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Old 08-04-2005, 08:00 AM   #561
davem
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
To clarify, the full meaning of the work can only lie with the individual reader (because it will mean something different to each individual). Aspects of that meaning may be shared.
No. The book means what it means - which is what the author intended it to mean - nothing more or less.

I think that this discussion is really about what readers do with the book, rather than what it means to them. Are all the readers doing with the book what the author intended them to do with it? No. Are they all picking up on the meaning? Again, no - & for various reasons. But the point stands - the book means what it means & that meaning is an objective thing & the author has stated what that meaning is.

If you 'find' anything other than that in it you've put it there: its not in the book - sorry - you didn't find it in there - you couldn't have, 'cos Tolkien didn't put it in there.

Therefore, whatever other 'meaning' you find has nothing to do with either LotR or with its author. Its your 'baggage' - kindly don't leave it in the aisle for others to trip over.....
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Old 08-04-2005, 08:19 AM   #562
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Let me point out that while Thenamir and HI have publically commended Helen's industrious post, I at least have quietly repped her.

As to the question about how interpretive communities set their 'agendas', let me suggest that even here at the Barrow Downs we have had successive or various communities. Take a look at the style, content, and perspective of the threads from the early years. Then look at threads which developed during the movie years. Now look at our topics in the past year. There was nothing like the literary discussion we have now in the early years, just as there are few "Where's the inconsistency in the Legendarium" threads now, generally speaking at least.

Downers such as Mithadan, Mr. Underhill, Barrow Wight, Sharkey, Mhoram, burrahobbit, HI, Bruce MacCullough, Gilthalion, red and others talked about the things which interested them about Tolkien. The Silm project is a splinter community from these early years. Topics shiftedly slightly with the arrival of posters such as Rimbaud and The Squatter of Amon Rudh, piosenniel, Birdie, and Child of the 7th Age. Things shifted again with the arrival of SaucepanMan, davem, Lalwende, Fordim Hedgethistle and likely will shift again with the arrival of people like Formendacil. Departures, of course, also influence the nature of communities. I am leaving out many Downers for simplicity's sake--for which I apologise, especially to those of the Wharg persuasion--and of course these various 'categories' are not exclusive; there's lots of cross-pollination. In fact, those I name here tend not to be part of the other communities which post in Mirth and Quizzes and the RPGs, and then there are those who provide much fodder for bandwidth about avatars and signatures. Sometimes age becomes a factor in how these communities congregate. Again, these informal groupings are not mutually exclusive.

But my point is that the Downs, even under the rules and guidelines set by the Barrow Wight and the other Admins, demonstrates the subtle fluctuations which pertain to interpretive communities. The 'boundaries' are set as much by the posters and their ideas and what they wish to say as by those who run the joint--even more so, I would suggest. The interpretive community announces itself in the very act of posting.

As for my apalling audacity in questioning similes, I would beg to point out that metaphors are different from similes. A metaphor combines two unlike objects or ideas into a completely new vision. It is a 'going beyond' to something new. A simile simply seeks out similarities. Saucepan has considered the applicability of HI's computer analogy. I will rather say--am I repeating myself here?--that literary language is different from other uses of language. What was it Sidney said about poetry? "Poetry never lies, because it never affirms." Story and poem and epic romance and novel take us someplace other than the primary world and so, I would suggest, we need to address such creative language in ways which recognise its creativity. Lal has already suggested this in the CxC discussion where she posited a language of pleasure and a language of information.

So there. My position is not anti-metaphorist, Formendacil. Nor, in fact, have I categorically rejected Tolkien's statement about allegory. What I have done there is put it in a context.
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Old 08-04-2005, 08:59 AM   #563
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I understand what you are saying, davem. Believe me, I really do.

And it’s clear that the difference between us lies in our respective approaches to the question: “What is the meaning of LotR?”

You interpret the question as: “What do you mean by LotR, Professor Tolkien?”

I interpret the question as: “What does LotR mean to me?”

Imagine that we both meet Tolkien and ask him what he meant by LotR. Your approach dictates that you must be content with his response and accept that as the only true meaning. My approach allows me to take on board Tolkien’s response in my consideration of what LotR means to me.

Which, objectively, is the correct meaning? Neither. My meaning cannot be objectively correct because it will not be shared by others (not entirely, at least). And Tolkien’s meaning (even if we could ever fully understand it, which we cannot because we can never fully understand the man’s mind) cannot be objectively correct because that would deny the applicability which he was so concerned to allow his readers.

Which is the more valuable? Well, for my part, while the meaning ascribed by Tolkien to LotR (and others’ interpretations of the work) may be of value, the meaning which I ascribe to it myself will be of the greatest value.

And which is the correct approach? Well that depends upon what you wish to get out of the book.
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Old 08-04-2005, 09:13 AM   #564
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I went back and re-read the first post in this...um...thread, just to see how and where it all began (more than a year ago!). One interesting thing that I found in that post, which I think we have lost sight of, is the importance that I placed on the "open-endedness" or even unfinished nature of Tolkien's works and world. The fact that there are so many inconsistencies in the fabric of this world was, I argued, an opportunity for (even a demand upon) the reader to approach the corpus of M-E as history and not literary (which is how the Professor preferred it to be taken).

One point I would immediately make in light of this is that it is impossible to sustain any allegorical reading of the stories, not because Tolkien won't "allow" us, and not simply because the stories are complicated, but because at some level, like history, they don't make perfect sense. Until we can nail down with absolute certainty the full blood lines of Aragorn and Arwen we can never really know what their union means in an allegorical way (is it the marriage of Reason and Love, or whatever...we can't know because there will always be some shadowy aspects to the past and natures of Ar and Ar due to the less than entirely clear lineages Tolkien gave them in various sources).

The other point I would re-iterate here is that no matter how badly one may desire the authortative/authorial voice to guide us, that isn't going to happen -- at least, not in any reliable way insofar as that voice (like the voices of all individuals) is fragmented and multifarious. To turn over the interpretive act to the reader in the case of Middle-Earth is not to be as Saruman and break the white light into many hues, but to acknowledge that the rainbow exists already -- to seek to ignore that is folly, to seek to resolve it is, I would suggest, limiting and hubristic.

Again, referring back to my original post, I used the examples there of Balrogian wings and the origin of orcs (to that I would now add the shape of Elven ears and the identity of Gothmog: not to mention far more perplexing riddles such as the precise function and nature of the Ring, the ability of Saruman to fool Sauron, the relation between magic/art/technology, and the list goes on...). These examples were chosen to demonstrate that in most cases, if we go looking for the authoritative/authorial version or meaning, we will find only that it's just not there. The fact that we can continue the discussions about these things, all of us with careful reference to the works, proves that! I would venture to go so far as to say that if the author is dead, then it is the reading COMMUNITY which has killed him, insofar as the voice of one person (the reader) cannot overwhelm the voice of one other person (the writer) so effectively as can the overwhelming voice of a large and excited group of people!

I would go even further than this: to interpret the text at all, that is, to make a choice of any sort about what it means, is to insert yourself not just into the process of the text, but to put yourself before the text. "Before" in both senses -- both before it as we stand before the altar, in reverence, awaiting some kind of outside beneficence, but also before meaning in greater priority and placing the text behind and into the background. Let's face it, the reading act is about as solipsistic and isolated an event as there is: the presence of another person in the room can be enough to ruin the reading act. Conversation with someone else is impossible. To those who would say that the act of reading is itself a conversation with the author I would merely say that it's unlike any I've ever had -- I've never been able to stop the other person from talking merely by looking away from them, and I'm usually able to effect what they say by saying something myself!
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Old 08-04-2005, 09:38 AM   #565
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In an interpretive community meaning might reside within the reader but that meaning is only validated by approval from our peers.
not for me, thankfully

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So, would you agree that the meaning of the text can be both defined by readers and by the Author?
cant have one w/o the other milady

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For all our intellectualising, the Author aint dead round these parts
Agreement. Except for the fact that his work is dead. Which leads me to:

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That remains my position.
Same here - HA. My original thoughts on this thread being that the only thing I consider *canon* is what actually published by the *author* for us *readers*.

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The 'boundaries' are set as much by the posters and their ideas and what they wish to say as by those who run the joint--even more so, I would suggest.
Unless they fall into the group from my first quote of Lal. Then, they might get shouted down, drowned out, or become *disenchanted* by either a majority or an outspoken minority.

Quote:
And which is the correct approach? Well that depends upon what you wish to get out of the book.
And what one wants to get out of this site as well. Beths entry does cause me to conisder the nature of this forum. I like to discuss Tolkien on many levels, both inside and outside of the pages. I also appreciate the resulting creativity that has been inspired by the works. But as to the tenor of the overall attitude/opinions on this thread, I wonder if there is an influence. I dont RPG and fanfic, so in this case, I am an outsider here. I just like discussion, along with some pot stirring and devils advocation. But, as to opinion influence, once you "help yourself" to the original creation in terms of writing, RPGing etc, does not the author's intentions become inconsequential, even irrelevent? Anything I have read about the author's intentions on the subject of interpreting his work dealt with visual art, music and cinema.

Quote:
Story and poem and epic romance and novel take us someplace other than the primary world and so, I would suggest, we need to address such creative language in ways which recognise its creativity.
YES. This is why the work is great. Plenty of that stuff out there, but whats special about Tolkien? I would submit that it's because of the authors mastery of the various subjects incorporated in the stories, and the desire to tell a Story. Of course the author has intentions for the Story, and IMO at least, the author wasnt intending to say "oh look - a how clever I am! Those english lit guys are going to really enjoy this nugget of metaphorical anit-dada puffinstuff that Ive snuck into the subtext!

But when some read *no* allegory/simile/metaphors, others will read *open to any* allegory/simile/metaphors. And, as Beth said in an earlier post, it depends on who your english teacher was in your formative years....

Sorry you have caught me on a day off...
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Old 08-04-2005, 10:49 AM   #566
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Hello, my name is Thenamir, and I'm a Canonicity Addict.

Quote:
Originally posted by SPaM:
To clarify, the full meaning of the work can only lie with the individual reader (because it will mean something different to each individual). Aspects of that meaning may be shared.
At last I read something upon which I can hang a decent point, or at least a good question -- the idea of "community".

Is it our purpose here to come up with (or at least to discuss ad mortem) a corpus of "meanings" which are shared by this community as a whole? Or perhaps, by a simple majority? Now there is a discussion from which we might actually produce something tangible, something other than interminable laps around the same philosophical track. A series of posts or even threads, each beginning with a particular thought or idea that was especially meaningful to a member of this community, followed by commentary by others about that point and whether it should be included in the community standard. Once all have spoken, the community moves on to another point, and so on. How useful the finished (ha!) product would be is something I cannot fathom, but at least it would bring some semblance of order to the repetitive chaos, and provide many an interesting insight into the ways that the participants approach and internalize the Great Work Under Discussion.

Quote:
Originally posted by SPaM:
You interpret the question as: “What do you mean by LotR, Professor Tolkien?” I interpret the question as: “What does LotR mean to me?”
Magnificent! I could have saved much bandwidth in the Canonicity Slapdown thread if I had had your mind, Saucy. This is the penultimate encapsulation of all I have been trying (in way too many words) to express. The Reader Camp seems to be fighting for the right to bring whatever personal influences to bear on the meaning of LOTR to them, and misinterpreting (probably unintentionally) the Authorial Camp to be dictatorially restricting their individuality and invalidating the nuances that their personal experience brings to their reading of the text. The Authorial Camp on the other hand, rightfully defending the right of the creator of a work not to have that work defaced, seems to be similarly misinterpreting the defenses of the Reader Camp to mean that the intent of the author can have *no* bearing on how a work is to be received. And so the war continues, like the Yooks and the Zooks of Dr. Seuss, fighting over the "right" way to eat bread -- butter-side-up or butter-side-down.

I find HI's CD-ROM analogy to be most fitting. Everyone has the right to apply, contort, distort, retort, or strawberry torte , any input your senses receive, and we cannot stop them from doing so, no matter how far afield from "authorial intent" such ideas may be. But it is commonly true that the maximum use of an object is employing it as it was designed (or intended) to be used.

That is not to say that someone cannot come up with something innovative that might be applicable, but such innovation usually comes from thorough knowledge of the workings and components (that is to say, the original design or intent)of that from which you wish to innovate. A person who wished to invent, say, a laser-pointer from the parts of a malfunctioning CD-ROM drive (were it not already convenient and inexpensive to buy the same thing already built and designed for that use) would be innovating. A person who attempts to shove a videotape into a CD-ROM drive might be attempting to innovate, but is operating from a fundamental ignorance of the workings of the drive. Such attempts at innovation are, like Morgoth's attempts to "innovate" elves into orcs, usually counterproductive, and can even be destructive. Even so, I assert that the best "innovations" upon "established" or "mainstream" ideas about the meaning of LOTR will come from those who have given some time and effort to understanding what Tolkien intended. (As well they should attempt to find and comprehend as many of the ideas and attempted innovations which have come before, so as to avoid unnecessary duplication. We don't need any more "Is Tom Bombadil a maia?" threads.

In a way, those of the Authorial Camp may be more kindred to the Reader Camp than either would like to admit -- for in researching Authorial Intent, they are merely attempting to expand that totality of their own experience from which they form their conclusions and take their meanings (and thus, the personal import) of LOTR -- yet even the results of such research are subjective to each individual researcher. The Reader Camp, perhaps, feels less of a necessity to find our more about what JRRT intended, finding themselves content to see what they see in it and needing no more than that. But in merely reading the work through to its conclusion they are (for whatever personal reason) participating in the author's intent, because it is his work that they read and can not participate in it except for the fact that the Learned Professor, whose specialty was words and languages, used these words and not others to express himself. It is JRRT's book, and it was published with the intent that it be read. You can choose to read it or not, but if you do you are, whether you like it or not, part of Authorial Intent.

Going back to my first point in this post, I think that it would be more productive to share the most important meanings from each of us, as each may be willing, and to see how each post resonates (or not) with our own perceptions. It would not do, though, to attempt to divine the authorial intent of each such post -- if that were to happen, this thread would spiral in on itself until it imploded.

Just one more small voice in the bandwidth maelstrom.
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Old 08-04-2005, 12:40 PM   #567
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Originally Posted by SPM
Which is the more valuable? Well, for my part, while the meaning ascribed by Tolkien to LotR (and others’ interpretations of the work) may be of value, the meaning which I ascribe to it myself will be of the greatest value.
Ok, but if you find a 'meaning' in LotR which Tolkien did not put there, then you have introduced something new & personal - what you have 'found' was not actually there - its like someone wandering around with an Ipod on talking about the 'wonderful music' in the air of the city. The music isn't 'in the air' its in their ears. The only 'meaning' in LotR is the meaning the author put there. If you 'find' anything else there you've brought it - as Aragorn says about Lorien. Thus, you are not 'finding' a personal meaning in LotR, but in yourself. That 'meaning' was already present in you, & would be there for you even if you never read the book.

The 'meaning' you are 'ascribing' to the book is nothing to do with the book at all.

Quote:
You interpret the question as: “What do you mean by LotR, Professor Tolkien?”

I interpret the question as: “What does LotR mean to me?”
But unless the meaning you find corresponds with what Tolkien says he meant then you are not talking about the same thing at all.

To set up (yet) another dichotomy, I think you are talking about 'value' rather than 'meaning'. You're asking 'What is the value of LotR to me?', rather than 'What is the meaning of LotR?'. As I say, the latter question has been answered by Tolkien himself. Tolkien had a very clear idea of the 'meaning' or 'message' he wanted to communicate. What he couldn't dictate was what value his work would have (if any) to his readers - what they would get from it.
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Old 08-04-2005, 12:51 PM   #568
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I think you are talking about 'value' rather than 'meaning'.
Nicely said.
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Old 08-04-2005, 12:55 PM   #569
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cant rep davem anymore
wonderfull Lorien analogy

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What he couldn't dictate was what value his work would have (if any) to his readers - what they would get from it.
He was surprised at the response he had back in the 60's. He would be dumbfounded today.
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Old 08-04-2005, 01:51 PM   #570
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Thus, you are not 'finding' a personal meaning in LotR, but in yourself. That 'meaning' was already present in you, & would be there for you even if you never read the book.
Let me get this straight. I would understand what LotR means to me even if I had never read the book? Well, I may be many things, but I'm not psychic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
To set up (yet) another dichotomy, I think you are talking about 'value' rather than 'meaning'.
Partly, yes. But I am also talking about what I understand it to mean.

We are, however, getting into semantics here, because "meaning" can be construed in a number of ways. I could say that you are talking about 'message' rather than 'meaning'. Indeed, you have said as much in your last post.

As I said earlier, the difference between us lies in our approach to the question: "What does LotR mean?"
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Old 08-04-2005, 02:47 PM   #571
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Originally Posted by SPM
Let me get this straight. I would understand what LotR means to me even if I had never read the book? Well, I may be many things, but I'm not psychic.
You'd understand any 'meaning' you 'found' theat was not Tolkien's intended meaning, because that would be what you had brought to it from your own experience.

Quote:
We are, however, getting into semantics here, because "meaning" can be construed in a number of ways. I could say that you are talking about 'message' rather than 'meaning'. Indeed, you have said as much in your last post.

As I said earlier, the difference between us lies in our approach to the question: "What does LotR mean?"
To think I should have lived to see a Lawyer be so dismissive of 'semantics'

Well, what do you think it 'means' - 'alone, itself & nameless'? I wasn't referring to the 'message', because, as Tolkien said in the Foreword:

Quote:
As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. (my emphasis)
I think Tolkien was drawing a distinction between an 'inner meaning' & an 'outer' or 'obvious' one. The book has a clear meaning, but it is there on the surface, & he makes no attempt to hide it (or it would be an 'allegory'). Any other 'meaning' you find in it is down to you, any 'message' you find in it is down to the 'value' it has to you.
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Old 08-04-2005, 05:04 PM   #572
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Originally Posted by davem
You'd understand any 'meaning' you 'found' theat was not Tolkien's intended meaning, because that would be what you had brought to it from your own experience.
No, the meaning that I draw from it is my experience. It is, of course, influenced by my own (past) experience and by Tolkien's intended meaning (to the extent apparent), and no doubt by many other factors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
To think I should have lived to see a Lawyer be so dismissive of 'semantics'
Dismissive? Surely not, given that it has formed the basis of the difference between us for the last two pages or so. I just thought that the time had come to let on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I wasn't referring to the 'message', because, as Tolkien said in the Foreword:

Quote:
As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. (my emphasis)
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Tolkien had a very clear idea of the 'meaning' or 'message' he wanted to communicate.
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Old 08-04-2005, 08:03 PM   #573
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Originally Posted by Lalwende
It wasn’t in bad taste at all. When I use the word anarchy, I mean it in its true sense. I don’t mean the emotive ‘anarchy’ used to denote chaos and crime, I mean Anarchy in that there are no rules, the people are free and open to do as they will; there are no authority figures. Applied to literary criticism, this is the state which ought to match Postmodern theories (so long as caveats are not in place to protect the power of the academic) – it is a glorious state whereby any reader may interpret just as he or she wishes and may express that freely without fear of that opinion being rejected as their interpretation will be considered as equal to any other.
The definition of the word "anarchy"...

However, just because Lalwende has clarified what she meant by "anarchy", if what the Reader's Rights camp are saying is to be taken as something other than hypocrisy, then it can be applied here as well. In which case, if my original, subjective reader's viewpoint was the Lalwende meant anarchy in the sense of chaos and crime, then I am entitled to stubbornly believe that for so long as I may desire- clear contradict and explanation here to the contrary.

Indeed, my question now is not whether I am ENTITLED to do so, but rather, being a literate and intelligent English-speaking being, it is POSSIBLE for me to do so. I may make the pretense that I am certain that Lalwende meant otherwise, but in the face of such a direct statement, can I honestly BELIEVE otherwise?

Likewise with the Lord of the Rings: in the face of Tolkien's direct statement that no allegory was intended, and believing him to be telling the honest truth, can I, in my right mind, actually continue to believe that it is an allegory?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
So there. My position is not anti-metaphorist, Formendacil. Nor, in fact, have I categorically rejected Tolkien's statement about allegory. What I have done there is put it in a context.
I wasn't thinking of you in particular, but this section of the 'Downs in general. ANY simile or metaphor by Camp A is bound, t'would seem, to be shot down by Camp B- simply as a matter of principle. The easiest way to defeat the argument of the metaphor is to attack the fact that it is a metaphor, rather than fighting it on its own terms.

You were merely the one who actually did shoot down my metaphor...

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Originally Posted by Mithalwen
At the risk of incurring the wrath of Formendacil, HI, I will dispute your CD/DVD analogy.
Consider it officially incurred.

Although, I will admit that you did a pretty good job of working at the deficiencies of the metaphor from the inside, rather than attacking it as "not being the same".

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Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
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Old 08-05-2005, 02:54 AM   #574
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
Originally Posted by davem
I wasn't referring to the 'message', because, as Tolkien said in the Foreword:

Quote:
As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. (my emphasis)

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Tolkien had a very clear idea of the 'meaning' or 'message' he wanted to communicate.
Why are you confused? I was saying that, according to Tolkien in the Foreword, there is no 'inner' (or hidden/allegorical) 'meaning' or 'message'. I agree with this. But that is not to say there is no meaning or message. Tolkien clearly did have a meaning & a message - but it was clearly stated in the story itself. In one of the Letters, which I quoted on another thread, he states that part of his purpose was didactic.
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Old 08-05-2005, 04:50 AM   #575
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Originally Posted by davem
Why are you confused?
Because you appeared to dispute my observation that you are interpreting 'meaning' as 'message'. I think that we can agree to disagree on how the question should be interpreted and simply agree that the book has a meaning intended by Tolkien and a meaning intepreted by each individual reader, and that all such meanings, while they may overlap to a significant degree, will never be entirely the same. The question of which is the 'correct', 'objective' or most 'valuable' meaning will, I think, have to be left to individual opinion.

*Holds out an olive branch to davem in a desparate attempt to bring an end to the circular and time-consuming discussion*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
However, just because Lalwende has clarified what she meant by "anarchy", if what the Reader's Rights camp are saying is to be taken as something other than hypocrisy, then it can be applied here as well. In which case, if my original, subjective reader's viewpoint was the Lalwende meant anarchy in the sense of chaos and crime, then I am entitled to stubbornly believe that for so long as I may desire- clear contradict and explanation here to the contrary.
This mischaracterisation of the position 'Reader's Rights' camp is one which has been commonly adopted on this thread. We are portrayed as positively encouraging the reader to wilfully misread and misinterpret what Tolkien has written and to deliberately come up with non-sensical meanings and crackpot theories if that is what he wants to do. But that misrepresents the reality of the position. Indeed, the label 'Reader's Rights' is in some ways misleading. I prefer the term 'reader's experience'.

The interpretion of a work of literature occurs both consciously and subconsciously. Often, we have no conscious control over how we interpret a work and therefore what it means to us. That is not to say that one cannot reach a position through deliberate analysis and logical thought, but both processes will generally be at work here.

So, when we are discussing the 'meaning' of LotR, it is not a question of the reader having the right wilfully to misread Tolkien and deliberately ignore reasonable explanations to the contrary. It is a question of what Tolkien's works genuinely mean to the reader. Of course, the reader has the right to be obtuse and stubbornly hold to an adopted position. But if he does so without having an honest belief in that position, then he will (in my opinion) be acting unreasonably and will be rightfully open to criticism for doing so.
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Old 08-05-2005, 07:06 AM   #576
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
Because you appeared to dispute my observation that you are interpreting 'meaning' as 'message'. I think that we can agree to disagree on how the question should be interpreted and simply agree that the book has a meaning intended by Tolkien and a meaning intepreted by each individual reader, and that all such meanings, while they may overlap to a significant degree, will never be entirely the same. The question of which is the 'correct', 'objective' or most 'valuable' meaning will, I think, have to be left to individual opinion.

*Holds out an olive branch to davem in a desparate attempt to bring an end to the circular and time-consuming discussion*

.
Where I'm confused is in what you mean by 'meaning' in this context. I accept that the book may have a different value & relevance to each reader, may speak to each reader in a different way, but I just don't get how it can have a different meaning.
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Old 08-05-2005, 07:42 AM   #577
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Originally Posted by davem
I accept that the book may have a different value & relevance to each reader, may speak to each reader in a different way, but I just don't get how it can have a different meaning.
And I don't get how, if a book speaks to readers in different ways, it cannot have different meanings to each of them.

But let's just leave it at that, shall we? I am running out of different ways to keep making the same points ...
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Old 08-05-2005, 11:00 AM   #578
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I accept that the book may have a different value & relevance to each reader, may speak to each reader in a different way, but I just don't get how it can have a different meaning.
See my original post in the Canonicity Slapdown thread for my attempt to show the differing definitions of "meaning" and how hopelessly confusticated they had become in the course of the debate.
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Old 08-05-2005, 11:26 AM   #579
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I had been planning to create a second poll on meaning. It would have run thusly:

Quote:
The Real Meaning of the Lord of the Rings is to be found in:
The author's intent
The reader's individual opinion
Mainstream reader consensus
Barrowdowns Book Forum consensus
A Glimpse of Divine Truth
The reader's collaboration with both the author's intent and the opinions of others
Divine Truth glimpsed by the individual reader guided by the author's intent
we need another poll on the meaning of meaning
:
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Old 08-05-2005, 12:40 PM   #580
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
And I don't get how, if a book speaks to readers in different ways, it cannot have different meanings to each of them.

But let's just leave it at that, shall we? I am running out of different ways to keep making the same points ...

Sorry, I suppose I'm not exactly following what you mean by 'meaning' - do you mean 'interpretation'? If so I'd accept your argument - though I'd have to say that what each individual reader is doing there is interpreting the meaning of the book, rather than finding a different meaning in it.
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Old 08-05-2005, 01:35 PM   #581
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Oh, alright davem. You can have the last word ...

Oops!
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Old 08-05-2005, 01:45 PM   #582
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Old 08-05-2005, 02:46 PM   #583
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
This mischaracterisation of the position 'Reader's Rights' camp is one which has been commonly adopted on this thread. We are portrayed as positively encouraging the reader to wilfully misread and misinterpret what Tolkien has written and to deliberately come up with non-sensical meanings and crackpot theories if that is what he wants to do. But that misrepresents the reality of the position. Indeed, the label 'Reader's Rights' is in some ways misleading. I prefer the term 'reader's experience'.
Note that I said Readers' RIGHTS, not READERS SUPREME...

I believe I am correct is saying that the group of thought I refer to as the "Readers' Rights" group is the group that holds that the experience and interpretation of the reader takes precedence over that of the author.

If that is not what you are saying, then this thread is REALLY mixed up...

I agree that readers have rights, but I put the rights of the author first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
The interpretion of a work of literature occurs both consciously and subconsciously. Often, we have no conscious control over how we interpret a work and therefore what it means to us. That is not to say that one cannot reach a position through deliberate analysis and logical thought, but both processes will generally be at work here.
But in the event of a dispute between the apparent meaning of the author and the original perception of the reader, which wins? For example, when I first read the Lord of the Rings Minas Tirith was pronounced Mye-nass Tirith. I liked it that way, I thought it was correct. However, upon learning that the correct pronunciation was Mee-nass Tirith, I changed my pronunciation, because Tolkien's pronunciation- the author's pronunciation- takes precedence. It is the canonical pronunciation.

In the event, of course, that there is no clear statement by Tolkien on a subject- and if I could not make any sense of his conflicting opinions (think Gil-galad, but worse) then I would be perfectly fine with imaging my own solution. But if a letter came up from the depths of someone's attic laying out a different solution than mine- I would, perhaps reluctantly, accept it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
Of course, the reader has the right to be obtuse and stubbornly hold to an adopted position. But if he does so without having an honest belief in that position, then he will (in my opinion) be acting unreasonably and will be rightfully open to criticism for doing so.
Quite so. And my opinion is that Tolkien's word is the canon.
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Old 08-05-2005, 04:01 PM   #584
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Oh, alright davem. You can have the last word ...

Oops!
Sorry. I know its come across that way, but I'm not trying to just repeat myself - & I actually think its important...

Look, Tolkien told us what LotR was 'about' on a number of occasions - its a long story meant to entertain, its the story of a hobbit broken down & made into something entirely other (approximation - I'm quoting from memory), etc. Others (the green movement, the far right, etc) have also told us what its about - as far as they're concerned.

So, all these different groups & individuals are claiming a knowledge of what the book is about, why it speaks to them, what they take from it, etc. My question is, are those things the same as the meaning of the book? Is there a difference between 'What the book means' & 'What the book means to me?

In other words, is the meaning I find in the book the only meaning there can be, or does the story itself mean something - does it have an 'objective' meaning which an individual reader can choose either to accept or reject?

Does there have to be an either' or choice made between the two - or why does one have to take priority over the other?

I'm fumbling around & probably not making much sense here...

EDIT

Let me try & clarify. In Middle earth Eru creates Ea. Its meaning is the one He gives it - its purpose is what He declares it to be. Yet all his children are free to either accept that meaning, adapt it, or reject it. They can 'find' whatever meaning in it they wish - as they wish. Some, however, will place Eru's meaning & purpose above their own, & even willingly sacrifice their own in favour of His.

Tolkien's position on this is clear - he states that the 'Right' approach for the children is to put His intention, meaning & purpose before their own - even if they suffer or die as a result.

Can we draw an analogy between Eru & the children & Tolkien & his readers?

Actually, that is probably just confusing things more...

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Old 01-23-2008, 09:36 AM   #585
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2 & 1/2 years since this darkened my inbox. Just felt it might be time to give it a bump:

Seems to me there's three questions:

1) What did Tolkien intend: what was it that he wanted to do with this book when he started it and as he wrote it?

2) What did Tolkien come to think it was about: what were his views of LotR in the months, years and decades after it was published? He added to it substantially in interesting ways (clarifying and explaining it in letters, completing and fleshing out the moral framework provided by the extensive backstory in the Sil)

3) What does the book mean: what do we as readers take from it?

And most importantly, how are these three things directly related to one another? Does number three owe anything to number one? Does number two in any way effect number one?

Let's perhaps begin with a nasty example; Gollum's little tumble into the Crack of Doom

1) the INTENT: to end the story in some way that made sense and was satisfying. Having Frodo or anyone else toss in the Ring would not be believable given the amount of time spent talking about how no-one could destroy it or give it away; having it not go in the fire would have been terrible, cause, well, Sauron would have won!

2) For Tolkien this moment came to be ABOUT the moral demonstration of Eru's (Providence's?) guiding hand over events. We don't actually see Eru 'taking charge' of the novel at this point, we only find that out by reading Tolkien's Letters and the Sil.

3) For me it MEANS a lot of things: that Gollum is in a way some kind of hero; that free will in Middle-earth does exist in a Boethian sort of way; that the design of Middle-earth history is essentially Providential in a Catholic manner; and that Frodo is being rewarded and saved by that Providential power.

To my mind, my number three owes nothing to number two, and is the dynamic result of my own readerly response to number one.

So there we are. Shall we begin this again, or leave it to moulder forever in the archives? Either is acceptable to me.
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Old 02-04-2008, 09:31 AM   #586
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So there we are. Shall we begin this again, or leave it to moulder forever in the archives? Either is acceptable to me.

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Old 02-16-2008, 11:07 AM   #587
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Old 02-16-2008, 01:35 PM   #588
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I haven't read the entire thread, it being quite long and I rather new to the board, but here's my two cents:

From what I can glean from all my reading of Tolkien's works (that being the finished stories, unfinished stories, notes, letters, etc.), his intent was to ultimately create a mythology for England, along the lines of other mythic cycles he loved so well. His ultimate intent does not appear to be his original intent, for he certainly did not have anything so complex in mind when he began writing "a Hobbit sequel," nor when he jotted down the line, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." From what I recall, at that time, he was more engaged with language and with faery, but they provided seeds from which his greater works grew. He did not set out with the intent of making this subcreation reflect his Catholic beliefs, but he did admit that it unconsciously reflected them as all writing reflects its author, and later consciously reflected them when he did revisions (some of which, we have seen, he was never able to fully reconcile; witness his problems with orcs, where they came from, whether or not they have souls, what happens to them after death if they do, etc.)

"Meaning" is not as objective a word as one would like it to be. A word can have many meanings, depending on context. And I have found that, whatever the author's intended meaning, readers are going to find their own, no matter how much the author might protest to the contrary. As an example (pardon the digression, but I think it's relevant): in one of my own novels, I have a female character who calls her father "Daddy." I wrote her that way because I have known a number of women, well up in years, who called their father "Daddy" until the day he died. Their relationship was not at all juvenile, nor in any way warped, but most of these women were the only daughters in the family, and "Daddy" was for them a term of endearment, a nickname that reflected a special bond they shared. I considered this a very minor matter in the story, a small idiosyncrasy that was intended to show a bit of the relationship between the two characters without expounding at length about all its details. Yet one reader latched onto this and sent me a several-thousand word analysis, telling me that I must have some issues with my own father, that I was revealing a childish attachment to him in my writing, that no one who isn't messed up and doesn't have an unhealthy relationship with their father would EVER call him "Daddy" into adulthood. Never mind that this person knew zilch about me (I stopped calling my father "daddy" around age 8; it was always "Dad" thereafter). Her immense diatribe had nothing to do with me or my authorial intent, it had nothing to do with the characters in the story; it had everything to do with her own personal baggage (which I know since she kindly told me all about her own life and past abuse so that I would know how very well she understood everyone else in the world).

Everyone brings baggage to what they read and what they write; I don't see how it can be avoided. If as you write, you do not allow your own voice to somehow flow into the words, they tend to become meaningless. If as you read, you don't allow yourself to resonate with what you're reading, it's all just words, style without substance. I know that when I write, I do so for myself, not with the express intent of pushing buttons, so to speak, with the readers. It has meaning for me, but I know it may wind up having very different meaning to some readers. It does not offend me when people tell me they felt something I hadn't put there. Their lives are not mine, so they may not react to things I wrote that had great meaning for me, and yet may have a powerful reaction to something in the same story that for me had no great import. The person who tried to psychoanalyze me was not offensive until she kept insisting that I must have suffered the same abuse as she, and if I did not intend to put that into the story, there was something wrong with me and I was in deep denial (my therapist would beg to differ ). I don't know why she couldn't accept that this was not an intended and deliberate subtext.

I have seen similar attitudes in some Tolkien fans and scholars. They see meaning in his work that is important to them. All well and good. But then, they insist that because they see this, and find it important, it must somehow have been intended by the author, and (worst of all, to my mind) is the only "correct" interpretation of the work. That's where head-butting and shouting matches begin. All of this is probably why, though I've found the HoME books interesting, I often think they just muddied the waters. They present a lot of JRRT's thinking about what he had created and was still in the process of creating when he died; they present his son's feelings and interpretations. They show alternatives, things under consideration, a lot of food for thought -- but not as much in terms of definitive answers. The only person who could have provided that is long dead (bless his soul), and even he was undecided about many things.

So what does all this rambling mean? I tend to think "canon" is what people are pointing at when they say "canon." One person will accept only what was in LotR and the Hobbit before JRRT died. Another will accept that and The Silmarillion (without revisions). One will allow for the various revisions to all works done by CT, and the more complete hitherto unpublished works, like those in Unfinished Tales. And still others will try to find a way to incorporate much of what's in the HoME books, or even try to reconcile absolutely everything (including things that contradict). It's all very personal, because we all react differently to information that is given to us. When we are presented with contradictory information, we tend to give greater credence to one or the other, but it isn't always because one provided more factual information or made a better argument for their position; it can simply be because one "feels" right and the other doesn't. I'm sort of in this camp on the question of Gil-galad's parentage, and I think I tend to prefer one over the other because to me, it seems more as I would have written it myself, and thus feels more "logical" to my way of thinking (I also rather think that neither version is superior; they're merely different). I may be completely wrong, but since the jury's still out, I feel free to choose the side I prefer, for whatever reasons I might have. And others are free to do the same. Which might very well mean we're either both wrong or both right, or in this case, right and wrong do not exist.

Okay, now I know for a fact I'm rambling. What was the original topic...?
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Old 02-16-2008, 02:41 PM   #589
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What was the original topic...?
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Old 02-17-2008, 03:57 PM   #590
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[QUOTE=Fordim Hedgethistle;404135]I would go even further than this: to interpret the text at all, that is, to make a choice of any sort about what it means, is to insert yourself not just into the process of the text, but to put yourself before the text. "Before" in both senses -- both before it as we stand before the altar, in reverence, awaiting some kind of outside beneficence, but also before meaning in greater priority and placing the text behind and into the background. QUOTE]

I agree and I have always enforced this view, however as fans of the book and the author's legendarium we are always allowed to speculate about the best possibility. One person may think that the Balrog has wings, while another may not. It all depends on how we interpret the text that we read since Tolkien never told us. I always enjoy having a discussion that are all about facts, but that does not stop me from liking debates about the most probable personal view.
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Old 08-31-2010, 10:41 AM   #591
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Old 08-31-2010, 03:33 PM   #592
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Mith, you scared me. I thought......

But no, it was just wolves howling in the distance.

I miss you too, Fordie. Just in case you were wondering.
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Old 09-02-2010, 03:51 PM   #593
HerenIstarion
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Someone mentioned my name, eh?
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Old 09-02-2010, 04:20 PM   #594
mark12_30
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And a very canonical name it is.
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