Thursday, May 13, 2021

Thursday at Kalamazoo

I was not feeling too well this morning, and only got to one and part of another sessions of the online medieval studies congress. Both were on Tolkien, a nice change from Wednesday.

Tolkien and dragons. 1) People over the centuries have thought that auroras were signs of distant but large fires, and that meteors were dragons. So Tolkien made them so in his fiction. An aurora that turns out to mean that Morgoth's armies are invading you from the north ... talk about chilling.
2) You know which Austrian psychotherapist's couch you're on when the presenter keeps calling a dragon "the penetrating phallus." The problem is that, if the cave is the womb-like "feminized space," that's where the dragon lives and comes out of, not what he invades, so the whole metaphor is off.
3) Traditional English dragons, including the one in Beowulf, are poisonous, and may have venomous breath, but breathe no fire. So where do Tolkien's fire-breathing dragons come from? Presenter suggests it's from Leviathan in the Book of Job, who breathes fire and also has legs, which traditional dragons (worms) often don't. Presenter leaves audience wondering if this has anything to do with earlier warning that most people don't know what's genuinely Catholic about Tolkien's work.

Tolkien and illness and healing. Less medicinal than it sounds. Two papers, one on dancing, one on singing, and how in Tolkien they heal the soul, fulfill desire, and act to express and share cultural identity. E.g. Bilbo begins to feel dwarvish and adventurous when he hears the dwarves' song, but that's only the first of many examples. Dance-paper presenter points out that, despite long religious disapproval of dancing, Dante was also pro-dance.

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