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  1. This thread is open for comments about Patrick Curry's essay On Reading Tolkien:http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/forum...294563#7294563
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  2. Beren Laerdir's Avatar
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    #2
    excellent. i think he is spot on in many ways. its interesting to me the parallels he has with certain philosophers, such as heidegger; they arent couched in the same terms but the notion that our modernity, our will to knowledge, rule, and order (so to speak), and in heideggers case our technology that allows us to expand those three things, actually actually slowly stripping away our mental freedoms...he also hits on the fact that whilst middle earth may be imaginary, it is certainly authentic at the same time...indeed it is more authentic than the real world in many ways...




    i think i might get "Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien, Myth & Modernity", it seems like it will be an interesting read.
    obsessive blind guardian fan,
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    <br />i perpetually yearn for times past and places that never were. that yearning grows heavier in me every day...

  3. Athelas_H's Avatar
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    #3
    I really enjoyed Curry's essay. It was interesting; he has expressed in words some of my own thoughts which have cummulated with re-reading LotR.

    Curry wrote:

    Putting the elements of this analysis together, then, we might say TlotR enables readers (or those readers who do not subscribe to modernist hegemony and are not cowed by its opinions) to find their own fears and hopes addressed in a compelling narrative that doesn’t analyse, lecture or patronise them but shows them truths about themselves and the world. It then becomes our story, and its truths become personal and emotional ones.

    This statement is very much true to me. There are certain connections that I see with my own life and the lives of some of the characters in LotR, and some things/ eventsin my life I have come to understand better because of these connections; they have become "personal truths".
    I also agree with Curry's comments on reading andre-reading LotR in order to remind ourselves of non-modernity. In this way I feel more understanding of the world around me: of my own life, of society, of world events, etc. I am able to detach myself from modernity not just whenI re-read LotR, but in everyday life. But in doing so, I am made more aware of the modernity of the world and how inseparable most people are from it which saddens me immensely.

  4. halfir's Avatar
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    #4
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Patrick Curry's excellent paper- which is the last in our 2010 series - put me in mind of a post I made in the Tom Bombadil thread in AL
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/forum...on-collegium-1
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">in which I quoted from Lewis and Tolkien and have represented here in slightly amended form.
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Excerpt.
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours
    Writing to his great friend Arthur Greve in June 1930, C.S.Lewis told the story of a friend of his who, with two other chums, had ‘gone back to nature.’
    They had pooled their resources and taken a cottage in the Cotswolds. Here, their aim was:
    ‘as far as possible, to use nothing which is a product of the factory system or of modern industry in general…..There is certainly something attractive about the idea of living as far as may be on the produce of the land about you: to see in every walk the pastures where your mutton grazed when it was sheep, the gardens where your vegetables grew, the mill where your flour was ground, and the workshop where your chairs were sawn- and to feel that bit of country actually and literally in your veins.{They Stand Together The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greve 1914-1963- my bold emphasis)
    Lewis goes on to say:
    ‘ Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the woods- they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air &amp; later corn, and later still bread was in them. {ibid. my bold emphasis}

    And, adding his own observations, Lewis concludes:
    We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, &amp; Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours. ‘(ibid. my bold emphasis}
    Note these words:
    1. there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside {Tolkien}
    2. What had been earth and air &amp; later corn, and later still bread was in them.{Tolkien}
    3. We….. are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth{Lewis}
    4.We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.{Lewis}
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">End excerpt
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Tolkien's genius was to allow that 'disconnect' we all feel as 'modern man'
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">We .........are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">to be mediated through the world of ME and allowmankind to reconnect - to find -through the world of Faery -via Recovery, Escape, and Consolation (cf. On Fairy Stories) - in Patrick's words:truths about themselves and the world.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Patrick Curry is to be commended for showing us how to revisit the world of Faery that Tolkien spoke of inOn Fairy Stories and how to trulyunderstand Recovery, Escape (escape to-not escape from), and Consolation.
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Edited by: halfir
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  5. Mabinogion's Avatar
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    #5
    I second Stinker. And Curry's explanation of why we read TLotR over and over again:

    We need reminding, most of us. That’s understandable: we are such busy, forgetful, fearful creatures. So perhaps my hypothesis also makes it understandable why many of us regularly (whether the interval is one year or several) reread TLotR. It’s not because we don’t know what’s going to happen next in the story! The point of doing so is rather that it has become a ritual, one that renews our sense of life and of being alive.

    That statement sums up a lot of the reasons why Tolkien's works were so enrapturing, especially when I was younger. In addition to a magnificent story, something within the text speaks of a world so opposite from the one we live, with values that resonate with us. It becomes more real to us.

    halfir, thanks for sharing those quotes and thoughts. It is amazing to think how Tolkien helps create a bond between the reader and his world, and in so doing connects us back to the earth. It's definitely true for my own life; Sam Gamgee is my gardener role-model
    Jack of some Words, Master of None.

  6. halfir's Avatar
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    #6
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">it has become a ritual, one that renews our sense of life and of being alive.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Mabinogion's quote from Patrick Curry's excellent paper also put me in mind of my opening post in a thread entitled Tolkien's Transformative Novel
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/forum...asp?TID=215541
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">in which I suggested - using KarenArmstrong'sconcept of novelist as priest - that Tolkien as novelist -in LOTR- fulfil's a priestly function.
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    In On Fairy Stories Tolkien sees one of the fundamental aspects of the fairy story as 'Recovery'.


    Recovery (which includes return and renewal of health) is a regaining - regaining of a clear view. I do not say 'seeing things as they are' and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say 'seeing thingsas we are (or were) meant to see them'- as things apart from ourselves. We need , in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familarity - from possessiveness. {my bold empahsis}


    In her book A Short History of Myth *-Karen Armstrong- probably the most lucid popular writer on religion today argues:


    We have seen that a myth could never be approached in a purely profane setting. It was only comprehensible in a liturgical context that set it apart from everyday life; it must be experienced as part of a process of personal transformation. None of this, surely,applies to the novel which can be read anywhere at all without ritual trappings and must, if it is any good, eschew the overtly didactic. Yet the experience of reading a novel has certain qualities that remind us of the traditional apprehension of mythology.It can be seen as a form of meditation. Readers have to live with a novel for days or even weeks. It projects them into another world, parallel to but apart from their ordinary lives. They know perfectly well that this fictional world is not 'real' and yet while tthey are reading it it becomes compelling.{cf. Tolkien's comments on 'sub-creation' and the 'Enchanted State' in On Fairy Stories}. A powerful novel becomes part of the backdrop of our lives, long after we have laid the book aside.{cf. Italo Calvino's third point on a 'classic in Why Read the Classics?: The classics are books which exercise a popular influence, both when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable, and when they hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual's or the collective unconscious'}.It is an exercise of make-believe, that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathise with other lives and sorrows. It teaches compassion, the ability to 'feel' with others.{cf. Frodo's view of Gollum- 'For now that I see him, I do pity him. TT-The Taming of Smeagol} And, like mythology, an important novel is transformative. If we allow it to do so , it can change us forever........


    If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest. {cf. Tolkien's concept of 'Recovery' and his comment about 'posessiveness' in the opening quote above, from On Fairy Stories}.If professional religious leaders cannot instruct us in mythical lore, our artists and creative writes can perhaps step into this priestly role and bring fresh insight to our lost and damaged world. {Karen Armstrong.- A Short History of Myth Chpt. The Great Western Transformation - my bold emphasis}


    A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest


    Armstrong was not writing about Tolkien when she penned those words, indeed, he is not even mentioned in her book. But it seems to me that much of what she has to say about the 'transfromative novel' and 'myth' very much applies to his work, and particularly to LOTR. Unlike the fictional work of his friend C.S. Lewis Tolkien is not overtly didactic. Moreover, while his personal religious beliefs subsume his writings they do not overpower it, and they are in any case leavened with his firm belief in the theological concept of 'natural morality' -LOTR was - in his words:



    'a monotheistic world of 'natural theology'. {Letter # 165}


    and while:


    I am in any case myself a Christian


    ....the 'Third Age' was not a Christian world. {ibid}


    Whether or not, to use Ms. Armstrong''s words:


    If professional religious leaders cannot instruct us in mythical lore, our artists and creative writes can perhaps step into this priestly role and bring fresh insight to our lost and damaged world


    Tolkien in LOTR fulfilled this priestly role is for the individual reader to decide for himself/herself.


    I, for one, am in no doubt as to whereI stand on the matter!


    *Karen Armstrong- A Short History of Myth - Canongate 2006 - ISBN 1 84195 703 8 (10 digit) - ISBN 978 1 84195 703 6 (13 digit)Edited by: halfir
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  7. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #7


    <?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><O:P>Back to the matter of modernity. I'm going to offer a purely personal context. Stand by!</O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    When I read <I style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">Defending Middle-earth[/I] my immediate reaction was one of recognition, in that it very closely reflected my own attitude to LotR when I first read it – that is, a few weeks later, when I had finally registered that I was <I style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">not[/I] in Middle-earth, and could think clearly. This is 1956-1957.<O:P></O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    Even though the Second World War had finally ended 11 years before, we were still very much in a post-war situation. Rationing of food had only ended 2 years earlier, and we were still surrounded by evidence of bomb damage, reminding us of the war – and of course the war had ended with muted celebration, because of its final event: the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japanese cities. The bomb was a real and present threat for the next 18 years, at the back of most people’s minds - that is, when it wasn’t at the front, which it frequently was in these most frigid days of the Cold War, with Dr Strangeloves on both sides increasingly eager to try out their latest super-destructive toy. These were the years of unrestrained atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, with resultant pollution, so that as well as the future threat of total annihilation there was the present growing awareness of the side-effects of these tests. However nuclear contamination was far from the only source of pollution. 1950s London, for example, was a pretty unhealthy place to live; in just 4 days in December.1952 smog effects are estimated to have killed at least 4,000 (probably many more) and seriously affected the health of at least 10,000 more from respiratory infections. This was only the most spectacular example of atmospheric pollution at the time; on the ground industrial pollution also was evident.<O:P></O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    What with mechanised war, the development of ever more horrible weapons, and the evident effects of pollution, it was becoming ever harder to believe in science as the solution to our problems. In my case this was accentuated by experience of high school science, which was taught almost purely from a utilitarian viewpoint of what economic benefit it could bring, especially in helping you get a highly-paid job. That was just my experience, but I don’t think I was alone. By the time LotR appeared, a number of us were already in fairly passive rebellion against the state of things, and LotR confirmed us, reinforced our ideas and broadened our horizons in all sorts of ways, but especially in what came to be called an “ecological” direction. So it got a very positive response from us young folk … rather less from our elders. We wanted the simple life ….<O:P></O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    And yet ….<O:P></O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    When I get exasperated with supermarkets, I sometimes think back to the good old days when I used to go shopping in Surrey Street Market, and the nostalgic experience of trying to make a surly stallholder give me the good tomatoes from the front of the display, as distinct from the distinctly dodgy ones he had at the back, out of sight. I also recollect the days when I shopped at an independent grocer’s, and used to carry home a dozen eggs in a brown paper bag. Nowadays I must admit that I appreciate being able to choose my own fruit and vegetables, and having vulnerable items in sturdy packaging.<O:P></O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    And when it comes to the simple life, as I have since learned, not only can it be extremely hard work, but sometimes that the work could be in vain. A particularly sharp frost, heavy rain at harvest time could ruin a year’s effort. And that’s if you succeeded in keeping off the more predatory birds, animals and insects. No, not so hot after all. And despite the image of a single family living from the same land for centuries on end: well, as Peter Laslett demonstrated in the 1970s, in 15<SUP>th</SUP>-century England it was fairly unusual for a family to live in the same spot for more than three generations.<O:P></O:P>
    <O:P></O:P>
    So the anti-machine anti-modernity message needs a little finessing in real life!



    None of which is to decry Patrick Curry's work, which is impressive to say the least, and a very valuable contribution to our study of Tolkien! It's just that globalization, and even industrialization, do have their positive aspects, and doing without them entails some disadvantages as well as advantages.Edited by: Dorwiniondil
    The incarnate mind, the tongue and the tale are in our world coeval.

  8. NineFingered's Avatar
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    #8


    Somehow the essay reminded me of Keat's On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, because of its content and maybe even the title, although it looks common enough. You know the lines of the sonnet:

    Yet did I never breathe [Homer's] pure serene

    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

    When a new planet swims into his ken
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

    He star'd at the Pacific - and all his men

    Look'd at each other with a wild surmise -

    Silent, upon a peak in Darien. (lines 7-14)

    Darien sounds Tolkienish, maybe that increased the connection I felt with Keat's poem.

    What Keats says in verses Patrick Curry explains in prose, and the feeling of being alive and seeing the world around you is the most magical part of reading LOTR for me. I do indeed read it once every year, going through it slower each time, savoring every description and detail (the first time I read it at hyperspace speed).

    But yes, I agree with Dorwiniondil that the anti-modernity message needs some refining. I was especially thrown back by the last comment: "(And even if destroying the Ring is another matter altogether)." Curry is aware of the problem: If we allow for an anti-machine substrata in Tolkien's writings, does it follow that we ought to seek to destroy its symbol/incarnation? I think he could have discussed this in previous paragraphs. My college professors would frown on adding new ideas to the conclusion (but fortunately he is not tied to this practice as I am). Still, for the sake of clarity, it could have been discussed more or avoided and brought up in another essay.

    But kudos for pointing directions of research.


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