose, I am writing letters, I am doing poems, I am drawing pictures to illustrate them. His intent, in other words, was to be all those things. He is saying, as intent, this is what he was; any great writer will try to display, en route, what a person is, in general, in any culture which has ever been, will ever be.

He is saying, as a result, that there are at least two layers of mind, for imagination and sheer poesy are often somehow curiously on the outside, seemingly non-essential to the operation. Do you agree that to understand the story, at all, is to accept at least two minds at work?

You are also confusing, I think, intent with how congruent to a traditional corpus of information, Biblical? Your right, of course, perhaps need and great truth, yet that is not intent. That is a completely different matter, the question then becoming how does fiction, The Lord of the Rings, relate to a book found sacred in the West? in terms of truths traditionally deemed metaphysical. 

Lord halfir is absolutely correct. There is always invocation and it is done in the traditional modes, which just have to utilize the more recondite aspects of the brain. Now if you, Eladar, can come to my way of seeing things, I think I can work very much on your side of the picture, very religious, but not always of course. As that would not be fun, nor challenging. Laugh. You have a brilliant mind. Just see the lack of logic in your stance.  The story is all those four. It has nothing to do with my theories, puzzling, re the unconscious or whatsoever, equally artsy fartsy, laugh. Those four are the story.

Eladar, I would say this as well. JRR was a devout mind. So no aspects of those four above were without profound meaning. They were there, in all their glory, for they had to be.

Lord halfir, I am having trouble getting into the spirit of your responses but that is because I am just back, and not quite grounded. So my apologies for any inability to see the bigger picture. Love to Ragnelle. I am however not clear as to this. Are you saying, yes or no, that the real issue is of profound subjective response, however beyond the pale, to the book? That is, as you know, all I care about.

halfir 03/Jul/2006 at 04:46 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Rohanya:  You wrote: Are you saying, yes or no, that the real issue is of profound subjective response, however beyond the pale, to the book?

In August 1962 Tolkien wrote to his illustrator, Pauline Baynes, in response to some queries she had had regarding a disparity between whether Tom was wearing a peacocks feather or a swan-wing feather in his hat. Tolkien explained there was no disparity - the peacock’s feaher belonged to an earlier draft which, post LOTR was unsuitable, hence the change.

He then went on at some length to discourse about the coloration of the king-fisher’s crest and on the name itself - the pedantic niggler in the Master emerging once again!

BUT - and this is the purpose of using the following quote from  Letter- # 240 to answer your question, he then goes on to say:

"Do not be put off by this sort of thing unless it affects the picture.!  The inwardly seen opicture is to me the most important. I look forward to your interpretation. The donnish detail is just a private pleasure which I do not expect anyone to notice.’ {my bold emphasis}

Now, of course, Tolkien was addressing a particular issue regarding the illustration of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. However, I think that quote is very apposite as a response to your question:

Are you saying, yes or no, that the real issue is of profound subjective response, however beyond the pale, to the book.

I would, using Tolkien’s words, answer you by saying:

The inwardly seen picture is to me the most important.

BUT - and this is where you and I will, I suspect,  part company - it must respect the integrity of the  text.

 

Rohanya 03/Jul/2006 at 04:57 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

My Lord halfir, well where are we really? These are the nuts and bolts. I do not care about the text if and only if it prevents three individuals, extremely lucid, from joining in great worth their own truths, both private, both traditional.

Eladar states that Master Tolkien, and here I use the deep respect form of Asia, was a vehicle. He was. I am not interested in any interpretation that launches us into the lunches, limited, of reader (not profound) versus writer (not profound).

It is the intent of a correct book, written perfectly, to transcend that. That is what it does. It has to be regarded on a different plane, and if people meet, gloriously, they do, if not, not.

halfir 03/Jul/2006 at 05:13 AM
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Eladar states that Master Tolkien, and here I use the deep respect form of Asia, was a vehicle. He was

Rohanya: All great artists are vehicles, vehicles for the awen of the Gods -plural. The great problem is that so many who wish to discuss the works of such vehicles  believe that the vehicle in question was chosen by their God -singular!

And that, to misuse  a phrase from Barthes,  gives rise to  a line of words releasing a single "theological" meaning.

And that  ’meaning’ is preconditoned by the belief in the singular God who has been chosen- and not by the integrity of the text.

And I hope that it will be more than just ’three individuals’ who contribute their thoughts to this thread - I have never imagined myself -- nor would I desire to be- part of any "Trinity’ -holy or unholy!X(

Rohanya 03/Jul/2006 at 05:24 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
My Lord halfir, I agree. That problem of singularity versus plurality. The best approach, and here especially in our given age, given, is to do all. But Barthes, and all the thinkers in the universities cannot feed. I think that the true statement to be said. They just do not! So Intent and Reader-Writer has to be seen, just has to be seen, in conjunction with universities not giving much. They just do not. I say it.

You, however, do all. Academics do not. You can at least help us get this thread moving. If you and I and Eladar can agree on something major, that is what will be.

I always write of you in that Asian respect form, of which only you and I know, on the Plaza. It is a deep truth, deeply respected.
Rohanya 04/Jul/2006 at 02:28 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005

I believe this. Failure to grasp the book is failure to grasp at least two minds. This just has to be so, or even a unified mind does not know what to do. Unified mind is that which did so because to two, lived. In honour.

Lord halfir, can we dismiss academia as ongoing, or thus far present, marriage partner? It marries nothing, and just confuses the mind. Eladar is therefore right to speak of the street story. Something out there, in the thinkers at large, is just arts-fartsy?

What do they mean by this? They mean, I think, that the thinkers, supposedly, are just doing that, thinking. Street people feel, intuit, sense. They want and need a total picture. So Barthes, is out, as mere rattle and roll in the background. We need answers, here, now. That is always the way of background sense.

Are you saying, for example, that academic visions of intent versus readership are to rule? I say,  know, as this is not at all the wisdom of our sensing. It feeds not, not at all, for if degrees in this and that are required, the not degreed side of the planet has no hope. All have hope. That is natural. That is right. That is real.

The question is rather this, can we dismiss, with great lightness, that horrible horrible weight of scholarship, no longer caring? You care. Scholarship, as practiced, does not. Eladar here is totally right. He senses it. It answers nothing. And why not? Because it builds no bridges of consensus, soothing the believers, encouraging the non-believers. The true academic would bring both together.

The better shamans are out there, living it, on the street.

Something Else 04/Jul/2006 at 09:00 AM
Apprentice of Isengard Points: 38 Posts: 14 Joined: 11/Dec/2005
I think regardless of whether or not Lord of the Ringsis to be seen as a "Christian" or "secular" work, it certainly was written in such a way so as that someone who read the books and nothing else could get whatever Tolkein intended us to get out of it. This is not to say that there is no reason to examine the notes and revisions that Tolkein set down on paper elsewhere; rather, it is simply to say that the Lord of the Ringsis intended to be read as itself. I seriously doubt (as many have said before me) that Tolkein felt that someone who read only the original book would be somehow misunderstanding what he intended to say.

What I am getting at with this is that Tolkein certainly meant for us to take from the books what we take from them. If I want to read it as a Christian allegory, and if to me it feels like an explicitly Christian story, than that’s what it is - to me. In reality, I don’t read that into what Tolkein has written - I read the story in a more "secular" manner, and that’s the meaning that I take from it. So be it. As science fiction author Orson Scott Card put it, what the reader sees in a book is far more important than what the author sees. Clearly, if the author means for the reader to see something that they don’t see, then the author has not done his or her job. This is what I see as the core of the "death of the author" thesis.

That said, when we discuss a question such as "do Mumakil have wings?" (to pick a random idea that could somehow theoretically come up) we are discussing the world of Middle Earth that J.R.R. Tolkein created, and no longer are we worried about what we personally see in the books. We are discussing a fictional world created by Tolkein the man, and now it is more relevant what he personally thought. Obviously, the integrity of this non-existant world is created in the mind of Tolkein, and in his writings. We study it because it is interesting to us, not neccesarily because it has some "meaning".

Finally, if a question being discussed is actually about the intent of Tolkein the man, obviously his intentions and thoughts are very important.

That’s my perspective on this; hopefully I have been sufficiently clear.
halfir 04/Jul/2006 at 06:21 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Something Else: An excellent contribution for which many thanks!X(I hoped that this tjhread would stimulate the interest of many as opposed to the vocalization of the few (myself includedX() and I am delighted that you have felt the desire to respond. I hope others follow your example.

The reason I used borth Barthes and to a lesser degree Cantor is that I sought to emphasize the fact that reading is not a passive activity- it is a highly interactive relationship between reader and text- assuming the text captures one’s imagination in the first place.

I hope others will follow your example and contribute their thoughts, and for that reason I will not currently seek to ’impose’ my own on this particular topic (a most unusual occurrence for me as i am sure you are aware!X().

As an informational I think that your Orson Scott Card comment:

what the reader sees in a book is far more important than what the author sees

is very close to Barthes’ view that:

The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination

Lady d`Ecthelion 04/Jul/2006 at 09:44 PM
Doorwarden of Minas Tirith Points: 5312 Posts: 4083 Joined: 14/May/2003
It’s nice watching you, boys, playing , but I see the prevailing mood in the thread is strongly shifted towards the opinion that it’s the reader’s understanding that matters, while the author’s intent may be left in oblivion.

Then, if I may ask
- What happens to the concepts and ideas the author wished to reveal and express through and by his/her art, if these are interpreted by the audience differently from the author? If ’the source’ (that is - the author’s intent) does not matter to the audience, doesn’t then the audience sacrifice the author in the name of satisfying its own interpretation? If so, and it does happen very often - I admit, the audience shall not be able to ever grasp the essential in the original source - those aspects of significance which appeal to all humanity and hose fundamentals which affect all our lives, and which the author conveyed through and in his/her piece of art, and thus those ideas/concepts shall never be understood by the society to whom that art and those ideas have been directed at. Then... why bother produce a piece of any art at all, if its essential and primary intent/concept/idea shall not be understood?!

- If the author’s intent is not clearly voiced and unambiguously shown to the audience, this only leaves space for the activity of those millions of critics, to whom the society, for some strange reason, has given the right to "explain" to us - within this very same society, what the author’s intent was of/in/by his/her piece of art. Sorry! Can’t swallow this one. Never been able, in fact.
Applied to Tolkien’s works, this is the same ol’ "song" of mine - to read his own explanations of his works, as well as to read well grounded and true information about his life and creative work, is to me much more valuable than reading the "explanations" of his works, provided by the critics. Because the first reveals the author’s intent, so I can understand him better, while the second reveals just someone’s personal and very individual opinion ... why should I accept it?
halfir 04/Jul/2006 at 10:48 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Aldoriana: but I see the prevailing mood in the thread is strongly shifted towards the opinion that it’s the reader’s understanding that matters, while the author’s intent may be left in oblivion

I think this is true but not perhaps for the reasons you are thinking. What  I sought to do by starting this thread was to shift the emphasis from Author to reader- to emphasize the dynamic relationship between reader and text- for the reader has no real relationship with the author other than through the text, and to get away from the monocultural emphasis that Barthes desribes in his line :

A text is not a line of words releasing a single "theological" meaning (the "message" of the Author-God)

As is clear from my whole approach to Tolkien in the threads I post on the Plaza,  I see myself much more as an acolyte interpreting the intent of the Master- as opposed to an individual on a voyage of personal self-discovery through my interaction with the text, although that is a part, and an important part of my personal interaction with the work of great authors. And as you know, my threads and posts are littered with textual references and references to the Letters and writings of Tolkien -establishing- hopefully- through the prism of my textual interpretation what his intentions were. For I believe he had great truths to tell and I wish to honor that telling.

However, that is only one aspect, albeit a critical one, of a  multi-dimensional reaction to the reading experience, and I have deliberately via this thread, sought to act as an advocatus diaboli to redress the  at times dictaorial relationshiop between the reader and author, or as Barthes would put it the Author-God.

For in the final anlaysis - and this is why Rohanya so rightly rails against the world of academe and the ’scholastic’ as opposed to the  scholarly approach to Tolkien- the Literary Scriptures- the Word of the Author-God can only be interpreted through the individual interface of reader with text.

The ’still quiet voice’ that speaks to me when I read Tolkien is speaking to me- and me alone. There is no literary ecclesiastical hierarchy standing between me and his message- I interpret it  for myself. And I hope, for I value Tolkien so highly, that my interpretation and his intent are aligned.

You ask:

 What happens to the concepts and ideas the author wished to reveal and express through and by his/her art, if these are interpreted by the audience differently from the author?

Then either the author has failed to communicate in a fashion in which his or her message is abundantly clear - or the audience is incapable of decoding the mesage which the author has encoded - which either ways means a major communications breakdown has occurred between writer and reader and we need to understand why. But essentially, the author is what he/she writes- his/her intent must be encoded in the words he/she has written, and that code must be comprehensible- otherwise we would need a footnote for every sentence- as one does when trying to read T S Eliot’s The Wasteland!

But then, of course, that brings us onto the debate of text and subtext- the interior and exterior message that the text is carrying- into which I won’t digress at the moment. Like Tom Bombadil- Tolkien can be ’read ’ on a number of levels!

You also wrote:

to read his own explanations of his works, as well as to read well grounded and true information about his life and creative work, is to me much more valuable than reading the "explanations" of his works, provided by the critics.

But, as I and Captain Bingo pointed out, for something like 20 years after the publication of LOTR there was only the LOTR to read for the ’explanation’ that you seek. Are you saying that in that time those who did not personally correspond with Tolkien didn’t understand what he intended- and indeed if they didn’t- did it in any way spoil their enjoyment of his magic tale qua tale?

As for explanations" of his works, provided by the critics I haven’t seen a single post here suggesting that we should place critical intrepretation before Tolkien’s interpretation or text, or indeed give any credence to critics unless we feel they enlighten something that is not clear to us and which he himself has not pronounced on.{I exclude from that of course the Halfirian Light which is usually the same as an ex cathedra interpretational pronouncement!X(}

And indeed, the Master himself has said, with regard to your point of his own explanations of his works:

“I do not ‘.know all the answers’. Much of my own book puzzles me; {Letter # 211}

so what are we to do in those cases?X(

But when I first read LOTR I read LOTR not LOTR plus Professor Tolkien’s detailed responses to correspondents’ queries, because they weren’t available- and I was hooked from the word go -and still am - for, as I said in an earlier post:

ultimately- as in Hamlet - ’the plays the thing’ - although in this case it’s a book!X(

Rohanya 05/Jul/2006 at 07:02 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Good thoughts, and all to be congratulated. Bravo! I agree totally with your statement, Lord halfir, that it is necessary to find a partial solution to that personally personal interpretation of the book which is not theological. This work is of course one also intended, and quite capable, of disburdening the self. You know, he poured all of his powers into this book, and knew, just knew, he had left answers of great great value, which, of course, he knew others would freely read, and in fact in ways that would for the individual alone to decide possibly even reject his own cherished traditional stance -- to some very real degree, healthily so --
working in the background, partly working in the book (though the later only if, you conceed, at the same time that it at least stimulates and acknowledges at least two historic aspects of the Western spiritual conscience, or whatever you wish to label it, Germanic, and Christian.) Barthes is at least suggestive in that readers so often fail to find that equal presence of those two Western spirits, so to speak. The Master, clearly, believed in the wisdom of the entire Western historical experience. At least two, not one.

So I think that the finding of a personal, uniquely personal content in some part of the text (what was it we were talking about by the way, TLOTR? Laugh.) plus, ideally, and in some very real sense one that incorporates, if only in part of the Self a stance not at all traditional.

That said, any book just presents content objective. That is not intent, just reality. So it is not as if any intent is just some gush of subjectivity, lacking grounding in what is, and there the matter stops. Mines and mines of reassuring material in TLOTR, perfectly true, which will be found, if not in say A’s encounter with this particular book, will be found in some other book, or just within the self, or out there on the street. Maybe in friendly faces, laughing.

Beautiful gush of rain outside.

Anyway, I wish Eladar would comment.
Lord of the Rings 05/Jul/2006 at 02:14 PM
Mandos Points: 8968 Posts: 7368 Joined: 03/Dec/2005
The author’s opinions are still quite relevent, it should be mentioned. Tolkien, of course, put a great deal of thought into his works, and his explanations--although not necessarily the only possible ones--are still usually the best and most logical. Knowing what the author thought can put a new light on something, and allow us to see the work in a way that might have been hidden from us before. Also remember that Tolkien wrote (I can’t find the quote, though) that he felt it was sometimes better to leave things un-explained, even when there was an explanation. In these instances, I find no fault with people speculating on various explanations- but if we know Tolkien’s, I will give it more weight (while not accepting it as absolute; if there is a problem or conflict with his explanation, I think it should be freely tweeked- in the most logical way possible).

Of course, the text rules supreme. If Tolkien had decided at some point that he wanted Aragorn to have purple skin (totally random), I would have to take issue with this.

A good case study might be Sauron’s appearance. All we know from TLotR is that he had a hand. The only detailed explanation comes from the Letters. However, this description never appears in the published Tale, and as such I don’t take it as being proof of anything in particular (although I do like his description). I think that other people who read TLotR without referencing that letter, and envision Sauron in their own way, are just fine. Even someone who has read the letter, and chooses to imagine Sauron in a very different way (perhaps, in the context of TLotR only*, as seeming fair in appearance) would be entirely within their rights. As far as Lore goes, I think we should listen to Tolkien’s opinion on the matter without taking it as conclusive proof of anything about Sauron’s appearance.

*This gets into another interesting aspect of this whole debate: what the author published, what the author intended, and what the author was getting ready to publish. Before the Sil was published (something Halfir alludes to), I understand that many people thought that Sauron was an Elf. Were these people wrong? In the context of their time, no. An Elf was the only being known about which could have lived as long as Sauron; and this was actually a much simpler explanation than proposing that Sauron was a fallen angelic being who had been around since before time began.

But as soon as the Sil was published, there was a lot of new information available. Now the older ideas were indeed false, there being an authoritative text saying so. So now everything in the Sil and TLotR can be taken as written, and authorial intent regarded as an interesting, and often helpful, item, right? No, for here comes HoME. It turns out that the Sil isn’t as authoritative as it had (perhaps) seemed. Now we have a real tangle of intent and text.

The way I see this is that there are now (for HoME) two levels of authorial intent: 1) what Tolkien’s Sil was going to be textually, and 2) how Tolkien wanted this Sil to be interpreted by the readers (the real ’authorial intent&rsquo. They tend to interfere with each other a lot, because they are so often presented together. Tolkien writes drafts, or his son gives us commentaries, that clearly tell us what his intent with these things were, but the lack of an authoritative final draft leave us in the dark as to whether this intent would have been translated clearly to the reader (the one without multiple drafts and commentaries).

The point of all that was that in HoME, authorial intent actually would seem to take precedence to any particular draft (even the Sil), for we have a greater ability to understand this, and little ability to apply our own interpretation to a final text. Of course, Tolkien’s intent was often changing, and sometimes we don’t know (and this makes for great debate), and we should always bear in mind that things which touch on TLotR do have final text to refer to (and thus we shouldn’t try to use Tolkien’s intent from HoME as a supreme argument when referring to TLotR).

If I wasn’t clear enough, I’ll be happy to try to explain better.
halfir 05/Jul/2006 at 04:26 PM
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he felt it was sometimes better to leave things un-explained

Letter # 144X(

Lord of the Rings 05/Jul/2006 at 09:13 PM
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Thanks, Halfir.
Lady d`Ecthelion 05/Jul/2006 at 09:36 PM
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halfir wrote:
Quote:
What I sought to do by starting this thread was to shift the emphasis from Author to reader- to emphasize the dynamic relationship between reader and text- for the reader has no real relationship with the author other than through the text, ...


I’d say that such sentence was deffinitely needed, in order for this discussion to have it’s focus.

Also:
Quote:
...I have deliberately via this thread, sought to act as an advocatus diaboli ...


Would you define the "diaboli"?

Well, then let’s think about the active interaction of the reader with the text, IF we are to place in the focus of our discussion written art only, and Tolkien’s written art only.

You speak of the ’enjoyment’ of reading the LOTR without knowing what stands behind it, or knowing nothing about its author.
But you know so well that I myself have experienced this! Even worse - for I first read the book in translation ( highly unsatisfactory one ).
Remembering that time, I would say that what ’unexplained’ I found in the tale, made me actually "hungry" for more information, so I started looking for it.

Meaning ... the text of the LOTR, as it is in its own, is a tale - a romantic and exciting tale, and as such it has the destiny of the other such great tales ever written.
What, however may happen is: 1) either the reader gets satisfied with the tale and pays no attention to the ’unexplained’; or 2) the reader enjoys the tale, but is capable to also "see" the "misterious towers in the far distance" and wishes to go there and explore them, which "quest" shall ineviatbly lead him/her to get to know the author and the background of the tale.
The second case, I call "an active interaction" between text and reader. The first one is either just a "passive" or "no" interaction, at all.
In fact, I think it is precisely the first case of "interaction" that would lead to "understanding" the book (and everything related to it) as : "the story about the two gay guys on the top of the fiery mountain" (a comment I’ve heard).

As for the ’critics’ - I mentioned them, because their opinion in many cases, do affect the ’interaction’ between the reader and the text. So, I thought it important to warn against it.
Mirkwoodworker 06/Jul/2006 at 10:18 PM
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Great thread! A lot of great ideas and interpretations posted here.

Right, right, right. What is the "meaning" of a work of art? In this case, a book. Is it found in (1) the author’s intent, (2) the interpretations of critics and other "authorities," or (3) the experiences of everyone else reading the book in question?

An idea I’ve been playing with recently is that a book never has an objective meaning. It can’t. Every person has a different experience with the book. How can you rate whether my experience, and the meaning I gain from it, is more valid than another person’s? Yet that is basically what most critics and scholars do when they write about a novel. "It means this and that." No--it means "this and that" to the writer. It means something else to someone else.

I think that critics usually assume that what they write is closer to being scholarship than opinion pieces. Reviews are just opinions, but when they appear in print, they gain an illusory importance. Yep.

Sorry. Got off topic.
Lady d`Ecthelion 08/Jul/2006 at 11:56 PM
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One, who has changed his name , I think I can almost completely agree with you about the critics, especially in the part of ""It means this and that.". Since the time I was at school I have always cordially disliked (to use Master T.’s expression ) this particular type of studying a piece of art, be it a book, a picture, a musical piece etc.
But on the other hand, there are scholars, who provide most valuable analyses, based on objective and true facts, showing deep understanding both - in the particular author’s work, and in where this author and his work stand among all the rest of their time and of all times ... etc. Such analyses are extremely important and valid!

Now... back to the main topic - the interaction between text and reader, while I was looking for something else and for the purpose - rereading the "Athrabeth", I came across an excerpt, which I thought would fit the present discussion very well, for words of Finrod though these might be, they in fact are the words of Master T. himself.

--------------------------------------------------
’As may a master in the telling of tales keep hidden the greatest moment until it comes in due course. It may be guessed at indeed, in some measure, by those of us who have listened with full heart and mind; but so the teller would wish. In no wise is the surprise and wonder of his art thus diminished, for thus we share, as it were, in his authorship. But not so, if all were told us in a preface before we entered in!’
---------------------------------------------------------


Ain’t it a wonderful thought?!
halfir 09/Jul/2006 at 12:37 AM
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Aldoriana: A delightful quote and one I had completely forgotten. It reminds me too of a not dissimilar one in Letter # 144 when-in writing to his proof reader Naomi Mitchison  -Tolkien is concerned that he has given too much detail rather than not enough:

"There is a clash of course between ’literary ’ technique, and the fascination of elaborating in detail an imaginary mythical Age (mythical, not allegorical: my mind does not work allegorically!}. As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation actually exists); and I have perhaps from this point of view erred in trying to explain too much and give too much past history’.

And Tolkien reinfocres the importance of the ’untold’ in Letter # 168:

A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving. I think you are moved by Celebrimbor because it conveys a sudden sense of endless untold stories: mountains seen far away, never to be climbed, distant trees (like Niggle’s) never to be approached – or if so only to become ‘near trees’ (unless in Paradise of N’s Parish). {my bold emphasis}

And his comment- from the quote you gave:

by those of us who have listened with full heart and mind

seems to me to be very much in the tradition of the ’enchanted state’ that he refers to in On Fairy Stories and the full entering into the sub-created world on the part of the reader.

Lady d`Ecthelion 09/Jul/2006 at 12:50 AM
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Exactly!

And what about some issues from my previous post, Master?
halfir 09/Jul/2006 at 01:41 AM
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Aldoriana: I haven’t forgotten- but Old Tom is back and is becoming increasingly demanding! He’s now insisting I deal with the implications of his ’walking’ -I can’t yet think why, but I know he’s right!X(
Rohanya 09/Jul/2006 at 01:50 AM
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I know he is right as well, for I feel it in my bones. With me it manifests as ents and their great power. Cheers to all!
Lady d`Ecthelion 09/Jul/2006 at 10:38 PM
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Eh, well, I can’t comete with Ol’Tom, can I?!
But you still may define diaboli, right?

That quote above, as various other things I’ve remembered... Say, don’t they actually again support the role of the author?
I mean, it is the author who, after all, tells the tale in the way he/she decides to - tell it in full, or leave some things only hinted at, or even "hidden"... or tell the tale in the way the audience would prefer it to develop...
If this is so, then it is the author, who is undoubtedly the master of it all, hence his/her intent does matter, and strongly at that!
The reader is then left only with the task to decode this intent.
Rohanya 22/Jul/2006 at 01:18 AM
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I agree, Aldoriana, intent is very very important. It has, however, been poorly understood historically. Intent is not just I-am-going-to-write-this-book and that is that. Intent, I argue places power within words, within structures, of paragraph sort, within so much more.

Is that decoding? I would say this. Intent, properly understood is of course knowledge, of course self interpretation, unique, but not just those. Intent is power channeled as a result.

Decoding is I think the wrong word. For, to take just one example, Master Tolkien did exquisite calligraphy while writing the books; he did, as adjunct, his own patented signature -- JRR, a three in one.

That is not decoding if task for reader; rather, it is for the reader to reach the same heights, which just must end up as similar if not equal beauty and precision in manner.

Decoding is in the best sense also mimicing. Doing things equally as beautiful, equally as profound as a result.

No?

halfir 23/Jul/2006 at 07:48 AM
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This post of maiarian man’s has been copied from a Basic Lore thread Wings of the Dead Balrog:

 

http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=21&TopicID=204547&PagePosition=0&PagePostPosition=1

 

with his permission.

 

I asked that we be permitted to take it into this thread as it contains some very thoughtful and though provoking comments on the subject matter of our discussion here.

 

References to the Balrog’s  Wings are of course essentially related to the thread from which it has been copied.

 

I have a rather interesting thought about the Balrog wing’s discussion which I haven’t seen before (though there’s been a bit of a gap from the time I was at the front of the discussion, so perhaps I missed something.   And it’s actually quite simple, so I probably have seen it before and just didn’t make anything of it).  It was the only real thing to come into my mind while reading this thread, so while it’s out of place, it’s relevant in that sense--and in the sense that this is the most recent thread related to Balrog wings.  And it also goes along with the importance of both our critical evaluation of the text and the real powers of our imagination.

Anyway, one of the famous quotes in favor of Balrog wings is this from HoME X: "Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."  It’s important to note that while this quote is only found in HoME, it seems as if it is excluded from the published Silmarillion only because CT didn’t feel like including it.  For the quote actually comes from the last written version of the Quenta Silmarillion--which was used as the primary source text for the published Silmarillion when it was possible to do so.

However, what I just thought was that the defender of Balrog wings is put into a bit of a metaphorical pickle by this quote (see, told you this was both about literary criticism and imagination).  It seems that many people who do say that Balrogs have wings ultimately concede that the wings probably aren’t functioning.  Quotes like those Elenhir gave above seem to prove that this is the case for original Balrogs in BoLT and the early Quenta Silmarillion.  In the early texts,we also have the fact that the Balrogs which assault Gondolin are brought to Gondolin by winged dragons--which seems unnecessary if Balrogs can fly.  And other people often mention the fact that Balrogs often die from falling. I won’t get into the heart of the argument, for it is enough to say that this penguin theory concession is often made.

But if Balrog wings don’t work, then the quote in HoME is clearly not saying that the Balrog’s have wings.  "Winged speed" is a reference to the fact that something with wings can move faster than something on land.  But having non-functioning wings clearly is not going to help something move faster.  Indeed, something with non-functioning wings one hundred feet wide, like Durin’s bane supposedly, is not going to be able to move fast at all.  The wings just get in the way.  So either Balrogs don’t have wings, or they have wings that work, or the quote from HoME can’t be used.  But the quote from HoME is a good quote, so that option is not possible.  And for reasons given by myself and others elsewhere, it really does not seem like there is good reason to think that Balrogs have wings that work.  (I have, of course, not delved into these real reasons).

I am, however, content to concede that Balrog Wings can certain exist in someone’s mind, or perhaps as a existential construction of someone’s imagination and sense-data.  After all, Balrogs don’t exist in any more sense than this anyway (though one might make different interpretations on what literary or imagined existence is). 

Perhaps this last comment gets us somewhere in the famous authorial intent debate.  On one level, it is certainly tempting, perhaps even necessary to completely disregard authorial intent.  But in a world which is forever historical, we are reading a book which not only reflects "truth" but is also written by someone (which even the most anti-biographical critics implicitly accept, given that they are perfectly willing to comment on how well an author has succeeded in his writing.  Nor do they just treat the book like some natural artifact).  And insofar as there is this historical basis to life, I am not only concerned with what I think is true of the book, but also what the author thinks is true--I do, after all, want to know what the author thinks or I wouldn’t have read his book.  In the world of fantasy, this is especially powerful.  I am not only interested in what the world of Middle-earth which I "construct" in my imagination looks like, but I am also interested in what the constructions of Tolkien’s imagination look like. 

It will remain true that the book takes a life of its own--such that if Tolkien writes on p. 192 that Hobbits have blue noses, even though he doesn’t mean it, it is perfectly fair for me to now imagine Hobbits as having blue noses.  As a reader with a certain set of background tendencies, I will take p. 192 to be telling the truth--unless i’ve been stimulated elsewhere to be doubtful of everything that is said on this page.  However, if I also start to imagine that Elves have blue noses, just because Tolkien never says they do not, then perhaps I am overstepping my bounds.  I’ve chosen to enter this secondary world.  It would be foolish of me to start reshaping it as I see best. 

The freedom of the reader lies not in the ability to reconfigure the constructions of the authors imaginations.  It lies rather in the ability to enter into these constructions.  We don’t just go off imagining things by ourselves.  (so that even if Balrogs exist, really, because of Rohanya’s imagination, it is wrong for him to think that these are the same Balrogs that exist in the world which Tolkien has given to us.  In some sense, it is not the case that we all are imagining Middle-earth; rather, we are all entering into the Middle-earth which Tolkien has imagined).

Once we enter the imaginary world into which we are given, we do still have to recognize  for ourselves how things fit together.   And it is this second step that we might stray from teh author’s intent.  There will be certain factual relationships which Tolkien might have envisioned to be one way, but which the explorer knows must occur another way.  And there will be glimpses of more abstract truth which the reader’s experience will paint in a certain light, even though Tolkien wished otherwise. 

Depending on the type of writer, once we step back out of this secondary world we might even have two glimpses of this abstract truth.  The truth as we saw it ourselves, and the truth that it seems we were meant to recognize.  Most people probably think that Saruman is pretty bad when they have finished reading LotR. But perhpas a person finds a lost letter in which Tolkien expresses his admiration for Saruman.  Or perhaps he just constantly gets the feeling that he is supposed to like Saruman as he is reading the book, even though he can’t see anything admirable about him.  What this person learns  in his journey’s into Middle-earth is that the traits which Saruman possesses build a bad person.  But the person also learns that the author still seems to think otherwise.  But this just becomes part of the experience.  The reader has gone gone back into Middle-earth and now come out not only with his opinions, but with the opinion of the author.  And now I don’t even see where authorial intent problem comes in.  The only way we can know the author’s intent is if that has somehow come through in our experience of his story.  In which case, the story and the intent never diverge.  We would now, however, recognize that we have not only been given the opportunity to explore a secondary world, but we have also been told how to interprete our journey. 

It is, I think, to Tolkien’s credit that he does not add this second level of reading.  His is a higher level of storytelling, in which our experience of the secondary world is not overly tainted by his telling us our to interpret the journey--even though he is the one who determines the path we travel.

 

Maiarian Man 04/Aug/2006 at 10:16 PM
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I came back across this earlier today while writing another post, and just now remembered how applicable it might be to this argument (which I really haven’t gotten into, so I post this just for other’s sake):

To the extent that the painter has already painted and is in some measure master of himself, what is given to him with his style is not a certain number of ideas or tic that he can inventory but a manner of formulation that isjust as recognizable for other and just as little visible to him as his silhouette or his everyday gestures. (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World. tr. John O’Neill).

As Sean Kelly highlights in "Seeing Things in Merleau-Ponty" and elsewhere, Merleau-Ponty believes that the author’s style is less evident to himself than it is to the author’s audience (as is the painter’s style in the quote above).  This idea is not really sprung from artistic theory, but from phenomenologist philosophy (see Heidegger’s Being and Time, for instance, or Merleau-Ponty’s works themselves). 

I’ll take a little liberty here in describing what we can see from this, but it’s pretty well absorbed in the phenomenological interests of Merleau-Ponty and Professor Kelly (and most of all Heidegger).  When we go about our daily activity, we really take very little regard for our interactions with the equipment in the world around us.  We are hardly even aware of the majority of our intentional action until something goes wrong in the everyday world.  For instance, walking down the street I pass many people, turn corners, open doors all without really thinking aforehand "this is what I want to do, and now I do it."  Only in reflection do we posit this sort of intentionality.  The true nature of our everyday actions becomes the most covered from our view--precisely because they are so close to us that we hardly ever take notice of them until something goes wrong.

The same thing can be said for authors and artists.  I’m instantly reminded about Tolkien’s comments about the genesis of Faramir: "A new character has come on the scene (I am sure i did not invent him, I did not even want him, though I like him, but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien)" (Letter 166).  Here we can see Tolkien writing page after page, and then all of the sudden looking up and thinking to himself--oh my, I’ve introduced an entirely new character, and given him so much of a background I can’t even fit it all in the book.

In scenes like this, writing become for an author just as everyday as walking down the street and opening doors.  And if that is true, it seems quite reasonable that the author’s intentions are no more known to himself than they are to those who read him.  The nature of his writing and his intentions are covered up by their ontical proximity.  The act of writing is very much an unreflective excercise, like, again opening a door (or perhaps hammering).  Only in retrsopect is the author able to think of himself as being aware of what he was doing while writing.  Once again I am reminded of a quote from Tolkien: "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision" (Letter 142).  Catholic questions aside, we see here that only after the work was written could Tolkien realize the types of influence and intention that shaped its genesis.

It might seem that the conclusion is that the author’s intentions are irrelevant, since he doesn’t really know what they are himself any better than we do.  But actually, the conclusion just is that the author’s comments about his intentions are irrelevant.  It may or may not still make sense for us to talk about what we think his intentions are.  (So that we might still judge a book by how well it succeeds in achieving what the author intended to achieve--even though we need to figure out for ourselves what the author’s intentions were).

Of course, this type of absorption in writing does not always occur.  But even if we say that Tolkien was at one point sitting at his typewriter thinking about how he was going to write, for instance, a story condemming Hitler by having a hobbit destroy a Ring, we would still recognize that he was not aware of what intentions drove this idea.  It might have been that he was writing about Hitler because he had some greater intention to write about Jesus.  And he was so absorbed in that task that he hadn’t reflected on it, and wouldn’t be able to until something interupted the task.  And so on. 

Just some thoughts.

halfir 04/Aug/2006 at 11:26 PM
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mm: Thanks for that. I too have neglected this thread and will certainly seek to return to it, but, ’inspired ’by your post I too wish to add something’for the record’ which I will return to later. It is in Fact Note 11 of Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth {HOME 10 Morgoth’s Ring} and while it deals with the Flame Imperishable I would suggest that its comment on ’authorship’ has  application to this discussion.

I include the whole note so that the complete context is comprehensible.

’This is already actually glimpsed in the Ainulindale., in which reference is made to the ’Flame Impersihable’. This appears to mean the Creative activity of Eru (in some sense distinct from or within Him) , by which things could be given a ’real’ and indepndent (though derivative  and created) existence. The Flame Impersihable is sent out from Eru, to dwell in the heart of the world, and the world then Is, on the same plane as the Ainur, and they can enter into it. But this is not, of course, the same as the re-entry of Eru to defeat Melkor. It refers  rather to the mystery of ’authorship’ , by which the author, while remaining ’outside’ and ’indpendent’ of his work, also ’indwells’ in it, on its derivative plane, below his own being, as the source and guarentee of its being.’ {my bold emphasis}

Rohanya 05/Aug/2006 at 06:09 AM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 2902 Posts: 6872 Joined: 28/Jan/2005
Lord halfir, just this, having as you know other things on my plate. Yes, I agree totally with what you have deduced, though never in my own case saw it. I do thank you for making that point clear, at least in my mind, something I had never ever conceived re Flame Imperishable.

So, it would seem, we end up at dramatic results and with this theory of the reader takes whatever he or she can not quite the truth.

MM, as for Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, I think it best not to get lost in the notion of equipment, etc. Rather, we should imagine the process of writing, this art thing, special, producing in its wake a person much more, well, hale, than was prior to the process (though wholeness there, in some sense, I would guess, given, yet not quite enough). But it may well be I do not understand your post on the level it demands. My apologies, if so, not having enough time to mull over the matter.

Or, I would say that we should not assume that lack of intentions failed to produce a lack of intention on the part of the unconscious reaching out to conscious mind. Both guide, and especially the former.

For me any talk here minus an unconscious is of course not to be imagined. I do not imagine you yourself view an unconscious as not operative in the book.

But again, if I misinterpret you, apologies profuse.