Saturday, May 15, 2021

Saturday at Kalamazoo

This was the last day of the online congress, and while I've enjoyed it, I'm also relieved it's over. In-person Mythcons last three days, Friday noon-Monday noon, and they always seem too brief, but better a little too short than a little too long. This one has been occupying the better part of my attention for 7 or 8 days, not counting previously figuring out logistics and finding the sessions I wanted to attend, nearly half of which I missed anyway.

Today's one session was on Tolkien's paratexts and related materials. Kris Swank gave some examples of marginalia and ephemera to be found in surviving books on Celtic studies that Tolkien bought during a flurry of attention to the subject in the early 1920s. Eileen Moore recounted her attempts to create a complete Elvish dictionary covering all the languages and dialects and versions in the published material, which will help draw connections between related material that wasn't visible unless you knew all the sources. Unfortunately Eileen's source list only goes up through Parma 12, so there's more to add later.

Most provocatively, Luke Shelton took issue with, or at least queried, Tolkien's statement in the Lord of the Rings foreword that the work is not an allegory. That depends on what you think an allegory is, Luke said, and he cited readers who have ignored Tolkien on that point. Then he went on to say that, since Tolkien accepted "the freedom of the reader" to interpret but that what he objected to in allegory was "the purposed domination of the author," isn't an author who objects to his work being considered allegory indulging in purposed domination? And he said it as if he'd caught Tolkien in a giant "gotcha." In reality it's a Gödelian category error, like saying the barber can't shave himself if he shaves just the men in the village who don't shave themselves. The only domination Tolkien is showing here is expecting readers not to make declarations as to what they think his allegorical purposed domination is.

Meanwhile, back at work - neither of my co-editors showed up, though they usually attend when the congress is in person and I don't - we're doing the final final editing for the next issue of Tolkien Studies before turning it in to the publishers, at which point I can announce what's in it. Minimum amount of salivation when I reported this at open chat sessions, but we're going ahead anyway.

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