Saturday, September 4, 2021

Oxonmoot, day 3

Well, phooey. After usefully occupying my time awake in the middle of the night by attending online two excellent papers (mid-day UK time), I went back to bed and slept through two more I was even more interested in. Then another paper I was eager to hear turned out to be ending just as I logged in; it had been moved into the previous time slot without prior notice when that slot suddenly opened up.

The two from the middle of the night were an illustrated exploration of Tolkien's elaborate doodles (often written on newspapers he'd been reading, they depict elaborate and often abstract plants, carpets, etc.) by an expert in these, who we hope will publish a book; and a discussion of stress in LR, pointing out that some less obvious characters than Frodo also suffer from PTSD: Eowyn (who'd been living under threat of sexual assault, or didn't you notice that?), Boromir (whose behavior in the boats on Anduin is so peculiar that, the presenter said, on the front he'd have been sent to a field hospital), and Sam (secondary PTSD is often suffered by caregivers).

I also got to hear the interview with Dimitra Fimi, who has been mentoring so many younger Tolkien scholars that the chat function was trying to think of appropriate powerful-mother metaphors. Galadriel? Melian? She also does a lot of interpreting Tolkien for the media, which led to the suggestion of the title Professor for the Public Understanding of Tolkien. A lot of good questions about whither Tolkien studies. She sees specialization arising: more "bespoke" criticism about specific aspects. But I liked most her story about discovering Tolkien. Already a BA-holding ESL teacher in her native Greece, she saw a student reading a Greek translation of The Silmarillion and asked what's that? The idea of one man's mythology was attractive, so she followed the student's advice and read The Lord of the Rings first - fortunately in English, because (she says) it makes a big difference which language you encounter a story in first. Then she came to the UK to do grad work in Tolkien and the rest is history.

Of the Entertainments track, the best thing I can say is that the pandemic has done a service to costume presentations, by encouraging contestants to send in videos of themselves. These allow the audience to get a much closer look at the costumes than they would otherwise.

And in the evening, it was off for me to virtual Banff for the Kelemen Quartet in Bartok's Third and Fourth Quartets. Legendarily bristling, this is repertoire I might avoid if it weren't for Banff, because I've heard so much excellent Bartok there. This was more of it: bright, vivid, even cheerful renditions of both pieces, with the Fourth especially fine.

Oxonmoot ends at about 6 AM tomorrow morning my time, so if I'm up during the night I might hear some, and if not, not.

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