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Old 06-05-2005, 06:23 AM   #121
littlemanpoet
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Are you trying to have it both ways, davem? But then, you don't take yourself seriously, so there's no reason we should either, right? Unless, of course, you are asking for subscription to the church of latter day Tolkienism (not tokenism), founded by the apostle davem for the sake of the gospel according to tolkien. It must be remembered, o chosen faithful, that the angel Olorin has appeared directly to the reader so that said disciple reader must know and believe in his or her heart (we are gender inclusive here) that Gandalf is an angel and speaketh at great length the mysterious descriptions of Orthanc, may Elbereth live forever.
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Old 06-05-2005, 06:43 AM   #122
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Originally Posted by LMP
But then, you don't take yourself seriously, so there's no reason we should either, right
If I thought anyone was taking anything I posted here as seriously as you imply I would stop posting straight away. In the end its the ideas we discuss that are important, & I just wish people could find a way to seperate the ideas from the person posting them. Then maybe we could have some good, in depth, discussions here without people getting all het up & offended by what they read. I don't get hot & bothered by what others post because I just respond to them as ideas. My ideas are up for debate, discussion or trashing, not myself, so I don't worry about the negative response I get from others.

I can only say that if this approach has lead me to hurt or offend other posters I'm sorry, but I can only repeat I've always thought of this as a forum for us to discuss Tolkien's work, not each other.
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Old 06-05-2005, 06:59 AM   #123
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Serious? Hardly. Just spoofing. Quite fun. I've heard it said that spoofing only offends those who do take themselves too seriously, but then who knows? You did allow yourself to become part of the topic. But I'll stop.

"Just because I'm in denial doesn't mean I've really lost - er - what did you say I'd lost?"

"Your memory."

"Oh. right."
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Old 06-05-2005, 07:25 AM   #124
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
But Gandalf, as an Ainur, would, it seems to me, in this situation,adopt the role of 'impartial' narrator, passing on information to other council members. He can also seem as if he is 'bragging' in the Council, reporting his 'clever' responses to Saruman. I think he is being quite impartial. We have to keep in mind his true nature, & I think if we do his speech is in character. He may be in He may be in Middle earth, but he is not of it. As Tolkien put it he is effectively an 'incarnate angel'.
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Originally Posted by davem
We know he is more than he appears. We are on a learning curve at this point in the story.
There's a big, big jump between saying Gandalf is an Ainur and saying 'he is more than he appears.' The latter could be said of all the characters in any story, that at the beginning, especially at such a momentous occasion as the Council of Elrond, there will be more to these characters than yet meets the eye.

To say that only a reading which knows The Silm can create a valid reading of Lot R is to demand a specific knowledge which was unavailable to almost all readers (short of CT and The Inklings) until the posthumous publication of The Silm. You are here now claiming that LotR cannot be understood without reference to other Tolkien texts, yet previously you were saying the LotR should be read without what you called baggage of other texts. To prioritise some texts above others is to engage in specious argument. LotR as its own unique text has to operate independently in order to charm readers.

What would appear to be important is the tantalizing potential of knowing that a "yet more ancient history" preceeded it, as Tolkien writes in the Second Edition. Hoping to catch such "glimpses" is a lot different than knowing Gandalf belongs to the form of creation set up by Eru. Things are held on the tenuous potential in LotR and not stated outright. That potentiality is, I argue, what we as readers are to experience, and not an explicit demand that the Legendarium explains everything.

In that second edition Tolkien stated what his purpose was, and it is an interesting purpose, for he does not claim he expected to hold readers constantly in thrall to some enchantment.

Quote:
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 mabye excite them or deeply move them.
It seems to me that to characterise any reading where enchantment breaks as a failure to attend properly to the text is to overstate and even mischaracterise what is happening.
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:20 AM   #125
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The 'baggage' I was referring to (which I should have expressed more clearly) was personal stuff, or ideas, concepts & connections external to Middle earth as a whole. Of course, the whole of Tolkien's extensive Me writings were not available to most readers, but they were available to Tolkien himself & LotR grew out of the earlier writings. For instance, the encounter with Shelob is heightened & deepened immensely by a knowlege of the story of the killing of the Two Trees, the rape of the Silmarils & the story of Earendel & Ungoliant. This 'background' information turns the episode from a fight with a monstrous spider into something far more significant & symbolic, & links back into Sam's statement about stories, & that he & Frodo are in the same story as Beren & Luthien & Earendel. The point is that Tolkien had those stories in mind as he wrote the confrontation with Shelob & if the reader also knows those stories he or she will read the encounter differently than if they don't. That is not bringing primary world baggage with them.

I wouldn't deny that readers who only have LotR can get a great deal from it, but Tolkien's struggles to get the Sil published alongside LotR show (aside fro his own comments in the letters) that he felt the background histories were necessary for a complete understanding of that work. The fact that he didn't struggle to get a volume of Anglo-Saxon, Middle Eastern, Finnish, Celtic, etc, myths & legends, fairy tales, other fantasy stories or historical accounts published as well, shows that he didn't consider a knowledge of those things to be necessary to such an understanding.

LotR was not considered by Tolkien to be a self contained story, but the culmination of the Legendarium.

LotR can be read as a stand alone work, & as you point out it has been, of necessity, read so for most of its history, but it was not intended by its author to be read so. Whether it has to stand or fall by whether it can be so read or not is a matter of opinion. Whether or not it was intended by its writer to be so read is not a matter of opinion. It wasn't. Expecting to fully understand LotR (as opposed to simply loving it & being enchanted by it) without knowing the rest of the Legendarium is rather like expecting to understand RotK without knowing The Fellowship or The Two Towers. One could read RotK & be enchanted & moved by it, but one wouldn't fully understand it - anymore than someone watching episodes 4,5 & 6 of Star Wars without knowing what happened in episodes 1-3 would fully understand them. The first three Star Wars movies (whatever one's opinion of them as movies) are necessary to give background & depth to the second three. What is not necessary, & would, in my opinion, get in the way would be watching the movies with a head full of ideas about comparative mythology, religion & the other movies 'referenced' by Lucas.

Being too aware of such 'baggage' while we are watching the movies would inevitably break the spell & reduce the whole experience to an intellectual exercise devoid of emotional involvement, but watching episodes 4-6 with the events of episodes 1-3 in mind will add meaning & depth to our experience. Episodes 4-6 had to be viewed as 'stand alone' movies for 20 odd years because episodes 1-3 weren't available to watch but George Lucas knew what they contained, & wrote episodes 4-6 as the culmination (unless you believe the 9 episode story arc tale) of his 'Legendarium', & events in the later trilogy only really make sense in the light of the earlier one. In the same way LotR was written by Tolkien as the culmination of The Sil.

So, while a full & complete understanding of both LotR & SW 4-6 requires a knowlege of the The Sil & SW 1-3 respectively, neither requires (or benefits from) any 'baggage' external to the secondary worlds they present to us.

Last edited by davem; 06-05-2005 at 08:24 AM.
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:59 AM   #126
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Originally Posted by davem

Being too aware of such 'baggage' while we are watching the movies would inevitably break the spell & reduce the whole experience to an intellectual exercise devoid of emotional involvement,
This is where I think we have our major disagreement. You call bringing in this so-called 'baggage' "an intellectual exercise devoid of emotional involvement" and that has been the thrust of your posts here (and, I think, of Lalwendë's also, in her division between purpose-lead reading and pleasure reading, an argument which did postulate personal experience rather than simply idea).

Such a position is fairly and honestly based, I would guess, on your stated wish to play with ideas about reading. But I don't think this state of emotional versus intellectual involvement is true for everyone, nor even that it is an absolute truth about the reading experience or any artistic experience. There are many people for whom such a division misrepresents their experience reading, watching movies, and responding to any art.

All reading goes into our head, into our memory of language and story, just as all movie watching does. Some people, when they first saw that scene where Luke returns to his aunt's and uncle's water farm after they have been brutally murdered by the storm troupers, were immediately and viscerally reminded of a similar scene in an old western movie, a powerful scene of loss, horror, grief, shock. This wasn't an intellectual exercise of saying, "Oh, yes, I do say, how Lucas employs the old western tale in space. Yawn." It was an emotional correlation. This correlation was not available to movie viewers who didn't see the old western movie, but that does not negate or invalidate the experience of those who did. And the experience is emotional.

What were these viewers to do? Stop and say, "Oh, away baggage memory!" ?

The difficulty with your theory of reading Middle earth is that it demands or assumes that readers be some kind of blank black board upon which Tolkien writes. This does not represent many people's experience of reading--indeed, of any art form. And, secondly, it suggest that any experience of primary art which readers bring to Middle earth is some kind of intellectual or logical imposition rather than a felt experience.

I think I'm going to check out Owen Barfield, as littlemanpoet suggested, to see about this "felt change of consciousness" he mentioned.


EDIT: I think it is very funny that I have just received a negative rep for my previous post here. This is the third negative rep I have received for posts on this thread or the Translator Conceit thread. They turn the discussion here into something personal and seem to have a particular sense of my own posts. Why are they funny? Because they have all been anonymous and because this one at least seems to object to my own particular way of reading. Gosh, I guess davem can tell us to go read "Splintered Light" and various other Tolkien studies, but the rest of us can't talk about other things. Anyhow, as I say, I find this vastly amusing. Here's the most recent comment:

Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymous rep comment
it seems like the only point you are trying to make is to break davem down. This isnt a mensa meeting. Nobody logging into this website wants to read a book report.

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Old 06-05-2005, 09:25 AM   #127
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I think what you're talking about here is 'unconscious' baggage. What I'm talking about is conscious baggage, where we are deliberately looking for these connections & consciously interpreting what we read or view as we watch or read . The more we bring in these things the more we will detatch ourselves from what we are experiencing.

Every time such a connection occurs there is a 'split', a wrenching out of the secondary world into either the primary or another secondary world - 'Never our minds on where we are' seems to be a major problem. It is a lack of attention to what's actually going on in front of us.

The impact of the scene you refer to, of Luke's return to find his aunt & uncle dead, may be enhanced for some viewers by similar scenes in other movies, but it is more likely to prove a distraction from the actual events on screen, & produce a 'general' feeling of sadness & loss, rather than a specific feeling related to Luke's loss - we won't be empathising & connecting with Luke here, but with all the characters we've ever seen in similar situatons. Now, as I said, this will probably happen unconsciously with all viewers, but the more we focus on those other episodes, the less we will be focussing on the very specific case of Luke. Why tell this specific story rather than just show a series of old movie clips - that would produce general feelings of loss & bereavement more effectively. It is the specific story of Luke that moves us.

Actually, after seeing the the young Owen & Beru in the earlier movies, I find that scene takes on greater meaning & sadness for me, because I'm not stepping outside the secondary world. I feel sad that Owen & Beru are dead, not because similar characters in similar movies died in similar ways.

Edited to make sense.

Subsequently edited: I'm not sure what to make of the negative rep handed down to Bethberry in my 'defence'. I am flattered that anyone would wish to come to my defence at all, but I don't really approve of negative rep in principle & have never, & would never, hand any out. If anything anyone posts bothers me I will either shrug it off or come out 'fighting' .

In short, it makes me more than a bit uncomfortable to think anyone, & particularly someone I have (believe it or not!) the utmost respect for as a fellow Downer & sparring partner should receive bad rep & that I may have played some part (however tenuous) in them getting it.

Last edited by davem; 06-05-2005 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:10 PM   #128
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I think I'm going to check out Owen Barfield, as littlemanpoet suggested, to see about this "felt change of consciousness" he mentioned.
The best start with Barfield is Poetic Diction, which I own and have read through twice. I can honestly say I actually comprehend perhaps 70% of the work, and understand 40% of it. Very deep! All about language, its history, and its use, and he introduces, describes, and explains "felt change of consciousness" far better than I ever could. It was a seminal work, one that Tokien and Lewis were both very familiar with. It lies behind much of my theory in my "mythic unities" thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
I think it is very funny that I have just received a negative rep for my previous post here.
Funny, I was going to positive rep you on that post, because I thought you stated the case not only clearly but effectively, but I gotta spread it around first.

Whether or not LotR is best understood with a knowledge of the Legendarium or not, Gandalf's little Orthanc speech in The Council of Elrond seemed more like the narrator's voice than the wizard's - - - to me. If others find the same thing, maybe that says something more about the author (not deity's) regarding the wizard. After all, Gandalf is used as the "final authority" on anything within the story.
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Old 06-06-2005, 03:00 AM   #129
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Sorry for interrupting....

I know you're all getting very intelectual at the moment on this particular thread, but I'd just like to add that a break in the enchantment isn't always a bad thing. For example if you are reminded of something from your childhood that makes you smile, or of a loved one, or a friend not seen in a long time, surely the enchantment has been broken if you are reminded that the 'real world' exisits; but surely this is not a bad thing?

It's nice to be enthralled by a tale and lost in the story/world, but isn'it better still if you are reminded of things forgotten or some 'real' thing? I think that this is a great thing and even though the enchantment must be broken for these things to happen. I like the idea that a novel can be personal, and that it can effect everyone in a different way. It seems to me that you seem to be arguing about why the enchantment is broken, you make it sound like a bad thing; but isn't this how/why a book can be so different to everyone? I think that if the enchanment is broken, sometimes this can add to the overall enchantment of the novel in the end. It allows you to personally identify with the work in a unique way.

Ok I'm done. Sorry if I babbled and if it's not all that intelligable (is that even a word?), but I tried.
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:05 AM   #130
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Celebuial, if I ever look down my nose at people because I'm their supposed intellectual superior, then I deserve to be disowned as a fellow Downs member.

Thanks for the point you made. I think you're right. It reminds me of something Tolkien said in his "On Fairy Stories" essay about recovery. He meant that a good fairy tale helps you better appreciate something from your own life. If that happens in the middle of reading, and if that's a breaking of the enchantment, then I agree it's a good one.
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:06 PM   #131
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davem
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Originally Posted by Formendacil
When you say that "I don't think we can ever state that Tolkien failed...", I'm not so sure that I agree. I would say that there is one definitive test that could be taken (in a purely theoretical world) that would determine whether or not he had failed:

His OWN reaction.

But that's his own subjective opinion as a reader. He also stated in the Letters that he was, after a number of years, able to read the book as if it had been written by someone else. So, parts of it may have failed to enchant him, but those parts mey not fail to enchant other readers, so we still can't say there are parts which fail to enchant everyone who reads them. Even Tolkien had some baggage I suppose.
Of course he is a subjective reader. Of course he has his own baggage. My point was that Tolkien had written with himself, baggage subjectivity and all, in mind. Therefore, if this same "be-baggled" and sujectified reader read it a few years later and pronounced parts of it good or great, then those are the parts where Tolkien succeeded in exactly what he set out to do: to please his own subjective and be-baggled self.
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Old 06-07-2005, 12:04 AM   #132
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Impartial provider of quotes for both sides...

Right you are, sir!

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If it is of interest, the passages that now move me most – written so long ago that I read them now as if they had been written by someone else – are the end of the chapter Lothlórien (I 365-7), and the horns of the Rohirrim at cockcrow.
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Old 06-07-2005, 09:23 AM   #133
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Wading back in...

I don't necessarily think that personal experience is an enchantment-breaking intrusion, unless it suddenly introduces something incompatible with the story (as a very silly example, sending a snowmobile to Caradhras). Given that we all have our own backgrounds and experience, there probably is no such thing as a completely objective reader. There will be a conscious or unconscious emotional element to how an individual responds based on past experiences. Part of the enchantment for me is that I find a resonance with the story from my personal viewpoint. But, because I come from a different background than Tolkien, the probability is that I will have responded to the story, at least in some points, in a different way than he might have expected. And there are some elements (e.g. Galadriel and Mary) that honestly would never have occurred to me. Does it lessen my enchantment with the tale? No. Does it affect the way I understand the book? Yes, but I tend to reserve that more for an analytic approach.

Now, I'm not saying that analysis and enchantment are mutually exclusive events. It's just that I see enchantment more as the quality of being absorbed with or delighted by the story. With enchantment, I think there's less emphasis on the author's intent than on the reader response and vice versa with analytic approaches. Nor do I see one type of reading as less valid than another; it just depends on what you're looking for at the time.

Hope that makes some sense and isn't too repetitive.
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Old 06-07-2005, 09:45 AM   #134
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Only connect vs. Separating

Bringing my own personal ‘baggage’ into the conversation, here’s the way I see it:

Some people say ‘Only connect’ : bringing other stuff into reading is perfectly fine because it enhances the experience, and it reveals new aspects. Analizing and interpreting the text are most welcome. The ‘enchantment’ is broken, when there are inaccuracies in the storyline, unbelievable (for the reader!) developments, changes of writing style that are unaccounted for.

Other people (actually, only Davem, as far as I gathered ) argue for ‘Separating’: when you experience a work of art, be it a book, a painting, a piece of music, you experience it only in itself, and leave your opinions, memories, interpretations, analogies, aside. All this in order to experience more accurately what the author is trying to convey through that work of Art. Breaking of the enchantment occurs when the reader is incapable of exercising the mental discipline required to focus only on the said work of Art.

Have I got this right?

Well then. I must say that the aforementioned discipline of mind is what I most strive for. Not because of some theoretical inclination of it being the right thing to do, but because this is the way one can enjoy things the most. And – surprise, I find that I can achieve said discipline (not by an effort of will); but that it comes naturally only with works of Art that are very dear to me. So, when I read Lord of the Rings, my mind makes no leaps.
Examples:
Language: (changes of style, speaking in verse, etc): no problems. Obviously I am not that familiar with different styles of speech in English, so it presents a problem for me.
Eowyn - no problem there. In fact, the scenes between her and Faramir are one of my most favourite in the book. *shrug*
The Hobbit: I read it on its own. It's not that I don't connect it at all with the rest of the history of Middle Earth, but I prefer to enjoy it as a stand alone. Also, in the context of the work, what davem said makes sense: It was written by Bilbo and it was bound to sound 'easy going and fancy free'. Maybe things were not that funny or caricatured (including the Elves), but Bilbo saw them as such and presented them like that when he recounted his adventures.

But:
Quote:
“All I’ve ever said was that the experience of the art (in as pure a degree as we are capable of) must come first, then we must (again as far as we are capable of doing it) attempt to understand what the artist intended to communicate, what he/she wanted to say to us, then, finally, can come – if we so desire it – our own interpretation of the text/painting/symphony.” (Davem)
That can't be known. In my opinion. It can never be known, so it's useless to even imagine you're trying: understand what the author is really meaning to say, that is. Let's say you read a certain passage and suddenly have a revelation: 'Wow, this rings so true. I feel I know exactly how the author felt when he wrote this, I feel I know exactly what he tried to convey to the readers." The more sure you feel of it, the higher the probability that you’re wrong. Because even if you do manage to control the ‘connecting’ at a conscious level, there’s still the unconscious ways your mind works to be taken care of. So the feeling of understanding what the author is trying to convey to you, the individual reader is actually the thrill of discovering yourself, a part of you that has been stirred by that passage, a corner of your mind and spirit that had been lying dormant until now. But that is it. We are all islands, and no man's holy grail is exactly the same as another's.

Quote:
"Well, if one is not prepared to take risks in order to experience enchantment one cannot really complain if one remains unenchanted, can one? Though I realise that shutting up for 5 minutes & submitting oneself to a work of art in order for it to work its effect on one is a truly terrifying prospect & this is why I support the proposal that all art galleries display health warnings & that parental guidance stickers be applied to Bach cd's" (Davem)
Oh, I like that. This reminds me of that fragment in Fahrenheit 451 when the women were mortally afraid by the book smuggled home by Montag, and the reading of one poem caused something like a nervous breakdown in a seemingly normal and cheerful housewife. Talk about ‘baggages’.

Quote:
One difference between God's work and man's is, that, while God's work cannot mean more than he meant, man's must mean more than he meant. For in everything that God has made, there is layer upon layer of ascending significance; also he expresses the same thought in higher and higher kinds of that thought; it is God's things, his embodied thoughts, which alone a man has to use, modified and adapted to his own purposes, for the expression of his thoughts; therefore he cannot help his words and figures falling into such combinations in the mind of another as he himself had not foreseen, so many are the thoughts allied to every other thought, so many are the relations involved in every figure, so many the facts hinted in every symbol. A man may well himself discover truth in what he wrote; for he was dealing all the time with things that came from thoughts beyond his own. (Bethberry, quoting George McDonald)
That is one of the best ideas ever. I’ve come across variations of it, but imo, this expresses it most clearly. Thanks for sharing it, Bethberry. It ties in, - at least the way I see it – with Davem’s affirmation that works of art are things that go beyond our own fleeting opinions. And the ones that truly last are those that deal with truths that are universal. Of course, one cannot argue that every little phrase in Lord of the Rings is filled with such meanings. But the fact that there are certain scenes that when we read them, almost everyone of us (including Tolkien as a reader, as I see from the quote provided by HI) - feels prickles down their spine; certainly speaks for a higher something. It may be eucatastrophe, or it may be simple domestic joy; whatever it is, the enchantment is there, for all of us.

Quote:
once the first reading is done, the enchantment cannot (I think) truly ever be completely recovered for anyone (despite protestations to the contrary), because LotR was designed to be an enchantment that must come to an end (littlemanpoet)
How very true!
There is nothing like the first time. And the first time enchantment can never be found again, despite our many subsequent readings. Even if we have gained a different sort of pleasure, (knowing what to look forward to in the tale), the first enchantment (that is mostly made of wonder, and includes being totally oblivious to the surroundings) is forever lost. Indeed it's both funny and appropriate that Tolkien's books, which deal with nostalgia for things lost, awaken the same feeling in the reader. Our nostalgia is two fold: for the Elves that leave Middle Earth, never to return, and that of yet again reaching the end of the book; and the pang of sadness that comes with realizing you'll never experience that first-time enchantment again.

Quote:
it's interesting that for some people the enchantment is a fragile thing and for others it is not. I'm not entirely sure what to make of that fact.(Aiwendil)
That is interesting indeed.
My first reaction, when I saw this thread and read LMP's 'warning' was 'back away as quick as possible' but then I kept seeing this thread reaching page 2, 3, 4, and I thought 'well. some people apparently are brave enough to take that chance and dissect things. I won't use the golden eggs metaphor, (although that was an astute observation, Formendacil), because I think it's a bit too harsh. “Sometimes I don't want to see the pupeteers, sometimes I just want to see the magic therein; and sometimes I want to pry open the atoms to see why they spin”. So when I was in an atom prying open mood, I took up reading this thread and I must say it was worth the 3 hours I spent on it.

Quote:
In fact, isn't that phrase. 'Once upon a time' (& 'over the hills & far away' - or as I prefer 'over the hills to faraway') part of the little bit of Eden that we all carry in our hearts?(Davem)
A little off topic question: is 'over the hills and (to) faraway a standard storyline phrase like 'once upon a time' and is it usually used to emphasize distance in terms of space? as in: 'very, very |very| far away?' ( in my language there's a phrase with a similar meaning that goes 'over (seven) seas and (seven) horizons'.)
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Old 06-07-2005, 11:58 AM   #135
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Whether or not LotR is best understood with a knowledge of the Legendarium or not, Gandalf's little Orthanc speech in The Council of Elrond seemed more like the narrator's voice than the wizard's - - - to me. If others find the same thing, maybe that says something more about the author (not deity's) regarding the wizard. After all, Gandalf is used as the "final authority" on anything within the story.
You know, littlemanpoet, I think perhaps this is the story teller coming out in you, for it strikes me that the dilemma here is that Tolkien has certain information that must come out and that it must be told under certain conditions. he choose finally to have Gandalf report the event, but that form of presenting the event created a tension between the character's knowledge and the narrator's knowledge. so to speak.

Tolkien could have chosen to present the Orthanc episode as it occured, but that might have first of all taken away the shock value of Saruman's defection as presented at the Council.

It might also have created too great an impact for Saruman's own words to be spoken, at a time when he must be seen as a traitor. In terms of the story mode, Tolkien choose as Milton did not not to make his villain attractive. There is no risk of being swayed by Saruman's words when they are simply reported words from the survivor of the episode.

To present the information in a scene between Gandalf and Elrond might run the risk of having them appear too much in control of the proceedings, giving them information which would have allowed them to sway the meeting. Here, at least, Elrond knows the general circumstances but he has not been acquainted with the precise details. Thus, his reaction becomes important at the Council.

There seems to be, too, details which are less relevant to Gandalf's Orthanc experience, such as the Gaffer's opinion of the new owners of Bag End, and the full dialogue between Gandalf and Butterbur at the Pony. I think they belong more to a narrator who loves his story and characters than to the wizard per se who must speak of his experience.

I would guess also that at some level Tolkien was aware that this account created a bit of a problem. After all, why give Gandalf his apologetic excuse for its length unless he (Tolkien) were aware that it did not sound enough like Gandalf?

I'm not sure if this is what you meant by telling us something about the author's attitude toward the character, but it strikes me that you are right that so much here is more suited to the narrator than the wizard. It's a writerly dilemma. Tolkien choose the most dramatic means to highlight the Orthanc episode without giving Saruman too much attention, but actually the story telling urge won out over the character.
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Old 06-07-2005, 01:49 PM   #136
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Originally Posted by Bb
There seems to be, too, details which are less relevant to Gandalf's Orthanc experience, such as the Gaffer's opinion of the new owners of Bag End, and the full dialogue between Gandalf and Butterbur at the Pony. I think they belong more to a narrator who loves his story and characters than to the wizard per se who must speak of his experience.
Shippey comments on this speech of Gandalf, & maybe it would be useful to quote from him:

Quote:
It is Gandalf's long monolgue, however, which shows most variety in its use of 'imapcted speakers', the direct speech of others quoted by Gandalf. Without that variety the immense amount of necessary plot-detail conveyed by the monologue would run flat. Several of Gandalf's (seven) 'impacted speakers' create, like Boromir, or Sauron's messenger, a sense of the ominous, more or less concealed. Perhaps the least significant, in terms of plot, is Gaffer Gamgee, whose job is only to tell Gandalf that Frodo & the others have left. He makes too much of this, as Gandalf says, 'Many words & few to the point', & Gandalf stresses what it is he actually says:

'I can't abide changes, not at my time of life, & least of all changes for the worst.' Changes for the worst.' he repeated many times...

People draw information not only from what is said, but from how it is said. The continuous variations of language within this complex chapter tell us almost subliminally how reliable characters are, how old they are, how self-assured they are, how mistaken they are, what kind of person they are. All thisx is as vital as the direct information conveyed, not least, as has been said, to prevent the whole chapter from degenerating into the minutes of a committee meeting. (Author of the Century)
If we read Gandalf's description of Orthanc (this one, I think, is the one LMP is referring to :

Quote:
'However, I wrote a message to Frodo, and trusted to my friend the innkeeper to send it to him. I rode away at dawn; and I came at long last to the dwelling of Saruman. That is far south in Isengard, in the end of the Misty Mountains, not far from the Gap of Rohan. And Boromir will tell you that that is a great open vale that lies between the Misty Mountains and the northmost foothills of Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains of his home. But Isengard is a circle of sheer rocks that enclose a valley as with a wall, and in the midst of that valley is a tower of stone called Orthanc. It was not made by Saruman, but by the Men of Numenor long ago; and it is very tall and has many secrets; yet it looks not to be a work of craft. It cannot be reached save by passing the circle of Isengard; and in that circle there is only one gate.
we see that Gandalf is actually giving important information to the other Council members, most of whom will have little or no knowlege of Saruman. He is telling them why Saruman is a threat - he lives in an impregnable fortress, which he himself did not make. It (& by extension Saruman himself) 'has many secrets'. He is also explaining why he himself found it so difficult to escape from there. Saruman is Orthanc in a very real sense. A detailed description of Orthanc actually tells us a great deal about Saruman himself.

Also, taking the risk of being accused of importing primary world baggage into Middle earth we know that in oral cultures - which Middle earth still is to a great extent - people tended to have a greater capacity to visualise what was described to them if they were given enough information (Peig Sayers, the great Irish storyteller, tells us that the way she managed to remember long stories after only a single hearing was that when she heard the stories she would look at a blank wall & 'see' what was being described. In other words, such descriptions would serve not just as a source of information, but also help too create an image for the listeners).

Gandalf, it seems to me, is giving a lot of important information to an audience who are largely ignorant of what is happening in their world. He does this through the words of a number of different characters, & through descriptions of place. He has a lot to pass on, & he has to make sure his audience take it in. The most effective way to do this (& this applies equally to the reader) is to relate his information in the form of a story. In this sense he does take on the role of 'impartial narrator', but I'd argue that this is entirely right & understandable. Put yourself in the place of one of the Council members & think how much Gandalf is telling you. The kind of mental pictures he is creating would be an invaluable aid in holding all that he's telling you in mind.
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Old 06-07-2005, 08:09 PM   #137
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
I would guess also that at some level Tolkien was aware that this account created a bit of a problem. After all, why give Gandalf his apologetic excuse for its length unless he (Tolkien) were aware that it did not sound enough like Gandalf?
Bęthberry, you may credit me with more than I deserve. My sense that Gandalf's words sound more like the narrator in describing Orthanc, has to do with having learned much about the writing craft in the last five or so years. The above quote represents the kind of thing I've learned: when a writer uses a character to apologize for something that is not necessarily character related, it is often the writer apologizing to the reader because said writer knows s/he has not done as well as s/he could.

In the interest of getting really, really specific and entirely breaking the enchantment for those who care to read.....

Quote:
'However, I wrote a message to Frodo, and trusted to my friend the innkeeper to send it to him. I rode away at dawn; and I came at long last to the dwelling of Saruman. That is far south in Isengard, in the end of the Misty Mountains, not far from the Gap of Rohan. And Boromir will tell you that that is a great open vale that lies between the Misty Mountains and the northmost foothills of Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains of his home.
The above part works for me, because Gandalf is speaking to the audience sitting in Elrond's circle.

Quote:
But Isengard is a circle of sheer rocks that enclose a valley as with a wall, and in the midst of that valley is a tower of stone called Orthanc. It was not made by Saruman, but by the Men of Numenor long ago; and it is very tall and has many secrets; yet it looks not to be a work of craft. It cannot be reached save by passing the circle of Isengard; and in that circle there is only one gate.
This second section is what broke the enchantment for me. Whereas in the first, Gandalf is naming others around the council, here in the second he does not .... and that seems to me to be because it is the narrator's voice that has taken over, giving the reader important information that the writer couldn't think of a better (more timely, more suspenseful) way to convey. It may well be that it is important information for the council members to learn from Gandalf, but that does not mitigate the fact that the voice is the narrator's rather than Gandalf's here.

And now to commit heresy:

'However, I wrote a message to Frodo, and trusted to my friend the innkeeper to send it to him. I rode away at dawn; and I came at long last to the dwelling of Saruman. That is far south in Isengard, in the end of the Misty Mountains, not far from the Gap of Rohan. And Boromir will tell you that that is a great open vale that lies between the Misty Mountains and the northmost foothills of Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains of his home. But Isengard is a circle of sheer rocks that enclose a valley as with a wall, and in the midst of that valley is a tower of stone called Orthanc. It was not made by Saruman, but by the Men of Numenor long ago; and it is very tall and has many secrets; yet it looks not to be a work of craft. I came to Orthanc, passing through the lone gate in the circle of Isengard, for it cannot be reached any other way.'

So you see, it's possible to improve upon Tolkien. No, I don't really think I've improved upon him. But my alteration does show one way that Gandalf's voice could have provided the information instead of the intrusive narrator. I'm sure someone must come to Tolkien's defense and show how my alteration actually ruins the effect. I eagerly await it.
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Old 06-08-2005, 12:45 AM   #138
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Impressionism era

Someone must defend, you say?
I'll try my hand, than.


Your Honour, respected Jury!

The paragraph presented by sir Prosecutor is, on its large, presenting respected sir's impression. Defense must rely on age old practice of fighting fire with fire, your Honour, and present the Jury with just another impression, with your kind permission.

If we rely on wider range of sources than LoTR, we'll see Gandalf, or, as he is known to some, Olórin is professional conjurer of mental images... oft he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom... what baggage? No, your Honour, I do not think you should accept respected Prosecutor's protest, as the sources I refer to are all placed within the bounds of Middle Earth's secondary world... All right, your Honour, let me shift an angle than...

Gandalf, even if we look through evidence presented by LoTR, and LoTR only, is a professional narrator, and his goal, frequently, is production of certain reaction in his audience. More often than not he provides all kinds of information and does so without relating data provided to his own direct action or participation in the events recounted, seeking positive emotional reaction of his listener. Good example is the story of the Ring he provides Frodo with at latter's premises in Bag End:

Quote:
In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles
Not does he rely on prose narration only, but often draws in his wide education in contemporary poetry in conjuring up desired reaction in his audience:

Quote:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
He does similar thing on Last Debate:

Quote:
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule
Yes, your Honour, I'll proceed in essence in a minute, and I'm sure I can show how does all I've been telling you up to now relate to Gandalf's case at the Council of Elrond

What Gandalf does at the Council, is an effort to convey the danger Saruman (who is an entity yet unknown to the most part of the audience) presents.

He starts off recounting who Saruman was, and who is now become. Though information may have been conveyed in direct dialogue, direct dialogue would have been devoid of feeling Gandalf is trying to stir, but present bare data.

Quote:
It cannot be reached save by passing the circle of Isengard; and in that circle there is only one gate.
Produces ominous premonition, feeling of something magical, dangerous and impassable. It does imply Gandalf has passed it, but it also implies passage was a deed not many would dare, somehow adding up to his repute as dangerous and cunning wizard himself.

Quote:
I came to Orthanc, passing through the lone gate in the circle of Isengard, for it cannot be reached any other way.'
Ruins the carefully built image of secret and ancient wizardry, wondrous might of Númenor, kingdom mentioned during the council for the first time in the narration, I believe (apart from prologue, were it may have slipped reader's attention), If 'I' passed the gate that easily, why should others meet any obstacle? Such an emotion is undesirable to Gandalf than and there.

Finally, Defense has no other way but to conclude the way Gandalf assumes 'narrator's role' is just natural style for him on important occassions. Whilst he may be dark and secretive when directly questioned, he comes out ominous and even 'legendary' and 'mythical' on committee meetings and military briefings.

Respected Jury, presenting Defense's impression to match that of sir Prosecutor's, we plead the case of the Defendant, and are sure you will make the right decision, ladies and gentlemen!
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Old 06-08-2005, 06:54 AM   #139
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On the charge of Breaking the Enchantment in the Second Degree (pursuant to Literary Code 128.341a), we the jury find the Author--

Not guilty!

Excellent defense, HI. Gandalf is, by calling and by personal inclination, a storyteller himself. In describing Saruman's dwelling, Gandalf also hints at the nature of Saruman himself -- tall, full of secrets, perilous, not to be judged by his appearance.

You'll be lucky, lmp, if the Defendant doesn't counter-sue for Emotional Distress Caused by Nitpicking.
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Old 06-08-2005, 08:21 AM   #140
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Boots Backtracking a bit

Well, I see that Mr. Underhill has riden into town in the classic manner of all good westerns--our Dread Horseman remember--and decided to take upon himself the role of all twelve jurors.

I am woefully late--call me Poster of the Woeful Timeframe--but there are some points I wish to reply to some posts back. So, let me sidestep this legal drama, despite my temptation to use a judicial procedure I heard about on Law and Order whereby judges can dismiss a jury's verdict (only in America, you say?), and answer some points davem made. Perhaps my case will be strengthened by this delay and my respected sparring partner will have forgotten the frame of mind in which he composed his extemperaneous post!

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I think what you're talking about here is 'unconscious' baggage. What I'm talking about is conscious baggage, where we are deliberately looking for these connections & consciously interpreting what we read or view as we watch or read . The more we bring in these things the more we will detatch ourselves from what we are experiencing.
No, if I had meant to use the word 'unconscious' I would have done so.

This dichotomy between conscious/unconscious and pure attention/ wrenching split is part of your theory, davem, but it is not part of what I am talking about. In fact, it reflects your procedure here, in that you take our words and ideas and recast them into your frames of reference. To our detriment of course and the merit of your argument. (Who's to say that we don't all do this?) I want to go back and examine this a bit. All the way back to post #9. (And, no, this was not a love potion # 9. *insert grinning smilie here so I don't exceed my limit*).

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I think the point is that if the artist does their job well, & we don't fight too hard, put up too many obstacles between ourselves & them, don't allow (or make) too much 'noise' to disturb us then there is a greater chance that the spell will remain effective.

A bit like someone talking in the cinema - it will distract us from the movie, take us out of the secondary reality, & jerk us back into the primary world of sitting in a big darkened room watching flickering images on a screen. Of course, it is entirely possible that the disturbing voice which breaks the spell may be our own!

Another question would be why we're so prone to disenchanting ourselves? Perhaps we've forgotten how to shut up & listen, or maybe we've simply gotten so used to only listening to ourelves that anything which contradicts or challenges our own 'secondary world' of beliefs, values, concepts & connections can't hold our attention - we simply want to be told what we already know. If an author says something that can't be fitted easily into our own secondary reality then we stop listening & walk away.
Here we have the idea that the reader's connections ("Only connect" Auden I think it was, said) in the process of reading reflects bad manners: we "don't shut up" ; we "listen only to ourselves", we don't want to hear anything which challenges us; we only want to hear what we already know; we walk away from difference.

Now, this is hardly an accurate summation of my position. It is a lovely form of rhetorical debate--create a strawman who is thus easier to knock down--but it does not represent what I have maintained happens when reading. My point in post #7 had, in fact, mentioned

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
Does it come down to a willingness to be enchanted? Heart's desire as a reading strategy?
So, I had already considered that in some measure the good reader must begin with some kind of desire to attend to the text and even be willing to fall under its sway. Nor, I think, have my posts shown the kind of tendency suggested here, that of small minded refusal to listen to difference and new meaning. This state of respectful attention does not, as I said above, make the reader into a blank slate upon which the text writes. That, I argue, is a psychological and linguistic impossibility. Here is where our difference lies, not in any rudeness or insensitivity to the text, but in understanding the nature of reading.

Each text is, if you will, an idiolect, with its own frame of reference. Yet that idiolect is part of the dialect which Tolkien referred to as the 'Common Speech' inevitably turned into modern English (Appendix F). No reader can forego his or her knowledge of that language as he or she reads. (Probably the only reader for whom such was/is possible is our redoubtable HerenIstarion, who, he claims, learnt English by readingTolkien. And we all know and love the idiosyncratic style of our Istarion--I say this affectionately, let none take it the wrong way.)

So, my comparison of Shelob, for instance, was not an analytical imposition, but arose from the associations of the description Tolkien gave me. I can later 'step back' and ask if those associations were truly applicable, but I cannot deny their occuring as I read. This is the state of reading for many of us [edit to remove over generalisation of 'all']. One does not shut the door to keep the noise out, because in fact that noise is part and parcel of the language. Reading is not a process of inputing text and placing it in a holding pattern until some conclusion is reached and then interpreting. Reading is an always, ongoing process of interpretation.

Now, on to some other points where I wish to question the construct you use to interpret, in this case, Star Wars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
The impact of the scene you refer to, of Luke's return to find his aunt & uncle dead, may be enhanced for some viewers by similar scenes in other movies, but it is more likely to prove a distraction from the actual events on screen, & produce a 'general' feeling of sadness & loss, rather than a specific feeling related to Luke's loss - we won't be empathising & connecting with Luke here, but with all the characters we've ever seen in similar situatons. Now, as I said, this will probably happen unconsciously with all viewers, but the more we focus on those other episodes, the less we will be focussing on the very specific case of Luke. Why tell this specific story rather than just show a series of old movie clips - that would produce general feelings of loss & bereavement more effectively. It is the specific story of Luke that moves us.
You make the assumption here that SW is only Luke's story, only personal, and that only the personal story can move us. This is like saying LotR is only Frodo's story. It is that, but much more. And with Luke. The personal is intimately connected with the cosmological, so there is no reason why viewers should, from this moment, not begin to piece together Lucas' frame of reference. They don't have to start here--like any good story, there are other points in SW where the reader can begin to understand how the historical events impact upon the personal--but it is available. To deny that is, once again, to posit the creation of meaning only after the fact rather than in process. It is also to make a claim about Luke's story as the only story.

We can love and be moved by Luke and Frodo even while attending to the 'larger' meaning of the Force or the Dark Side or the tantalising references to the history 'behind' Frodo's story, which ironically for some readers of LotR comes at the same time rather than before or, even, after the book closes.

As I said, this is backtracking a fair ways, but it seemed to me time to point out that the almost Manichean dichotomy which davem supplies in his view of reading is not the same framework I suggest.

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Old 06-08-2005, 09:05 AM   #141
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Perhaps the Prosecutor gets no chance in legal courts to speak once more after the Defense rests, but here on the BDs, I'll take my chance, even if judge and jury have already decided the case.

You examples from the Defendant's texts, respected Defender, do me the favor of rebutting the very thing you claim for them.

Quote:
In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles.
I have bolded text for the sake of the hasty jury. You see, these four little words render this bit of Gandalf's talk as conversation, not mere narration. Thus, it does not apply as strict narration.

The poem Gandalf recites, to which my respected colleague has referred, is a quotation by Gandalf of someone else's rendered speech; therefore, neither can it apply as narration.

From the Last Debate:

Quote:
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
Here again Gandalf is speaking to a group, including himself in it. Note the bolded text. This is in essence a sermonette, not a narration.

At this point I must ask for a brief recess, as my other job calls me away. I shall address the compared original with the alteration as soon as I can. I thank you for your time, my esteemed colleagues.
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Old 06-08-2005, 11:00 AM   #142
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Gandalf's different ways of speaking can be accounted for if we consider who he is speaking to. At The Council of Elrond, he is not only speaking to a diverse group of people, a meeting of the great and the good, he is also speaking to Frodo. His narration must be inclusive of all his audience, and so he takes care to fully express the sense of the peril he has gone through, knowing that some listening will need to hear more detail.

At The Last Debate he is speaking to a gathering of leaders after a great battle, to discuss tactics and not least of all, to inspire these leaders to take the right decisions which will lead to victory. He uses the 'royal we' to include himself in what must come, to let his listeners subtly know that he will be with them whatever is decided. This is something politicians often use in speeches - they rarely talk of "you", but instead use "we". If the PM said "you must build a fairer society" it has a different meaning to "we must build a fairer society". Note also that he would be unlikely to say "I must build a fairer society". Yes, his words did sound like sermonising, but that is close to his purpose.

Gandalf uses many voices to speak, as he has many reasons for saying what he does, and he speaks to many different audiences. I don't find this inconsistent myself, it seems appropriate to his character.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
Here is where our difference lies, not in any rudeness or insensitivity to the text, but in understanding the nature of reading.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
This is the state of reading for us all. Once does not shut the door to keep the noise out, because in fact that noise is part and parcel of the language. Reading is not a process of inputing text and placing it in a holding pattern until some conclusion is reached and then interpreting. Reading is an always, ongoing process of interpretation.
What is the nature of reading? This is just one theory (and relatively recent as far as I can remember) of how we read yet there are others, so it is not how we all read if experience is different for other people.

Even with the individual there can be differing ways that they read. As I've said before, when I read a report I read and interpret at the same time - possibly because this saves me time, possibly as what I am reading is so dull I have to look for some purpose to it, possibly as I have simply been trained to read such texts in that way.

When I read poetry I read first simply to enjoy the words, any interpretation must come at a much later stage - I view poetry as akin to painting, which should first be experienced for what it is, allowing an emotional reaction to be the first that we experience, before the structure is analysed. With poetry then, I do put the language and words into a holding pattern. As with a painting, those words have been carefully placed to make a picture which should first be viewed as the artefact that it is before we go in to dissect it (which in itself is enjoyable with poetry). I say 'should' as we do not always do that, and I often find that it is this learned practice which puts many young people off poetry, as they simply never get to see the picture as it is and first have an emotional reaction.

I think that when we all first read LotR we had little or no notion of interpretation, certainly those of us who read at a relatively young age; the story is constructed and plotted so that we would have little time or inclination to interpret, as we would just want to know "what happens next?". As are all good stories. Yes, we may have been struck by odd points along the way where things reminded us of this or that, but interpretation would not really be an issue when engrossed in a thrilling plot and a fantastical world. I'd say that it is what happens to each reader afterwards that diverges. Some still read innocently, some read interpretively, some read hoping to see more of Middle Earth than they saw last time around.
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Old 06-08-2005, 02:04 PM   #143
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
This is the state of reading for us all. Once does not shut the door to keep the noise out, because in fact that noise is part and parcel of the language. Reading is not a process of inputing text and placing it in a holding pattern until some conclusion is reached and then interpreting. Reading is an always, ongoing process of interpretation.

What is the nature of reading? This is just one theory (and relatively recent as far as I can remember) of how we read yet there are others, so it is not how we all read if experience is different for other people.

Even with the individual there can be differing ways that they read. As I've said before, when I read a report I read and interpret at the same time - possibly because this saves me time, possibly as what I am reading is so dull I have to look for some purpose to it, possibly as I have simply been trained to read such texts in that way.
First of all, Lal, I will say I am sorry for that broad generalisation of "all". I will happily edit so that my point does not exclude those who have different reading experiences (and I will note the edit). As for the "relatively recent" part of the theory, of what import is that?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
When I read poetry I read first simply to enjoy the words, any interpretation must come at a much later stage - I view poetry as akin to painting, which should first be experienced for what it is, allowing an emotional reaction to be the first that we experience, before the structure is analysed. With poetry then, I do put the language and words into a holding pattern. As with a painting, those words have been carefully placed to make a picture which should first be viewed as the artefact that it is before we go in to dissect it (which in itself is enjoyable with poetry). I say 'should' as we do not always do that, and I often find that it is this learned practice which puts many young people off poetry, as they simply never get to see the picture as it is and first have an emotional reaction.

I think that when we all first read LotR we had little or no notion of interpretation, certainly those of us who read at a relatively young age; the story is constructed and plotted so that we would have little time or inclination to interpret, as we would just want to know "what happens next?". As are all good stories. Yes, we may have been struck by odd points along the way where things reminded us of this or that, but interpretation would not really be an issue when engrossed in a thrilling plot and a fantastical world. I'd say that it is what happens to each reader afterwards that diverges. Some still read innocently, some read interpretively, some read hoping to see more of Middle Earth than they saw last time around.
I think part of the difference here might lie in how we each use this word 'interpretation.' What is involved in "enjoy the words"?

Do you mean you merely listen to the sound without making any determination of what the words mean?

Interpretation is the act of deciding which meaning of a word pertains to the text. It does not necessarily mean all the convoluted analysis your teachers put you through. For example, readers choose which of the thirty or so meanings of "beat" applies to this particular context, or which meaning of "sound".

Even 'what happens next" means interpreting the words, or making guesses about what might happen. For instance, when Gloin interrupts Gandalf at the Council of Elrond, and Gandalf refers to all the differences between elves and dwarves, and then what happens but Elrond sends Gimli out with Legolas! Well! This is exciting stuff and what reader does not wonder what might come of this strange pairing. This is the engagement with words which is part of the interpretive process. Some readers will attend to the thrilling action part, some to the story of the elves, some to the natural description. But even at the most basic level of reading for story, for what happens, 'interpretation' takes place for us to make sense of what the words refer to.

At least, from this idea of reading.
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Old 06-08-2005, 02:09 PM   #144
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Here we have the idea that the reader's connections ("Only connect" Auden I think it was, said) in the process of reading reflects bad manners: we "don't shut up" ; we "listen only to ourselves", we don't want to hear anything which challenges us; we only want to hear what we already know; we walk away from difference.
Well, I'll see your Auden quote & raise you a Dante one: 'Look, & pass.' Does the artist have anything new to teach us? If so, we should try & experience the art in as 'unbiassed' a way as possible. I'd say that interpretation is what we do with that 'unknown quantity' not the unknown quantity itself. There is something 'objective & unknown' in the art, & that is the really valuable thing about it. My argument is not that spontaneous associations are 'wrong' in some way - they're inevitable - I'm saying that if you stop focussing on the art deliberately & follow your associations in spite of the art, you have broken the spell. Accept the fact of the association, but then put it aside for later - if you wish.

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So, I had already considered that in some measure the good reader must begin with some kind of desire to attend to the text and even be willing to fall under its sway. Nor, I think, have my posts shown the kind of tendency suggested here, that of small minded refusal to listen to difference and new meaning. This state of respectful attention does not, as I said above, make the reader into a blank slate upon which the text writes. That, I argue, is a psychological and linguistic impossibility. Here is where our difference lies, not in any rudeness or insensitivity to the text, but in understanding the nature of reading.
Maybe we're back to the Freudian vs Jungian thing. Frued's approach in interpreting dreams or fantasies was what he called 'free association'. Basically, he believed the only way we could get to the truth about our own unconscious processes was to try & 'trick' it into revealing itself, by freely associating ideas to the events & symbols in our dreams & fantasies, because effectively they are 'allegories' which have to be interpreted. Jung, on the other hand, believed that far from trying to hide & conceal things from us, the unconscious is trying to reveal itself to us in the clearest & most simple way possible. So, Jung's approach was to always focus on the actual dream & avoid as far as possible running away from it.[/QUOTE]

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So, my comparison of Shelob, for instance, was not an analytical imposition, but arose from the associations of the description Tolkien gave me. I can later 'step back' and ask if those associations were truly applicable, but I cannot deny their occuring as I read. This is the state of reading for us all. Once does not shut the door to keep the noise out, because in fact that noise is part and parcel of the language. Reading is not a process of inputing text and placing it in a holding pattern until some conclusion is reached and then interpreting. Reading is an always, ongoing process of interpretation.
This is what I'm arguing against: I'm not saying you should deny the association with Lilith that arose while you were reading - a Freudian would say you had discovered the 'real' meaning & value of the story for you in that association: You have 'discovered' your 'Lilith complex' or something. What I am saying is that Lilith does not belong in Middle earth, so you have introduced, by association, a distraction. A Jungian would probably ask you why you were 'running away' from Shelob - what is it about Shelob that you are trying to 'avoid'?

I'd say that, far from reading (or listening to a piece of music or looking at a painting) always being an ongoing 'process of interpretation' the 'process of interpretation' is an optional extra - not the Art itself - our response to which is 'experiential' (struggling to express what I mean here ). Interpretation is what we do with that experience (or perhaps what we do to it). The art exists 'objectively', our interpretation of it is subjective - or rather our interpretation of our experience of it is. Our experience is our primary response, not our interpretation. I'd say, therefore, that reading (etc) is an 'ongoing process of experiencing' & that the process of interpreting may or may not take place, & may, or may not, be 'ongoing'.

Quote:
You make the assumption here that SW is only Luke's story, only personal, and that only the personal story can move us. This is like saying LotR is only Frodo's story. It is that, but much more. And with Luke. The personal is intimately connected with the cosmological, so there is no reason why viewers should, from this moment, not begin to piece together Lucas' frame of reference. They don't have to start here--like any good story, there are other points in SW where the reader can begin to understand how the historical events impact upon the personal--but it is available. To deny that is, once again, to posit the creation of meaning only after the fact rather than in process. It is also to make a claim about Luke's story as the only story.
Ok, But the story is focussed on Luke - Luke is like Frodo in that what happens to him is the core of the story. I was referring to the specific incident of Luke's return home to find his aunt & uncle dead. Plus, the film is called A New Hope, so I think the focus of that movie is meant to be Luke - but this is a small point.

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Old 06-08-2005, 02:42 PM   #145
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Can Of Worms Number Two

Nothing personal, but I think introducing Freud and Jung into this discussion is bound to unnecessarily complicate things with a whole new battery of conundrums. I just don't think that's what this is about. Whether a reader is "avoiding" or "revealing" something from deep inside, seems by and large beside the point. If something occurs to someone, who says it has to be a psychological phenomenon at all? I grant, of course, that we all have our psyches, and that they're active in the reading process, but I'm telling you, this is a much bigger can of worms than Lal suggested I opened a page or so back.

Okay, now, back to the jurist's chair.

My esteemed colleague from the Defense is, I confess, quite right that the Prosecution's mock-up, while succeeding in striking a personal tone, loses much if not all in dire atmosphere. I did recognize that right off, but decided to let it go as lights-out was quickly approaching. It seems I therefore have two choices. One is to niggle my way to a version that succeeds where Tolkien does in dire atmosphere, as well as where the Prosecution asserts that he fails, in Gandalf speaking as Gandalf would. This in itself faces the twin obstacles of likely failure in terms of the textual goal, and, not proving my point.

As an aside, yes, I am still asserting that Tolkien failed in this particular case, to write as well as the story required. I grant that what the story required may have been impossible, given the constraints into which he had written himself. Which are: (1) presenting a flashback in which the general outcome is already revealed, thus negating the plot suspense; (2) presenting setting information in such a way that both characters and reader learn what must be known in order to fully appreciate the situation both of Gandalf and the Free Peoples in general. Tolkien found his suspense Saruman's betrayal and Gandalf's means of escape. We readers are fascinated with this depiction of evil rationalizing itself as good, along with wondering how Gandalf got out of the fix Saruman had him in. The upshot was that Gandalf had to convey narrator type information while remaining believably Gandalf. I do think that Tolkien almost pulled it off.

The aside aside, the evidence that will prove my point must be produced, which is to present examples of narrator voice and of Gandalfs voice in conversational story-teller mode, and exhibit the differences for all to see.

I grant that the 12 in 1 jury and judge is right in calling this nit-picking, but these nits are those that must be picked in order to counter the arguments of my esteemed opposition. And now for the research. This could take time, so the Prosecution will recess, regardless of whether the defense does or not. So there. Nyah nyah nyah.

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Old 06-08-2005, 02:58 PM   #146
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As for the "relatively recent" part of the theory, of what import is that?
I cannot remember exactly which critic developed (or popularised) the theory that the reader constructs meaning, but as it was relatively recent, it must be borne in mind that theories do change and maybe a better one will come along. So what I suppose I am trying to get at is that I would not settle for one theory of how we read. I have to say that I do like this theory, as I like theories which allow for many possible truths, yet the fact that we seem to all have our own ways of reading, and that there are many purposes for reading, suggests that other ideas must be given consideration too.

What we have to accept if we follow such an idea to the exclusion of others is that it does allow for interpretation which we may find at best silly and at worst offensive. If the reader does indeed construct meaning then taking the theory to its most extreme levels then we can say anything we like about a text as long as we can find lines that seem to back up our statements, despite maybe knowing that the author would have been abhorred by our interpretation.

As someone who likes to consider different angles to many things I do like the idea of being freely interpretive, but then I have to step back and consider that if I want to know what the author intended, then I must not rely on this one way of looking at a text, I must look in other ways.

This again leads on to how I read poetry. To enjoy the words without interpreting them, I mean that I listen to/read the way the words are grouped, the sounds and shapes they make, and the immediate meanings they conjour up. The joy in this is that when it comes to looking at that poem in depth, there is much more to be found; a word can be discovered to have another meaning, or the placing of a comma can make a big difference. But like a piece of artwork, poetry is best seen on the surface at first, before we look at what it is made from. If you have an artwork on your wall, you do not often look at it in depth, you simply enjoy it. This does not mean you cannot enjoy peering at where the brushstrokes are, but if you know more about how the brushstrokes have been placed than you do about the way the picture makes you feel when you look at it, then the purpose of the artwork is lost. If that makes sense?

I think much the same approach can be applied with films. I don't often watch "the making of..." documentaries as I can find they spoil the magic of a film. And taking this back to Tolkien, I think the ultimate enjoyment that can be had from the books is from simply enjoying the world he created The next best pleasure is in trying to find out more about it, what he intended by it all, and to find out what he meant, I have to suspend, to a certain extent, my own beliefs and try to understand what his may have been.

But this again, is another theory of reading, possibly veering towards biographical interpretation. I'm not hung up on it though, and I would suppose that this is what I am saying, that to choose one theory, one way of reading is perhaps what can spoil our reading (or more especially our potential to read in many ways and so possibly come to wonderfully surprising realisations) not the way chosen in itself.



As Gandalf did, I've got to apologise for the long ramble. I meant to be short and I was not...
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Old 06-08-2005, 04:00 PM   #147
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Bringing my own personal ‘baggage’ into the conversation ... it's useless to even imagine you're trying to understand what the author is really meaning to say. ... it's both funny and appropriate that Tolkien's books, which deal with nostalgia for things lost, awaken the same feeling in the reader. Our nostalgia is two fold: for the Elves that leave Middle Earth, never to return, and that of yet again reaching the end of the book; and the pang of sadness that comes with realizing you'll never experience that first-time enchantment again. ... My first reaction, when I saw this thread and read LMP's 'warning' was 'back away as quick as possible' but then I kept seeing this thread reaching page 2, 3, 4, and I thought 'well. some people apparently are brave enough to take that chance and dissect things. ... So when I was in an atom prying open mood, I took up reading this thread and I must say it was worth the 3 hours I spent on it. .... A little off topic question: is 'over the hills and (to) faraway a standard storyline phrase like 'once upon a time' and is it usually used to emphasize distance in terms of space? as in: 'very, very |very| far away?' ( in my language there's a phrase with a similar meaning that goes 'over (seven) seas and (seven) horizons'.)
How did I not see this post yesterday? Thanks for putting in your 2˘. I did wonder how many people I scared away with that, and still think I'm glad I did. I get a kick out of you agreeing with people who see themselves (or at least their opinions) as diametrically opposed.

AS to your off topic question, I haven't the foggiest idea of the answer. I don't recall reading or hearing it in fairy tales. Sorry I can't help.
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:13 PM   #148
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I grant that the 12 in 1 jury and judge is right in calling this nit-picking,
Actually, in all seriousness, I think you're going beyond nitpicking here and into an arbitrary division between what you term "narrator" and "conversational storyteller" styles. There's no formal rule or convention that I am familiar with which Tolkien has violated here. I can't see why Gandalf need reference either himself or his audience to sound authentic. Indeed, Gandalf's voice would soon become wooden and tiresomely pedantic if we corrected all of the exposition that he delivers to conform with this dubious "rule". Stow that baggage, mister! There's no reason why Gandalf can't "narrate" a story that he's recounting, even if he's a character in that story.

As has been pointed out on numerous occasions in the past, LotR is rife with stories (and a consciousness of storytelling) within the story -- which as far as I'm concerned makes Middle-earth more believable, not less.
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:51 PM   #149
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If I may speak for the Jury, momentarily...

I should like to say that the Jury agrees that both the prosecution and the defence present convincing arguments, and in regard to the matter of Gandalf's speech, the jury is at a loss to say who is definitively in the right.

The spokesman agrees with Masters Istarion and Davem, that the style used by Tolkien serves the greater narrative purpose of providing the information needed to inform the members of the council- and the reader- about the dangers and backstory of Saruman, while also recounting his experience.

While the speaker enjoys the confrontation between Saruman and Gandalf (taken alone, and not as a narrative within the story), and personally felt no disruption of the enchantment, he must admit, as does all the jury, that Master L.M. Poet has a point.

While explicable by devious means of the translator conceit, or arguments concerning Gandalf's greatly versatile abilities, the jury concedes that this passage is more in accord with the broad narrative, as told by the narrator, than with words of Gandalf as spoken at most times previous.

For the moment, the jury remains undecided. I, personally, would like to say that perhaps Tolkien, like the jury, was in a stalemate position: unable to remain consistent one way, unable to properly further the story the other. Perhaps it was choosing the lesser of the two evils, the one more easily forgiven?

And, as an aside, how does this great exposition of Gandalf's compare with his other great revealing speeches in "A Shadow of the Past"?
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Old 06-09-2005, 10:37 AM   #150
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The Prosecution would like to thank Jury Member Formendacil for granting the point. You have aptly summarized much of the argument the Prosecution seeks to make.

The Prosecution is most pleased to have attained to this new height claimed for it by none other than Jury Member Mister U. Hill. I dare say it needs a name! Niggle picking? Nit wicking? Nano-nit-picking?

The Shadows of the Past is one narration that will certainly be set under the microscope, as it were, but not the only one. Prosecution recesses once more.
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Old 06-09-2005, 02:00 PM   #151
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I cannot remember exactly which critic developed (or popularised) the theory that the reader constructs meaning, but as it was relatively recent, it must be borne in mind that theories do change and maybe a better one will come along. So what I suppose I am trying to get at is that I would not settle for one theory of how we read. I have to say that I do like this theory, as I like theories which allow for many possible truths, yet the fact that we seem to all have our own ways of reading, and that there are many purposes for reading, suggests that other ideas must be given consideration too.

What we have to accept if we follow such an idea to the exclusion of others is that it does allow for interpretation which we may find at best silly and at worst offensive. If the reader does indeed construct meaning then taking the theory to its most extreme levels then we can say anything we like about a text as long as we can find lines that seem to back up our statements, despite maybe knowing that the author would have been abhorred by our interpretation.

As someone who likes to consider different angles to many things I do like the idea of being freely interpretive, but then I have to step back and consider that if I want to know what the author intended, then I must not rely on this one way of looking at a text, I must look in other ways.

This again leads on to how I read poetry. To enjoy the words without interpreting them, I mean that I listen to/read the way the words are grouped, the sounds and shapes they make, and the immediate meanings they conjour up. The joy in this is that when it comes to looking at that poem in depth, there is much more to be found; a word can be discovered to have another meaning, or the placing of a comma can make a big difference. But like a piece of artwork, poetry is best seen on the surface at first, before we look at what it is made from. If you have an artwork on your wall, you do not often look at it in depth, you simply enjoy it. This does not mean you cannot enjoy peering at where the brushstrokes are, but if you know more about how the brushstrokes have been placed than you do about the way the picture makes you feel when you look at it, then the purpose of the artwork is lost. If that makes sense?

I think much the same approach can be applied with films. I don't often watch "the making of..." documentaries as I can find they spoil the magic of a film. And taking this back to Tolkien, I think the ultimate enjoyment that can be had from the books is from simply enjoying the world he created The next best pleasure is in trying to find out more about it, what he intended by it all, and to find out what he meant, I have to suspend, to a certain extent, my own beliefs and try to understand what his may have been.

But this again, is another theory of reading, possibly veering towards biographical interpretation. I'm not hung up on it though, and I would suppose that this is what I am saying, that to choose one theory, one way of reading is perhaps what can spoil our reading (or more especially our potential to read in many ways and so possibly come to wonderfully surprising realisations) not the way chosen in itself.



As Gandalf did, I've got to apologise for the long ramble. I meant to be short and I was not...
Ah, we seem to have misunderstood each other, Lalwendë. I was referring to the activity of reading, as explained in linguistics, of how we make sense of the marks on the page by distinguishing the marks from the backgrounds, scanning and making predictions, referring them to known patterns in the language, to point out that there is no passive mere experience of language (at least in linguistics). Extrapolating from this is the reader's holding in his or her head the story already read and accruing to that the new information provided by the story.

As for 'reader response' literary theory, there is no one theory, no one model, no one critic, and in fact, no general agreement about what happens. In some form all regard the book as a text, that is, a form of language to which readers supply the codes or strategies as they experience it. There isn't even any general agreement on what the text is. For some, it exists only in the reader's head--they deny the objective existence of the text. The book they admit is objective, but the 'text', the place where the experience occurs, is not. This seems to be the way davem understands my perspective--or at least, how I see him interpreting my perspective. For others in the reader response camp, the psychological effect provides a tool for examining a culture's ideology. (This I think might be a fruitful avenue for more discussions here at the Downs.) For still others (and this is where I come from, to use a cliche) the act of reading is a linguistic event which is a social event, not a personal, solipsistic event, where the interaction between the words on the page and the reader's use of language creates a culture of meaning.

So, while davem and Lalwendë think that reader response means biographical interpretation, that is not the way I have struggled or attempted to explain my position. It's like the old conundrum: if a tree falls in the forest when no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise? It all depends on how one defines noise/text.

For me, the experience of the art is a linguistic act, and that involves making choices about the codes and strategies which comprise the English language. It is not limited to past experience, to psychological trauma/sublimation/transference/ but is part of how language works to create new experience, new understanding. Thus, it is not merely peering into a mirror to see one's self.

So I agree with littlemanpoet that the act of reading does not have to have psychological stimuli or phenomena at all. And so at this point I think I've reached the stage where I have to say, politely, that I must agree to disagree with certain members of this discussion.

As for the Court Proceedings, I think part of difficulty lies with the Defense's insistence that there has to be a rule or convention by which to proceed. My understanding is that the Prosecution is endeavouring to formulate a theory by which he can communicate or explain his experience of Tolkien's story-telling. Why should Tolkien's story-telling be limited by previous teller's? I don't think profiling provides an acceptable means here to determine the case.

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Old 06-09-2005, 03:45 PM   #152
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I have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth in this kind of discussion. If I am misunderstanding your position its probably because I don't have your accademic background. I'm someone who left school at 16 - without having paid too much attention to what I was being taught if I'm honest. Since then I've read a lot of books, but haven't followed any particular course of study, just reading what appealed to me. This is simply to try & explain why I may sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret what other's post - NOT that I'm accusing anyone of being deliberately obtuse, so please don't take what I'm saying the wrong way. My position in this debate has been put together as I've gone along, & I've tried to formunlate an argument in response to the things others haved posted. So, in short, I can't bring in a lot of literary or linguistic theory to support my position. Its based on a 'gut feeling', that it should be possible to experience a work of art as a thing in itself, something objective, unknown. That seems to me what we 'owe' to the art. The art is the 'not me', it is 'other', it exists in its own space, which I may enter to commune with it, but that 'communion' will not be so much an interaction as an opening up on my part to that 'other'.

It seems to me that there is perhaps a difference between the 'literary novel' & the story. At the extreme of the literary novel we have, say, Finnegan's Wake, a novel as much about language itself as it is about anything else. Perhaps we could put the folktale - especially the folktale as heard rather than read - at the other extreme. What I mean is that in the literary novel the focus is on the language - the text - while in the folktale the focus is on images. Folktales are often (like folksongs), a series of images, vignettes, episodes, with interconnecting narrative. I think a work like Tolkien's Legendarium is very close to folktale in this sense. The reason I say this is that, unlike its 'polar opposite', FW, which has very few 'images' - apart from ones conjured by 'connection' or analogy in the mind of the reader - a work like LotR is full of such scenes & images - they are what strike us & stick in our minds. The most powerful of which for me is the sight from the summit of Weathertop across the wide lands of Middle earth.

These images are incredibly powerful, they kind of 'burn' themselves into our psyches, & create the sense of 'enchantment' I'm talking about here, the sudden
intense glimpse of the 'Other', the 'not me'. The reason that sight of wild lands from the summit of Weathertop affected me so profoundly was not because it made me thinkof something else, some other place I had known, nor was it because of the language, the specific words Tolkien had used. Neither was it because of the events that lead to the Hobbits & Strider standing there, or any 'projection' into the future events of the story & what might happen. What it was, I think, was that specific image - not the words themselves but the image they evoked - looking down from a high place onto an unknown land. It was a 'primal', archetypal experience, & its 'power' came from its 'otherness', its absolute unfamiliarity. Something 'other', something I hadn't brought to that particular party, had overwhelmed me.

So, perhaps 'language', literary theory & linguistics have as little place in this discussion as 'psychology'. I think its the 'images' that 'enchant' us - not by their familiarity but by their 'unfamiliarity'. Words, paint, music are the medium.

Whether any of that makes sense I have no idea....
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Old 06-09-2005, 09:46 PM   #153
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As for the Court Proceedings, I think part of difficulty lies with the Defense's insistence that there has to be a rule or convention by which to proceed. My understanding is that the Prosecution is endeavouring to formulate a theory by which he can communicate or explain his experience of Tolkien's story-telling. Why should Tolkien's story-telling be limited by previous teller's? I don't think profiling provides an acceptable means here to determine the case.
The thing that drew me into this thread finally was this (Your Honor, we'd like this marked "Defense Exhibit 1"):
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
My sense that Gandalf's words sound more like the narrator in describing Orthanc, has to do with having learned much about the writing craft in the last five or so years.
It seems to me that lmp is offering more of a professional opinion here, an opinion that Tolkien has violated a rule or convention of craft with his handling of Gandalf.

As a fellow wordsmith, I felt the alleged rule required a challenge.
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Old 06-10-2005, 09:14 AM   #154
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Originally Posted by davem
So, perhaps 'language', literary theory & linguistics have as little place in this discussion as 'psychology'.
Let's see now, I think we're all on this board talking about a literary work, not a psychological treatise. And this particular literary work is chock-full of fascinating tidbits about language, literary craft, and the results of a philological rootedness (not linguistics). Or am I missing something? This, I confess (and it probably says twice as much about me as anyone else around here) is the second time I've reacted to something asserted on this thread with "You have got to be kidding." Ah well.

The quote below has been altered merely to illustrate something, not to poke fun or anything derogatory at all.

Quote:
I can't bring in a lot of [spirituality or theology] to support my position. Its based on a 'gut feeling', that it should be possible to experience [spiritual reality] as a thing in itself, something objective, unknown. That seems to me what we 'owe' to [god/spirit/the other]. [God] is the 'not me', [god] is 'other',[god] exists in [god's] space, which I may enter to commune with [god], but that 'communion' will not be so much an interaction as an opening up on my part to that 'other'.
davem is revealing a similarity between literary and spiritual experience, which may be part of why reading LotR can be so profound, as dinziliel said on the Visible Souls thread recently, it's about Truth, Reality. That means that those things that prove to undermine our belief or faith in whatever we hold dear, are likely to be similar to that which breaks the enchantment for us in LotR.

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Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
It seems to me that lmp is offering more of a professional opinion here, an opinion that Tolkien has violated a rule or convention of craft with his handling of Gandalf.
Call it avocational rather than professional, for I cannot claim to have earned anything from my writing beyond "my very own copy" of the issue of the literary magazine in which my poem was published. Big deal.

The convention is the distinction between narrative voice and character voice. If it is unclear, then it becomes possible to say, in the case of Tolkien, that there is at least overlap. If so, then Gandalf as a character has been compromised. How much does this matter in the overall? It depends upon (1) an individual's reading (2) how Tolkien uses Gandalf at all places in the story.

My research continues and the results will be forthcoming soon.
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Old 06-10-2005, 09:41 AM   #155
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Davem wrote:
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It seems to me that there is perhaps a difference between the 'literary novel' & the story. At the extreme of the literary novel we have, say, Finnegan's Wake, a novel as much about language itself as it is about anything else. Perhaps we could put the folktale - especially the folktale as heard rather than read - at the other extreme. What I mean is that in the literary novel the focus is on the language - the text - while in the folktale the focus is on images.
Certainly there are vast differences between folktales and works like Finnegan's Wake. But I think there are two mistakes to avoid here. First, I don't think it's quite right to say that there is a literary vs. imagistic opposition between them. I think it is not trivial to note that all literature (even spoken folk-tales) is, fundamentally, made of words. For a narrative art-form that is really based on images, we'd have to turn to film. Comic books, too, I suppose. I also wonder to what extent the "focus on images" that you see in the folk-tale is an objective fact about the genre and to what extent it is simply the thing that you as a reader react to most strongly.

The second potential mistake, I think, is to see a qualitative difference between two genres and to mistake it for a fundamental difference not only in the way the two genres are but in the way they should be approached. It's fair enough to point out ways in which LotR differs from something like Finnegans Wake. But what does that difference mean for us? Does it mean that we must bring a different sensibility, a different analytic vocabulary, to LotR?

I would say, rather, that there are different ways to approach the work, each of which is valid. Or perhaps I should say all of which are valid, for it seems to me that there is no choice to be made; all approaches are valid simultaneously. I would say, in fact, that one indication that a work of art is great is that it can be approached simultaneously from a great many different ways.
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Old 06-10-2005, 01:10 PM   #156
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davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
I don't want to 'downgrade' Tolkien's use of language - indeed, I think that ne reason the radio series 'feels' closer to LotR for me than the movie is that the adaptors used more of Tolkien's original language - as I said the radio series is more like a dramatised reading than an adatation.

My point is that Tolkien's use of language is intended to create images in the mind - 'living shapes that move from mind to mind'. The images almost exist apart from the language used to exress them. I suppose this is why the work has inspired so many artists (& filmmakers), why there is a desire to present the descriptions in a visual form. I wonder how many of us, on calling to mind events in the story actually call to mind the words ? For most of us, I think, what come to mind are the images formed in our minds by the words. So, it is the images created that affect us. Other words could have been used (maybe with less effect), but the images would still have been formed as we have them. I go back to Peig Sayers account of how she retained the stories she heard. She would 'see' them on the wall in front of her. Her son, Micheal O'Guiheen, talks about one story, The King of Ireland's Son, which would 'take two weeks of nights' to recount. Of course, there would be certain common phrases (as we find in Homer) whih would be used in the telling of such tales, but generally what the storyteller would do was describe the images they had 'seen' when they heard the story the first time. It was the images which were transmitted, not the words used to describe them. The repeated turns of phrase would serve almost as 'mnemonics', or connecting phrases to link the images being described.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
For a narrative art-form that is really based on images, we'd have to turn to film. Comic books, too, I suppose. I also wonder to what extent the "focus on images" that you see in the folk-tale is an objective fact about the genre and to what extent it is simply the thing that you as a reader react to most strongly.
I think that with movies & comicbooks we have a similar thing to what happened inside the heads of those hearing the old stories, with the essential difference that the hearer formed their own images out of what they had in their individual psyches. This is not the 'baggage' I've been talking about. In the folktales collected by Campbell & published as Popular Tales of the West Highlands we often find fairy castles described as larger versions of the ordinary houses people lived in, because thats all they had to go on.

When I talk about 'baggage' its not the 'raw material' of trees, hills, rivers, etc, that we must supply to bring the story to life in our imagination, but rather our own memories, literary, psychological, religious theories & beliefs, etc. So, if a writer mentions a hill, we supply the image of a hill, based on the hills we've seen, iin real life or in pictures. But, if on hearing that word 'hill' we start thinking 'Oh, yes, a hill! I remember when Fred & Sue & I went walking in the countryside, & we climbed that big hill at midday & I saw that cafe by the road side & we went down & had that meal, which wasn't too good & was bloody expensive, & actually I couldn't really afford it & it meant I had to put on hold buying that cd I'd intended to get till next payday...etc, then we've broken the enchantment. I think Buddhists refer to that as the 'butterfly mind', flitting from one thing to another & never focussing on the thing on front of us.

I think, in other words, that to truly experience any art form, we have to learn to focus on it, & not let ourselves be distracted by that kind of baggage. Its not so much that we have to become willing victims, surrendering all our autonomy, & letting ourselves be manipulated by the artist, its that we have to 'listen' as carefully as we can & make an effort not to be distracted by other things, or by ourselves - not something we can do completely, I acknowledge, but something we should make a real attempt to do, if we want to be enchanted - of course, we may not want to be enchanted: its optional. But if we don't make the effort we can't complain that it doesn't happen, or that at points it is broken. At times it may be necessary to ignore the workers coming in & moving the scenery about. If they are doing their job well they won't prove too intrusive.
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Old 06-10-2005, 09:25 PM   #157
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
The convention is the distinction between narrative voice and character voice.
I get that, but I think your arguments so far as to exactly what that distinction is are based on an arbitrary rule that you've either formulated for yourself or picked up from somewhere else. It's this "rule" that I disagree with:
Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Whereas in the first, Gandalf is naming others around the council, here in the second he does not .... and that seems to me to be because it is the narrator's voice that has taken over, giving the reader important information that the writer couldn't think of a better (more timely, more suspenseful) way to convey. It may well be that it is important information for the council members to learn from Gandalf, but that does not mitigate the fact that the voice is the narrator's rather than Gandalf's here.

[emphasis on the most pertinent extract mine, of course]
Who says a character has to reference his audience in order to make his dialogue "in character voice"?

The real question here, minus the jargon, is simply: Is Gandalf's dialogue believable as something that Gandalf would say, in a way that he would say it?

You already know my answer.

P.S. -- Sorry for this sidebar conversation. Carry on with the baggage and such.
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:24 PM   #158
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I would say, rather, that there are different ways to approach the work, each of which is valid. Or perhaps I should say all of which are valid, for it seems to me that there is no choice to be made; all approaches are valid simultaneously. I would say, in fact, that one indication that a work of art is great is that it can be approached simultaneously from a great many different ways.
Popping in quickly to say that I think Aiwendil has suggested a point which really needs to be considered in more depth. Does a work of art demand or create its own, individual, unique way of reading, or is that rather the realm of lesser works of art, that can be appreciated in a limited way? Does greatness--and we all seem to believe that Tolkien is great--reside in the polysemy of ways of reading?

Many of us come to it first for the adventure and the action, but something draws us backto LotR. Or perhaps it is our delight in hobbits that keeps us glued. Or we are entranced by the ways of the elves. Then, something grows on us, something that perhaps develops at the expense of that initial experience, but which could not be possible without that first experience. This seems to be a history for many of us, that we began reading LotR one way, but were drawn back, and came to read it other ways.

And yet all of these ways of reading are held simultaneously as ways of reaching out to us. Isn't this a sign of greatness? Why should LotR be limited just to one kind of approach or reading? Yes, yes, I think Aiwendil is right about that.

Last edited by Bęthberry; 06-11-2005 at 07:29 PM. Reason: changed my mind about replying :p
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Old 06-11-2005, 08:37 PM   #159
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Sidebar conversation continued...

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Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
Who says a character has to reference his audience in order to make his dialogue "in character voice"?
No one. But if this turns out to be Gandalf's habit, then a failure to do it raises questions. I'm researching it. So call that part of it a theory for now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
The real question here, minus the jargon, is simply: Is Gandalf's dialogue believable as something that Gandalf would say, in a way that he would say it?
That's not the only 'real' question. The other question is whether a particular text that is spoken by Gandalf is more like scene narration by the author than it is like Gandalf's speech. I'm researching that too.

P.S. -- I'm not at all sorry for the sidebar conversation, as the baggage part of this seems to have by and large run its course, although Aiwendil's recent pot-stirring has started to make it interesting again.
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Old 08-14-2005, 08:38 PM   #160
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Lately, I've been thinking more and more about different forms of narrative, particularly the old ancient forms in the traditional epics and the modern forms, either realistic or post modern. And I was reminded of littlemanpoet's thread here.

In the old epic tales which Tolkien harkened after, the narrator is an authoritative, reliable narrator whose knowledge (omniscience) is taken for granted. There doesn't seem to be much difference between the narrator's views of characters and events and the characters' views of themselves and of events. In modern literature (post 19C), there is often much disparity between how the narrator views the characters and events and how the characters do--and how the readers do as well. There's a distance there. I guess another way of saying this is that modern narratives are more ironic.

Are there any discrepancies between Tolkien's narrator's view and those of his characters? If there are, does this distance destroy the enchantment? Is self-knowledge, self-reflection, any kind of distancing between narrator/character/reader not feasible in fantasy? Does fantasy have to mean a total sublimation or suspension of the reader's disbelief? Or is this just a function of Tolkien's nod to the old narrative forms?

And, if enchantment requires the absence of irony or distance, does that make parody of fantasy far more easy or potent?
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