Tolkien Scholars / Writers

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Warrior of Rohan

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Jul 12, 2006, 9:37:07 PM7/12/06
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Okay, we got a good list of the "best" books about Tolkien / Middle-Earth.
Yes, I am still compiling a list from all the bibliographies I can find.
(Its going to be a bid one!)

Now, how about you top 10 list of Tolkien scholars. This does not
necessarily mean they have to have written a book. There are some good
Tolkien scholars that have not written books, papers maybe but not a book.

I'll do same as before with "best book' and compile a list of the 10 ten
mention scholars. (This is a lot easy than the top 10 books!)

Have at it.


Larry Swain

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Jul 13, 2006, 1:06:49 AM7/13/06
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Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien, Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger,
Wayne Hammond and Christine Scull (2 together), David Bratman, Michael
Drout, Dan Timmons, Douglas Anderson

Troels Forchhammer

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Jul 13, 2006, 6:54:17 AM7/13/06
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In message <news:uuSdnb6efP9_SSjZ...@rcn.net> Larry
Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
> Warrior of Rohan wrote:
>>

<snip>

>> I'll do same as before with "best book' and compile a list of the
>> 10 ten mention scholars.

The ten "most mentioned" or the union of all our "top 10 scholars"
lists?

>> (This is a lot easy than the top 10 books!)


<style="sarcasm">

Yeah, right!

</style>

> Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien, Tom Shippey, Verlyn
> Flieger, Wayne Hammond and Christine Scull (2 together), David
> Bratman, Michael Drout, Dan Timmons, Douglas Anderson

I don't know David Bratman and Dan Timmons, and I'm naturally curious
about what they've done ;-)

Apart from those two (about whom I can, naturally, have no opinion to
offer), I pretty much agree that everyone on your list deserves to be
there.

I think my list would probably attempt to include scholars covering
more areas of Tolkien research -- I note that you don't have any of
the linguists/philologists on your list (except for Christopher, of
course, and of course possibly the two I don't know).

I think I'd include Carl Hostetter representing the philological
side, and someone to represent the kind of studies we usually
undertake here (the 'story-internal explanation' -- studies of
Middle-earth as if it were a real place), Conrad, perhaps, though I'm
more in doubt about that (it beign my own natural playground, I know
the names of more excellent scholars than in other areas).

Perhaps also a cartographer -- Karen Wynn Fonstad, would be my
natural choice there, but then I'd have to take out someone from your
list that I know of (or consider Hammond & Scull as one entry <G>).

And what about experts on Tolkien's professional work? Though not
strictly a line of Tolkien scholarship (specializing in one man's
contributions to the field would seem a bit limited to me), but
still.

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided
into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from,
and (d) rocks.
- /Equal Rites/ (Terry Pratchett)

Larry Swain

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Jul 13, 2006, 1:06:27 PM7/13/06
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Troels Forchhammer wrote:
> In message <news:uuSdnb6efP9_SSjZ...@rcn.net> Larry
> Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
>>Warrior of Rohan wrote:
>>
>
> <snip>
>
>
>>>I'll do same as before with "best book' and compile a list of the
>>>10 ten mention scholars.
>
>
> The ten "most mentioned" or the union of all our "top 10 scholars"
> lists?

>>Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien, Tom Shippey, Verlyn


>>Flieger, Wayne Hammond and Christine Scull (2 together), David
>>Bratman, Michael Drout, Dan Timmons, Douglas Anderson
>
>
> I don't know David Bratman and Dan Timmons, and I'm naturally curious
> about what they've done ;-)

Let me begin by saying that I left out a person who should be there, and
since Wayne and Christine are taken together (to a degree cheating,
since Wayne in particular stands in his own right), and that's Carl
Hostetter (sorry, Carl).

David Bratman is a long time member of the Mythopoeic Society and has
served in several capacities there. He is also doing the bibliographies
for Tolkien Studies in addition to his own publications on Tolkien and
the Inklings that have appeared various places. His web page is here:
http://home.earthlink.net/~dbratman/ I really like his insights.

Dan Timmons was a young scholar who wrote several very perceptive essays
on Tolkien and co-edited with George Clark one of my top 10 books, "J.
R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth" He
died this past Dec. of Lou Gehrig's disease. I've only seen bits of his
1999 dissertation on Tolkien (Mirror on MIddle Earth), but it looks very
good.

Jane Chance should be up there too, though I'm not sure whom to remove
to give her a place--perhaps Dan since he was really just getting started.


>
> I think my list would probably attempt to include scholars covering
> more areas of Tolkien research -- I note that you don't have any of
> the linguists/philologists on your list (except for Christopher, of
> course, and of course possibly the two I don't know).
>
> I think I'd include Carl Hostetter representing the philological
> side,

Great minds and all that.


and someone to represent the kind of studies we usually
> undertake here (the 'story-internal explanation' -- studies of
> Middle-earth as if it were a real place), Conrad, perhaps, though I'm
> more in doubt about that (it beign my own natural playground, I know
> the names of more excellent scholars than in other areas).

Yes, I considered that too. In my own mind I debate whether the sorts
of discussions we undertake here or in other fora on the 'Net count as
"scholarship", and go back and forth on the question. Would a scholar
for example ask whether elves have pointed ears or balrogs wings? And
even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go about answering the
question in ways differently or the same as the discussions here have?
So there are several here I think who could fit into that if we say yes,
scholarship includes debates on rabt etc, then Conrad, Michael Martinez,
Steuard, and Stan, and yourself, all qualify; the next question though
would be if those 5 people are on a par with CT, Carpenter, Shippey,
etc. I don't know. I am of two minds on every level of the issue.


>
> Perhaps also a cartographer -- Karen Wynn Fonstad, would be my
> natural choice there, but then I'd have to take out someone from your
> list that I know of (or consider Hammond & Scull as one entry <G>).

Well, H&S were to be considered a single entry. Fonstad is good, but is
she top 10? Top 15 or 20, sure, but top 10?


> And what about experts on Tolkien's professional work? Though not
> strictly a line of Tolkien scholarship (specializing in one man's
> contributions to the field would seem a bit limited to me), but
> still.

Well, when asked about top ten Tolkien scholars I assumed that meant
also on his professional works. Shippey, Timmons, Drout, Chance,
Flieger, and Anderson have all published on Tolkien's professional work.
Flieger in fact has continued some of Tolkien's professional work on
the Ancrene Wisse. And there is the new "Ring of Words" book's authors
too--can't wait to get that one!

Mic...@xenite.org

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Jul 13, 2006, 1:41:56 PM7/13/06
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Larry Swain wrote:
> ...Would a scholar for example ask whether elves have pointed ears or

> balrogs wings? And even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go
> about answering the question in ways differently or the same as the
> discussions here have? So there are several here I think who could fit
> into that if we say yes, scholarship includes debates on rabt etc, then
> Conrad, Michael Martinez, Steuard, and Stan, and yourself, all qualify;
> the next question though would be if those 5 people are on a par with CT,
> Carpenter, Shippey, etc. I don't know. I am of two minds on every level
> of the issue.

You bring an academic's point of view to the question, where peer
review is considered essential to achieving scholarly recognition. Yet
even Michael Drout has pointed out that some of the names typically
listed at the top of scholarly research lists are not academics
(http://wormtalk.blogspot.com/2003_11_02_wormtalk_archive.html):

"It is an interesting fact that a great many of the very best
contemporary Tolkien scholars are not professors: Wayne Hammond and
Christina Scull, Doug Anderson, David Bratman, Richard West, Carl
Hostetter... many of these scholars have academic affiliations (at
libraries, etc.), but they aren't professors of English or history or
cultural studies. Yet they are among the best."

Populist scholarship (the study of topics outside the academic
community) has been around for far longer than we have had academic
scholarship. That some choose to study the story internals rather than
the story sources, influences, and relevances doesn't mean their
efforts should be given less consideration in the value of overall
scholarship.

Many academic papers on Tolkien are laughably bad simply because their
authors are so unfamiliar with the story internals as to be describing
completely fictional (David Dayesque) works that barely resemble
Tolkien's work. At the very least, one should be versed in the topic
if one wishes to comment on the topic and be taken seriously.

Story internal studies have taken it on the chin for years, and the fan
disputes don't help establish credibility for this type of research.
But in future generations, academics and non-academics alike will
probably turn more attention to how Tolkien put it all together and
less to why he did it or where he may have gotten his ideas.

--
Scholarship: That's the thing that takes you from ignorance to bliss in
a momentary lapse of judgement.
Research: That's what you use to build the scholarship.
Enlightenment: That's what you seek to achieve after you realize the
ship is overburdened and need to dump as much baggage as possible.

Larry Swain

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Jul 13, 2006, 5:15:03 PM7/13/06
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Mic...@xenite.org wrote:
> Larry Swain wrote:
>
>>...Would a scholar for example ask whether elves have pointed ears or
>>balrogs wings? And even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go
>>about answering the question in ways differently or the same as the
>>discussions here have? So there are several here I think who could fit
>>into that if we say yes, scholarship includes debates on rabt etc, then
>>Conrad, Michael Martinez, Steuard, and Stan, and yourself, all qualify;
>>the next question though would be if those 5 people are on a par with CT,
>>Carpenter, Shippey, etc. I don't know. I am of two minds on every level
>>of the issue.
>
>
> You bring an academic's point of view to the question, where peer
> review is considered essential to achieving scholarly recognition.

No, I bring a scholar's point of view to the question.


Yet
> even Michael Drout has pointed out that some of the names typically
> listed at the top of scholarly research lists are not academics
> (http://wormtalk.blogspot.com/2003_11_02_wormtalk_archive.html):
>
> "It is an interesting fact that a great many of the very best
> contemporary Tolkien scholars are not professors: Wayne Hammond and
> Christina Scull, Doug Anderson, David Bratman, Richard West, Carl
> Hostetter... many of these scholars have academic affiliations (at
> libraries, etc.), but they aren't professors of English or history or
> cultural studies. Yet they are among the best."

And you'll note that each person whom Michael Drout mentioned appears in
my top ten list, except Richard West, who would make my top 12.

> Populist scholarship (the study of topics outside the academic
> community) has been around for far longer than we have had academic
> scholarship.

a) immaterial to the issue.
b) I'm not yet certain that there is "populist scholarship", with the
emphasis on scholarship. If you are including non-academic writers as
"populist", see above; if on the other hand you are including or
defining "populist scholarship" by the material you publish, well I need
convincing that that is scholarship. I'm not sure it is; and as I
stated to Troels, I'm not sure it isn't. Convince me.
c) I disagree with your statement as a whole. The first people outside
of Tolkien's family who saw anything of Tolkien's writings were scholars
and academics who didn't just turn themselves off to become "populist";
their responses, even C. S. Lewis', were scholarly and academic and
literary. Further, even in print, the first in print reactions to
Tolkien's works were literary reviews written by scholars. So unless by
"populist scholarship" you mean the reactions of the Tolkien children,
I'm not certain how you can maintain that populist scholarship of
Tolkien has been around longer than "academic".

That some choose to study the story internals rather than
> the story sources, influences, and relevances doesn't mean their
> efforts should be given less consideration in the value of overall
> scholarship.

Agreed. But then studying the story internals as you put it is the
bread and butter of the literary scholar: source criticism or reader
response (audience), and relevance questions are only types of literary
criticism that not everyone (not even everyone working on Tolkien!)
follows: plenty of "story internal" books and papers out there that are
what I have no doubt are scholarly. So I think this distinction that
you make here is a false distinction.

>
> Many academic papers on Tolkien are laughably bad simply because their
> authors are so unfamiliar with the story internals as to be describing
> completely fictional (David Dayesque) works that barely resemble
> Tolkien's work.


True, but that's just bad scholarship, and there's plenty of that to go
around everywhere. And just as there is bad scholarship there are
plenty of people who on the one hand are not scholars and do not the
"story internals" and so make mistakes and likewise, many who know story
internals who get things wrong because they don't know anything else.

At the very least, one should be versed in the topic
> if one wishes to comment on the topic and be taken seriously.

Here we are in agreement. Shocking as that may be.


>
> Story internal studies have taken it on the chin for years,

See above. It isn't "story internal studies" that's taken it on the
chin; if anything has taken it on the chin its populist, non-scholarly
interpretations.

Christopher Kreuzer

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Jul 13, 2006, 7:19:51 PM7/13/06
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[Oh good! RABT are having a go at this. AFT have done nothing yet]

Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
> Warrior of Rohan wrote:
>> Okay, we got a good list of the "best" books about Tolkien /
>> Middle-Earth. Yes, I am still compiling a list from all the
>> bibliographies I can find. (Its going to be a bid one!)
>>
>> Now, how about you top 10 list of Tolkien scholars.

<snip>

> Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien, Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger,
> Wayne Hammond and Christine Scull (2 together), David Bratman, Michael
> Drout, Dan Timmons, Douglas Anderson

Hopefully others have already added John Garth and John D. Rateliff.

Some others I have enjoyed, but wouldn't presume to rank, are Jane
Chance, several of the linguistic scholars, Joe Christopher, plus many
others I can't remember at the moment!

One thing I would say, despite Warrior of Rohan saying that books aren't
needed, is that a good way to compare (not rank) people, is to just list
the books and papers they have written. And of course, some people work
in obscure areas, producing small but perfectly-formed papers on
little-known subjects. Quality over quantity.

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

Christopher Kreuzer

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Jul 13, 2006, 7:39:52 PM7/13/06
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Mic...@xenite.org <Mic...@xenite.org> wrote:
> Larry Swain wrote:
>> ...Would a scholar for example ask whether elves have pointed ears or
>> balrogs wings? And even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go
>> about answering the question in ways differently or the same as the
>> discussions here have? So there are several here I think who could
>> fit into that if we say yes, scholarship includes debates on rabt
>> etc, then Conrad, Michael Martinez, Steuard, and Stan, and yourself,
>> all qualify; the next question though would be if those 5 people are
>> on a par with CT, Carpenter, Shippey, etc. I don't know. I am of
>> two minds on every level of the issue.
>
> You bring an academic's point of view to the question, where peer
> review is considered essential to achieving scholarly recognition.
> Yet even Michael Drout has pointed out that some of the names
> typically listed at the top of scholarly research lists are not
> academics
> (http://wormtalk.blogspot.com/2003_11_02_wormtalk_archive.html):
>
> "It is an interesting fact that a great many of the very best
> contemporary Tolkien scholars are not professors: Wayne Hammond and
> Christina Scull, Doug Anderson, David Bratman, Richard West, Carl
> Hostetter... many of these scholars have academic affiliations (at
> libraries, etc.), but they aren't professors of English or history or
> cultural studies. Yet they are among the best."

Though a good expert viewpoint is always helpful. One of the best essays
I ever read about Tolkien's place in the (heroic) romance tradition was
(I think) written by Joe R. Christopher, a Professor of English. You
could just tell he knew his stuff. Similarly, when I read stuff about
Tolkien's languages, or about how people translate LotR, you can tell
when an expert is talking about his or her field of knowledge, and when
someone is dabbling in it. When I wrote a paper recently, I considered
delving in depth into some aspects of worldwide mythology, but soon
discovered that I lacked: (a) the necessary general knowledge of the
subject; (b) the time to acquire said general knowledge; (c) the time to
pinpoint the areas I needed to concentrate on. This meant I had to
reject the idea of writing a general discussion on how what I was
writing about related to world mythologies - it would have been obvious
I didn't know what I was talking about!

Reading something that Shippey writes, you can see by the throwaway
comments that he has summarised whole arguments within a field in a few
sentences. To do that properly, you need to know the subject area in
intimate detail.

Though having said that, I tend to think that there is room for several
different levels and types of scholarship within Tolkien studies (as it
is coming to be known). Each building on the strengths of the other.

Stan Brown

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Jul 13, 2006, 8:09:16 PM7/13/06
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Wed, 12 Jul 2006 21:37:07 -0400 from Warrior of Rohan
<aj...@fuse.net>:

> Okay, we got a good list of the "best" books about Tolkien / Middle-Earth.

Does it still include David Day?

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Tompkins County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

Mic...@xenite.org

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Jul 13, 2006, 10:39:43 PM7/13/06
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Larry Swain wrote:
> Mic...@xenite.org wrote:
> > Larry Swain wrote:
> >
> >>...Would a scholar for example ask whether elves have pointed ears or
> >>balrogs wings? And even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go
> >>about answering the question in ways differently or the same as the
> >>discussions here have? So there are several here I think who could fit
> >>into that if we say yes, scholarship includes debates on rabt etc, then
> >>Conrad, Michael Martinez, Steuard, and Stan, and yourself, all qualify;
> >>the next question though would be if those 5 people are on a par with CT,
> >>Carpenter, Shippey, etc. I don't know. I am of two minds on every level
> >>of the issue.
> >
> >
> > You bring an academic's point of view to the question, where peer
> > review is considered essential to achieving scholarly recognition.
>
> No, I bring a scholar's point of view to the question.

My mistake. You bring an academic's prejudice to the question.

> > Populist scholarship (the study of topics outside the academic
> > community) has been around for far longer than we have had academic
> > scholarship.
>
> a) immaterial to the issue.

That IS the issue because...

> b) I'm not yet certain that there is "populist scholarship",

You're playing games.

As usual. I'll ignore you for the rest of my participation in this
discussion.

--
If the Feanorian Noldor spoke as Feanor, they would have demanded that
Morgoth give back their Thilmaril.

Larry Swain

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Jul 14, 2006, 12:20:15 AM7/14/06
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Mic...@xenite.org wrote:
> Larry Swain wrote:
>
>>Mic...@xenite.org wrote:
>>
>>>Larry Swain wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>>>...Would a scholar for example ask whether elves have pointed ears or
>>>>balrogs wings? And even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go
>>>>about answering the question in ways differently or the same as the
>>>>discussions here have? So there are several here I think who could fit
>>>>into that if we say yes, scholarship includes debates on rabt etc, then
>>>>Conrad, Michael Martinez, Steuard, and Stan, and yourself, all qualify;
>>>>the next question though would be if those 5 people are on a par with CT,
>>>>Carpenter, Shippey, etc. I don't know. I am of two minds on every level
>>>>of the issue.
>>>
>>>
>>>You bring an academic's point of view to the question, where peer
>>>review is considered essential to achieving scholarly recognition.
>>
>>No, I bring a scholar's point of view to the question.
>
>
> My mistake. You bring an academic's prejudice to the question.

Really? When half my top ten list are the very non-academic people you
pointed us too? How prejudiced of me to agree with you.


>
>
>>>Populist scholarship (the study of topics outside the academic
>>>community) has been around for far longer than we have had academic
>>>scholarship.
>>
>>a) immaterial to the issue.
>
>
> That IS the issue because...

It may be an issue, and one certainly worth discussing, but NOT the one
that Warrior raised. Hence, immaterial to the issue.


>
>
>>b) I'm not yet certain that there is "populist scholarship",
>
>
> You're playing games.

No, I'm looking at more than one side of things. I know that you are
unable to perform such mental exercises or to distinguish that a and b
address different points. Point a points out that the issue you raised
is not the one that has been discussed thus far in the thread nor was it
the issue Warrior raised, so your false dichotomy is beside the point.
Point b addresses your concern directly. That's not playing games,
that's intellectually examining a larger set of issues than a single one
in black and white terms, an intellectual process you seem unable to
either recognize or master.

>
> As usual. I'll ignore you for the rest of my participation in this
> discussion.

Good. Then allow me to translate this for you: "Oh, Larry actually did
cite 5 of the 6 most well-known non-academic Tolkien experts that I
Michael pointed to and so disproved all my charges against him before I
even posted. Guess I better insult Larry and quit the field before
someone notices that my pants are around my ankles." Typical Michael.

Warrior of Rohan

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Jul 14, 2006, 7:43:56 PM7/14/06
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Nope, I would not rate him anywhere near the top ten. But his books can be
interesting even with the errors.
"Stan Brown" <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote in message
news:MPG.1f20aab67...@news.individual.net...

Warrior of Rohan

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Jul 14, 2006, 8:06:43 PM7/14/06
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Sorry, I forgot to include my own top ten. (In no particular order as this
is difficult enough as it is)

1. Wayne Hammond & (Christine Scull) I'll allow this as one entry
2. Tom Shippey
3. Verlyn Flieger
4. Alex Lewis
5. Carl Hostetter
6. Christopher Tolkien
7. Doug Anderson
8. John Ratcliffe
9. John Garth
10. Michael Drout

I liked Christopher's comments about various levels, quality versus
quantity. Maybe I could have called it Tolkien experts rather than
scholars. Then we could include those people that are very knowledgeable
about Tolkien but not necessarily on a scholarly level as we know it. Maybe
a new thread to list experts, collectors, web sites etc.


"Warrior of Rohan" <aj...@fuse.net> wrote in message
news:371ef$44b5a3b7$42a19f37$75...@FUSE.NET...

Christopher Kreuzer

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Jul 15, 2006, 3:14:11 AM7/15/06
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Warrior of Rohan <aj...@fuse.net> wrote:

<snip>

> Maybe a new thread to list experts, collectors, web
> sites etc.

Oooh! Good idea! :-)

Though the websites idea could soon get out of hand - there must be
thousands out there. But probably only a hundred or so good ones. And to
be ruthless, exclude anything that even hints at being a "fan's website
about actors from the films".

I'll start a new thread, and this time I'll _crosspost_ to both AFT and
RABT (I can't remember if you said you have technical problems doing
this, but if you can, crossposting a single message is the best way to
post to both newsgroups, rather than posting two separate messages).

Christopher Kreuzer

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Jul 15, 2006, 3:43:03 AM7/15/06
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Warrior of Rohan <aj...@fuse.net> wrote:

<snip>

> I liked Christopher's comments about various levels, quality versus
> quantity.

Glad you liked the comments! One thing I forgot was to contrast the
different mediums, and to compare the type of work done.

The media range from papers in peer-reviewed journals, and papers in
obscure professional journals, to papers in smaller magazines edited by
fans (though some are very professionally edited), to books published by
big publishing companies, to books self-published through small
publishing companies, to essays published online, collections of essays
on websites, FAQs on websites, and various other types of websites, and,
finally, stuff written in mailing lists, newsgroups and web-based
forums, ranging from small, private (ie. restricted) mailing lists, to
the completely open and (sometimes rather chaotic) Usenet newsgroups
(which is where this is appearing).

As for type of work, I began to touch on that above, with mention of
FAQs and contrasting papers with books, and papers wth essays, and
newsgroup posts with papers written for publication in a journal. But by
"type of work" I also mean that the work ranges from Tolkien editorial
work (editing and commentating on Tolkien's works - essentially
continuing and extending what Christopher Tolkien has done - examples
include the recent edition of Smith of Wootton Major, the collection of
Tolkien's draft essays and other notes on Beowulf, the forthcoming
'History of The Hobbit', and the linguistic material published over the
years), to normal editing (of collections of essays or editing a journal
like Tolkien Studies), to "normal" writing of papers, essays and books.
I mustn't forget those who write ground-breaking material that involves
extensive research at various Tolkien archives (Marquette and Bodleian),
and access to Tolkien's letters and whatnot - in this category I would
include the biographical writers (Carpenter and Garth and others - I
think there are others, but their names escape me). There is also, I
believe, a range of editorial work done behind the scenes as well, such
as the indexing and improved indexing of various books.

You also mentioned collectors. I was going to bring this up in the new
thread, but it seems appropriate here. The work done by Tolkien
collectors who publish various lists and stuff is immense, though it may
not be of immediate interest outside their field. Though sometimes the
massive collections become famous. One that I heard of recently was the
Richard E. Blackwelder collection. Looking at what he did reminds me
that he also worked to document and catalogue more obscure areas of
Tolkieniana, including (I think) newspaper cuttings and fanzines. Which
segues neatly into the work (or maybe "activity" is a better word for
this) done within fan societies and similar organisations, some of which
is documented in correspondence, newsletters and fan magazines and
bulletins.

Christopher Kreuzer

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Jul 15, 2006, 4:04:31 AM7/15/06
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Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
> Mic...@xenite.org wrote:

<snip>

Hey! Who let this thread degenerate into an "academic vs non-academic"
argument? Anything touching on that has to make clear that being a
"professor" means something different in the US than it does in the UK.
I'm not sure about other parts of the world.

But let's get back to talking about the actual Tolkien writers (let's
avoid this term 'scholar' if it is going to cause so much hassle - I
remember a thread a year or so ago where people argued about the meaning
of 'scholar' - yes, here it is (December 2004): see
http://tinyurl.com/erzy9 for the start of a discussion of the term
'fanatic', and see: http://tinyurl.com/fu3z3 for the start of the
'scholar' bit of that thread).

No-one's agreed yet with my inclusion of John Garth and John D. Rateliff
in the list of Tolkien writers (let's avoid the "top 10" thing as well -
that gets a bit silly). As far as I know, both of these writers fit the
mould of "independent scholar" that Drout was talking about in the link.
In other words, as far as I know, they are not working in academia (I
believe Garth is a journalist and that Rateliff does or has worked in
fantasy gaming circles - at least I found a bunch of essays by him on a
fantasy gaming website - I think it was something like Wizards.com), but
both have produced a range of excellent writings on Tolkien.

Maybe the list would be better if it was done alphabetically, and listed
one or two works that justified inclusion of said person on the list.

How about this (* = forthcoming):

Douglas Anderson (Annotated Hobbit)
Humphrey Carpenter (Biography, Letters)
Jane Chance (Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England)
Michael Drout (Tolkien Studies, *Tolkien Encyclopedia, Beowulf)
Verlyn Flieger (Splintered Light, Interrupted Music, Question of Time)
John Garth (Tolkien and the Great War)
Wayne Hammond (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
Carl Hostetter (Vinyar Tengwar)
John D. Rateliff (*The History of The Hobbit)
Christina Scull (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
Tom Shippey (Road to ME, Author of the Century)
Christopher Tolkien (Silmarillion, UT, HoME)

David Bratman
Joe Christopher
Dan Timmons
Richard West

I've excluded the four above, as I couldn't find anything on Amazon
(except the Timmons-edited collection mentioned earlier). I'm sure they
have published essays and papers and so forth, but I think having
something concrete to point to is needed to be in the main list
(sorry!).

Though if we talk about published material, we get into grey areas.
There are several other "names" that have published books. An example is
David Salo's Gateway to Sindarin. How does that fit into the above?

Also, if you restrict the list purely to direct work on Tolkien
materials, and annotated versions of his books, then the more
wide-ranging "studies" start to drop off the list, including the ones by
Chance, Flieger and Shippey. The problem here is the question of which
ones to include, as there are many out there. Why include these three?
Are they any better than the others (requires a subjective judgement) or
were they (Flieger and Shippey) just the first to be widely known?

Stan Brown

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 9:47:06 AM7/15/06
to
Fri, 14 Jul 2006 19:43:56 -0400 from Warrior of Rohan
<aj...@fuse.net>:
[upside-down full quoting corrected]

> "Stan Brown" <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote in message
> news:MPG.1f20aab67...@news.individual.net...
> > Wed, 12 Jul 2006 21:37:07 -0400 from Warrior of Rohan
> > <aj...@fuse.net>:
> >> Okay, we got a good list of the "best" books about Tolkien /
> >> Middle-Earth.
> >
> > Does it still include David Day?

> Nope, I would not rate him anywhere near the top ten. But his books can be
> interesting even with the errors.

Well, of course not. But he was on the list of "best books" that
started this thread.

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 3:38:52 PM7/15/06
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
>
>>Mic...@xenite.org wrote:
>
>
> <snip>
>
> Hey! Who let this thread degenerate into an "academic vs non-academic"
> argument? Anything touching on that has to make clear that being a
> "professor" means something different in the US than it does in the UK.
> I'm not sure about other parts of the world.

Michael I think misunderstood my reaction to Troels' suggestion about
including Conrad et al in such a list, where I questioned (but made no
conclusions) about whether what we do here constitutes scholarship,
whatever that may mean. I think Michael understood me as saying that
scholarship means "academia", which it doesn't. But I agree, we needn't
go down that road.

> No-one's agreed yet with my inclusion of John Garth and John D. Rateliff
> in the list of Tolkien writers (let's avoid the "top 10" thing as well -
> that gets a bit silly). As far as I know, both of these writers fit the
> mould of "independent scholar" that Drout was talking about in the link.
> In other words, as far as I know, they are not working in academia (I
> believe Garth is a journalist and that Rateliff does or has worked in
> fantasy gaming circles - at least I found a bunch of essays by him on a
> fantasy gaming website - I think it was something like Wizards.com), but
> both have produced a range of excellent writings on Tolkien.

As far as I know the only thing that Garth has done was the one book. I
think longevity is a requirement. So I'd reject him, unless he's done
more on Tolkien than I think. (i. e. if we're going for the "top"
"scholars, experts, important people to read etc", however we want to
phrase it. If on the other hand we're just listing important people to
read and their works, then by all means.)


>
> Maybe the list would be better if it was done alphabetically, and listed
> one or two works that justified inclusion of said person on the list.
>
> How about this (* = forthcoming):
>
> Douglas Anderson (Annotated Hobbit)
> Humphrey Carpenter (Biography, Letters)
> Jane Chance (Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England)

She's done more than this one, not including the edited collections
she's done.

> Michael Drout (Tolkien Studies, *Tolkien Encyclopedia, Beowulf)
> Verlyn Flieger (Splintered Light, Interrupted Music, Question of Time)
> John Garth (Tolkien and the Great War)
> Wayne Hammond (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
> Carl Hostetter (Vinyar Tengwar)
> John D. Rateliff (*The History of The Hobbit)

Ok, I'd include John too. He's written a number of good articles in
addition to the forthcoming book.

> Christina Scull (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
> Tom Shippey (Road to ME, Author of the Century)
> Christopher Tolkien (Silmarillion, UT, HoME)
>
> David Bratman
> Joe Christopher
> Dan Timmons
> Richard West
>
> I've excluded the four above, as I couldn't find anything on Amazon
> (except the Timmons-edited collection mentioned earlier). I'm sure they
> have published essays and papers and so forth, but I think having
> something concrete to point to is needed to be in the main list
> (sorry!).

Christopher!! For Shame!! Since when are published essays and papers
not concrete?!!??!! I think longevity in publishing, whether books,
essays, papers, or conference papers, and quality of overall work is
more important than whether a person has produced a book. By your
measure Tolkien was not much of a "scholar" never having produced a book
length study of any subject (his closest work on that score being his
editions and commentaries on various texts, but an edition isn't a
study.) I rather think his Monster and the Critics among other of his
works very important and "concrete" in spite of the fact that they are
merely published essays.


> Though if we talk about published material, we get into grey areas.
> There are several other "names" that have published books. An example is
> David Salo's Gateway to Sindarin. How does that fit into the above?

It shouldn't. Salo's book is as much Salo as it is Tolkien, what Salo
THINKS Sindarin should be.


> Also, if you restrict the list purely to direct work on Tolkien
> materials, and annotated versions of his books, then the more
> wide-ranging "studies" start to drop off the list, including the ones by
> Chance, Flieger and Shippey.

Whoa.....how for example is either of Shippey's works, (here we are
talking about his books on Tolkien, not articles: Road to Middle Earth
and Author of the Century) no "direct work on Tolkien?" NOt sure I
follow you there. Similarly with Chance and Flieger whose works deal
directly on Tolkien, Tolkien in a particular intellectual context or
literary tradition, but on Tolkien nonetheless. Or is this the
distinction that Michael wished to draw between "story-internals"
interpretation and discussions of sources, influences, analogues,
impact, audience reception?


The problem here is the question of which
> ones to include, as there are many out there. Why include these three?
> Are they any better than the others (requires a subjective judgement) or
> were they (Flieger and Shippey) just the first to be widely known?

In the case of Flieger and Shippey, they are among the best as far as
I'm concerned. I'd suggest the following criteria:

longevity (a single study, no matter the length and quality doesn't cut it)
quality (this isn't schlock or a throw away, but becomes a regular
reference tool. I think all of the authors I mentioned fall into that
class, and there are some others that I could include)
education--by which I mean that at least on the first reading of the
work(s) by the author, something new is learned about Tolkien rather
than a mere rehash of previous material or an unproven and unprovable
thesis.

These are debatable of course, but I toss them out for consideration.

Larry

Warrior of Rohan

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 6:32:37 PM7/15/06
to
My original thread said that they did not have to have written a book to be
listed. Some scholars/experts just speak!

Mike Foster is an example, he teaches a Tolkien course in Illinois. I think
he has written a few small papers but nothing major. Yet, he is very
knowledgeable on Tolkien. The same for John Garth. One book but a great
speaker. I have heard him twice and is very good and very knowledgeable!
Therefore, I included both John Garth and John Ratcliffe in my list.

I agree that the list should be alphabetical as I certainly do not want to
"rate" the top Tolkien scholars/experts/writer/whatever.

It sounds like Christopher or myself will start a thread about experts,
websites, collector etc.. We will try to define what each one constitutes
to set the ground rules. I have over 200 Tolkien related websites
bookmarked so it will be tough to pick only 10. Perhaps we'll sort them by
category such a scholastic, collecting, artwork etc. That way we can
include many of the regular contributors here which ought to stir things up
a bit.

WOR

"Larry Swain" <thes...@operamail.com> wrote in message
news:lJKdnZcvMqPX2STZ...@rcn.net...

Warrior of Rohan

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 6:34:34 PM7/15/06
to
Christopher, could you email me off post to explain cross posting to me. I
am sure I can do it just need a little advice. I use Outlook Express as my
new reader.

Thanks


"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote in message
news:b01ug.101611$wl.8...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk...

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 7:38:02 PM7/15/06
to
Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
> Christopher Kreuzer wrote:

<snip>

>> No-one's agreed yet with my inclusion of John Garth and John D.
>> Rateliff in the list of Tolkien writers (let's avoid the "top 10"
>> thing as well - that gets a bit silly). As far as I know, both of
>> these writers fit the mould of "independent scholar" that Drout was
>> talking about in the link. In other words, as far as I know, they
>> are not working in academia (I believe Garth is a journalist and
>> that Rateliff does or has worked in fantasy gaming circles - at
>> least I found a bunch of essays by him on a fantasy gaming website -
>> I think it was something like Wizards.com), but both have produced a
>> range of excellent writings on Tolkien.
>
> As far as I know the only thing that Garth has done was the one book.
> I think longevity is a requirement. So I'd reject him, unless he's
> done more on Tolkien than I think.

He has done some papers as well, though maybe they were just teasers for
his book? Whether anything more is forthcoming, I don't know, though I
would hope so. I know others have started to look in more detail at
parts of Tolkien's life, for example the "Roots of Middle-earth" book I
mentioned that gives more background on the area where Tolkien grew up.
There is also that book about Tolkien's work at the OED (the 'Ring of
Words' one - I think you mentioned it recently; have you read that
yet?), and I think there has been more done on Tolkien's family
background (particularly the Suffields). But neither of these areas
really tie in with Tolkien's later work. What I liked about Garth's book
was the way it wasn't just a detailed biography of before, during and
after WW1, but it also discussed Tolkien's early works as well.

> (i. e. if we're going for the "top" "scholars, experts, important
people
> to read etc", however we want to phrase it. If on the other hand
we're
> just listing important people to read and their works, then by all
means.)

But what is the point of listing the "top" people in anything unless it
is to say "read what they've written"? I think quality is such a
subjective thing that you have to come up with more objective criteria.
In this case, you could try and predict the longevity of a work - will
people still be referring to this work in 10 years time?

>> Maybe the list would be better if it was done alphabetically, and
>> listed one or two works that justified inclusion of said person on
>> the list.
>>
>> How about this (* = forthcoming):
>>
>> Douglas Anderson (Annotated Hobbit)
>> Humphrey Carpenter (Biography, Letters)
>> Jane Chance (Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England)
>
> She's done more than this one, not including the edited collections
> she's done.

Yes. You are right. I am beginning to think that volume (amount of work
published) is one of the better objective criteria.

>> Michael Drout (Tolkien Studies, *Tolkien Encyclopedia, Beowulf)
>> Verlyn Flieger (Splintered Light, Interrupted Music, Question of
>> Time) John Garth (Tolkien and the Great War)
>> Wayne Hammond (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
>> Carl Hostetter (Vinyar Tengwar)
>> John D. Rateliff (*The History of The Hobbit)
>
> Ok, I'd include John too. He's written a number of good articles in
> addition to the forthcoming book.

Yes. What is needed is a combined "papers" and "books" database, and
then that can be sorted by author to see who has authored the most
number of items (be they books or papers or whatever). I remember noting
with some surprise when reviewing the first volume of Tolkien Studies
that the bibliography of Tolkien studies for a single year (or was it
two?) that appeared in that issue, gave none other than J. R. R. Tolkien
as the person who had "published" most in that period. It seems that
even from the grave, the Professor's output of new editions, etc, is
sizeable.

>> Christina Scull (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
>> Tom Shippey (Road to ME, Author of the Century)
>> Christopher Tolkien (Silmarillion, UT, HoME)
>>
>> David Bratman
>> Joe Christopher
>> Dan Timmons
>> Richard West
>>
>> I've excluded the four above, as I couldn't find anything on Amazon
>> (except the Timmons-edited collection mentioned earlier). I'm sure
>> they have published essays and papers and so forth, but I think
>> having something concrete to point to is needed to be in the main
>> list (sorry!).
>
> Christopher!! For Shame!! Since when are published essays and papers
> not concrete?!!??!!

Sorry. I was wrong to say that. Published papers and essays are of
course fine. I guess I was reacting to the difficulty of checking and
finding such things (I was being lazy and just searching for books on
Amazon). Could you add something here? Are there people who publish
papers year after year?

It would be nice though if there was one unified list to pull up details
on. I know an updated bibliography for Tom Shippey appeared in the first
volume of Tolkien Studies, and that was impressively long.

> I think longevity in publishing, whether books,
> essays, papers, or conference papers, and quality of overall work is
> more important than whether a person has produced a book.

Agreed.

<snip>

>> Though if we talk about published material, we get into grey areas.
>> There are several other "names" that have published books. An
>> example is David Salo's Gateway to Sindarin. How does that fit into
>> the above?
>
> It shouldn't. Salo's book is as much Salo as it is Tolkien, what Salo
> THINKS Sindarin should be.

So you are not tempted to do what Drout did with his bibliography and
just exclude linguistic stuff as "outside the author's area of
expertise"? I think any database or list should try and be completely
comprehensive. Excluding "film" stuff of course! :-)

>> Also, if you restrict the list purely to direct work on Tolkien
>> materials, and annotated versions of his books, then the more
>> wide-ranging "studies" start to drop off the list, including the
>> ones by Chance, Flieger and Shippey.
>
> Whoa.....how for example is either of Shippey's works, (here we are
> talking about his books on Tolkien, not articles: Road to Middle Earth
> and Author of the Century) no "direct work on Tolkien?" NOt sure I
> follow you there.

What I meant here was a distinction between interpretations of Tolkien's
writings, and analysis. I agree the two merge somewhat, and I suppose
Shippey is more analysis than interpretation - in particular, an
analysis of the philology of the work. I find some of Flieger's work to
be more interpretative, in the sense of attempting to relate Tolkien's
work to other things. The former approach can be scientific, while the
latter is more imaginative. Does that make any more sense? (I'm not
entirely sure it does.)

> Similarly with Chance and Flieger whose works deal
> directly on Tolkien, Tolkien in a particular intellectual context or
> literary tradition, but on Tolkien nonetheless. Or is this the
> distinction that Michael wished to draw between "story-internals"
> interpretation and discussions of sources, influences, analogues,
> impact, audience reception?

No. I wasn't talking about story-internal stuff.

> The problem here is the question of which
>> ones to include, as there are many out there. Why include these
>> three? Are they any better than the others (requires a subjective
>> judgement) or were they (Flieger and Shippey) just the first to be
>> widely known?
>
> In the case of Flieger and Shippey, they are among the best as far as
> I'm concerned. I'd suggest the following criteria:
>
> longevity (a single study, no matter the length and quality doesn't
> cut it) quality

But then what about Carpenter, who only did Biography (I don't think you
can count Letters, as that was an editorial role). I suppose you could
throw in the Inklings biography as well.

> (this isn't schlock or a throw away, but becomes a
> regular reference tool. I think all of the authors I mentioned fall
> into that class, and there are some others that I could include)

"regular reference tool" sounds like an objective criteria.

> education--by which I mean that at least on the first reading of the
> work(s) by the author, something new is learned about Tolkien rather
> than a mere rehash of previous material or an unproven and unprovable
> thesis.

I'd call this "originality".

> These are debatable of course, but I toss them out for consideration.

I'd add volume as well, which might be what you mean by longevity. I
assume you don't mean a minimum time period by longevity, though
publishing over many years is good, publishing lots in a few years is
just as good.

So, a "top" Tolkien scholar will have:

1) Produced a sizeable volume of papers/books over several years.

2) Had the quality of their work confirmed by numerous positive comments
and numerous references to their works by other writers.

3) Have produced original material, breaking new ground in Tolkien
studies and inspiring more studies in certain areas.

The output of each person on the list could be discussed in terms of
these criteria, plus a closer look at the _type_ of work undertaken.
Some of it is very worthwhile, but requires more in terms of
organisation and editorial skill, rather than originality. But that
would require reading everything a particular person has written, and I
haven't done that for any of the people on the list. I guess reading
more stuff would be good before attempting any sort of overview! :-)

I do like the way each volume of Tolkien Studies has been "showcasing" a
particular scholar, with a bibliography of their works. It was Tom
Shippey in volume 1. I can't remember who was showcased in volumes 2 and
3 <rummage> ah! it was Richard C. West in volume 2. Though they seem to
have dropped the idea of a lead article for volume 3.

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 7:49:42 PM7/15/06
to
Warrior of Rohan <aj...@fuse.net> wrote:
> My original thread said that they did not have to have written a book
> to be listed. Some scholars/experts just speak!
>
> Mike Foster is an example, he teaches a Tolkien course in Illinois.

Good point. Speakers should be acknowledged in some way as well.

> It sounds like Christopher or myself will start a thread about
> experts, websites, collector etc.. We will try to define what each
> one constitutes to set the ground rules. I have over 200 Tolkien
> related websites bookmarked so it will be tough to pick only 10.
> Perhaps we'll sort them by category such a scholastic, collecting,
> artwork etc. That way we can include many of the regular
> contributors here which ought to stir things up a bit.

I'll make a start now (I forgot earlier).

Christopher

PS. You might want to snip out what you are not replying to, and also
not top-post, otherwise the Shirrifs will be after you! :-)

Warrior of Rohan

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 8:01:23 PM7/15/06
to

"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote in message
news:u%eug.101882$wl.3...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk...

> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
>> Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
>
>
> Yes. What is needed is a combined "papers" and "books" database, and
> then that can be sorted by author to see who has authored the most
> number of items (be they books or papers or whatever). I remember noting
> with some surprise when reviewing the first volume of Tolkien Studies
> that the bibliography of Tolkien studies for a single year (or was it
> two?) that appeared in that issue, gave none other than J. R. R. Tolkien
> as the person who had "published" most in that period. It seems that
> even from the grave, the Professor's output of new editions, etc, is
> sizeable.
>

>>> I am currently working on a "books" database, once it is done? I could
>>> add in the various papers and journals as well.
>>> But once I have this database (done in Access), I have to figure out a
>>> good way to make it available on the net. I am sure I will find
>>> somebody to help me with that task.

>>
>> longevity (a single study, no matter the length and quality doesn't
>> cut it) quality
>
> But then what about Carpenter, who only did Biography (I don't think you
> can count Letters, as that was an editorial role). I suppose you could
> throw in the Inklings biography as well.
>

>>> Same reason I did not include Carpenter in my list. He did one book and
>>> disappeared as far as Tolkien goes.

>>> I hope this post looks better than before. I am still learning the
>>> rules. What is a top post? I don't want the Shirrif's after me. :-)

WOR


Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 15, 2006, 8:33:02 PM7/15/06
to
Warrior of Rohan <aj...@fuse.net> wrote:

<snip>

>>>> I am currently working on a "books" database, once it is done? I
>>>> could add in the various papers and journals as well.
>>>> But once I have this database (done in Access), I have to figure
>>>> out a good way to make it available on the net. I am sure I will
>>>> find somebody to help me with that task.

Not sure what's up with the huge number of idents (the ">" bits) in your
replies, but about this database, I'd try and find out what is out there
already. There is little point in trying to do something like this from
scratch - it would involve an enormous amount of copying and pasting and
typing. My idea is to go to people in the Tolkien books trade who
probably have details of lots of Tolkien books on their computer, and
get a list from then. What we could do is usefully sort it into types of
books and add some brief notes.

>>>> I hope this post looks better than before. I am still learning the
>>>> rules. What is a top post? I don't want the Shirrif's after me. :-)

Stan Brown has some good pages on newsgroup etiquette.

See: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/unice.htm

In particular: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/unice.htm#xpost
and: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/unice.htm#trim (plus the next bit as
well, on posting right side up - you mostly do OK, it's just
ocassionally you seem to lapse into not trimming and top-posting).

Stan Brown

unread,
Jul 16, 2006, 10:12:12 AM7/16/06
to
Sat, 15 Jul 2006 18:34:34 -0400 from Warrior of Rohan
<aj...@fuse.net>:

> Christopher, could you email me off post to explain cross posting to me. I
> am sure I can do it just need a little advice. I use Outlook Express as my
> new reader.

Perhaps you might also consider quoting in standard fashion, and
trimming quotes.

http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/unice.htm is one starting point.

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 16, 2006, 11:48:17 AM7/16/06
to
In message <news:SpGdnXe-68gQ4CvZ...@rcn.net>
Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>>
>> In message <news:uuSdnb6efP9_SSjZ...@rcn.net> Larry
>> Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>>>
>>> Warrior of Rohan wrote:
>>>>

<snip>

>> I don't know David Bratman and Dan Timmons, and I'm naturally


>> curious about what they've done ;-)
>

> David Bratman is a long time member of the Mythopoeic Society

[...]


>
> Dan Timmons was a young scholar who wrote several very perceptive
> essays on Tolkien and co-edited with George Clark one of my top 10
> books,

[...]

Thanks.

> Jane Chance should be up there too,

<re-arrange>

>> And what about experts on Tolkien's professional work? Though not
>> strictly a line of Tolkien scholarship (specializing in one man's
>> contributions to the field would seem a bit limited to me), but
>> still.
>
> Well, when asked about top ten Tolkien scholars I assumed that
> meant also on his professional works. Shippey, Timmons, Drout,
> Chance, Flieger, and Anderson have all published on Tolkien's
> professional work.
> Flieger in fact has continued some of Tolkien's professional
> work on the Ancrene Wisse. And there is the new "Ring of Words"
> book's authors too--can't wait to get that one!

And thanks for that as well. I'm getting more and more interested in
the other angles on Tolkien's works, but am daunted by both the
amount and the specialization of it. I've downloaded volume 1 of
"Tolkien Studies" (it's available legitimately), where a lot of the
names you list figure as authors, so I'll be attacking that soon (the
problem is to find the time between family, CotW and making a
pretence at doing the work I'm paid to do <GG>). I'm looking forward
to that, but may come screaming here for help if it proves too
specialized ;-)

>> and someone to represent the kind of studies we usually
>> undertake here (the 'story-internal explanation'

[...]


>
> Yes, I considered that too. In my own mind I debate whether the
> sorts of discussions we undertake here or in other fora on the
> 'Net count as "scholarship", and go back and forth on the
> question.

I'll address this part of the discussion in an independent posting,
once I find the time (I could /REALLY/ do with a Gandalfian excursion
'out of time' to catch up with AFT/RABT <GG>). I find the question
very interesting, but will have to spend some time composing an
answer worthy of the question.

>> Perhaps also a cartographer -- Karen Wynn Fonstad,

[...}


>
> Well, H&S were to be considered a single entry. Fonstad is good,
> but is she top 10? Top 15 or 20, sure, but top 10?

How does one make the comparison? I am more comfortable allowing at
least one entry for the 'best in class' for each area rather than
trying to rank Tolkien cartography against Tolkien biography . . .

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

"It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent
whatsoever," he said. "Have you thought of going into
teaching?"
- /Mort/ (Terry Pratchett)

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 16, 2006, 12:22:49 PM7/16/06
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:

<snip>

> I am more comfortable allowing at
> least one entry for the 'best in class' for each area rather than
> trying to rank Tolkien cartography against Tolkien biography . . .

This "best in class" works for books, but for writers you can pick out
those who have made the most impact in terms of amount, quality and
originality. And this is regardless of specialities. If someone writes
one really good book in a particular speciality, then it is the book
(and author) that gets the plaudits, rather than the whole range of that
author's work. Think of it as a "lifetime's achievement" award for a
range of work over a lifetime, rather than a nomination for any
particular work.

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 16, 2006, 7:31:57 PM7/16/06
to
Warrior of Rohan wrote:
> My original thread said that they did not have to have written a book to be
> listed. Some scholars/experts just speak!

True, but then the measure becomes a subjective one entirely. Yes,
there's always some subjectivity to it, but if we're looking at
publications, then there can be some measure of objectivity, as well as
discussion. If you hear someone speak and think it really good, and no
one else hears it, well, it may make your top 10 or 20 or 100, but will
never appear on mine.

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 16, 2006, 9:30:54 PM7/16/06
to

This leads me to strange musings on how this kind of forum is sometimes
more like speaking on a soapbox than "publishing" anything, even though,
theoretically, anyone can read what is posted, though, in fact, you can
never be sure who is listening.

The Hyde Park Corner of online Tolkien fandom??
With the Google archive acting like a dictaphone in the corner!
Oh dear. I can see the cartoon now!

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 17, 2006, 12:52:04 AM7/17/06
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
>
>>Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
>
>

>>
>>As far as I know the only thing that Garth has done was the one book.
>>I think longevity is a requirement. So I'd reject him, unless he's
>>done more on Tolkien than I think.
>
>
> He has done some papers as well, though maybe they were just teasers for
> his book? Whether anything more is forthcoming, I don't know, though I
> would hope so. I know others have started to look in more detail at
> parts of Tolkien's life, for example the "Roots of Middle-earth" book I
> mentioned that gives more background on the area where Tolkien grew up.
> There is also that book about Tolkien's work at the OED (the 'Ring of
> Words' one - I think you mentioned it recently; have you read that
> yet?)

I haven't, though I very much want to. Every time I've gone to the
local stores to pick it up, they don't have it even though they say its
in. So come fall, I'll take things in hand and include in my annual
huge book order to start the school year.


and I think there has been more done on Tolkien's family
> background (particularly the Suffields). But neither of these areas
> really tie in with Tolkien's later work. What I liked about Garth's book
> was the way it wasn't just a detailed biography of before, during and
> after WW1, but it also discussed Tolkien's early works as well.
>
>
>>(i. e. if we're going for the "top" "scholars, experts, important
>
> people
>
>>to read etc", however we want to phrase it. If on the other hand
>
> we're
>
>>just listing important people to read and their works, then by all
>
> means.)
>
> But what is the point of listing the "top" people in anything unless it
> is to say "read what they've written"?

I think I've not made myself clear. I'm only pointing out that I
wouldn't yet include Garth on a list of top 10 because he has produced
only the one book, and that book hasn't made a significant impact on how
Tolkien's primary works are understood. Time may change that as he
either produces more, or the impact of the book deepens and widens. On
the other hand, if we're simply listing good, and important, books to
read on TOlkien, and not limiting ourselves to "top 10" or "top 20"
kinds of enumerations, then I'd include Garth and his book since his
work clarifies much about TOlkien the man and sets a better context of
Tolkien's early imaginiative works than we have hitherto had.

>>>
>>>Douglas Anderson (Annotated Hobbit)
>>>Humphrey Carpenter (Biography, Letters)
>>>Jane Chance (Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England)
>>
>>She's done more than this one, not including the edited collections
>>she's done.
>
>
> Yes. You are right. I am beginning to think that volume (amount of work
> published) is one of the better objective criteria.
>
>
>>>Michael Drout (Tolkien Studies, *Tolkien Encyclopedia, Beowulf)
>>>Verlyn Flieger (Splintered Light, Interrupted Music, Question of
>>>Time) John Garth (Tolkien and the Great War)
>>>Wayne Hammond (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
>>>Carl Hostetter (Vinyar Tengwar)
>>>John D. Rateliff (*The History of The Hobbit)
>>
>>Ok, I'd include John too. He's written a number of good articles in
>>addition to the forthcoming book.
>
>
> Yes. What is needed is a combined "papers" and "books" database, and
> then that can be sorted by author to see who has authored the most
> number of items (be they books or papers or whatever).

I would agree, but that would take a great deal of work. SOmeone would
need to be willing to take West's bibliography up 1978,(there was an
updated edition in 1990 or 1991, but I'm not sure how far the new
edition carried things: did it stop at 1978 or did they carry it through
the decade of the 80s? I shoud find it and find out.... and Drout's
online bib to 2000, plus the bibliographies printed in other journals
such as TS and collate them all into a single database. (And a new bib
I've just found out about the last few days: A Tolkien Bibliography
1911-1980: Writings by and about J.R.R. Tolkien. Åke Jonsson. Tredge
Upplagen, 1986 and .R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism. Judith
Johnson. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut/London, England, 1986. )
A worthy project, but who has such love and time and resources?


I remember noting
> with some surprise when reviewing the first volume of Tolkien Studies
> that the bibliography of Tolkien studies for a single year (or was it
> two?) that appeared in that issue, gave none other than J. R. R. Tolkien
> as the person who had "published" most in that period. It seems that
> even from the grave, the Professor's output of new editions, etc, is
> sizeable.

Yes, it seemed like the late 90s, early 00s brought a spate of reissues
and new editions...well, the 50th anniversary and the movies naturally
gave rise to this, but it was interesting nonetheless.

>
>>>Christina Scull (Artist and Illustrator, Reader's Companion, *Guide)
>>>Tom Shippey (Road to ME, Author of the Century)
>>>Christopher Tolkien (Silmarillion, UT, HoME)
>>>
>>>David Bratman
>>>Joe Christopher
>>>Dan Timmons
>>>Richard West
>>>
>>>I've excluded the four above, as I couldn't find anything on Amazon
>>>(except the Timmons-edited collection mentioned earlier). I'm sure
>>>they have published essays and papers and so forth, but I think
>>>having something concrete to point to is needed to be in the main
>>>list (sorry!).
>>
>>Christopher!! For Shame!! Since when are published essays and papers
>>not concrete?!!??!!
>
>
> Sorry. I was wrong to say that. Published papers and essays are of
> course fine. I guess I was reacting to the difficulty of checking and
> finding such things (I was being lazy and just searching for books on
> Amazon). Could you add something here? Are there people who publish
> papers year after year?

Oh certainly! Whole journals devoted to it!! In addition to Tolkien
Studies there's Mythlore that regularly has Tolkien articles, various
publications of Arda in Sweden, the French Tolkien society produces a
bi-annual Tolkien journal, there's Seven from Wheaton College in
Illinois (Wade Ctr) that discusses 7 authors, Tolkien being one, Ammon
Hen from the British Tolkien Society and Mallorn from the same, Vinyar
Tengwar....there are others, but those I can think of off the top of my
head. There used to be many more too, like Orcrist, but I've not kept
up with whether they still publish or not. Easy enough to check I
suppose. Anyway, there are articles that appear in other literary
journals too, Ariel, Folklore, etc as well in addition to those that
appear in Tolkien dedicated journals.

The difference between TS and the other Tolkien journals is that the
latter are "cross-over" journals in the sense that they adhere to less
academic standards and often contain, or contained in the past, fan-zine
style articles alongside the more academic. That and TS is anything
related to Tolkien Studies, including his scholarly works, whereas most
of the other journals I've mentioned focus on Hobbit, LoTR, Silm and UT
with a smattering of HoME.


>
> It would be nice though if there was one unified list to pull up details
> on. I know an updated bibliography for Tom Shippey appeared in the first
> volume of Tolkien Studies, and that was impressively long.

I knoW!


>
>>>Though if we talk about published material, we get into grey areas.
>>>There are several other "names" that have published books. An
>>>example is David Salo's Gateway to Sindarin. How does that fit into
>>>the above?
>>
>>It shouldn't. Salo's book is as much Salo as it is Tolkien, what Salo
>>THINKS Sindarin should be.
>
>
> So you are not tempted to do what Drout did with his bibliography and
> just exclude linguistic stuff as "outside the author's area of
> expertise"? I think any database or list should try and be completely
> comprehensive. Excluding "film" stuff of course! :-)
>

Not at all! And again, it depends on what we're talking about. If
we're again talking about a kind of "top 10" or "top 20", then I can't
include Salo in that any more than I can Day who in many ways is guilty
of the same sorts of things. On the other hand if we're making a
database or exhaustive list of secondary works ON Tolkien rather
prioritizing what we think are the best such works, then of course Salo
should go there.

>
>>>Also, if you restrict the list purely to direct work on Tolkien
>>>materials, and annotated versions of his books, then the more
>>>wide-ranging "studies" start to drop off the list, including the
>>>ones by Chance, Flieger and Shippey.
>>
>>Whoa.....how for example is either of Shippey's works, (here we are
>>talking about his books on Tolkien, not articles: Road to Middle Earth
>>and Author of the Century) no "direct work on Tolkien?" NOt sure I
>>follow you there.
>
>
> What I meant here was a distinction between interpretations of Tolkien's
> writings, and analysis. I agree the two merge somewhat, and I suppose
> Shippey is more analysis than interpretation - in particular, an
> analysis of the philology of the work. I find some of Flieger's work to
> be more interpretative, in the sense of attempting to relate Tolkien's
> work to other things. The former approach can be scientific, while the
> latter is more imaginative. Does that make any more sense? (I'm not
> entirely sure it does.)

No, I'm afraid it doesn't. Perhaps I'm just too slow to see the
distinction you are making.

>>
>>>ones to include, as there are many out there. Why include these
>>>three? Are they any better than the others (requires a subjective
>>>judgement) or were they (Flieger and Shippey) just the first to be
>>>widely known?
>>
>>In the case of Flieger and Shippey, they are among the best as far as
>>I'm concerned. I'd suggest the following criteria:
>>
>>longevity (a single study, no matter the length and quality doesn't
>>cut it) quality
>
>
> But then what about Carpenter, who only did Biography (I don't think you
> can count Letters, as that was an editorial role). I suppose you could
> throw in the Inklings biography as well.

That's a good point. But I'd include Carpenter because in my view he
did 3 important Tolkien works: the biography, the Letters (returning in
a second), and The Inklings (returning to). I include the Letters
because although it is editorial, there is an art to editing--figuring
out what to include and exclude and how to organize the material etc.
Besides, if we reject Carpenter for his "editorial" role of the Letters
must we also not then reject Christopher Tolkien for his own editorial
role in the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the entire HoME series?
I'd include The Inklings because it sets Tolkien and his works into an
intellectual mileau in a way that the biography does not and focuses on
his interactions with a set group of individuals who had profound effect
on Tolkien, and on whom he had a profound effect, and who first heard
parts of the Hobbit and LoTR and other Tolkien works and commented on
them, some of which made it into various drafts (or so I've been told, I
can't think of any specific examples at the moment, so will have to go
and look things up or email the person who told me). So I think the
Inklings book is an important Tolkien study (and Lewis and Williams and
et al). So I count 3 books by Carpenter.

>
>>(this isn't schlock or a throw away, but becomes a
>>regular reference tool. I think all of the authors I mentioned fall
>>into that class, and there are some others that I could include)
>
>
> "regular reference tool" sounds like an objective criteria.
>
>
>>education--by which I mean that at least on the first reading of the
>>work(s) by the author, something new is learned about Tolkien rather
>>than a mere rehash of previous material or an unproven and unprovable
>>thesis.
>
>
> I'd call this "originality".

Yes, probably a far better term.


>
>
>>These are debatable of course, but I toss them out for consideration.
>
>
> I'd add volume as well, which might be what you mean by longevity. I
> assume you don't mean a minimum time period by longevity, though
> publishing over many years is good, publishing lots in a few years is
> just as good.

Right, I wanted to stay away from "volume" because that could get us
into counting number of books and articles. So I chose longevity, but
in the sense that the works published have a long-lasting effect on the
field rather than on how many years the author has been publishing-but
perhaps that is just getting us back to the issue of quality?

> So, a "top" Tolkien scholar will have:
>
> 1) Produced a sizeable volume of papers/books over several years.
>
> 2) Had the quality of their work confirmed by numerous positive comments
> and numerous references to their works by other writers.
>
> 3) Have produced original material, breaking new ground in Tolkien
> studies and inspiring more studies in certain areas.

Yes, for the most part I'd agree with this too, with the caveats already
issued.

>
> The output of each person on the list could be discussed in terms of
> these criteria, plus a closer look at the _type_ of work undertaken.
> Some of it is very worthwhile, but requires more in terms of
> organisation and editorial skill, rather than originality. But that
> would require reading everything a particular person has written, and I
> haven't done that for any of the people on the list. I guess reading
> more stuff would be good before attempting any sort of overview! :-)
>
> I do like the way each volume of Tolkien Studies has been "showcasing" a
> particular scholar, with a bibliography of their works. It was Tom
> Shippey in volume 1. I can't remember who was showcased in volumes 2 and
> 3 <rummage> ah! it was Richard C. West in volume 2. Though they seem to
> have dropped the idea of a lead article for volume 3.


I'll ask about that, I noted that it was dropped in 3, not sure what's
in for 4.

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 17, 2006, 1:00:03 AM7/17/06
to
Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>
>>>And what about experts on Tolkien's professional work? Though not
>>>strictly a line of Tolkien scholarship (specializing in one man's
>>>contributions to the field would seem a bit limited to me), but
>>>still.
>>
>>Well, when asked about top ten Tolkien scholars I assumed that
>>meant also on his professional works. Shippey, Timmons, Drout,
>>Chance, Flieger, and Anderson have all published on Tolkien's
>>professional work.
>> Flieger in fact has continued some of Tolkien's professional
>>work on the Ancrene Wisse. And there is the new "Ring of Words"
>>book's authors too--can't wait to get that one!
>
>
> And thanks for that as well. I'm getting more and more interested in
> the other angles on Tolkien's works, but am daunted by both the
> amount and the specialization of it. I've downloaded volume 1 of
> "Tolkien Studies" (it's available legitimately), where a lot of the
> names you list figure as authors, so I'll be attacking that soon (the
> problem is to find the time between family, CotW and making a
> pretence at doing the work I'm paid to do <GG>). I'm looking forward
> to that, but may come screaming here for help if it proves too
> specialized ;-)

I know, I have those problems too!! So much to read and write, so
little time.

>
>>>and someone to represent the kind of studies we usually
>>>undertake here (the 'story-internal explanation'
>
> [...]
>
>>Yes, I considered that too. In my own mind I debate whether the
>>sorts of discussions we undertake here or in other fora on the
>>'Net count as "scholarship", and go back and forth on the
>>question.
>
>
> I'll address this part of the discussion in an independent posting,
> once I find the time (I could /REALLY/ do with a Gandalfian excursion
> 'out of time' to catch up with AFT/RABT <GG>). I find the question
> very interesting, but will have to spend some time composing an
> answer worthy of the question.

Ok, looking forward to it. Let me say before you post it though that I
would draw a distinction between "scholarship" and "intellectual": i. e.
many of our discussions in this group are quite intellectual, and
built with sound arguments and evidence from the primary sources, but
I'm not convinced yet (or convinced the other way) that they constitute
scholarship which approaches a text or texts with a particular set of
tools and questions...we often overlap, but we are often far afield too.

>
>>>Perhaps also a cartographer -- Karen Wynn Fonstad,
>
> [...}
>
>>Well, H&S were to be considered a single entry. Fonstad is good,
>>but is she top 10? Top 15 or 20, sure, but top 10?
>
>
> How does one make the comparison? I am more comfortable allowing at
> least one entry for the 'best in class' for each area rather than
> trying to rank Tolkien cartography against Tolkien biography . . .

The comparison I would suggest is made with the criteria I've been
talking about with Christopher: longevity, proven quality, originality.
I don't think Fonstad meets those criteria for a top 10 in
comparison with the others who have been named: and I have to say I
rarely use her book.

I too would be comfortable looking at the question by listing classes or
genres of works and then making room for "best in class" (best in show?).

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 17, 2006, 9:12:39 AM7/17/06
to
In message <news:SpGdnXe-68gQ4CvZ...@rcn.net>
Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>>

<snip>

[I would like to include . . .]

>> someone to represent the kind of studies we usually undertake

>> here (the 'story-internal explanation' -- studies of Middle-earth
>> as if it were a real place), Conrad, perhaps,

[...]
>
> Yes, I considered that too. In my own mind I debate whether the
> sorts of discussions we undertake here or in other fora on the
> 'Net count as "scholarship", and go back and forth on the
> question.

I'm afraid that there is only one way for me to deal with that
question, and that is the long way :/

Discussing whether it is scholarship involving scholars is obviously
pointless unless we understand what each of us mean by that term (I've
had too many discussions on usenet because I understood a word slightly
differently than the OP).

My own background is in the sciences, where the lines are much more
clearly drawn between what is science and what is not. The natural
dividing-line has to do with methodology: if you apply the scientific
method to a scientific problem, then you're doing science (a bit
simplistic, perhaps, but at least that's the basic idea). Oh, and don't
rely on the scientific method outside science: it is made to solve one
kind of problems, and the result is not certain for other kinds ;-)

The academic pursuit, regardless of subject, is, in Danish, called
'videnskab' (Sw: 'Vetenskap', Ge: 'Wissenschaft'), which basically
means 'an activity generating knowledge'. Generally 'understanding' is
considered to be a sort of 'knowledge', so an activity generating new
understanding of an existing text (e.g. the Bible) would certainly
count as 'videnskab' in Danish, if it is undertaken in an academic
environment, and would also be recognized as such if undertaken outside
academic circles, if it meets academic standards.

All this because I am not entirely sure where to place the English word
'scholarship'.

AskOxford defines it thus:
scholarship
+ noun
1 academic achievement; learning of a high level.
2 a grant made to support a student’s education,
awarded on the basis of achievement.
<http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/scholarship?view=uk>

If we restrict ourselves to the academic achievement, then there's not
very much more to say, but the other part of definition 1 leaves the
unpleasant question of what level of learning is required.

The definition of 'scholar' is, perhaps, slightly more helpful:
scholar
+ noun
1 a specialist in a particular branch of study,
especially the humanities;
a distinguished academic.
2 chiefly archaic a person who is highly educated or has
an aptitude for study.
3 a university student holding a scholarship.
— ORIGIN Latin scholaris, from Greek skhole (see SCHOOL).
<http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/scholar?view=uk>

I'm not sure that the history and science of Tolkien's Arda counts as
'the humanities', but that's not particularly required anyway. I guess
that we can both agree that many people here are indeed scholars in
Tolkien studies in the sense of definition 2.

I won't bother with more dictionary definitions (see additional links
below), since everything, as I see it, boils down to two questions:

A) What is required to be a 'branch of study' in the scholarly sense?
B) What level of learning / specialization is required for scholarship?

A) is obviously not trivial, and might be the biggest hurdle in this
context.

Taking another example: astrology.

Astrology can, I think, be studied in ways that are scholarly, but can
certainly also be studied in ways that I would not recognise as
scholarly. The study of the history and the belief-systems of astrology
are no less scholarly than the similar studies into Hinduism, Islam or
Christianity, but the study of astrological texts as a revelation of
truth are not, IMO, a scholarly pursuit.

The distinction is important in our case as well, because we are
speaking of the study of Tolkien's writings from the PoV where they
are, for the sake of the study, accepted at a secondary level as true
(secondary belief, not primary).

Taking another example: history.

Is there any fundamental difference between what we are doing here (in
particular when discussing the history of Arda) and what a historian
does? The historian will probably have the benefit of being able to
study actual artefacts from the period in question, whereas all we have
to go on are source texts and illustrations, but that seems to me
irrelevant: in both cases the sources must be studied, held up against
each other and evaluated. That our sources are all fictitious and
written by one man obiviously limits the amount of source material, but
doesn't, IMO, change the methodology or the thoroughness by which they
are analyzed and evaluated.

That we go about the study of the science of Arda in the same way as we
go about the history of Arda is because of the conditions of that
study; nobody would like better than me to be able to instigate
experiments in Arda, but that route to learning is, sadly, closed ;-)


Here I am coming to close the loop, because to me the answer to the
first question, when a branch of study is potentially scholarly, has to
do with methodology. When the /method/ is of academic standard and is
applied where appropriate, whether to an academic field or not, then I
am willing to accept that line of study as potential scholarship. It
does not, to me, matter so much what the subject is, or whether that
subject would ever be studied in academic research. Admittedly this
focus on method is possibly derived from my background.

I find that the better of our discussions here do fulfill that
requirement, but it is certainly not everything.


That leaves the question of the level of specialization and learning
that is required for a scholar . . .

> Would a scholar for example ask whether elves have pointed ears
> or balrogs wings?

Possibly not, but a scholar would, when asked the question, try to
answer it to the best of her ability by applying the appropriate
method.

And even scholars may at times find themselves in heated arguments
(within their area of scholarship) where accusations of dishonesty and
other personal affronts may fly.

However, I wouldn't require that /everything/ we do should be at a
scholarly level -- if we make that requirement, I think we can easily
dismiss our discussions here. The question, as I would pose it, would
be whether we, even just occasionally, reach a scholarly level with our
story-internal discussions.

> And even if a scholar would, how would a scholar go about answering
> the question in ways differently or the same as the discussions here
> have?

I do not doubt that the way we do go about answering the questions we
discuss is, at least for the 'best' of our discussions, the most
appropriate way, and the only way open to a scholar.

Our best discussions combine methodologies from several fields of
scholarship (of the academic sort), incorporating both source criticism
of the actual texts, analysis of the sources of inspiration and the
relation between the author and his work. I don't think that any
scholarly research could hope to do much more than that.

Still -- that doesn't tell whether the level is high enough.

But before I move on, I think there is one more stumbling-block that
has to be considered.

Speaking mainly for myself, my purposes in participating in the
discussions here are in part to increase and share my understanding of
Tolkien's works, a large part of which involves understanding better
the world that he created. That is all well and fine, and fits well
with the noble purposes of scholarship, but another purpose is to
increase my appreciation of his works. This inevitably implies a bias
that might not be consistent with scholarship, but on the other hand,
my studies in physics were also driven by an appreciation of the beauty
of the subject and a desire to add nuances to that appreciation (I'd
better stop here -- experience has taught me that it requires a special
way of thinking to find E = mc^2 beautiful <GG>).

> So there are several here I think who could fit into that if we
> say yes, scholarship includes debates on rabt etc, then Conrad,
> Michael Martinez, Steuard, and Stan, and yourself, all qualify;

In terms of subject matter and methodology, certainly -- in that
respect I do not hesitate to call the best of our discussions
'scholarly'.

In terms of the learning necessary to be recognized as a scholar, a
specialist with a high level of learning, the field might be a bit
narrower (I wouldn't count myself, for instance), but the combination
of knowledge of the source texts (J.R.R. Tolkien's works), his sources
of inspiration and biographical details displayed by such people as
Conrad and Michael Martinez does, IMO, qualify them as Tolkien
scholars.

> the next question though would be if those 5 people are on a par
> with CT, Carpenter, Shippey, etc.

That's another question entirely, and one that I was not considering. I
was thinking of 'best of class' for the story-internal 'research', not
trying to compare beyond that.

> I don't know. I am of two minds on every level of the issue.

I guess the last hesitation that I have is related to consistency. I am
happy to call the best of RABT/AFT 'scholarship', but everyone involved
here do also occasionally find themselves involved in activities that
are regrettably sub-standard (Steuard's doing a better job at avoiding
it than anyone else I can think of). It could be a problem that not
all (or nearly all) of one's contributions are at a scholarly level,
but I'm a generous person, and I'm willing to discard the bad examples
and focus on the best ;-)


Hmm -- I was afraid this might grow long.

In conclusion I find that the best of our discussions here qualify as
'scholarly' as I understand it, as they apply the appropriate scholarly
methodology with insight and understanding, resulting for the
participants (and hopefully for the readers) in an even better
understanding of the subject matter -- whether that be the role of the
Divine in the story or the relation / interaction between Isildur and
the One Ring ;-)

When participating in such discussions, there are a number of
participants whose general knowledge, understanding and learning
qualify them, IMO, as Tolkien scholars.

The picture of our most learned participants as scholars is somewhat
cracked by the less illustrious discussions, and ultimately that is,
for me, the most problematic thing.


Additional definitions of 'scholar' and 'scholarship':

<http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=70338&dict=CALD>
<http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=scholar>
<http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=school>
<http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Scholarship_Scholar>

Wikipedia proved particularly unhelpful this time:
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Scholars>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholarship>

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no
basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power
derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some
farcical aquatic ceremony.
- /Monty Python and the Holy Grail/

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 17, 2006, 10:56:21 AM7/17/06
to
In message <news:tJtug.102093$wl.8...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>
"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>>
>> I am more comfortable allowing at least one entry for the 'best
>> in class' for each area rather than trying to rank Tolkien
>> cartography against Tolkien biography . . .
>
> This "best in class" works for books,

It is, I think, the best approach when you find yourself faced with
different contributions where the quality really is incommensurable.

> but for writers you can pick out those who have made the most
> impact in terms of amount,

But David Day has a lot of books, pages and words to his name.

> quality

That is precisely the big question, isn't it? How does one 'measure'
the quality of a cartographic work such as Fonstad's on the same
scale as a biographical work such as Garth's? I wish to avoid the
reference to 'personal preference', since a 'mappophile' and a WWI-
geek will view the question from two completely different paradigms.

> and originality.

Another hard-to-measure quality, though possibly a bit easier to
handle than 'quality'.

> And this is regardless of specialities.

I disagree. The qualities that constitute a good quality Tolkien
cartographer are not the same as those that constitute a good quality
Tolkien biographer.

I don't think there is any way to compare the two without making an
implicit subjective weighing of cartography vs. biography, and that
was, IMO, not the purpose of the exercise.

> If someone writes one really good book in a particular speciality,
> then it is the book (and author) that gets the plaudits, rather
> than the whole range of that author's work. Think of it as a
> "lifetime's achievement" award for a range of work over a
> lifetime, rather than a nomination for any particular work.

--

Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal
nothing.
- Frodo Baggins, /The Return of the King/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 17, 2006, 5:45:22 PM7/17/06
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:

<snip>

> In conclusion I find that the best of our discussions here qualify as


> 'scholarly' as I understand it, as they apply the appropriate
> scholarly methodology with insight and understanding, resulting for
> the participants (and hopefully for the readers) in an even better
> understanding of the subject matter -- whether that be the role of the
> Divine in the story or the relation / interaction between Isildur and
> the One Ring ;-)

I agree with this assesssment, but the crucial difference I think
between these sorts of discussion and what some people define
scholarship as is that what some people call scholarship involves:

1) The paper being published in a peer-reviewed or otherwise moderated
forum or publication, or the book being accepted by a publishing firm
(ie. not self-published as effectively all Usenet posts are).

2) Putting your name to the paper (ie. being available to respond to
what you have written, and taking responsibility for it - not always
true on Usenet as many people write under pseudonyms and/or write in a
more carefree manner than they would if what they were writing was
appearing in print - though a series of published papers seems little
better in terms of producing discussions, the discussions usually take
place behind the scenes, with the papers providing an overview of an
ongoing discussion - there is sometimes little sense of an overview and
conclusion being reached in Usenet threads).

3) Moving from a "work in progress" to a "finished work" (ie. working to
complete an argument and finish a paper or book, rather than just
dipping in and out of topics - as enjoyable as that may be).

4) Providing references (ie. consulting the past literature and
providing references to show this, and providing references for your own
claims and arguments - lots of Usenet posts fail on this criteria, and
though many of the longer posts here do reference the Tolkien sources,
there is little (though not none at all) reference to other essays and
studies - most of the arguments are presented as new topics, though this
is not really the case).

> The picture of our most learned participants as scholars is somewhat
> cracked by the less illustrious discussions, and ultimately that is,
> for me, the most problematic thing.

Less illustrious discussions? Surely not! :-)

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jul 17, 2006, 6:05:37 PM7/17/06
to
Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
> Christopher Kreuzer wrote:

<snip>

>> Yes. What is needed is a combined "papers" and "books" database, and
>> then that can be sorted by author to see who has authored the most
>> number of items (be they books or papers or whatever).
>
> I would agree, but that would take a great deal of work. SOmeone
> would need to be willing to take West's bibliography up 1978,(there
> was an updated edition in 1990 or 1991, but I'm not sure how far the
> new edition carried things: did it stop at 1978 or did they carry it
> through the decade of the 80s? I shoud find it and find out.... and
> Drout's online bib to 2000, plus the bibliographies printed in other
> journals such as TS and collate them all into a single database. (And
> a new bib I've just found out about the last few days: A Tolkien
> Bibliography 1911-1980: Writings by and about J.R.R. Tolkien. Åke
> Jonsson. Tredge Upplagen, 1986 and .R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of
> Criticism. Judith Johnson. Greenwood Press, Westport,
> Connecticut/London, England, 1986. ) A worthy project, but who has
> such love and time and resources?

I get the impression from Drout's pages that this "Tolkien Research
Group" is doing something like this, though the "excluding linguistic
stuff" thing threw me a bit - and they seem to be doing just papers and
not books.

And it would make more sense for the central place to be a university
with the resources to maintain it. Just throw a few PhD students or
final year students towards updating the database! :-)

<snip>

> Oh certainly! Whole journals devoted to it!!

Oh dear. Shall we list Tolkien magazines and journals now? :-)

Shamelessly stealing from your list:

Tolkien Studies
Mythlore
Arda
Le Tolkieniste
Seven
Amon Hen
Mallorn
Vinyar Tengwar
Orcrist
Lembas
The Flammifer of Westernesse
Hither Shore
Aglared

+lots more

Trouble is, I'm not sure which of these are more newsletter/fanzine type
things, and which are journals. There are also, as you say, lots of
fanzines that publish irregularly, or have stopped publishing.

Ariel
Folklore

It would be even more interesting to see lists of the more general
fantasy and academic journals and fanzines that have included Tolkien
stuff, though that would be a lot harder to do.

<snip>

[my attempt to distinguish between analysis and interpretation]

> No, I'm afraid it doesn't. Perhaps I'm just too slow to see the
> distinction you are making.

Re-reading it, I don't think I can make it any clearer without having to
think about it a lot more. Sorry. Maybe I am just splitting hairs here,
anyway.

<snip>

> So I count 3 books by Carpenter.

And you've convinced me that editorial work is important as well! :-)

<snip>

>> I do like the way each volume of Tolkien Studies has been
>> "showcasing" a particular scholar, with a bibliography of their
>> works. It was Tom Shippey in volume 1. I can't remember who was
>> showcased in volumes 2 and 3 <rummage> ah! it was Richard C. West in
>> volume 2. Though they seem to have dropped the idea of a lead
>> article for volume 3.
>
> I'll ask about that

Please do!

> I noted that it was dropped in 3, not sure what's
> in for 4.

That's next year, isn't it? I have to renew my subscription - I started
with a special three year offer, though worryingly there was no
subscription reminder notice with the 2006 issue...

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 18, 2006, 6:52:30 AM7/18/06
to
In message <news:SxTug.102783$wl.1...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>
"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>>
>> In conclusion I find that the best of our discussions here
>> qualify as 'scholarly' as I understand it,
[...]

>
> I agree with this assesssment, but the crucial difference I think
> between these sorts of discussion and what some people define
> scholarship as is that what some people call scholarship involves:
>
> 1) The paper being published in a peer-reviewed or otherwise
> moderated forum or publication, or the book being accepted
> by a publishing firm

In many ways usenet is the ultimate peer-review forum. Stuff such as
Conrad's 'Truth about Balrogs' series of essays are more thoroughly
reviewed than is the case in many reviewed journal (though not, of
course, in the top journals).

The problem seems rather that only a few bother to go back and create
a new version based on the review, but otherwise you might see the
same thing in e.g. www.arxiv.org -- except that here you get to see
also the reviews. I agree, though, that the trend in many usenet
threads that there is never any attempt to collect and present the
conclusions in a coherent form is a problem.

Publication and citation in appropriate media has become important
benchmarks for academics -- the main measure of academic productivity
-- and some very complex systems have been developed to rank work
based on this, but I disagree that it is an appropriate measure of
scholarship, insofar as we accept at all that scholarship may exist
at an independent and amateur basis.

> 2) Putting your name to the paper

[...]


> 3) Moving from a "work in progress" to a "finished work"

[...]
> 4) Providing references
[...]

I don't argue that a very large part of the posts and posters on
usenet do not qualify as scholarly. I've discounted myself (I have,
for instance, barely begun to dig into the biographical information),
but my argument was regarding 'the best' of what we see here.

For that category of 'the best', I think that your points here are
mostly addressed. Many people (including most of the long-time
regulars) write under their own names, and in the 'best of class'
threads, the writing is done with great care and attention to
details, and we see references not only to Tolkien's writings, but
also to secondary works and to past discussions. The 'finishing up'
is, unfortunately, still rare. The FAQs are an attempt at that for a
great many discussions, as are the essays that have grown out of our
discussions, but that is rare.

>> The picture of our most learned participants as scholars is
>> somewhat cracked by the less illustrious discussions, and
>> ultimately that is, for me, the most problematic thing.
>
> Less illustrious discussions? Surely not! :-)

;-)

Having myself participated in some if them, I felt disinclined to use
more direct language . . .

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot ++
- /Hogfather/ (Terry Pratchett)

Shanahan

unread,
Jul 18, 2006, 10:49:04 PM7/18/06
to
Troels Forchhammer wrote:
> In message <news:SxTug.102783$wl.1...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>
> "Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:

<snip>


>>> In conclusion I find that the best of our discussions here
>>> qualify as 'scholarly' as I understand it,
>>

>> I agree with this assesssment, but the crucial difference I think
>> between these sorts of discussion and what some people define
>> scholarship as is that what some people call scholarship involves:
>

> In many ways usenet is the ultimate peer-review forum. Stuff such

>>> The picture of our most learned participants as scholars is


>>> somewhat cracked by the less illustrious discussions, and
>>> ultimately that is, for me, the most problematic thing.

Haven't ever been to a formal academic conference, have you? I've
seen 'real scholars' behave in ways that make our little squabbles
seem like good manners. <g>

I think the question here isn't really What Is Scholarship. It's Who
Do We Believe to Tell Us What Scholarship is. If you rely on an
academic's definition of scholarship, of course it's going to be
confined to published and "peer-reviewed" works. It's in the
academic's personal, psychological, and economic interest to define
it so. If we take more structural criteria, such as Troels', then
some of the work done on usenet (and even the www!) definitely
qualifies as scholarly. Mostly work done on *this* ng, of course!
<wink>

Ciaran S.
---------------
moorreeffoc


Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 20, 2006, 12:57:12 AM7/20/06
to
Troels Forchhammer wrote:
> In message <news:tJtug.102093$wl.8...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>
> "Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>
>>Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>>
>>>I am more comfortable allowing at least one entry for the 'best
>>>in class' for each area rather than trying to rank Tolkien
>>>cartography against Tolkien biography . . .
>>
>>This "best in class" works for books,
>
>
> It is, I think, the best approach when you find yourself faced with
> different contributions where the quality really is incommensurable.
>
>
>>but for writers you can pick out those who have made the most
>>impact in terms of amount,
>
>
> But David Day has a lot of books, pages and words to his name.

I think he meant significance of impact, rather than amount of writing.

>
>
>>quality
>
>
> That is precisely the big question, isn't it? How does one 'measure'
> the quality of a cartographic work such as Fonstad's on the same
> scale as a biographical work such as Garth's? I wish to avoid the
> reference to 'personal preference', since a 'mappophile' and a WWI-
> geek will view the question from two completely different paradigms.

I don't think it is that difficult: regardless of genre a careful and
experienced reader like most of us who participate here can tell the
difference between a work of quality and one that isn't, between one
that gets the facts right and one that doesn't; between one that will
continue to be useful and one that will never be picked up
again....sure, there's some degree of personal preference or degree of
knowledge there (someone might dare to say that they learned a lot from
Day or something absurd like that because they do not yet know any
better), but to a large degree, I think we would all agree. Look at the
amount of agreement we already have in contrast to the minor disagreements.


>
>
>>and originality.
>
>
> Another hard-to-measure quality, though possibly a bit easier to
> handle than 'quality'.

Really? You can't tell whether a particular perspective on a specific
question has never been taken before, such as Garth's work on Tolkien in
WWI? Or pointing to a source unknown before as an original contribution?

>
>>And this is regardless of specialities.
>
>
> I disagree. The qualities that constitute a good quality Tolkien
> cartographer are not the same as those that constitute a good quality
> Tolkien biographer.

No, but at the same time you can tell a bad quality cartographer and a
book that will never have its cover opened again.

>
> I don't think there is any way to compare the two without making an
> implicit subjective weighing of cartography vs. biography, and that
> was, IMO, not the purpose of the exercise.

I disagree.

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 20, 2006, 7:33:26 AM7/20/06
to
In message <news:e9k6h...@enews1.newsguy.com> "Shanahan"
<pog...@bluefrog.com> enriched us with:
>

<snip>


> Haven't ever been to a formal academic conference, have you?

A couple.

> I've seen 'real scholars' behave in ways that make our little
> squabbles seem like good manners. <g>

But none of those -- well, there was this little squabble about who
was to use the jacuzzi and a French professor who looked rather
displeased at the prospect of eating raw marinated herring ;-)

On the other hand, I believe that the disagreement between Bohr and
Einstein is kind of a role-model for professional disagreement among
physicists (whereas the disagreement between Bohr and Heisenberg was
of a completely different kind).

> I think the question here isn't really What Is Scholarship. It's
> Who Do We Believe to Tell Us What Scholarship is. If you rely on
> an academic's definition of scholarship, of course it's going to
> be confined to published and "peer-reviewed" works.

In many ways, and in particular my view on what 'science' is (and
definitely my view on what constitutes 'good physics'), I am myself
an academic. I don't know if the particular branch makes a difference
-- in the hard sciences we have it dinned in from the beginning about
the Scientific Method, so our views on scholarship more generally (or
'Videnskab'/'Wissenschaft' as I'd prefer) are probably much affected
by that.

> It's in the academic's personal, psychological, and economic
> interest to define it so.

There is, perhaps, another important realisation hidden in the
history of science -- whatever we may think at any given time, we
cannot really prove our models, and any relation to Truth is as much
taken on faith as any religious belief.

> If we take more structural criteria, such as Troels', then some
> of the work done on usenet (and even the www!) definitely qualifies
> as scholarly.

I think that the best of what is 'produced' here, when it is
summarised in a proper essay or paper (which, unfortunately is rarely
done), is fully qualified to appear in these peer-reviewed journals
(such as e.g. Tolkien Studies), if these will deign to look at the
purely story-internal subject.

> Mostly work done on *this* ng, of course! <wink>

Of course ;-)

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

Knowing what
thou knowest not
is in a sense
omniscience
- Piet Hein, /Omniscience/

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 20, 2006, 8:22:35 AM7/20/06
to
In message <news:d7qdnYTSB9K-kCLZ...@rcn.net>
Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>>

<snip>

Scholarship

[quality]



>> That is precisely the big question, isn't it? How does one
>> 'measure' the quality of a cartographic work such as Fonstad's on
>> the same scale as a biographical work such as Garth's? I wish to
>> avoid the reference to 'personal preference', since a
>> 'mappophile' and a WWI- geek will view the question from two
>> completely different paradigms.
>
> I don't think it is that difficult: regardless of genre a careful
> and experienced reader like most of us who participate here can
> tell the difference between a work of quality and one that isn't,

Yes we can, but my problem is not so much to discern good from bad,
but 'very good' from 'better' -- and in particular 'very good
cartography' from 'very good biography'.

I am too much the physicist to be satisfied with 'I know it when I
see it' -- if I am to compare the two, then I must have an objective
scale that both can agree to measured upon, and that is what I can't
see.

[...]


> but to a large degree, I think we would all agree. Look at the
> amount of agreement we already have in contrast to the minor
> disagreements.

I'm sure we would, and I think that if we were to compose a list of
noteworthy Tolkien scholars in each category, then any disagreements
would be even less.

The problem, IMO, arise from having to limit ourselves to only ten
all told -- that forces a comparison between 'very good cartography'
and 'very good biography' which is not, IMO, quite as easily resolved
as the good vs. bad examples you point to.


[originality]

> Really? You can't tell whether a particular perspective on a
> specific question has never been taken before, such as Garth's
> work on Tolkien in WWI? Or pointing to a source unknown before as
> an original contribution?

Again you point out the obvious. Of course we can discern this, but
we're not comparing the originality of Day to that of Garth.
Fonstad's work was also original and well researched, and I've often
used her book to check up on lengths and measures. Are you going to
tell me that her originality is worth less than Garths? My claim is
that we're talking about different kinds of originality (all of high
quality within their field) that are, if not incommensurable, then at
least incomparable.

>> The qualities that constitute a good quality Tolkien cartographer
>> are not the same as those that constitute a good quality Tolkien
>> biographer.
>
> No, but at the same time you can tell a bad quality cartographer
> and a book that will never have its cover opened again.

Right. I claim to be able to discern, at least for my own purposes,
the difference between a very good work on a topic and a bad one. I
also acknowledge that the many, the vast majority even, of the
parameters are the same regardless of subject.

We are, however, trying to make compare the very best scholarship
across subjects that are very different in nature, and where the
available source material differs widely in amount, quality and
condition.

How are we to rate the difference when one scolar knows everything
there is to know about one subject because there is only material
enough to study for a couple of months, whereas the next scholar has
to spend a year and more to just make a dent in the mountain of
notes; take Middle-earth herbology and Elvish philology as examples.
Is the former a lesser scholar because the subject itself is smaller?
Or is the latter a lesser scholar for not knowing all there is to
known about a huge subject?

And it's not enough to count words either, because some stuff has to
be dug out in small pieces from a thousand different places in
different contexts and put into the puzzle, whereas for other
subjects large amounts are presented together and in context.


--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

Love while you've got
love to give.
Live while you've got
life to live.
- Piet Hein, /Memento Vivere/

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 20, 2006, 3:54:56 PM7/20/06
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> wrote:
>
>>Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
>
>
> <snip>
>
>>>Yes. What is needed is a combined "papers" and "books" database, and
>>>then that can be sorted by author to see who has authored the most
>>>number of items (be they books or papers or whatever).
>>
>>I would agree, but that would take a great deal of work. SOmeone
>>would need to be willing to take West's bibliography up 1978,(there
>>was an updated edition in 1990 or 1991, but I'm not sure how far the
>>new edition carried things: did it stop at 1978 or did they carry it
>>through the decade of the 80s? I shoud find it and find out.... and
>>Drout's online bib to 2000, plus the bibliographies printed in other
>>journals such as TS and collate them all into a single database. (And
>>a new bib I've just found out about the last few days: A Tolkien
>>Bibliography 1911-1980: Writings by and about J.R.R. Tolkien. Åke
>>Jonsson. Tredge Upplagen, 1986 and .R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of
>>Criticism. Judith Johnson. Greenwood Press, Westport,
>> Connecticut/London, England, 1986. ) A worthy project, but who has
>>such love and time and resources?
>
>
> I get the impression from Drout's pages that this "Tolkien Research
> Group" is doing something like this, though the "excluding linguistic
> stuff" thing threw me a bit - and they seem to be doing just papers and
> not books.

Yes, I was wondering why that too, but oh well. The TS bibliographies
seem to be including it though. As for the papers, not books, there
seem to be a number of books included. Its just that most Tolkien
studies still occur in papers and articles and so overwhelm the books
listed.

> And it would make more sense for the central place to be a university
> with the resources to maintain it. Just throw a few PhD students or
> final year students towards updating the database! :-)

Indeed it would! Apply for a grant for the database initiation, work
with the university computer folks, and get some poor student(s) to
start data entry.

> <snip>
>
>>Oh certainly! Whole journals devoted to it!!
>
>
> Oh dear. Shall we list Tolkien magazines and journals now? :-)

No, but the point was that there are plenty of people who publish papers
on Tolkien year after year and plenty of places to do so. Certainly the
folk in my top ten have all published papers, in addition to the books
that many of them have written.


>
> Shamelessly stealing from your list:
>
> Tolkien Studies
> Mythlore
> Arda
> Le Tolkieniste
> Seven
> Amon Hen
> Mallorn
> Vinyar Tengwar
> Orcrist
> Lembas
> The Flammifer of Westernesse
> Hither Shore
> Aglared
>
> +lots more
>
> Trouble is, I'm not sure which of these are more newsletter/fanzine type
> things, and which are journals. There are also, as you say, lots of
> fanzines that publish irregularly, or have stopped publishing.

Orcrist and Mytholore (now--at the beginning it was fanzine, during the
80s it became more professional), Amon Hen I'd say is borderline, Vinyar
Tengwar I'd say is a journal in that sense. But yes that is a problem,
the same problem we're discussing in fact. Seven is also academic.

> Ariel
> Folklore
>
> It would be even more interesting to see lists of the more general
> fantasy and academic journals and fanzines that have included Tolkien
> stuff, though that would be a lot harder to do.

Both Ariel and Folklore are academic. Most academic literary journals
will have published articles at some point, because, well, unless
they're specialist (Old English Newsletter, G. K. Chesterton), they
publish articles on things literary. Just peruse the TS bibs under
"Articles and Book Chapters" and you'll see a number of such journals:
English Today, Seven, Pedagogy, Proverbium, Renascence are from one of
the TS bibs, and there were a couple others that I didn't recognize.
This list excludes essays from collections and essays from Mythlore and
Mallorn, dedicated to TOlkien specifically in some way.

> <snip>
>
> [my attempt to distinguish between analysis and interpretation]
>
>
>>No, I'm afraid it doesn't. Perhaps I'm just too slow to see the
>>distinction you are making.
>
>
> Re-reading it, I don't think I can make it any clearer without having to
> think about it a lot more. Sorry. Maybe I am just splitting hairs here,
> anyway.
>
> <snip>
>
>>So I count 3 books by Carpenter.
>
>
> And you've convinced me that editorial work is important as well! :-)
>
> <snip>
>
>>>I do like the way each volume of Tolkien Studies has been
>>>"showcasing" a particular scholar, with a bibliography of their
>>>works. It was Tom Shippey in volume 1. I can't remember who was
>>>showcased in volumes 2 and 3 <rummage> ah! it was Richard C. West in
>>>volume 2. Though they seem to have dropped the idea of a lead
>>>article for volume 3.
>>
>>I'll ask about that
>
>
> Please do!

I'll let you know the answers I receive.


>
>
>>I noted that it was dropped in 3, not sure what's
>>in for 4.
>
>
> That's next year, isn't it? I have to renew my subscription - I started
> with a special three year offer, though worryingly there was no
> subscription reminder notice with the 2006 issue...

HMMM, that's odd. Maybe they don't want your money? ;)

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 20, 2006, 4:56:53 PM7/20/06
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>
> <snip>
>
>>In conclusion I find that the best of our discussions here qualify as
>>'scholarly' as I understand it, as they apply the appropriate
>>scholarly methodology with insight and understanding, resulting for
>>the participants (and hopefully for the readers) in an even better
>>understanding of the subject matter -- whether that be the role of the
>>Divine in the story or the relation / interaction between Isildur and
>>the One Ring ;-)
>
>
> I agree with this assesssment, but the crucial difference I think
> between these sorts of discussion and what some people define
> scholarship as is that what some people call scholarship involves:

I agree with the assessment as well. The BEST of our discussions here
might qualify, but our "BEST" are few and far between regrettably. BTW,
when I'm talking about scholarship I'm not talking about "quality" in
the sense that non-scholarly contributions are therefore not of a good
quality--quite the opposite. Nor am I saying that the non-scholarly
somehow lacks intellectual value--not saying that either.

>
> 1) The paper being published in a peer-reviewed or otherwise moderated
> forum or publication, or the book being accepted by a publishing firm
> (ie. not self-published as effectively all Usenet posts are).

Well, certainly to be included in a listing of Top X, I would have to
include this, especially if we retain the criteria of "impact" or
"influence". The number of readers of RABT compared to the number of
readers of say Shippey's books or Flieger's books I think pales. So
while there is value in a usenet post, and a usenet post is just as
"peer-reviewed" as an article for TS say, but the audience is
significantly smaller and so the impact on Tolkien's work less
significant. Likewise the nature of the usenet audience in comparison
affects this as well.


> 2) Putting your name to the paper (ie. being available to respond to
> what you have written, and taking responsibility for it - not always
> true on Usenet as many people write under pseudonyms and/or write in a
> more carefree manner than they would if what they were writing was
> appearing in print - though a series of published papers seems little
> better in terms of producing discussions, the discussions usually take
> place behind the scenes, with the papers providing an overview of an
> ongoing discussion - there is sometimes little sense of an overview and
> conclusion being reached in Usenet threads).

Yes, I would say this is a big difference in general, although there are
many of us here who are using our real names.

>
> 3) Moving from a "work in progress" to a "finished work" (ie. working to
> complete an argument and finish a paper or book, rather than just
> dipping in and out of topics - as enjoyable as that may be).

That's fair.

> 4) Providing references (ie. consulting the past literature and
> providing references to show this, and providing references for your own
> claims and arguments - lots of Usenet posts fail on this criteria, and
> though many of the longer posts here do reference the Tolkien sources,
> there is little (though not none at all) reference to other essays and
> studies - most of the arguments are presented as new topics, though this
> is not really the case).

YES!
>

Larry

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 24, 2006, 1:36:44 AM7/24/06
to
Troels Forchhammer wrote:
> In message <news:SpGdnXe-68gQ4CvZ...@rcn.net>
> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
>>Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>>
>
> <snip>
>
> [I would like to include . . .]
>
>
>>>someone to represent the kind of studies we usually undertake
>>>here (the 'story-internal explanation' -- studies of Middle-earth
>>>as if it were a real place), Conrad, perhaps,
>
> [...]
>
>>Yes, I considered that too. In my own mind I debate whether the
>>sorts of discussions we undertake here or in other fora on the
>>'Net count as "scholarship", and go back and forth on the
>>question.
>
>
> I'm afraid that there is only one way for me to deal with that
> question, and that is the long way :/
>
> Discussing whether it is scholarship involving scholars is obviously
> pointless unless we understand what each of us mean by that term (I've
> had too many discussions on usenet because I understood a word slightly
> differently than the OP).

Well, I'd define a scholar as one who does scholarship, whatever we mean
by the latter. Like you I would say that its a particular methodology
of approaching an author and texts.

> The academic pursuit, regardless of subject, is, in Danish, called
> 'videnskab' (Sw: 'Vetenskap', Ge: 'Wissenschaft'), which basically
> means 'an activity generating knowledge'. Generally 'understanding' is
> considered to be a sort of 'knowledge', so an activity generating new
> understanding of an existing text (e.g. the Bible) would certainly
> count as 'videnskab' in Danish, if it is undertaken in an academic
> environment, and would also be recognized as such if undertaken outside
> academic circles, if it meets academic standards.

Yes, I think we are on the same page here.


>
> All this because I am not entirely sure where to place the English word
> 'scholarship'.

-ship is a stative ending, i. e. the state of being or doing "scholar",
which as you know comes from Latin, schola "learned". That is our basis
anyway, and I think we can modify from there to include that the
"learned" exercise a certain methodology on the text/author etc in order
to derive meaning and enlightenment of same that the "knowledgeable" do
not engage in.

>
> AskOxford defines it thus:
> scholarship
> + noun
> 1 academic achievement; learning of a high level.
> 2 a grant made to support a student’s education,
> awarded on the basis of achievement.
> <http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/scholarship?view=uk>

Well, I'm being lazy, so I just looked it up at Dictionary.com and I
have to say I like the first two definitions they give there:
#1.The methods, discipline, and attainments of a scholar or scholars.
#2. Knowledge resulting from study and research in a particular field.

The second is a bit loose and I would refine it as being the "knowledge"
that results from #1. So, no, in spite of charges to the contrary I
would not restrict it to the "academic".

> If we restrict ourselves to the academic achievement, then there's not
> very much more to say, but the other part of definition 1 leaves the
> unpleasant question of what level of learning is required.
>
> The definition of 'scholar' is, perhaps, slightly more helpful:
> scholar
> + noun
> 1 a specialist in a particular branch of study,
> especially the humanities;
> a distinguished academic.
> 2 chiefly archaic a person who is highly educated or has
> an aptitude for study.
> 3 a university student holding a scholarship.
> — ORIGIN Latin scholaris, from Greek skhole (see SCHOOL).
> <http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/scholar?view=uk>
>
> I'm not sure that the history and science of Tolkien's Arda counts as
> 'the humanities', but that's not particularly required anyway.

Sure it does. Its a work, or rather several works, of literature
related to each other that sprang from the invention of working and
workable languages and alphabets. What isn't "humanities" about that?
I don't find it less than T. S. Eliot studies or Chaucer studies.

I guess
> that we can both agree that many people here are indeed scholars in
> Tolkien studies in the sense of definition 2.

I think we can agree that many here are specialists in a particular
branch of study--Tolkien's works (and mostly in a particular work, LoTR,
its background, development, sources, interpretation)

>
> I won't bother with more dictionary definitions (see additional links
> below), since everything, as I see it, boils down to two questions:
>
> A) What is required to be a 'branch of study' in the scholarly sense?

Good question, but I don't think we need really answer it. Tolkien as
an influential scholar himself and as an author of literary works and
inventor of languages all qualify his works (and therefore him) as a
"branch of study" in the same way that a specialist in Chaucer works in
Middle English and explores Chaucer's life and world,

> B) What level of learning / specialization is required for scholarship?

Not sure that can be established, particularly if we are talking about
method anyway.


> Taking another example: history.
>
> Is there any fundamental difference between what we are doing here (in
> particular when discussing the history of Arda) and what a historian
> does?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Hence my difficulty.


The historian will probably have the benefit of being able to
> study actual artefacts from the period in question, whereas all we have
> to go on are source texts and illustrations, but that seems to me
> irrelevant: in both cases the sources must be studied, held up against
> each other and evaluated. That our sources are all fictitious and
> written by one man obiviously limits the amount of source material, but
> doesn't, IMO, change the methodology or the thoroughness by which they
> are analyzed and evaluated.
>
> That we go about the study of the science of Arda in the same way as we
> go about the history of Arda is because of the conditions of that
> study; nobody would like better than me to be able to instigate
> experiments in Arda, but that route to learning is, sadly, closed ;-)

But the modern historian for example does not argue the number of angels
that dance upon the heads of pins, whether elves were sprites or not,

Larry Swain

unread,
Jul 24, 2006, 5:08:38 PM7/24/06
to
Troels Forchhammer wrote:
> In message <news:d7qdnYTSB9K-kCLZ...@rcn.net>
> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
>>Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>>
>
> <snip>
>
> Scholarship
>
> [quality]
>
>
>>>That is precisely the big question, isn't it? How does one
>>>'measure' the quality of a cartographic work such as Fonstad's on
>>>the same scale as a biographical work such as Garth's? I wish to
>>>avoid the reference to 'personal preference', since a
>>>'mappophile' and a WWI- geek will view the question from two
>>>completely different paradigms.
>>
>>I don't think it is that difficult: regardless of genre a careful
>>and experienced reader like most of us who participate here can
>>tell the difference between a work of quality and one that isn't,
>
>
> Yes we can, but my problem is not so much to discern good from bad,
> but 'very good' from 'better' -- and in particular 'very good
> cartography' from 'very good biography'.


>
> I am too much the physicist to be satisfied with 'I know it when I
> see it' -- if I am to compare the two, then I must have an objective
> scale that both can agree to measured upon, and that is what I can't
> see.


But we already suggested criteria for doing so: a) originality; not so
slippery as one supposes. From my perspecitive, Fonstad's volume is the
result of careful reading of the same text that I read. I can get the
same information from LoTR and tracing it on the maps provided, or even
draw my own crude devices. Yes, she is a better cartographer than I,
but she didn't really discover or give any new information in contrast
to Carpenter's biography which did give information not available to the
general reader previously, some of it not even available to all
Tolkien's own intimates before. So on this criteria the biography wins
over the cartography. b) contribution to Tolkien studies: Carpenter's
biographical work helps us the avid readers to better understand the
author: his life (why for example many of the major characters are
orphans, having lost both mother and father, and have another guardian
whom they love, but from whom they separate in early adulthood: think
Frodo and Aragorn in these respects, and Eomer for that matter--because
he lost his mother at an early age), his interests outside of the LoTR,
his influences, his intellectual context, his friends, his family, etc.
In this case, in my view anyway, Fonstad's excellent atlas does not
make such a contribution to either understanding LoTR generally or
Tolkien studies as a whole. The biography is something we all go back
to again and again in our discussions of things Tolkien, the atlas is
seldom introduced, and seldom as the sort of "final word" that the
references to the biography produces. c) longevity--Carpenter's
biography has proven time and time again to be a source of information
regarding Tolkien and so understanding some particular aspect Tolkien's
works for over 25 years. Fonstad's Atlas is rarely cited either here or
in print and thus its usefulness to the Tolkien scholar as we've defined
that person is limited to a particular stage in one's "scholarly"
development. Thus, I'd argue that Carpenter's biography or Shippey's
Road to MIddle Earth are more deserving to be on a "top 10" or Top X
list of must read books on Tolkien than Fonstad's Atlas, criteria which
have nothing to do with subjective valueing of biography as a genre over
cartography as a genre, but rather what this book offers both budding
AND experienced Tolkien scholars in contrast to what that book offers.


> [...]
>
>>but to a large degree, I think we would all agree. Look at the
>>amount of agreement we already have in contrast to the minor
>>disagreements.
>
>
> I'm sure we would, and I think that if we were to compose a list of
> noteworthy Tolkien scholars in each category, then any disagreements
> would be even less.
>
> The problem, IMO, arise from having to limit ourselves to only ten
> all told -- that forces a comparison between 'very good cartography'
> and 'very good biography' which is not, IMO, quite as easily resolved
> as the good vs. bad examples you point to.

Perhaps, but hopefully I've made good strides in addressing that. This
isn't to say that I do not find value in separating out "genres" of
Tolkien scholarship (biography, cartographer, interpretation,
linguistic) and listing the top books/articles of each category--I think
that is a useful way of looking at things as well. But I will continue
to maintain that listing the "top 10" or the "top 20" as a whole is also
important and valueable.


>
> [originality]
>
>
>>Really? You can't tell whether a particular perspective on a
>>specific question has never been taken before, such as Garth's
>>work on Tolkien in WWI? Or pointing to a source unknown before as
>>an original contribution?
>
>
> Again you point out the obvious. Of course we can discern this, but
> we're not comparing the originality of Day to that of Garth.
> Fonstad's work was also original and well researched, and I've often
> used her book to check up on lengths and measures. Are you going to
> tell me that her originality is worth less than Garths? My claim is
> that we're talking about different kinds of originality (all of high
> quality within their field) that are, if not incommensurable, then at
> least incomparable.
>

Well, ok, so I've pointed to the obvious. And choosing between two
books and including one and not the other I don't think is a choice of
"worth", depending on what you mean by "worth" I suppose. Importance,
long term use by a large number of people in the field, a significant
change in the way a field or subfield is viewed and studied....I suppose
these could be boiled down to "worth", but I'd prefer not to.

Having said that, I would say that Garth's is more original in that
Fonstad's atlas accesses the same readily available texts that you and I
have to determine lengths, measures etc and you and I could figure out
that information on our own by reading the texts (maybe not draw a map
as well, but that's a different story). Garth on the other accessed and
then applied information that you and I can access to, but not readily
and easily access and he certainly arranged that information and
research in a unique way to cast light on a particular aspect of Tolkien
and his works. So I would say that Garth is in fact more original than
Fonstad. So I do think they are comparable. Perhaps we need simply to
agree to disagree on the question.

>>>The qualities that constitute a good quality Tolkien cartographer
>>>are not the same as those that constitute a good quality Tolkien
>>>biographer.
>>
>>No, but at the same time you can tell a bad quality cartographer
>>and a book that will never have its cover opened again.
>
>
> Right. I claim to be able to discern, at least for my own purposes,
> the difference between a very good work on a topic and a bad one. I
> also acknowledge that the many, the vast majority even, of the
> parameters are the same regardless of subject.
>
> We are, however, trying to make compare the very best scholarship
> across subjects that are very different in nature, and where the
> available source material differs widely in amount, quality and
> condition.
>
> How are we to rate the difference when one scolar knows everything
> there is to know about one subject because there is only material
> enough to study for a couple of months, whereas the next scholar has
> to spend a year and more to just make a dent in the mountain of
> notes; take Middle-earth herbology and Elvish philology as examples.
> Is the former a lesser scholar because the subject itself is smaller?
> Or is the latter a lesser scholar for not knowing all there is to
> known about a huge subject?

But didn't we discuss being a scholar as being one chiefly of
methodology rather than amount or type of research materials available?
And while this hypothetical situation is interesting, I don't think it
reflects the nature of our discussion about the kinds of Tolkien books
there are out there and how to compare and contrast them. But say we
have a book of Middle Earth Herbology and a book of Elvish philology,
what determines that one is "better" than another or more important or
more influential it would seem to me would be the application of the
methodology in each and the other application of the criteria that I've
listed.

>
> And it's not enough to count words either, because some stuff has to
> be dug out in small pieces from a thousand different places in
> different contexts and put into the puzzle, whereas for other
> subjects large amounts are presented together and in context.
>

Never suggested anything else.

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 25, 2006, 7:04:06 AM7/25/06
to
In message <news:xoednXErBYv8wVnZ...@rcn.net> Larry

Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer wrote:
>>
>> In message <news:SpGdnXe-68gQ4CvZ...@rcn.net>
>> Larry Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>>

<snip>

> Well, I'd define a scholar as one who does scholarship, whatever
> we mean by the latter. Like you I would say that its a particular
> methodology of approaching an author and texts.

And, just to be entirely clear on that, I don't think that one can
ever, even when looking for our famed 'story-internal explanation'
dispense of the context: that it is invented and written by one man.

The questions that are asked are different, but the approach when
trying to answer them is basically the same.

<snip>

>> I'm not sure that the history and science of Tolkien's Arda
>> counts as 'the humanities', but that's not particularly required
>> anyway.
>
> Sure it does. Its a work, or rather several works, of literature
> related to each other that sprang from the invention of working
> and workable languages and alphabets. What isn't "humanities"
> about that? I don't find it less than T. S. Eliot studies or
> Chaucer studies.

You're right -- I was being disingenious trying to represent the
story-internal studies as other than literature studies. The story-
internal studies will doubtlessly benefit from employing methodology
from other areas, but must never lose sight of the author.

<snip>

>> Taking another example: history.
>>
>> Is there any fundamental difference between what we are doing
>> here (in particular when discussing the history of Arda) and what
>> a historian does?
>
> Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Hence my difficulty.

Yes, and I agree. I won't argue against you, if you think that I am
being too generous when I limit the scope of my argument to the very
best of AFT/RABT, but that is the basis for what I say.

I do admit that this introduces a double standard, treating
professional scholars harsher than amateur scholars, since it would
be a requirement to the former to consistently deliver 'scholarly'
results, but the question is whether that has to do with their
scholarship or only with their funding? I can't really come up with
any good arguments in favour of relaxing the requirement for
consistently scholarly work, except, perhaps, in order to allow at
all the possibility of amateur scholarship.

Most people here earn their money from employers who won't see an
article on Tolkien's works as acceptable return on their investment
(the wages) ;-) Hence they, we, don't have the surplus to deliver
studies of a scholarly level on a regular basis (even for those whose
general knowledge and understanding of Tolkien would allow them to
achieve that level), and the majority of our contributions do fall
short of the mark.

<snip>

I don't think we really disagree all that much (if at all) in our
basic understanding of scholarship; any difference seems rather
related to the consistency requirement: how rare can the peaks of
scholarly achievement be and yet allow the person to be a scholar?

Though I'm generally willing to allow somewhat looser requirements
for what I've termed amateur scholars, I recognize that there is an
amount of self-interest in that, and I am by no means dogmatic about
it.

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Jul 25, 2006, 3:10:42 PM7/25/06
to
In message <news:ceWdnRLy8rdRq1jZ...@rcn.net> Larry

Swain <thes...@operamail.com> enriched us with:
>

<snip>

I think this has more or less run its course. We do agree some 99% of
the way, and the rest runs the risk of degenerating into boring
quibbling (and it's not so much the quibbling I mind . . . ;-) )

> In this case, in my view anyway, Fonstad's excellent atlas does
> not make such a contribution to either understanding LoTR generally
> or Tolkien studies as a whole.

I just want to say that I think you underestimate the originality and
general contribution of Fonstad's atlas. I /know/ that I would have
been unable to produce anything like what she did, and her book has
helped me get an overview of the geopgraphy in many situations (in
particular with regards to LotR -- understanding properly the
positions of the various players during the last two volumes and
understanding the distances involved). I truly believe that she has
enabled non-cartographers to get insights into the books that they
would otherwise not have been able to get.

Unfortunately, for her, it's not really something that I am likely to
cite (except when I measure a specific distance using her maps), so
I'm not surprised that her work is very rarely cited. And of course
her work is almost exclusively applicable in story-internal
discussions, which puts her at a disadvantage with respect to the
majority of the Tolkien research that is being published in the
'scholarly' journals and books.

If we look at Tolkien studies as strictly a question of literary
scholarship, then I am willing to accept your evaluation, but
Fonstad's contribution is, I think, a good case study precisely
because its qualities fall outside the natural scope for literary
research and scholarship.

I have never read Garth's book (unfortunately), so I dont' have any
way of making the comparison myself, but my point is not so much to
disagree with your actual assessment, but rather to question your
claim that good scholarhip can be readily compared across so diverse
areas. I know that I am at a disadvantage when evaluating good
scholarship outside my own field -- not that I can't recognise good
from bad, but I'm prone to let personal taste play a much larger role
than I would with respect to physics or mathematics. Harold Bloom,
for instance, has spoken disparagingly of authors that I like, and I
would never trust myself to compare his level of scholarship to that
of others in his field. I'd like to believe that I am special, but I
can't really ;) On the other hand, I could try to evaluate his
writings based on the criteria of the natural sciences, but based on
those he would fail miserably, having published articles with clearly
false data.

> Perhaps we need simply to agree to disagree on the question.

I don't know how much we really need to disagree, but at least I
can't think of anything more to say -- I've already begun to repeat
myself ;-)

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo
- /The Fellowship of the Ring/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)

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