Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mythcon report, part 2

These are just some of the papers that I got to. There were many more.

Joe Christopher gave a typically long and careful report on text analysis of the late fragment "The Dark Tower" to see if Lewis actually wrote it. Shows that it proves nothing. Apparently cusum analysis, the method in question, despite scientific language surrounding it, is a highly subjective process. What gets me is that apparently nobody has ever attempted to calibrate this technique by measuring it on two highly disparate works by the same author: say LWW and The Allegory of Love, or The Book of Lost Tales and Mr. Bliss. Surely, no matter how distinctive or individual an author, there'll be some measurable difference between these, no matter what you're measuring.

Chip Crane, in the course of discussing the evolution of Tolkien's prose style and distinguishing that from changes in the plot of the Silmarillion, noted that when the Book of Lost Tales Beren and Tinuviel disguise themselves to enter Tevildo's feline lair, they're cosplaying.

Nicole duPlessis addressed the Entwives and the depiction of marriage in Tolkien. As usual in his work, when there's conflict between good peoples, both are right.

Rob Tally brought along a passel of his undergraduate students to give as talks their class assignments: write the biography of a Lord of the Rings character of your choice. Fortunately there was a minimum of "Faramir was born in Third Age 2983" and a maximum of careful reading of each character's own words and action, taken directly from the text and not filtered through previous critics. We had Faramir, Denethor, and a real tour de force from a creative writing major in the form of a biography of Sauron as written by an admiring orc.

John Rosegrant gives that rare and valuable thing, psychiatric analysis that illuminates, instead of obscures, its topic. Here he discussed how the abortive stories The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers exorcised Tolkien's anxiety-induced Atlantis dream, enabling him to embark and later continue on The Lord of the Rings. Also noted how Tolkien gave Fëanor the artistic-creative hubris that he himself was careful to abjure. This paper particularly interested me because my own also addressed The Lost Road. Note to self to send the author a reference to John Garth's article on Tolkien's emotional complexities relating to a different hitch in the composition of The Lord of the Rings.

David Emerson gave the only paper I attended that wasn't on Tolkien or Lewis. His topic was Neil Gaiman's reinvention of mythology, and was I relieved when he said he'd limit his discussion of this broad topic to Sandman and American Gods, as I've read both of those. David discussed the "pan-pantheon": Gaiman's treatment of religion and mythology as if every system is equally real. He was particularly good at pointing out the connections that are obvious once you see them, such as that every collection of three women in Sandman is some kind of echo of the Triple Goddess. Like: Unity, Miranda, and Rose; Thessaly, Hazel, and Foxglove. Yes.

Janet Brennan Croft briefly considered each and every introduction, preface, or foreword that Tolkien ever wrote.

Elise McKenna did a nice job finding the Greek elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water in the Valar Yavanna, Manwë, Aulë, and Ulmo respectively. Surely the quintessence, then, should be Varda? Elise seemed to think that too obvious. Thoughtful paper despite some interesting pronunciations: Valar as if it were "Vaylar", scholar Verlyn Flieger as if she were "Flayger", and Tolkien's wife as if her first name were "Eddith".

Andrew Lazo descended upon us with a blaze of rhetoric in an attempt to argue that it really matters whether C.S. Lewis's theistic conversion were in 1929, as he wrote in his memoirs, or 1930, as other evidence suggests it really was.

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