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Old 05-18-2005, 08:54 AM   #41
Bęthberry
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drigel

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Readers are obviously fallen creatures and the Supreme Author is omnipotent.
yikes
So, if I submit to the enchantment I am weak willed? Or perhaps I am just to simple?
wow that sounds exactly like the academics and peers of Tolkien at the time of publication doesnt it? hmmm good thing the students got it..

I sit here in my studio with a pen and a blank piece of paper. You better believe I am the Supreme Author! I didnt make the paper or construct the pen, but the potential universe is all mine to create or destroy.

Nobody is perfect, author or reader. One can read the work one way or another. I daresay most on this site can maintain multiple frames of minds simultaniously when reading LOTR, as the threads show. I was under the impression this thread was about enchantment, not interpretation, values or judements. Methinks the whole point of the author avoiding allegory is being lost here...

drigel, I had hoped that my use of smilies--the wink and the big grin--would have made clear the comedy of my ironic intent. Perhaps humour is being edged out by seriousness here.
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Old 05-18-2005, 08:59 AM   #42
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Here is what I think it boils down to. There are two distinct ways of reading. The first is to read for pleasure, the second is to read for purpose. Many of us read for purpose. This would include anyone who regularly reads through lengthy business documents to look for key points, journalists who carry out research in order to file a report, A Level students who have copies of Jane Eyre liberally inscribed with notes, teachers who scour essays and texts looking for relevant and coherently argued opinions. If we read for purpose often enough then it can easily become habit, because we may have been trained to do this, and we may also do this often enough that it becomes normal to us. Even when we sit down to read for pleasure then we can find ourselves mentally reaching for a pencil to make a note in the margin.

How many A Level students bemoan the fact that they are having to study 'boring' books? Rather than the books themselves being boring, the problem lies in that they are required to anayse the books without first having had the simple pleasure of reading them. A case in point is an A Level class I once taught part way through their course. They had been studying Chaucer and all pronounced it to be boring, which surprised me as when I had studied it for A Level everyone had enjoyed it. When I studied Chaucer our teacher had first made us listen to the text being read aloud, and then we had read it right the way through, making few if any notes. However this class had not had that pleasure; instead they had opened the book and had straight away begun making in depth notes with every few lines they read. This is the difference between reading for pleasure and reading for purpose.

If we go to a book with purpose in the forefront of our minds then we will approach it in that businesslike manner, as something to be dealt with, not merely to be enjoyed. If we go to a book purely with pleasure in mind then we are more likely to accept what is contained therein, as heightened critical faculties are not required for having fun. Obviously, many of us will read a book with pleasure in mind despite us being, in our professional capacities, purpose seekers. But how easy is it to shake off that way of reading which requires us to seek out key points and phrases which will make our arguments more coherent?

I don't say that this is any fault of the reader who generally reads with a professional purpose, nor are they reading it incorrectly. This is just how many people do read. It is a different way of reading, but a way which necessarily means we are not able to immerse ourselves fully in the alternate reality of what we are reading (and alternate reality would include a novel about urban London as much as one about Middle Earth).

Absolutely no author of novels or poetry writes with the professional reader in mind, beyond possibly making sure it will appeal to the publisher. The writer is wholly concerned with the creative endeavour at hand, and is indeed omnipotent in the world they have created. Tolkien is the creator of Eru, and what Tolkien says must happen in Arda, happens. It is his world, and we are invited to visit, but not to alter it. There are things I do not like in Middle Earth, but that is me projecting my own feelings, my personal critical eye, onto those occurrences. I cannot do anything about them. I can talk about them, and how I think they are wrong, but it does not bring me any closer to what the author thought, in fact it takes me further away, so I must put aside my purposeful mind and read with pleasure, or else change the channel and go elsewhere.
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Old 05-18-2005, 09:02 AM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drigel
I was under the impression this thread was about enchantment, not interpretation, values or judgements. Methinks the whole point of the author avoiding allegory is being lost here...
Whereas I have at times felt as if this thread has gotten as highjacked as others feel the "Choices of Master Samwise" thread at CbC has, and largely over the same ongoing debate, I still see a connection between interpretation and enchantment.

What I would call willfull interpretation (bringing an idea to bear from outside the text) seems to be mutually exclusive with enchantment, since the latter requires the acquiescence of the reader to the story (or appreciator to the art, if you prefer), whereas the former is the reader acting upon the story (or interpreter acting upon the art). Please understand that I am condemning nothing, just making an observation. Thus, the former will necessarily impede the latter, and the latter will disallow the former. This is not taking into account interpretation as intended by the author, which is an altogether different kettle of fish.

This is not to say that the willful interpreter cannot appreciate the story for itself, but I think a full appreciation is hindered by the willful interpretation.

As for the difference between Elves in TH and LotR, I guess I always understood the Elves in the Hobbit (esp. Rivendell) to be blithe on the surface, playful even, because they had gotten to a place of acceptance with their immortality and sadness. I never doubted that it was there, it just lay below the surface, and actually I felt that the silly songs were in a way a symbol of their sadness and depth.
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Old 05-18-2005, 09:12 AM   #44
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Here is a major difference between the learned higher mind and the simple mind (at least mine ). Lalwende has so eloquently stated the point I was trying to get across about differences in reading and why and neither being wrong. Thank you, Lal.
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Old 05-18-2005, 11:12 AM   #45
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OK, I could not help myself. I just had to look up "enchantment" in the OED:

Quote:
1. The action or process of enchanting, or of employing magic or sorcery.

2. fig. Alluring or overpowering charm; enraptured condition; (delusive) appearance of beauty.
Interesting, no? And from Tolkien's own "On Fairy-Stories":

Quote:
Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside; but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose.
This was rather surprising to me, that Tolkien would use a word -- and not just any word, but one so central to his own art -- in a way that is slightly different from its normal usage. In Tolkien's formulation, "enchantment" loses all sense of being "overpowering" or "enrapturing"; it certainly is not productive of a "delusive appearance of beauty"! What is more, in Tolkien's view of enchantment, he allies that word not with "magic or sorcery" but with Art.

But there are two really remarkable things about Tolkien's description of enchantment that I think bear mentioning:

1) He states that is it enchantment which produces the Secondary World, and not the other way around. This would seem to imply that the effect of the writer's art on the reader is what makes the world; in this case, he sees the reader as being enchanted as much by his own ability or willingness to recieve and reimagine the art, as he is by the art of the author.

2) He believes that this enchantment is fulfilled when the reader and the writer together enter the world in some kind of partnership. "to the satisfaction of both their senses." This is very much in keeping with his view of the relation between reader and writer in the creation of that world in the first place ("enchantment produces the Secondary World").

So it seems to me that with his stories, Tolkien was attempting to invite me to be enchanted by his art, and that without my active participation in the creation of that world by agreeing with his art, then it cannot exist. In the end, he gives the reader a measure of freedom; we are not being taken over by his world, but co-creators of it.
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Old 05-18-2005, 11:47 AM   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
So it seems to me that with his stories, Tolkien was attempting to invite me to be enchanted by his art, and that without my active participation in the creation of that world by agreeing with his art, then it cannot exist. In the end, he gives the reader a measure of freedom; we are not being taken over by his world, but co-creators of it.
I think this has to be the case, otherwise it would be impossible for anything we do to break the spell - we would be 'ensorcelled' rather than 'enchanted'. I think this is what he meant by 'living shapes that move from mind to mind'. We could say that Frodo was 'enchanted' in Lorien because he was able to leave it at any time, but that he was 'ensorcelled' by the Ring, because he was unable to leave it willingly.

Quote:
He states that is it enchantment which produces the Secondary World, and not the other way around. This would seem to imply that the effect of the writer's art on the reader is what makes the world; in this case, he sees the reader as being enchanted as much by his own ability or willingness to recieve and reimagine the art, as he is by the art of the author.
Perhaps it is the enchantment experienced by the artist which enables him to create the secondary world, & which the reader experiences when he/she willingly enters into it?

Inevitably the reader 'co-creates' the secondary world with the artist - Tolkien speaks of the way references to 'hills, trees & rivers' will conjure in the mind of the reader images of all the trees, rivers & hills he has ever known & particularly of the first tree, river or hill the reader experienced, the one which will always mean tree, river or hill to him - or something along those lines.

But this is different from bringing with us into the secondary world our beliefs, values, facts we've amassed over the years, etc while we are there. Once we have left that world it will itself become part of that 'baggage' to be analysed & deconstructed. But if we are analysing & deconstructing it while we are in it how can it possibly enchant us? It won't be a 'living' co-creation between author & reader, but rather an experiment in literary analysis. It won't be what it was meant to be, & so won't have the effect it was intended to have. Isn't this exactly the approach Tolkien was criticising in the Beowulf lecture? Beowulf, as he pointed out, is not a quarry for 'facts' about the beliefs & cultural history of the Anglo-Saxons but a poem which should entertain & enchant us.
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Old 05-18-2005, 01:11 PM   #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
As for the difference between Elves in TH and LotR, I guess I always understood the Elves in the Hobbit (esp. Rivendell) to be blithe on the surface, playful even, because they had gotten to a place of acceptance with their immortality and sadness. I never doubted that it was there, it just lay below the surface, and actually I felt that the silly songs were in a way a symbol of their sadness and depth.
That's a very interesting approach. I'd never thought of it before, but I suppose that the more comfortable one is with oneself, the easier it is to express all of the aspects of your personality, including the silliness that you might otherwise be hesitant to release. It also fits with Tom Bombadil's singing in a way. As master of his part of the Old Forest, he would completely accept all of the facets of his personality. Maybe part of the source of his abilities is that he is in unity with himself and can therefore recite silly poetry without feeling...silly (if I'm not too far off on a tangent here). Yet another source of potential disenchantment solved - if he were to behave in a more "dignified" fashion, he couldn't be as powerful a figure, and so Tom Bombadil just has to be the way he is. I'll have to remember that the next time I do something incredibly silly in public.

I'm glad the fireside tale view of The Hobbit works for you too, Holbytlass.

Thanks, Boromir88. Another aspect of the story that makes it so believable for me is the level of detail and sense of history that fills the books. The idea that we're only seeing a portion of the tapestry of Middle Earth makes it all the more real - it's much like the real world where everything is interwoven and has a story behind it, even though we can't always see the connections.
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Old 05-18-2005, 09:21 PM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle

So it seems to me that with his stories, Tolkien was attempting to invite me to be enchanted by his art, and that without my active participation in the creation of that world by agreeing with his art, then it cannot exist. In the end, he gives the reader a measure of freedom; we are not being taken over by his world, but co-creators of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I think this has to be the case, otherwise it would be impossible for anything we do to break the spell - we would be 'ensorcelled' rather than 'enchanted'. I think this is what he meant by 'living shapes that move from mind to mind'. We could say that Frodo was 'enchanted' in Lorien because he was able to leave it at any time, but that he was 'ensorcelled' by the Ring, because he was unable to leave it willingly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
He states that is it enchantment which produces the Secondary World, and not the other way around. This would seem to imply that the effect of the writer's art on the reader is what makes the world; in this case, he sees the reader as being enchanted as much by his own ability or willingness to recieve and reimagine the art, as he is by the art of the author.

Perhaps it is the enchantment experienced by the artist which enables him to create the secondary world, & which the reader experiences when he/she willingly enters into it?

Inevitably the reader 'co-creates' the secondary world with the artist - Tolkien speaks of the way references to 'hills, trees & rivers' will conjure in the mind of the reader images of all the trees, rivers & hills he has ever known & particularly of the first tree, river or hill the reader experienced, the one which will always mean tree, river or hill to him - or something along those lines.

But this is different from bringing with us into the secondary world our beliefs, values, facts we've amassed over the years, etc while we are there. Once we have left that world it will itself become part of that 'baggage' to be analysed & deconstructed. But if we are analysing & deconstructing it while we are in it how can it possibly enchant us? It won't be a 'living' co-creation between author & reader, but rather an experiment in literary analysis. It won't be what it was meant to be, & so won't have the effect it was intended to have. Isn't this exactly the approach Tolkien was criticising in the Beowulf lecture? Beowulf, as he pointed out, is not a quarry for 'facts' about the beliefs & cultural history of the Anglo-Saxons but a poem which should entertain & enchant us.

This gets back to something I asked, which Heren answered.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Does it come down to a willingness to be enchanted? Heart's desire as a reading strategy?


Yes
If I remember correctly, davem stated that the author is responsible merely for the intend to enchant; it is the reader who is responsible for responding to allow this to happen. Everything is "conjured in the mind of the reader."

Now, I don't want to make enemies , but how do we know that there isn't baggage, maybe even unconscious baggage, in the mind of the reader?
How do we know if the reader's own psyche has unconciously dictated elements of that enchantment? Or even if the reader has fallen prey to some deep desire to be overwhelmed by this fantasy?

Other than the sense of continuous enchantment and satisfaction--that is, duration of sensation--what other evidence is there that guarantees the enchantment is the one the author intended? That it isn't, in fact, some kind of delusion which the reader's desire to be enchanted has created?

Is there a way to account for the possibility of the reader's 'willful sublimation', to expand upon the term littlemanpoet has coined for willful interpretation?
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Old 05-19-2005, 12:43 AM   #49
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Affirmative. Apart from instances when negative.

Quote:
Now, I don't want to make enemies , but how do we know that there isn't baggage, maybe even unconscious baggage, in the mind of the reader
There is a baggage. In both minds too. Allusions won't work without one, would they? It is when baggages Author (unconsciously, or 'consciously so in the revision') and Reader (unconsciouly, 'reading for pleasure' (Thanks, Lal!), or consciously, 'reading for purpose' put in the lobby together and find them alike additional ties may arise. 'Look, your suitcase is made of leather, and mine too! Yes, I've bought it at Jimmy's! As well as I did, it seems... I've paid five pounds! See, mine is bigger a bit, it cost me 10...'
Automatically, Author and Reader have something to be friends about.

But friendship may form, and may form not a part of Love. If it does, it adds up to the pleasure, but it is not necessary for Friendship to be there at all.

Love (of Reader towards the Author's work) may occur even if Author's baggage is posh crocodile leather, and Reader brings in woven basket (or vice versa). There is no possibility for one of them of not having a baggage at all, unless the Reader is not born that very day, already literate, but knowing nothing and learning basic concepts of life through the book of the Author, which would have to be Reader's first source of information about the world, general.

And Love, if it is a True Love ('reading on purpose' excluded), may suspend disbelief better than anything else. Hence the enchantement.

Side effects (Besides the suspense of disbelief) - Love urges us to Protect the beloved (how dare them dumb critics say Tolkien ain't great writer!), urges us to Need the beloved (and constantly be lured to read and reread the books), urges us to Admire the beloved and do things for her (per instance, write fan-fiction, play RPG, read out long homilies about love...) and form new friendships sharing our admiration on this here forum, among other places.

But we all are mortal Fallen men. We may get angry with the beloved at times, there may be misunderstandings, misinterpretations and irritation. Alas for both Author and Reader.
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Old 05-19-2005, 02:09 AM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
What we are being presented with here, eowyntje, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

1. The supreme Author is never wrong in his art.
2. Reading is an act of complete submission to the will of the art.
3. therefore, any breaking of the enchantment is the fault of the reader.

etc etc

When you look at it from that perspective, the author is indeed never wrong. It is me who's fault it is that the spell is broken. But fact is, that those things broke the spell for me, and if the book had been more perfect for me. that would not have happened. The highest art or a writer would therefor be to create a world that no one, no matter what fault they make, would fall out of, a spell that even the most inadequate readers can't break.
It's like blaming the road for the accident's we make. (The book being the road and the reader bying the one driving onthe road) When I get in a car-accident while traveling the Tolkien-road, this is my fault. But any imperfections on the road might have helped cause the accident. On a perfect road, no accidents would ever happen.
If the spell is broken for the reader, this is the fault of the reader, but also proof of the imperfection of the writing, a perfect writing would be like a perfect road where nobody would ever break the spell or leave the road.

I know claiming that LOTR is imperfect is a very bolt statement to make, but it is just the way I see it.
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Old 05-19-2005, 02:58 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by eowyntje
If the spell is broken for the reader, this is the fault of the reader, but also proof of the imperfection of the writing, a perfect writing would be like a perfect road where nobody would ever break the spell or leave the road.
I don't think Tolkien would have claimed his work was 'perfect', but in the context of what you ask, I'd respond by asking which parts of the work are 'imperfect' in an objective sense - other than printing errors or torn pages, etc? The only part of the work which could be said to be 'imperfect' would be one that every single reader agreed upon.

The author can only do his/her best, & they will fail with some readers some of the time, but unless they fail with all readers at the same point then it must be something in the individual reader that causes the spell to be broken for them at that particular point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
Now, I don't want to make enemies , but how do we know that there isn't baggage, maybe even unconscious baggage, in the mind of the reader?
How do we know if the reader's own psyche has unconciously dictated elements of that enchantment? Or even if the reader has fallen prey to some deep desire to be overwhelmed by this fantasy?

Other than the sense of continuous enchantment and satisfaction--that is, duration of sensation--what other evidence is there that guarantees the enchantment is the one the author intended? That it isn't, in fact, some kind of delusion which the reader's desire to be enchanted has created?
There will inevitably be some unconscious baggage which the reader brings to their experience of the art, but it should not be dwelt on, because it gets in the way.

I suppose what it all comes down to is the question 'What do we mean by 'enchantment'? Is it simply being temproraily convinced by a secondary world so that for a time we forget the primary world? Or does it work a deeper 'magic' on us, opening us up to recieve a 'fleeting glimpse of joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief', to the possibility of the eucatastrophic experience in a particular form? Is it a valid experience? Is it a 'depth' experience - even a spiritual one?

And if we talk about the 'reader's desire to be enchanted' that begs a very big question - whence does this desire to be enchanted arise, & why do we seek the experience? Why is there any art at all?
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Old 05-19-2005, 04:39 AM   #52
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to davem

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
whence does this desire to be enchanted arise, & why do we seek the experience? Why is there any art at all?
You're good at tough questions

Finrod asks the question too:

Quote:
'For if you do not know, how can we? But do you know that the Eldar say of Men that they look at no thing for itself; that if they study it, it is to discover something else; that if they love it, it is only (so it seems) because it reminds them of some other dearer thing? Yet with what is this comparison? Where are these other things?
And eventually answers it (up to a point):

Quote:
'Is it, then, a vision of what was designed to be when Arda was complete - of living things and even of the very lands and seas of Arda made eternal and indestructible, for ever beautiful and new - with which the fëar of Men compare what they see here? Or is there somewhere else a world of which all things which we see, all things that either Elves or Men know, are only tokens or reminders?'
We seek and compare.
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Old 05-19-2005, 07:04 AM   #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
There will inevitably be some unconscious baggage which the reader brings to their experience of the art, but it should not be dwelt on, because it gets in the way.
I think there is a logical inconsistency here which sidesteps my question.

If the 'baggage' is unconscious, the reader will not be aware of it and so cannot dwell upon it. The reader will be unaware of how this unconscious reaction informs his or her response. Thus, how will the reader know if this unconscious baggage is shaping the experience of the art or the Art itself?

This is a logical problem with the theory that one can completely strip oneself of one's primary world identity and become solely immersed in the secondary world. At best, one can demonstrate and act upon a willingness, a desire to listen, to learn, to understand, but the very unique and individual terms and nature of the submission will in fact be part of how the experience is informed.
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Old 05-19-2005, 07:20 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by Bb
Originally Posted by davem
Quote:
There will inevitably be some unconscious baggage which the reader brings to their experience of the art, but it should not be dwelt on, because it gets in the way.
I think there is a logical inconsistency here which sidesteps my question
Let me clarify. It is a fact that there will be some unconscious baggage which the reader brings to their experience of the art, but we should not dwell on that fact because it gets in the way of what we're talking about here. What is inevitable, what we can't change, we may as well put on one side as we can't do anything about it. I should have re read the post & amended that sentence to read 'but that should not be dwelt on.'

Quote:
At best, one can demonstrate and act upon a willingness, a desire to listen, to learn, to understand,
That's all we are capable of doing, & its enough (ie it shows sufficient respect to the artist) if we make the best effort we can to do just that.

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but the very unique and individual terms and nature of the submission will in fact be part of how the experience is informed.
Has art anything to teach us? Can we learn anything from it that we didn't already know? If we can, then I would say it is that 'unknown thing' (rather than what we already know - our 'baggage') that is important, & the thing we should make an effort to take in.
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Old 05-19-2005, 07:23 AM   #55
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Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
There is a baggage. In both minds too. Allusions won't work without one, would they? It is when baggages Author (unconsciously, or 'consciously so in the revision') and Reader (unconsciouly, 'reading for pleasure' (Thanks, Lal!), or consciously, 'reading for purpose' put in the lobby together and find them alike additional ties may arise. 'Look, your suitcase is made of leather, and mine too! Yes, I've bought it at Jimmy's! As well as I did, it seems... I've paid five pounds! See, mine is bigger a bit, it cost me 10...'
Automatically, Author and Reader have something to be friends about.

But friendship may form, and may form not a part of Love. If it does, it adds up to the pleasure, but it is not necessary for Friendship to be there at all.

Love (of Reader towards the Author's work) may occur even if Author's baggage is posh crocodile leather, and Reader brings in woven basket (or vice versa). There is no possibility for one of them of not having a baggage at all, unless the Reader is not born that very day, already literate, but knowing nothing and learning basic concepts of life through the book of the Author, which would have to be Reader's first source of information about the world, general.

And Love, if it is a True Love ('reading on purpose' excluded), may suspend disbelief better than anything else. Hence the enchantement.

Side effects (Besides the suspense of disbelief) - Love urges us to Protect the beloved (how dare them dumb critics say Tolkien ain't great writer!), urges us to Need the beloved (and constantly be lured to read and reread the books), urges us to Admire the beloved and do things for her (per instance, write fan-fiction, play RPG, read out long homilies about love...) and form new friendships sharing our admiration on this here forum, among other places.

But we all are mortal Fallen men. We may get angry with the beloved at times, there may be misunderstandings, misinterpretations and irritation. Alas for both Author and Reader.
My dear HerenIstarion, your eloquence on the part of the ineffable enchantment of love in reading is delightful, but perhaps you have inadvertently provided some explanation of where the fit might not be 'one size fits all'. (Psst, the English is not "suspence of disbelief"--sadly, as your phrase is quite wonderful in itself-- but "suspension of belief")

Is the text, the beloved, always "she"? Must the reader always assume a (typically) Male posture towards "her"? Is cross-dressing to be allowed?

EDIT: the correct phrase is 'willing suspension of disbelief'
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Old 05-19-2005, 07:58 AM   #56
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Is the text, the beloved, always "she"?
It was a slip of the tongue. I usually write 'he/she' in situations similar, but it was an itch on my fingertips to be delivered to you through my keyboard which made me somewhat less observant in the case.

Thread hovering somewhere in the back of my head with something approaching the 'is LoTR as text He or She' title

(On second thought, though, I would probably be pro-she-er, if ever such a thread comes around . )

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Psst, the English is not "suspence of disbelief"--sadly, as your phrase is quite wonderful in itself-- but "suspension of belief")
Since I'm caught red-handed (red-fingertipped?), I would let it stand. Let it be an appeal for me and all of us (we know who we are) whose writing turns out impulsive rather than thoughtful at times, to, once the steam is let off, review the artefact produced with more care

(blimey, I thought it was suspence, I did. Probably mixed up with sixpense, raising the price of my post thrice)
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Old 05-19-2005, 08:27 AM   #57
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My bad, Heren, the full phrase is "willing suspension of disbelief", not 'belief'.

And now that I find myself replying with my own correction, I might as well consider further your thoughts, as the point is not merely erased by the addition of a second pronoun, "he/she".

Your entire explanation of the reader's attitude towards the beloved is decidedly cast in the posture of the (possessive) romantic male.

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Side effects (Besides the suspense of disbelief) - Love urges us to Protect the beloved (how dare them dumb critics say Tolkien ain't great writer!), urges us to Need the beloved (and constantly be lured to read and reread the books), urges us to Admire the beloved and do things for her (per instance, write fan-fiction, play RPG, read out long homilies about love...) and form new friendships sharing our admiration on this here forum, among other places.
These qualities, at least as traditionally understood, might more properly fit the model of a Female reader towards her child-text, with the desire to protect, to do things for. Certainly 'sharing the admiration' in order to attract new admirers might fit the child model more than a, ahem, husband or lover!

And I shall offer tuppence rather than penance for my error! (weak, I know, but we can't all partake of masculine rhymes all the time. )
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Old 05-19-2005, 09:16 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by davem
:
Originally Posted by Bb:
Originally Posted by davem

There will inevitably be some unconscious baggage which the reader brings to their experience of the art, but it should not be dwelt on, because it gets in the way. [end quote from davem]

I think there is a logical inconsistency here which sidesteps my question [end Bb quote]


Let me clarify. It is a fact that there will be some unconscious baggage which the reader brings to their experience of the art, but we should not dwell on that fact because it gets in the way of what we're talking about here. What is inevitable, what we can't change, we may as well put on one side as we can't do anything about it. I should have re read the post & amended that sentence to read 'but that should not be dwelt on.'

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At best, one can demonstrate and act upon a willingness, a desire to listen, to learn, to understand,


That's all we are capable of doing, & its enough (ie it shows sufficient respect to the artist) if we make the best effort we can to do just that.

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but the very unique and individual terms and nature of the submission will in fact be part of how the experience is informed.


Has art anything to teach us? Can we learn anything from it that we didn't already know? If we can, then I would say it is that 'unknown thing' (rather than what we already know - our 'baggage') that is important, & the thing we should make an effort to take in.
Time to make several observations.

First of all, it is, I think, an error to claim that we should ignore the unconscious baggage because it gets in the way of the discussion here or because we can't do anything about it. In fact, such a proceeding represents a willful blindness to the main point. There is as much a problem with your model being squewed as the other model suggested here, but you would simply ignore that problem as if it doesn't exist.

Second, to chastise the 'reader' model (for want of a better word) as being disrespectful of the original author's intent is to characterise this position incorrectly. The issue is not a deliberate, self-centred idea that only the reader knows best. The issue is that very often the complete and full intentions of the author cannot be fully revealed in any one reading. This is particularly so in the case of an author such as Tolkien whose credo was to make many things implicit rather than explicit: he wanted actively participating readers, for in action lies moral achievement. Nor does this reader model assume that the reader has nothing to learn or refuses to learn, but merely rehashes his or her own prior knowledge.

The model you propose is based on logical and psychological impossibilties. It is impossible for the reader to completely wipe out his or her identity and be acted upon solely by a text. Saul on the road to Damascus may have been blinded and become Paul, but did not eradicate all of Saul's nature. There is no going back to Eden, where experience is immediately apprehended innocently and purely. We live not only with the Fall, but with Babel.

Thus, any understanding of how a text works with the reader must explain how translation happens rather than ignore the basic need for it, for even speaking the same language requires translation. It requires all the resources which make us human and a willingness to consider the unknown. That does not mean that in reading for pleasure we wipe out all previous experience. There can be no return to an always virginal first reading. All previous reading pleasures come with the reader when he or she embarks upon a new text. Readers might want to put out of mind bad past heartbreaks, and often they do try hard, but short of losing memory that previous experience is always part of the reader. (And even losing memory is no guarantee that the experience will not have some effect.) And they might even be desirous of experiencing past happy love affairs again--that too, with either good or bad possibilties.

Why do we reread Tolkien so much? To return to that first experience? Or to see things there we didn't 'see' the first time? One of the paradoxes of reading is that both are probably true, and any explanation of what happens when we enter subcreation has to account for all possible experiences, and not presume one only.

I think SaucepanMan hit it right when he said that there is no one right way to legislate reading pleasure. It is not serial monogamy.

A last note: many have contributed here but time and length makes it difficult to address everyone. My thoughts do develop from reading everyone's posts even if I don't mention all and even if I tend to focus on just one or two perspectives.
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Old 05-19-2005, 10:32 AM   #59
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On a perfect road, no accidents would ever happen.
Yeah right. It doesn't matter how perfect the road is. There's always going to be someone who can manage to wreck their car in a spectacular display of lack of conscious thought and utter ineptitude for any activity requiring focus and hand eye coordination.

You could put cars on a track so all drivers had to do was work the pedals, and people would still rear end each other.

Likewise, you could write a "perfect" book, and there would still be people saying things like "I didn't get it", "I couldn't get through it", or "I thought it was boring".

On the other hand, there are some people who, despite imperfect roads with potholes, blind driveways, heavy traffic, patches of ice, and the occasional malfunctioning street light, still manage to never crash. Imperfections can be overcome.

But, of course, perfection can be overcome as well, so a perfect work of art does not guarantee enchantment.
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Old 05-19-2005, 12:06 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Why do we reread Tolkien so much? To return to that first experience? Or to see things there we didn't 'see' the first time? One of the paradoxes of reading is that both are probably true, and any explanation of what happens when we enter subcreation has to account for all possible experiences, and not presume one only.
While I was keeping up with it, I really enjoyed the CBC interaction: multiple rereaders and one or two first-timers.
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Old 05-19-2005, 12:40 PM   #61
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First of all, it is, I think, an error to claim that we should ignore the unconscious baggage because it gets in the way of the discussion here or because we can't do anything about it. In fact, such a proceeding represents a willful blindness to the main point.
We must put on one side, ignore, discount from our discussion anything that we cannot know, & anything which is unconscious is unknown. To be able to bring anything into our discusion we must be conscious of it. We have conscious 'baggage' & possibly unconscious baggage, but if it is unconscious the most we can say about it is that it may or may not exist. If we start speculating about something as tenuous as that, & what effect it may or may not have on our reading then we will definitely get sidetracked down a blind alley to a dead end that leads us nowhere fast & we'll find ourselves up the creek without a paddle.

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The issue is that very often the complete and full intentions of the author cannot be fully revealed in any one reading. This is particularly so in the case of an author such as Tolkien whose credo was to make many things implicit rather than explicit: he wanted actively participating readers, for in action lies moral achievement. Nor does this reader model assume that the reader has nothing to learn or refuses to learn, but merely rehashes his or her own prior knowledge.
I'm sure I said earlier that in the first instance we should try & simply experience the art as a ding an sich. Then we should attempt to discover what the author intended to communicate to us, & finally bring in our own ideas & interpretations.

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The model you propose is based on logical and psychological impossibilties. It is impossible for the reader to completely wipe out his or her identity and be acted upon solely by a text.
I think I also stated this earlier - all I've ever said is that as far as we are able we should open ourselves to the direct experience of the art itself - in the first instance, if only so that we have some chance of distinguishing what the artist is bringing to the party & what we are bring to it.

A secondary world must not be dependent on the primary world in order to make sense. If it requires us to analyse & interpret it in order for it to make sense then the sub creator has failed, & produced an allegory to some degree or other. All I'm saying is that we should attempt, in the first instance, to experience & participate in the art as fully as we can, & we do that by leaving as much of our (conscious - ie the stuff were aware of rather than the stuff which may or may not exist) baggage at the door.
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Old 05-19-2005, 01:05 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by davem
All I'm saying is that we should attempt, in the first instance, to experience & participate in the art as fully as we can, & we do that by leaving as much of our (conscious - ie the stuff were aware of rather than the stuff which may or may not exist) baggage at the door.
We shouldn't have to do anything or any particular thing with art, legally, morally or intellectually.
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Old 05-19-2005, 02:20 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
We shouldn't have to do anything or any particular thing with art, legally, morally or intellectually.
But how would we know whether it was 'art' or not unless we made an effort to experience & participate in it?

Just take the critics' (or Eru forbid the Lawyers' ) word for it?
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Old 05-19-2005, 05:28 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by Bethberry
Why do we reread Tolkien so much? To return to that first experience? Or to see things there we didn't 'see' the first time? One of the paradoxes of reading is that both are probably true, and any explanation of what happens when we enter subcreation has to account for all possible experiences, and not presume one only.
I think the question of why we re-read Tolkien may be at the heart of the loss off enchantment. For me, and no doubt for most other readers, nothing can beat that first read of LotR, the sense of wonder which it fostered. And most of us return again and again, but is each time as good as the first time? It might be pleasurable, but we do not have that sense of wonder in quite the way that we had it the first time. This is akin to the law of diminishing returns - we eat a piece of cake and it was so good we go and get another but though it is just as wonderful we can never get that 'hit' we had the first time.

We reread Tolkien because we are seeking the thrill all over again. For some of us, on a re-read we endeavour to recreate that feeling by immersing oursleves in to the world as deeply as possible, losing ourselves in the words. For some of us, on a re-read we seek to find parallels. Neither is wrong. But what would be wrong would be to read the story in the first place seeking to find answers to those things which are in our own world. Why is that wrong? Because we would simply deny ourselves a lot of pleasure. And I would doubt that we would ever return to the book because we would fail to be enchanted. It wouldn't be morally wrong, or anything like that, but it would be a damn shame, and is the primary reason why I am extremely glad that LotR is not a typical book used for study in schools.

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Originally Posted by davem
A secondary world must not be dependent on the primary world in order to make sense. If it requires us to analyse & interpret it in order for it to make sense then the sub creator has failed, & produced an allegory to some degree or other.
This to me explains something of the difference between different types of novel (I won't say fantasy novel, as I think it applies to any novel) - we have those which immediately plunge us into another place/time and those in which we must first travel through a reflection of our own world. In the latter I find that it is much more difficult to get that sense of being lost or enchanted as I find that while reading I am waiting for the characters to come back into the grey real world, and for the spell to be broken. This does not happen in Tolkien's work, it is immediately immersive and needs no plot hook to the primary world.

Tolkien's world, as something utterly different to our own, does not need us to have an understanding of the primary world, which is why it is also not necessary to compare aspects of it to the primary world. It is complete in itself. It also appeals to many people of many cultures, suggesting again that due to its contained nature it does not need to explain itself.
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Old 05-19-2005, 07:27 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
This was rather surprising to me, that Tolkien would use a word -- and not just any word, but one so central to his own art -- in a way that is slightly different from its normal usage. In Tolkien's formulation, "enchantment" loses all sense of being "overpowering" or "enrapturing"; it certainly is not productive of a "delusive appearance of beauty"! What is more, in Tolkien's view of enchantment, he allies that word not with "magic or sorcery" but with Art.
It was not surprising to me. Tolkien was responsible for creating an entire genre of modern literature, as well as a major shift in thinking about it. That kind of "revolutionary" thinking requires coinage of new words and meaning. This is the man who coined "eucatastrophe", as well as whole languages. Your final sentence in this quote reveals that Tolkien was a modern, writing in an era in which magic and sorcery have been replaced by Art, at least in terms of credibility.

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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
So it seems to me that with his stories, Tolkien was attempting to invite me to be enchanted by his art, and that without my active participation in the creation of that world by agreeing with his art, then it cannot exist. In the end, he gives the reader a measure of freedom; we are not being taken over by his world, but co-creators of it.
This is an elegant statement, Fordim. It does Tolkien proud, I dare to say.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Is there a way to account for the possibility of the reader's 'willful sublimation', to expand upon the term littlemanpoet has coined for willful interpretation?
By this I think you mean that the reader is deluding herself into a kind of enchantment within a story that the author never intended? I think that this does happen, and that Tolkien bemoaned it in his Letters, especially in regard to the American reaction to LotR in the 60's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
If we start speculating about something as tenuous as that, & what effect it may or may not have on our reading then we will definitely get sidetracked down a blind alley to a dead end that leads us nowhere fast & we'll find ourselves up the creek without a paddle.
My my, davem, you must have been in a real hurry when you wrote this.... four, count 'em, four colloquial turns of phrase in one sentence. Yike! Admittedly, quite handy for saying what you mean in short fashion. ... not to mention one mixed metaphor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saucepan Man
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
All I'm saying is that we should attempt, in the first instance, to experience & participate in the art as fully as we can, & we do that by leaving as much of our (conscious - ie the stuff were aware of rather than the stuff which may or may not exist) baggage at the door.
We shouldn't have to do anything or any particular thing with art, legally, morally or intellectually.
SPM, I think davem is proposing a conditional statement: If readers are to experience the full echantment of the story, then they must leave as much of their baggage at the door as they can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
But what would be wrong would be to read the story in the first place seeking to find answers to those things which are in our own world.
Although I agree with what you say in general, I think you overstate it by calling it "wrong"; perhaps "ill-advised" would be more appropo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
This to me explains something of the difference between different types of novel (I won't say fantasy novel, as I think it applies to any novel) - we have those which immediately plunge us into another place/time and those in which we must first travel through a reflection of our own world. In the latter I find that it is much more difficult to get that sense of being lost or enchanted as I find that while reading I am waiting for the characters to come back into the grey real world, and for the spell to be broken. This does not happen in Tolkien's work, it is immediately immersive and needs no plot hook to the primary world.

Tolkien's world, as something utterly different to our own, does not need us to have an understanding of the primary world, which is why it is also not necessary to compare aspects of it to the primary world. It is complete in itself. It also appeals to many people of many cultures, suggesting again that due to its contained nature it does not need to explain itself.
Hmmm...... I don't know.... there are a couple things that hold me back from this. First, Tolkien says in his letters over and over again that his Middle-earth is NOT utterly different from our own world, but feigned history of an era in this world. Second, whereas the Shire is obviously part of the feigned history, it serves as a sort of mediation between the primary world and the rest of Middle-earth. Third, even transitional fantasies are really immersive. Granted, what the transitional fantasies attempt is more difficult, because by means of the feigned primary world they allow the reader to bring expectations (baggage, sic) to her reading that she might otherwise leave behind; but as you implied, novels and fantasy novels share the characteristic of "feignedness". Thus, the difference between a transitional and an immersive, is that the former (seems to be attempting to) move(s) the reader from the familiar to the strange.
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Old 05-20-2005, 02:50 AM   #66
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First, Tolkien says in his letters over and over again that his Middle-earth is NOT utterly different from our own world, but feigned history of an era in this world. Second, whereas the Shire is obviously part of the feigned history, it serves as a sort of mediation between the primary world and the rest of Middle-earth.
Well, it does for some of us. I find it interesting that while the book begins in the quiet of the Shire the movie doesn't. Of course the book has the prologue, whiich gives us some background history & scene setting, but our first entry into Middle earth is via the Shire - in fact, as I pointed out in the cbc discussion first of all we 'hear' the voice of the storyteller, then we hear the voices of some secondary characters, & thirdly we get some descriptions of the actual place - & this 'place' is (for some of us) 'homelike'. Well, to be more precise its like things used to be. But that doesn't apply to every reader. I suppose for many readers the Shire is just as fantastical a place as Rohan or Lorien.

Now, Tolkien may have intended that the Shire serve as 'a sort of mediation between the primary world and the rest of Middle-earth' but it won't serve that purpose for every reader, so it has to convince us of its reality within Middle earth - it can't simply be a 'framing device' like the Wardrobe or a spaceship.

So, it must be possible, initially, to just experience the Shire as a part of the Secondary World or it will not convince us of its secondary reality - it will come across as simply a means to the end of getting us from the primary to the secondary world. We shouldn't need to bring any prior knowledge or experience to the secondary world in order that it be understandable to us - our experiences (our baggage) should not be required. So, we can just listen to the story being told - no listener will be in a superior position, or better able to experience the story, or have a greater or lesser capacity to be enchanted. In short, whatever your accademic backkground, however 'smart' you are,however many books you've read, you won't be in a superior position to any other reader/listener.

Secondly, you can begin to analyse what the author wished to do. Was the approach Tolkien took in presenting the Shire (rather than the Shire itself) intended to serve as a framing device, or to serve a mediatory role by being shown as not all that different from the primary world? Was he making some kind of 'political' statement about how things were better 'once upon a time'? Or is he trying to communicate what he considers to be the 'spirit of the ordinary English person', etc, etc. Is he making use of old beliefs, or trying to account for old traditions - the Shire was established by Marcho & Blanco, England by Hengist & Horsa, etc. Is he making philological 'in jokes' - the name Durin literally meant 'doorward' & the secret door in the mountainside opens magically when the last light of the sun on Durin's day hits the keyhole, etc.

That's all very interesting stuff, but doesn't add to the enchantment. In fact, the more of that stuff you are aware of, particularly if you have it in the forefront of your mind as you read, the less likely you will be to fully enter into the secondary world & be enchanted. The same goes for too much awareness of literary technique - if you're constantly analysing the way the story is written you'll never fully immerse yourself in the world the words are creating.

Finally, you can start analysing your own responses, bringing in your own feelings, memories & education, all the stuff you've learned & has made you the person you are.

Now, I know some will immediatley respond to this by saying that it is the 'person we are' that reads the book, so what I've placed third should (indeed must) come first. I can see this argument, but I think the approach I've described is the one we should strive for - even if we fail to fully achieve it. Also, I have to say that if the art, the secondary world, is sufficiently 'enchanting' we'll find it less of a struggle to do it.

Last edited by davem; 05-20-2005 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 05-20-2005, 07:41 AM   #67
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Is there a way to account for the possibility of the reader's 'willful sublimation', to expand upon the term littlemanpoet has coined for willful interpretation?


By this I think you mean that the reader is deluding herself into a kind of enchantment within a story that the author never intended? I think that this does happen, and that Tolkien bemoaned it in his Letters, especially in regard to the American reaction to LotR in the 60's.
Yes, littlemanpoet, that is what I meant. davem assumes that his manner of reading/approaching the text will always and automatically achieve the 'right result' of the expected enchantment which the author desired. There is a logical problem with his theory of enchantment which davem sidesteps and refuses to acknowledge by saying, since we can't know how our unconscious operates, we can't know how it affects our response. Or maybe he just thinks that any experience of the story as story is valid, I don't know. My point is that I don't think there is any reading possible which is free of 'baggage' in some way, so that the initial proposition is invalid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Thus, the difference between a transitional and an immersive, is that the former (seems to be attempting to) move(s) the reader from the familiar to the strange.
The issue we've been discussing is how to maintain the enchantment of the fantasy world, either throughout the first reading, or on subsequent readings. But this comment makes me think about something.

Is the nature of fantasy/enchantment completely dependent upon this idea of "the strange"? Can fantasy only be about the 'not-yet known and experienced'?

If so, then it is doomed always to have diminishing enchantment, for once we know the world, it will no longer be strange. Or are we supposed to throw out our previous readings of the book as "baggage" before we reread?

EDIT: (returning to finish after sharing my computer!)

However, if we say that enchantment is not a one time experience of the unfamiliar secondary world, but a process of always on-going comparison between primary and secondary worlds (familiar and strange), then we have a sliding scale of exchanges or thoughts. Thus, we need not be limited to a denial of 'baggage' in any reading, and every subsequent reading will have the potential for further enchantment as we see more meaning to the primary/secondary interchange. This will, I think, accounts for Fordim's explanation of Tolkien's process which littlemanpoet lauded in his previous post.
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Old 05-20-2005, 08:06 AM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
There is a logical problem with his theory of enchantment which davem sidesteps and refuses to acknowledge by saying, since we can't know how our unconscious operates, we can't know how it affects our response.
There may a 'logical problem' with my approach, but it seems yours presents us with a logical impossibility - how can we possibly know what is 'unconscious'? If we knew how our unconscious minds operate, what they contain & how they affect our reading, then they we'd be conscious of them, wouldn't we. Anything we discover about our unconscious contents & processes immediately becomes 'conscious'. I'm saying we can only take into account what we are aware of, not what we aren't aware of. That seems to me to be simple logic - but then I never went to college.

Quote:
davem assumes that his manner of reading/approaching the text will always and automatically achieve the 'right result' of the expected enchantment which the author desired.
No he doesn't - that would be 'assuming that which is to be proved'. What davem is doing is taking part in a debate, & putting forward his particular theory for discussion.

Quote:
Or maybe he just thinks that any experience of the story as story is valid, I don't know.
Maybe he thinks that, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he hasn't decided. It certainly sounds from that sentence like Bethberry has decided some experiences of the story as story are invalid

Quote:
Is the nature of fantasy/enchantment completely dependent upon this idea of "the strange"? Can fantasy only be about the 'not-yet known and experienced'?
Davem would speculate that its about the 'not-yet-known', the 'undiscovered country', but also about the 'blue remembered hills' - which is as much 'hand luggage' as he's prepared to alow on this particular flight...


Quote:
If so, then it is doomed always to have diminishing enchantment, for once we know the world, it will no longer be strange.
No - because our experience may become deeper & more profound with each reading. The one thing likely to prevent that happening is if we are too weighed down with all the theories, beliefs & conceptions we've built up around the story, so that the experience becomes little more than looking into a mirror.

Quote:
Or are we supposed to throw out our previous readings of the book as "baggage" before we reread?
We should perhaps try & leave behind our previous interpretations of the book, so that we may be open to new things. Proverbs 26:11 & all that sort of thing....

Last edited by davem; 05-20-2005 at 08:11 AM.
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Old 05-20-2005, 08:10 AM   #69
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More sober mood this time...

Quote:
Is the nature of fantasy/enchantment completely dependent upon this idea of "the strange"? Can fantasy only be about the 'not-yet known and experienced'?
If it is Tolkien we are talking about, and not, say, Sword of Shannara series, than, no. Assuming you love the work you read, there will always be things to discover.

One may be struck by strangeness at first sight, falling in love. One may than grow to know one's wife/husband, but there always will remain uncertainty and chance of discovering something new. One may grow tired at times, and go play bowling for a change in the evening, but the morning will bring new delight.

Quote:
The issue we've been discussing is how to maintain the enchantment of the fantasy world, either through the first reading, or on subsequent readings
The answer may sound crude, but is nevertheless that simple: Stop bothering about maintaining the enchantment, her (enchantment is She for me ) being elusive little devil. She will delude the hunter once pursued, but will get offended if not pursued at all and will show up inevitably if not paid heed to or sought after. She is like a teakettle of Jerome's Three Men in a Boat - you should convince it you want tea not at all, otherwise it would not start to boil.

EDIT:

Just cross posted with davem. Let his words give more weight to my 'stop bothering' appeal:

Quote:
The one thing likely to prevent that happening is if we are too weighed down with all the theories, beliefs & conceptions we've built up around the story, so that the experience becomes little more than looking into a mirror.
Or, the recipe is simple: put the mental pencil aside and read on

END OF EDIT
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Old 05-20-2005, 08:45 AM   #70
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Boots

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Quote:
Or maybe he just thinks that any experience of the story as story is valid, I don't know.


Maybe he thinks that, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he hasn't decided. It certainly sounds from that sentence like Bethberry has decided some experiences of the story as story are invalid
davem, this comment reflects the kind of argument which I think is misguided and even inflammatory. Anyone who has read my posts knows that I don't regard any reading--by which I mean experience of the story-- as invalid. It appears to me to represent a deliberate attempt to mischaracterise my position by taking the sentence completely out of context of all my previous ones. What I was attempting to do is understand how you would accept the kind of misreading which littlemanpoet pointed out. If my phrase mischaracterised your position, I am sorry, but it reflected an honest attempt to understand a point you had not, to the best of my recollection, addressed or discussed: is it possible for your form of enchantment to miss the authorial intention.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
That seems to me to be simple logic - but then I never went to college.
This kind of statement I think equally does not belong in this discussion. No one here in this discussion has ever made any statement which insults readers who are young, who have not had post secondary education, or who simply take delight in story. Nor is this the first time a comment which appears derogatory about other people's reading experience has appeared in your posts. I think it is vering towards personal attack and I would ask that you stop making such comments.
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Old 05-20-2005, 09:02 AM   #71
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"Lor' help me!"

Let's set aside rancor, friends, okay? Disagree with civility, even if you must admit that you know you won't change the other person's mind despite the fact that you are the one being so reasonable and the other just isn't getting it (I know, a true blow to pride, isn't it?).

The above are Sam's words when he is caught by Gandalf in Shadows of the Past (please forgive me if you've hashed this through in CbC without my knowledge).

What "Lor'" is Sam referring to? Having spent all the hours I have here at Barrowdowns has made me aware that this is a potential sore thumb sticking out. Is this a religious reference? Or is it a Shire reference? It could be argued that it derives from the days when there was a King in the North, but I feel that would be a stretch. I think that what we have here is Sam speaking like an English commoner caught redhanded: it's a reference to Christianity, place and simple. And thus it's an error in the text. It broke the enchantment for me. Now, you may argue that it's my theories and baggage that I failed to leave behind, but it is just as much (if my conclusion as to its reference is correct) Tolkien's error.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Is the nature of fantasy/enchantment completely dependent upon this idea of "the strange"? Can fantasy only be about the 'not-yet known and experienced'?
Perhaps an excursion into historical usages may throw some light on the question. Take the term, "glamour", which is, I believe of Norman derivation, or at least French. It is more or less equivalent to enchantment. The old meaning of enchantment has fallen away and the word is used almost exclusively in terms of female beauty. But that points up an interesting illustration: female beauty was considered a "glamour" in the old sense. "Be careful of her charms." There is (and has never been) nothing strange about female beauty; it is part and parcel of what it is to be human.

More later. I've run out of time.
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Old 05-20-2005, 09:34 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by Bb
It appears to me to represent a deliberate attempt to mischaracterise my position by taking the sentence completely out of context of all my previous ones.
Certainly it is annoying when someone misrepresents one's clearly stated position - I can only quote the start of my earlier post (number 9) on this very thread:


Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb

I have been told that my suggestion of some kind applicability of the Lilith myth to Shelob is a no-no:
I think my exact words in the current chapter thread (post 51) were:

Quote:

I wouldn't deny your right to find any kind of applicability in the text. My point was that I can see more differences than similarities between Shelob & Lilith.
I take your point & will attempt not to do it again, because I acknowledge how irritating it is when someone comes on these boards & puts words in your mouth which you personally would never utter.

Quote:
is it possible for your form of enchantment to miss the authorial intention.
Well, this is the whole issue in a nutshell - trying to guess the author's intention, & what kind of 'spell' he or she wanted to cast. Certainly if we go in with that in mind we'll never experience any kind of enchantment, so the question becomes moot. I don't know what kind of spell Tolkien wanted to cast - in the sense of the precise effect he wanted to produce in me. But I'm not talking about that anyway - its a secondary phase. The first, & most important phase, is the direct experience.

Quote:
Quote:
That seems to me to be simple logic - but then I never went to college.
This kind of statement I think equally does not belong in this discussion. No one here in this discussion has ever made any statement which insults readers who are young, who have not had post secondary education, or who simply take delight in story. Nor is this the first time a comment which appears derogatory about other people's reading experience has appeared in your posts. I think it is vering towards personal attack and I would ask that you stop making such comments.
If you could tell me how what I said in my little aside could possibly constitute a personal insult please do. Perhaps you're bringing too much baggage along & reading things into what other's write which aren't there?

Or perhaps, in your own words to Drigel (post 41):

Quote:
drigel, I had hoped that my use of smilies--the wink and the big grin--would have made clear the comedy of my ironic intent. Perhaps humour is being edged out by seriousness here.
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Old 05-20-2005, 09:36 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by LMP
Although I agree with what you say in general, I think you overstate it by calling it "wrong"; perhaps "ill-advised" would be more appropo.
You're right 'wrong' may be the wrong word to use, as it's a loaded term (as proved in this thread!). I mean wrong as in a wrong step, but I can't deny that I also feel there is a little of the intellectual 'wrong' as well. I feel it is a shame when people are introduced to a great book through tiresome means and hence end up despising it. And like H-I has said beautifully already, I feel a gtreat deal of love towards Tolkien's work, and can't bear to see any 'wrong' done to it.

So, what might be better is if I rephrased it as: But what would be ill-advised would be to read the story in the first place seeking to find answers to those things which are in our own world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LMP
Hmmm...... I don't know.... there are a couple things that hold me back from this. First, Tolkien says in his letters over and over again that his Middle-earth is NOT utterly different from our own world, but feigned history of an era in this world. Second, whereas the Shire is obviously part of the feigned history, it serves as a sort of mediation between the primary world and the rest of Middle-earth.
I myself can see that The Shire is a reflection of a lost England, but more than that, it is not a reflection of an actual lost England, more a reflection of our own feelings of loss, of how we tend to view the past through rose-tinted spectacles. I too do this, viewing a rural childhood as an enchanted time, rather than bringing to mind the nastier and very real aspects of that lifestyle.

So, while that first step into Middle Earth is not as alien as it could be (it certainly bears more resemblance to our own world than those first scenes of Star Wars, for example), and it provides us with a recognisable mental anchor to remind us of what this quest is all about, it is nothing like a real or tangible place, but more like a bucolic dream or memory altered with the passing of the years. I think Tolkien himself serves to underline that this is a place somehow removed from us by having such oddities as Hobbits, 111st birthdays, a wizard and so on, not things to be encountered in rural England by any means!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LMP
Third, even transitional fantasies are really immersive. Granted, what the transitional fantasies attempt is more difficult, because by means of the feigned primary world they allow the reader to bring expectations (baggage, sic) to her reading that she might otherwise leave behind; but as you implied, novels and fantasy novels share the characteristic of "feignedness". Thus, the difference between a transitional and an immersive, is that the former (seems to be attempting to) move(s) the reader from the familiar to the strange.
Of course, it could be that Tolkien created that forst step in a way which is a lot more subtle than transitional fantasies, but I would argue that the very oddness of The Shire, and the fact that it represents no England that ever existed beyond the poetic constructs of memory, does make it immediately immersive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
Is the nature of fantasy/enchantment completely dependent upon this idea of "the strange"? Can fantasy only be about the 'not-yet known and experienced'?
Partly, I think, enchantment depends upon strange and peculiar things, but also much of it depends upon the familiar but somehow misplaced, or out of sync. To take a good example of the 'out of sync', the Oxford which Lyra resides in, from the pages of His Dark Materials, is a fantasy Oxford. It is somehow in a different time, and it is slightly skewed, and very strange indeed. If the definition of fantasy hangs on its being not yet known or experienced, then this definition of fantasy could equally apply to any novel which is about a world we are not familiar with, from Persuasion's vision of Regency Bath to Trainspotting's late 20th century urban Scotland. So for the genre of fantasy, there must be more to it, and I think it is the fact that whole worlds are created which have never existed at any point in time - if they had existed, then it would become either historical fiction or allegory, and would not be fantasy. So there is more to it than it simply being composed of that which we do not know.
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Old 05-20-2005, 03:01 PM   #74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
"Lor' help me!"
. . .

The above are Sam's words when he is caught by Gandalf in Shadows of the Past (please forgive me if you've hashed this through in CbC without my knowledge).

What "Lor'" is Sam referring to? Having spent all the hours I have here at Barrowdowns has made me aware that this is a potential sore thumb sticking out. Is this a religious reference? Or is it a Shire reference? It could be argued that it derives from the days when there was a King in the North, but I feel that would be a stretch. I think that what we have here is Sam speaking like an English commoner caught redhanded: it's a reference to Christianity, place and simple. And thus it's an error in the text. It broke the enchantment for me. Now, you may argue that it's my theories and baggage that I failed to leave behind, but it is just as much (if my conclusion as to its reference is correct) Tolkien's error.
I think littlemanpoet has the right idea, to return to specific examples. Let me take a bit of a different tack from that Fordim used about the archaic style in the latter part of LotR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
There are parts of the story in which I find the writing itself to be somewhat stilted (the Professor can get carried away with his high-style at time, particularly in RotK: all those "and lo!" and hyperbolic similes) and these moments tend to shake my immersion in the world, simply because I shift away from the story itself to the manner of its writing.
There are times when this style breaks the enchantment for me. Now, I like such features as the use of words such as "weapontake" and "swordthain" in "The Muster of Rohan". I am not adverse to an archaic style per se. Why it bothers me is that it appears at times that strike me as not appropriate for the story. One such time is Éomer's dirge at the death of Théodan.

Quote:
Mourn not overmuch! Mighty was the fallen,
meet was his ending. When his mound is raised,
women shall weep. War now calls us.
It is not the alliterative verse itself, but the timing of it. And Éomer's earlier style of speaking did not break the enchantment for me. The method of characterisation has generally been to present the characters somewhat according to the expected manner in fiction. There is realism of psychology and of motivation and of behaviour. The battles are described in what I would call stirring but realistic detail. Now, here we have an extemporaneous poem. Can such be written in the heat of battle? It seems implausible. Is Éomer reciting old verse from long ago, such as Tolkien discussed in his essay on "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth"? It doesn't seem quite plausible either, to find a song so suited to the exact situation. I can tell myself that such versification was part of the heroic lays of yesteryear, particularly with poets who write of battles in years long after the battle but nothing persuades me that such a manner of speaking at this moment in the story is in accord with the rest of the Éomer's characterisation. It intrudes, and makes me think of style rather than of the story, as Fordim has said. It makes me think "heroic epic here" rather than true feeling of Rohirric response. I guess you could say it is the timing that is off rather than the style!

One other example. In Books I and II, the characters are differentiated by different manners and habits of speech. It would be hard to confuse Sam's style of talking with Frodo's or with Gimli's or with Gangalf's or Elrond's. Yet by Book III, Gimli and Legolas are given the same style of speech. Somehow, their distinctive characteristics have been blurred and now they both talk in the same ornate, formal style. It doesn't sound like Gimli at all. The use of dialogue to differentiate characters has gone,to be replaced by the ornate style. I miss the previous Gimli's style.

[quote="The Last Debate"]
'Strange indeed,' said Legolas. "in that hour I looked upon Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself. Not for naught does Mordor fear him. But nobler is his spirit than the understanding of Sauron; for is he not of the children of Luthien? Never shall that line fail, though the years may lengthen beyond count.'

'Beyond the eyes of the Dwarves are such foretellings,' said Gimli. 'But mighty indeed was Aragorn that day. Lo! all the black fleet was in his hands' and he choose the greatest ship to be his own, and he went up into it. Then he let sound a great concours of trumpets taken from the enemy' and the Shadow Host withdrew to the short. There they stood silent, hardly to be seen, save for a red gleam in their eyes that caught the glare of the ships that were burning. And Aragorn spoke in a loud voice to the Dead Men, crying...'

This sounds like it ought to be said by the narrator. It sure does not sound like Gimli earlier, in the "The Ring Goes South" where he first speaks about the debacle on Caradhras, nor even in Moria. Surely his discoveries in Moria would have brought out such formal eloquence? No, they don't.

So, for me--and I stress that this is my response only and I don't seek to persuade others that this is the only response possible; nor do I criticise those who don't feel this way about my examples--the ornate style takes me out of the enchantment when it contradicts other kinds of style which the book had earlier led me to anticipate. And, yes, I have read Tolkien's Letter # 171 but his comments there are in response to a different point than the one I make here; Tolkien's points don't address what it is that breaks the enchantment here for me. If this be heresy, well, so be it. I still love the books.
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Old 05-20-2005, 05:31 PM   #75
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The style of language used in RotK is rather high-flown, but we must remember exactly what is happening here. These are grand events, world changing events which are witnessed by many, unlike the other world changing events (e.g. at Mount Doom) which are witnessed by few. Accordingly, Tolkien changed his style slightly here to fit in with such monumental events.

About Eomer's words, I don't find them so strange considering the lengthy verse recited as Boromir's body is sent off down the Anduin; it could be possible that there were established ways of orally reciting laments in Middle Earth. This idea was discussed in one of the CbC threads. Also, in a martial culture such as that of the Rohirrim, composing a few grand lines on the death of a comrade would be quite a common occurrence, and after the death of a King, I wouldn't doubt that solemn lines would come from Eomer quite readily.

If we consider that there is also the conceit of the whole tale being taken from the Red Book, as written down by Frodo, then these events are all written down as second hand. Frodo would have taken the accounts from other people, and as is common after such events, hyperbole would have been used to the full. There is further evidence to support this if we also think about how the style reverts to the earlier mode when the tale follows the Hobbits back to The Shire. The style during the scenes in and around Minas Tirith necessarily steps up a gear to reflect the importance of the events taking place, and reverts when we are once again with the Hobbits. I do not find this intrusive, in fact I would never have noticed it before it was mentioned to me, as it fits with the pace of the story.
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Old 05-21-2005, 01:16 AM   #76
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I pondered about an issue and concluded I may be a baggageless man, or the next best thing (language issue, not other allusions). Indeed, I learned my English via Tolkien, and all I've read seemed natural to me at a time. To an extent that my own vocabulary consisted of 'lo!'s and 'deem's at earlier stages, and I've been accused of talking 'archaic garbage' once on another forum. Yet, having little notion of how 'modern English' should sound, I found it normal

On the other hand, the change of style does not break anything for me even now, when I have acquired some bags, for it also seems natural - further hobbits (the nearest thing to modern world to be found in ME) get from the Shire, more olden everything gets. It feels like diving into time, and the deepest levels should contain ancient fish, not found on the surface. I would have been dissapointed if Eomer recited in Bilbo's 'bussinesslike manner' reserved for people trying to borrow from him. That would certainly break the enchantement

Besides, events acquire almost biblical scope towards the end - it is the Black Gate to be passed by the King symbolism, it seems suitable to speak 'high'. (I know I mostly repeat Lalwendë's post here, I just want to add 'Biblical' to the 'to reflect the importance of the events taking place')

It uplifts rather than breaks. But individual cases may vary, of course.
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Old 05-21-2005, 03:07 AM   #77
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'Oh, like, no, man! The King's like dead, dudes! What a bummerrrr!'

or

This is an epic romance not a modern novel..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
The battles are described in what I would call stirring but realistic detail. Now, here we have an extemporaneous poem. Can such be written in the heat of battle? It seems implausible. Is Éomer reciting old verse from long ago, such as Tolkien discussed in his essay on "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth"? It doesn't seem quite plausible either, to find a song so suited to the exact situation.
I'm not sure this was 'written in the heat of battle', because it does strike me as 'old verse from long ago'. First of all it does not specifically mention Theoden, secondly, I would expect someone from an oral culture to have a head full of poems & snatches of verse. To my mind its the furthest thing from 'surprising' that Eomer would have a verse like that in mind. He's in battle & probably at that moment has his head full of the old lays - probably during their rest periods on the way to Minas Tirith they would have had bards singing those very lays.

Besides, the all Rohirrim speak in an archaic manner. I actually find it a little more likely that Eomer would find a snatch of that kind of verse in his head at that moment than that Eowyn, on confronting the WK would come out with 'Begone foul Dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion!' But I have to say that is analysing after the fact. When I read that chapter I'm so caught up in the events that none of that occurs. I must say that if you're reading The Battle of Pelennor Fields & find the spell is broken by something as 'trivial' as Eomer reciting a few lines of verse that's something I really don't get at all.

This is the problem with an 'analytical' reading, when you refuse to just let the story grab you and sweep you along - you're always at a 'distance' from what's happening, always weighing it up & asking yourself whether 'this' or 'that' is convincing. Its like watching a movie on dvd & stopping it every few moments to do a critique of it. Its this approach to reading & re-reading that inevitably lessens the magic of the experience.

As far as I'm concerned Eomer recited those lines over Theoden's fallen body in the heat of that battle - & do you know why? Not for the reasons I gave earlier, but because when I read that episode it feels right.
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Old 05-21-2005, 05:36 AM   #78
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I have no quarrel with anyone who is happy reading the archaic/ornate style and, as I said earlier, my intention is not to persuade people to my point, simply to respond to the thread topic. However, I would like to make a few comments about some of the points raised.

Lalwendë, you raise several interesting points, but my problem with these passages is not the general need for a more formal style to suit the earth-shattering events. I would be quite happy reading a story with great heterogeneity of style. It is how the style is handled in the particular contexts. Also, I find that we tend to bring in this conceit of the Redbook to explain away many difficulties of the text--do we really at the time of reading say, 'Oh, this is the Redbook's writer writing here and not the story's usual narrator'--do we remember that all in the breathless excitement of reading--but I don't think we've ever really had a thread to examine this conceit closely. Frankly, I don't think it works here as a justification for radical changes to character's style of dialogue.

Interesting that you bring in the verses recited over Boromir. That leave-taking scene has always given me a strong sense of the importance in Middle-earth of the rituals of death and remembrance and lamentation. I think some sort of recitation by Éomer would be absolutely fitting and in keeping with the nature of the Rohirrim. All I am saying is that to my ear this passage was abruptly handled and I would, to keep the enchantment up, like more writing devoted to this scene, to establish its tone and tenor.

Nothing, I think, can address the issue of why the style of dialogue--one of the fundamental aspects of characterisation in this work--changes so fundamentally.

Heren, right you are to point out that you learnt your letters at Tolkien's knee! It is possible that someday we could have a long discussion on what is "natural"--for that feeling is a function of various qualities and not an absolute standard--but that is probably for another time.

I don't wish to belabour my readings. I simply gave in response to littlemanpoet's example some examples of my own and I will now shut up.

Interesting that no one here has replied to littlemanpoet's observation that Sam's "lor' help me" is inappropriate to Middle-earth. Any thoughts?
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Old 05-21-2005, 07:28 AM   #79
Lalwendë
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
Also, I find that we tend to bring in this conceit of the Redbook to explain away many difficulties of the text--do we really at the time of reading say, 'Oh, this is the Redbook's writer writing here and not the story's usual narrator'--do we remember that all in the breathless excitement of reading--but I don't think we've ever really had a thread to examine this conceit closely. Frankly, I don't think it works here as a justification for radical changes to character's style of dialogue.
This is the only time I've used the conceit of the Red Book as an explanation, as it doesn't seem to be relevant all the time, or else another explanation can be found within the text; I prefer to use these where possible. For the same reason I don't like to use the argument of Deus Ex Machina to explain plot twists; I always feel there has to be a reason within the text for everything. Yet here the conceit does seem appropriate as we are talking not about a part of the plot or the history of Middle Earth, but the writing style, particularly the authorial voice, and the conceit of the Red Book is a part of that.

The other interesting thing is that on my early readings I never noticed the change in style as something strange or abrupt, and I only notice it now because it has been brought to my attention by other readers. For me, the change in style works without feeling in any way strange.
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Old 05-21-2005, 07:53 AM   #80
davem
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Originally Posted by Bb
Also, I find that we tend to bring in this conceit of the Redbook to explain away many difficulties of the text--do we really at the time of reading say, 'Oh, this is the Redbook's writer writing here and not the story's usual narrator'
One could make a stab at an explanation along these lines...

Tolkien has set up in the foreword the conceit of LotR being a translatioon of the Red Book. It is a work with two main narrators - Frodo & Sam, but we are also told that the accounts have been 'supplimented by the learning of the wise'. We are also informed that the book from which Tolkien 'translated' the story was not the original book but a copy. He even includes an aside by Findegil the King's copyist.

What we seem to have then, is a version of the original work, which has been 'supplimented' through various copies & finally translated[ by an Oxford Don in the 1940's.

I think these multiple narrators/translators can easily account for variations in style. We are dealing with something akin to the way oral tales change over the years & 'grow in the telling' - albeit to a lesser degree. If the language in the Hobbit focussed part of the story is less 'archaic' & that in the Rohan/Gondor focussed part more so that is perhaps simply because the version Tolkien translated was not the original Red Book but one that came from the scriptorium of Minas Tirith. For Findegil, Gondor & Rohan were known commodities, & also as a Gondorian he would have taken a certain approach to the way his people & their nearest allies were presented in the historical record. Being less familiar with Hobbits (one assumes) he would have been less likely to tamper with those sections of the story, for fear of making a fool of himself.

Finally, we have to take into account the character of the ultimate translator, Professor Tolkien himself. He will necessarily bring a certain personal style to his translation.

All this, btw, remains within the approach of attempting to experience the story directly, because the figure of 'Tolkien the translator' is just as much a character within the legendarium as any inhabitant of Middle earth.
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