Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tolkien Studies 5 — at long last!

As regular readers of Lingwë will know, the latest volume of Tolkien Studies has been available online to Project Muse subscribers since the middle of July, and I’ve been chomping at the bit (to fall back on a regionalism here in Texas) for my copy ever since. I’d hoped to have it in my hands before I left for Mythcon in the middle of August, but that date came and went too. I’ve now learned that due to a miscommunication between WVUP and their distributor, the contributor copies never went out! At least, not until I had squeaked about it several times. My most recent nag resulted in the discovery that the distributor had never dealt with the list of contributor copies, and once WVUP realized that, the copies went out immediately. I got mine, at long last, this past Friday. Since then, I’ve been looking through it eagerly. I suppose I can take credit for the whole throng of contributors finally getting their copies, if I’m willing to admit I’m a real whiner. ;) (Actually, I was very nice and pretty patient in each of my messages.)

The issue contains loads of great stuff, as usual, and it will take some time to digest, again as usual. Some of the highlights include the featured essay by Brian Rosebury, on revenge and moral judgment; an article by Carl Phelpstead on the prosimetric qualities of The Lord of the Rings; Corey Olsen’s paper on the Ents and Entwives, which I saw delivered in Vermont in 2007; and my own essay on the Three Elven Rings. Even better, immediately following my essay, Tolkien’s substantial essay on “Chaucer as a Philologist” is finally brought back into print after more than 70 years, along with the version of The Reeve’s Tale Tolkien prepared for recitation in 1939 (an even rarer piece). That’s Chaucer’s Reeve pictured on the cover of the issue (above), from the Ellesmere MS.

Volume 5 also contains the usual assortment of book reviews, an extensive Year’s Work essay by David Bratman, and the Bibliography for 2006. I am pleased to say that I have two entries in the bibliography, and that I am mentioned (also twice) in the book reviews. (I may get into Bratman’s Year’s Work essay next year. :) The two items in the bibliography are my essays on Tolkien and George MacDonald, published in North Wind, and “‘Man does as he is when he may do as he wishes’: The Perennial Modernity of Free Will”, published in the collection, Tolkien and Modernity (Walking Tree).

The latter is also one of the book reviews. My essay is really only mentioned, not judged, in the review by Shaun Hughes. He had an awful lot to cover in his review, so I suppose I would rather get no more than a mention than be severely criticized, hahae. Still, something more substantive would have been nice. In actuality, there may be more of an engagement with my essay than is at first apparent: Hughes spends nearly a full page [p. 250] on the Boethian view of free will, something I took up in my essay at some length. Though he says nothing so specific, perhaps those comments were stimulated by my paper.

The real easter egg was in the same review, but in a quite unexpected place. Talking about Tolkien’s treatment of wanhope (“despair”) [pp. 246—7], Hughes directs readers to the article by Anthony Burdge and Jessica Burke on that subject in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment — and to my own review of that entry in the Tolkien Encyclopedia Diary. Which actually gave me another unforeseen citation in the issue [p. 256]. Hughes makes no judgment of his own on the Burdge / Burke essay, or on my critique of it, but I wonder very much what he was thinking.

I will be reading and absorbing the rest of the issue for some time to come, but in the meantime, I welcome any and all feedback on my essay, as well as comments of any kind of the issue in general. I have read one reaction to my essay already, here. The review was highly complimentary — which I appreciated, of course — but with a couple of small quibbles too — which I welcome just as much. Anyone else care to comment, question, or critique? :)


  1. Congratulations - it's always nice to get published, hehe. Unfortunately, I do not know when I'll get the chance of reading the latest volume of Tolkien Studies. Patience is a virtue, but alas! I am not very virtious... I am looking forward to reading it and I'm certain that it is full of wonderful and insightful articles, again.

    On a slightly/completely unrelated note, I was wondering if you could point me to some information on Tolkien's poetry - are there any studies in that direction that I could find online or in print?

  2. Tolkien’s poetry — you’ve put your finger on one of the most overlooked areas in Tolkien studies, actually. Some work has been done, but not nearly as much as should have been — no full-length studies, variorum editions, etc. I once proposed the idea of a variorum edition of all the poems comprising The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, but the Tolkien Estate was not interested in the idea. And so it goes ...

    Tom Shippey identifies this as one of several areas deserving of greater attention in the introduction to his new collection, Roots and Branches: “Much more could be said also, I feel, about Tolkien’s early poems and their repeated rewritings [...]” (p. iv). So, if you want to plow that field, you’ll have Shippey’s blessing. But let me recommend a few things I do know about (and that might be somewhat easier for you to find):

    “Tolkien’s Versecraft in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings” by Geoffrey Russom (in J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances); “Tolkien’s Lyric Poetry” by Joe Christopher (in Tolkien’s Legendarium); “The Adapted Text: The Lost Poetry of Beleriand” by Gergely Nagy (in Tolkien Studies 1); “Indexing and Poetry in The Lord of the Rings” by Tom Shippey (published in Lembas Extra 2004, and reprinted in Roots and Branches); and the cluster of six (or seven, depending on how you look at it) entries on Tolkien’s poetry in The J.R.R. Tolkien Enclyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. And of course, the new essay in the current Tolkien Studies, which I mentioned in my post: “‘With chunks of poetry in between’: The Lord of the Rings and Saga Poetics” by Carl Phelpstead.

    That ought to keep you busy! :)

  3. The 44th annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, next May at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, will feature a session on "Tolkien's Poetry and Song" with four papers on that subject. That session is part of the conference's "Tolkien at Kalamazoo" track, which also includes two other paper sessions, and three roundtables.

  4. Yes! Thank you, N.E.B. I had intended to mention that, but forgot. Let’s hope some interesting work will come out of that session.

  5. Thanks for the references. I know Tolkien's poetry is a much overlooked subject despite the numerous studies of Tolkien's life and works. The closest I got to reading something of the kind was Ursula Le Guin's article on "Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings" and I found it to be really interesting. I hope that Tolkien Studies and/or Walking Tree Publishers come up with more articles/books on the topic!

    I'm looking forward to reading your article on the Rings of Power :)

  6. I hope that Tolkien Studies and/or Walking Tree Publishers come up with more articles/books on the topic!

    I think we can expect that they will. It’s an emerging topic. People are finally beginning to become aware of the lack of sufficiently thorough scholarship on it, so I expect we’ll start seeing more. Speaking of Walking Tree, another article you may want to check out (which I have not read yet): “‘Tom Bombadil’: Poetry and Accretion” by Allan Turner, in Tolkien’s Shorter Works: Essays of the Jena Conference 2007.

  7. Turner's essay provides a good framework for one method of analysis into the Bombadil poems; I just wish it were longer.

    Today I came across this page by Gene Hargrove dedicated to the poems in LotR, but it's pretty introductory.

    When I heard Corey Olsen's paper on the song of the Ents and the Entwives read at Vermont in 2007 (I still haven't read it in Tolkien Studies 5), it reminded me of three essays I'd encountered online, this one on the lament for Boromir, and these two (plus rebuttal) on "Gondor! Gondor!"

  8. Thanks, N.E. Brigand. I’ve read Squire’s excellent exegesis of the Lament for Boromir before (thanks to you, again), but I’m sure Adanedhel, and other readers, will enjoy it. The other links were new to me (unless my memory fails me), as was Gene Hargrove’s page on the poems in The Lord of the Rings.