Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mythcon in Atlanta: programming

So yes, I was going to get to this.

The theme was "On the Shoulders of Giants," how work has been built on the foundations of our predecessors. Both our Guests of Honor gave their plenary talks on this theme. Robin Anne Reid, the scholar who is one of the contributors to my "Year's Work in Tolkien Studies" consortium and who penned a useful Year's Work-like historical survey for the Mythsoc Press's recent collection of essays on Tolkien and women (including his female characters), talked about scholarship in the context of one's predecessors. Donato Giancola, who's painted a number of covers for recent Tolkien book editions, gave a slide talk illustrating his development as an artist in the context of the artists he most admires. While I don't much personally care for Giancola's "muscular realism" style, it's an honorable tradition in Western art history and he carries it on worthily.

My own talk, more than an academic paper, and which I delivered entirely off the cuff due to the disappearance of all my notes (see previous entry), was on the development of the "Year's Work": what goals I'm trying to accomplish by doing it and how both the individual entries and the complete annual report are put together. All that was missing was some of the more pungent entries I was planning to quote.

Other papers I attended discussed:

The moral dynamics of Frodo's journey to Mordor, with the vital roles of Sam and Gollum;

The sense of fate, that's both in a sense foredoomed and something you have to work to achieve (or avoid), that Tolkien got from Beowulf;

Frodo as a Faustus character, an interesting and unprecedented comparison from a high-school student who happened to be reading both works at once;

A stout recovery of Edith Tolkien, JRR's wife, from the calumnies the presenter perceived that biography Humphrey Carpenter poured on her;

How Tolkien may have (might have?) used the theme of music in his works to reflect his own relationship with his mother;

A close biographical and personality analysis of Sam Gamgee as a person in Tolkien's fiction;

A comparison of how C.S. Lewis and H.P. Lovecraft reacted to World War I;

An analysis of characters in Orphan Black as Parsifal figures (OK, that may sound like stretching it, but the argument was coherent);

A moderated group discussion session on thoughtful quotes from the essays of Ursula K. Le Guin;

A talk describing Mythlore's new online archives, by the editor and the archivist;

A description by its creator of a cross-edition Lord of the Rings citation system, which would be more useful if it included more editions and (if copyright allowed) more pull quotes (he actually wants us to adopt his system of numbering all the book's paragraphs - I don't think so); and his also not-very-complete index to Tolkien's published art.

Mythopoeic Awards: neither winner of the Scholarship Awards got my first-place votes, but both I consider worthy books. On the other hand, I know at least two members of the Fantasy Awards committee who disliked the Adult winner so much they refused to give it any points at all.

My personal choice for the winner of the most ingenious food sculpture at the banquet is the same young man who gave the paper on Faustus, who arranged some bits of pork loin on a plate in the shape of a large letter "S", explaining that it was the Worm Ouroboros: a worm, or a boar "S".

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