Thursday, March 27, 2008

A new book on the Inklings

News on Truths Breathed Through Silver: The Inklings’ Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy, edited by Jonathan Himes and published by Cambridge Scholars Publishers. As I wrote last November, this new collection on the Inklings includes my essay, “Tolkien’s Felix Culpa and the Third Theme of Ilúvatar” (pp. 93–109). The announced release date of February 1, 2008 came and went, but the book has finally been printed! Amazon hasn’t updated its release date and doesn’t have copies quite yet, but it can only be a matter of days now. I just heard from the editor that his copies arrived earlier this week, and he’s very pleased with how they turned out. I should be able to add my own assessment to that once I get my contributor copy.

If you head over to Amazon, you’ll also see that the book has a cover now (pictured above). The price of $59.99 is targeted toward the academic/library market (and as such, is not typically discounted by Amazon), but if you’d like to get a copy, let me know, and I can get you one for 30% off the list price. Send me an email or leave a comment, and we’ll go from there. For those of you in the U.K., Amazon is offering a discounted price of £19.79 (just a teensy bit more than the price I can offer — and not guaranteed to last).

Even better than a glimpse of the cover, the CSP website has a thirty-page preview (in PDF format). The preview includes the full Table of Contents (my essay is the sixth chapter, right before Tom Shippey!), the editor’s Introduction, and about 70% of the first essay (by Joe Christopher). To whet your appetite (I hope), my own essay is summarized in the Introduction as follows:
In another paper on Tolkien, Jason Fisher brings our attention to the concept of the felix culpa, revealing some telling points of divergence between Tolkien’s Catholicism and the theology of his subcreated world. Many acts of goodness and heroism in Middle-earth appear not to have been possible without some prior, precipitating act of evil. In fact, evil itself is woven into the very design of the world before its physical creation. This alleviates certain problems of fictional invention while leaving some eschatological issues of Middle-earth unresolved. (xv)
Thus comes to fruition a paper I have been thinking about for a long time, as this lively thread from January 2002 reveals (please overlook the misspelling of Ilúvatar). I encourage you to take a peek at the online preview and share your thoughts.

14 comments:

  1. On the question of evil in relation to Eru I can recommend "Man and the Presence of Evil in Christian and Platonic Doctrine" by Philip Sherrard. Part I and Pt. II.

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  2. Congratulations! You've been busy these past few years, haven't you?

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  3. Thanks very much for the links, Aucen. I’ll take a look at Sherrard’s essay as soon as I’ve got a little more free time.

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  4. Thanks, Brigand! Yes, busy, busy, busy! Although I wrote the essay in question two years ago, I went through three or four rounds of enhancement and revision from the original conference paper. I have been working especially hard to establish a solid vita in a short period of time; maybe now, I can slow down a bit and take some well-earned (I think) rest. Maybe a vacation — I haven’t had one in three years.

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  5. I have not (yet) had a chance to read your essay, but I think that Tolkien´s subcreated cosmogony definitely have a darker strain than the Platonic and the Abrahamic ones which informed Tolkien's own view of our primary world. (Morgoth's ring is interwoven with Arda and is at the same time a metaphysic necessity which verifies Man's free will to participate according to the Great music or turn their backs to its spirit, i.e. forgetfulness or "sin".

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  6. I think that Tolkien’s subcreated cosmogony definitely have a darker strain than the Platonic and the Abrahamic ones which informed Tolkien’s own view of our primary world

    Yes, I think so too. I think Tolkien eventually became somewhat uncomfortable, theologically, with his own subcreated ethos, which may in part account for his endless niggling with it. Nils Ivar Agøy touches on this in a very interesting essay, “Quid Hinieldus cum Christo? — New Perspectives on Tolkien’s Theological Dilemma and his Sub-Creation Theory” (published in the Proceedings of the Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992).

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  7. Jason, I don't know if the offer was only for a special group, but I would definitely like to discuss this book at your special price.

    Also, I read your thread, and wanted to dialogue with you about your idea, but I wanted to ask a contextual question concerning your own beliefs. Some people find these questions touchy and whatnot, and I certainly would not want to offend, but what do you believe (you know, about God, Reality, Truth, whatever). I would ask you not to take this question in the most commonly perceived Christian sense of, "Tell me what you believe so I can tell you why I think you are not quite believing the right things," nor a question aimed at "religious" dialogue (whatever that is) at all, but more so that I can get a gauge from the kind of framework you are coming from. Our primary beliefs have EVERYTHING to do with our secondary (and ff.) beliefs, and so understanding those things helps dialogue quite a bit. I ask this especially because your thought struck me as very Platonic, and I would not want to misjudge.

    If I'm being to personal, of course, I digress. Hope the move still goes well. Peace.

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  8. Jason, I don’t know if the offer was only for a special group, but I would definitely like to discuss this book at your special price.

    No, not reserved to any special group — unless you can call readers of Lingwë a “special group”, hahae. I am happy to get you a copy at that price, and I’m very happy to hear you’re interested. It’s going to be a very good collection. I’ve actually heard six or seven of these essays in person, so I can attest to their interesting subjects and treatments, all made by very capable scholars.

    As you may know, I’m right in the middle of moving, so I’ll put you down for a follow-up email in a week or so, if that’s all right. Much too busy to place an order at the moment! :)

    If I’m being to personal, of course, I digress. Hope the move still goes well. Peace.

    Not at all. I don’t mind discussing my views or those of others, whether I agree or disagree, and I’m not the least bit touchy about it. In fact, sometimes the reverse: I’ve been known to play the advocatus diaboli a bit aggressively at times. :)

    Thanks for the best wishes on the move. What a stressful thing moving can be!

    I ask this especially because your thought struck me as very Platonic, and I would not want to misjudge.

    I don’t subscribe to simnple labels — theological, philosophical, or otherwise — but I do agree with some elements of Platonic as well as Aristotelian thought. I’m not a religious person myself, even though I make my primary academic study of authors with very profound religious beliefs. But neither am I an atheist. Probably the best term (though some consider it wishy-washy) would be agnostic, because I really do not know.

    Do I believe in God in the Primary World? In an active, knowing, faithful sense? I would have to say no. Not that I actively disbelieve; rather, I see no positive reason to believe, if you see the distinction. God — or gods — in sub-created Secondary Worlds? Certainly. The idea of God, I mean, definitely has a kind of cross-cultural primacy one can’t ignore.

    My own worldview would probably be better described as philosophical, mythological, and anthropological, rather than purely religious or theological. However, I am open to many spiritual ideas. I have a strong background in science, too, but also in the humanities. I think they all come together, really. Ideas like the Gaia principle, pantheism, phenomenology, and epiphenomenalism strike a chord of truth for me.

    I feel like I’m merely rambling, though. Perhaps this is, once again, because I don’t subscribe to mere labelling. I cannot call myself a Christian, or an Atheist, or a Catholic, or a Buddhist, et al. So what should I call myself ...?

    Feel free to pose any questions or voice any opinions you like on the subject. BTW, I should point out that the questions in the thread you read were, to some extent, rhetorical, and the essay that evolved over a period of years is rather different from it in character.

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  9. Gary Schmidt3/29/2008 9:31 PM

    I cannot call myself a Christian, or an Atheist, or a Catholic, or a Buddhist, et al. So what should I call myself ...?

    A Cablinasian? :;

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  10. Jason

    Sounds too go to wait for to break my book buying fast!!! Just ordered it through Amazon UK (but keep it quiet :-))

    Thanks, Andy

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  11. Gary, nice one! “Red and yellow, black and white / They are precious in His sight. / Jesus loves the little [golfers] of the world.” :)

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  12. Andy, do let me know what you think of the book once you’ve read it. I’m itching with anticipation to get my own copy!

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  13. i'm a great fan of Inklings (if you see my blog the last two post is dedicated to Tolkien and Inkling, but i'm not a critic simply a fan) i hope that some publisher translate this in italian. Ciao. giovastrider

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  14. Buongiorno, Giova. Come stai? I don’t know of any plans to translate the book into Italian. Perhaps you could contact the publisher and volunteer to do so yourself? In the meantime, I’ll check out your blog. Thanks for stopping by — hope you’ll be back. Ciao! :)

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