December 14, 2012

Why does Marquette University offer a course on J.R.R. Tolkien?

Because he's popular, of course, but also because they have the manuscripts:
Marquette is one of the main repositories of Tolkien's drafts, drawings and other writings _ more than 11,000 pages. It has the manuscripts for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit," as well as his lesser-known "Farmer Giles of Ham" and his children's book "Mr. Bliss."...

... Marquette students [study] Tolkien's revisions, notes, detailed calendars, maps and watercolors on site at the school's archive....

"One of the things we wanted to impress upon the students was the fact that Tolkien was a fanatical reviser," said [the school's archivist Bill Fliss]. "He never really did anything once and was finished with it."
Why does Marquette have the manuscripts?
Marquette was the first institution to ask Tolkien for the manuscripts in 1956 and paid him about $5,000.

62 comments:

Kristian Holvoet said...

I wouldn't be surprised that J.R.R. Tolkien has courses dedicated to him. Simply regarding his influence in defining and shaping on one of the most popular modern genres (Epic / High Fantasy) alone would justify it. His staggering presence overwhelms the genre to the extent that nearly every current fantasy author is building of him or rejecting him, usually consciously.

His work on Beowulf, which predated his fantasy writings also revolutionized the study an interpretation of that (and other) Old English story.


MadisonMan said...

Once you have an Encyclopaedic Knowledge of All Things Tolkien, what do you do?

Shouting Thomas said...

This is made even more curious by the reality that Tolkien's life and work are so dramatically (nay, fiercely) anti-PC.

Start with his devout Catholicism.

Then, on to his clear depiction of racial difference as having substance and meaning. Orcs are orcs, and they act as orcs. Same for hobbits.

Most notably, Tolkien wrote about good and evil as concrete, visible forces. Sauron is Satan, pure and simple... a real tangible personality. Tolkien is, as I remember, not so clear about the identity of God, or good, although good is embodied in the stolid middle class laziness and lack of interest in social engineering of the Hobbits... again an affront to the PC left. Hobbits are inclined to leave things be, unless seriously provoked.

I was particularly impressed by the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy... the part that nobody notices. Evil, defeated and shattered, immediately begins to reconstitute itself. Tolkien depicts evil as a sort of liquid metal with a life of its own. Droplets of evil attract one another, and slowly build back to the aggregate size and strength necessary to once again wage the war against good. Evil is a tangible, living thing.

The Lord of the Rings has been seized on by hippies and leftists for decades as their favorite druggie myth, but, it is, in fact a repudiation of everything they believe.

MadisonMan said...

From the article:

Most of the students were just finishing elementary school when the first "Lord of the Rings" film was released 11 years ago.

Like I need a reminder that I'm old.

Surfed said...

George Clooney says (paraphrased)- "You never know what you'll get until you ask politely."

EDH said...

We'll know the end is near when a university offers a course on George Clooney.

Crimso said...

"Like I need a reminder that I'm old."

Imagine feeling that way when applying the quote to the Bakshi version (or do you, like me, not need to imagine?).

Bob Ellison said...

I never got past Tom Bombadil.

machine said...

"The Lord of the Rings has been seized on by hippies and leftists for decades as their favorite druggie myth, but, it is, in fact a repudiation of everything they believe."


uhhh...wow.

Shouting Thomas said...

uhhh...wow.

Impressive, huh?

prairie wind said...

We have courses on Harry Potter at our local university. Haven't taken them so can't comment on course content.

machine said...

I thought this is what everyone thought of these books...including my older hippie brother and sister...and friends...and their brothers and sisters...and their parents...

with some nazi tanks thrown in dressed as elephants...

Paddy O said...

"are so dramatically (nay, fiercely) anti-PC."

Except for his strong environmentalism and anti-industrialism. Note how evil is portrayed in the actions of Saruman.

southcentralpa said...

Why does Marquette have them?

[leaps in from out of frame] NOBODY expects the Milwaukee Jesuits!!!
[leaps back out of frame]

Paddy O said...

"...it is, in fact a repudiation of everything they believe."

I do agree with this.

Kit said...

Once you have an Encyclopaedic Knowledge of All Things Tolkien, what do you do?

Become unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit - LOTR Edition, then go on a tear through the Game of Thrones saga (with accompanying Westeros board games).

This is my kid.

Shouting Thomas said...

uhhh...wow.

I have to add, machine, that the correct phrase is...

"Far fucking out!"

machine said...

Noted.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

and his children's book "Mr. Bliss."

Please, call me Iggy.

Robert Cook said...

"Then, on to his clear depiction of racial difference as having substance and meaning. Orcs are orcs, and they act as orcs. Same for hobbits."

Some might say this is a "bug" and not a feature.

Also, are orcs and hobbits different races or different species?

I would think the latter.

I read and enjoyed The Hobbit in Jr. High. I followed that by reading LOTR. I did not like it, found it a tedious bore, and only completed it because--at that time--I felt I had to complete a book once I had started reading it. (Also, I think I kept hoping it would get better.)

Mitchell the Bat said...

My favorite fun fact about Tolkien is that he hated all things modern and refused to so much as ride in an automobile.

Even if that's not true, it should be.

Robert Cook said...

"'The Lord of the Rings has been seized on by hippies and leftists for decades as their favorite druggie myth, but, it is, in fact a repudiation of everything they believe.'"

This presupposes a knowledge (impossible to have) of what every "hippy" and "leftist" believes and what they look to LOTR to provide them in the way of reading satisfaction.

Writ Small said...

There's a bit in chapter one of "The Hobbit" where Gandalf comments on Bilbo's use of the phrase "Good Morning" for a variety of meanings including, at last, as a way to indicate that the conversation should be over. That particular Britishism was never so clear to me as in the recent Oscar Wilde clip.

Patrick said...

I never got past Tom Bombadil

This should help

mccullough said...

Do they offer a course on Tolkein at UW-Madison?

Shouting Thomas said...

This presupposes a knowledge (impossible to have) of what every "hippy" and "leftist" believes and what they look to LOTR to provide them in the way of reading satisfaction.

Actually, I have this knowledge, Cookie!

kimsch said...

The Father Christmas Letters that he wrote for his son Christopher is a wonderful book.

I love the fact that the original manuscripts are just up the road.

tiger said...

I don't know if the university still does this but they used to display a nice sampling of the archives.

Hobbits and Orcs are different races not species; no why they could interbreed especially this orcs appear to be grown rather than birthed.

Yeah, saw the terrible, TERRIBLE Bakshi version, too; did I mention it is *T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E*? It is. Don't waste your time.

KLDAVIS said...

I'm surprised you didn't note that Mr. B. Fliss is the curator of the manuscript for Mr. Bliss.

Paul said...

And you wonder why the cost of education is going up and up but the value of the education is going down?

Black studies, ebonics, womens studies, indian studies, transexual studies, and what, Tolkien?

Degrees that have zero meaning in the real world but do cost alot to get.

Jim in St Louis said...

Shouting Thomas said....
blah blah blah.

ST comments constantly and usually with opinions that are so idiotic. It should be no skin off my nose but can't he freaking pass on any post? Can't he give his right clicky-clicky hand a break? I have to avoid the political postings now cause he is all over them, so here is a little post about Hobbits and there the fucker is again. Is there ANY topic on which he would NOT post a comment?

And always with the biographical over use of the personal pronoun. Jeez Grampa- shut up for once- And god forbid that Althouse posts anything about gay- Off to the races with Thomas and how he lived in the gay getto, and then with no segue into how many hairy and burly menfolk he knows who like it in the butt. Again and Again with that- Shut the Freak up ! Give it a Rest!

I really can't stand Inga and Garage/shilo can be stupid and that whoreoftheinternet is vile, Cedarford is anti-semite, Mede is too self satisfied and smug and Althouse can be very school-marm, Chip needs to get laid more and Palladian needs to get laid less, and I could go on and on- but of course my opinions are just that- mine. But I think Shouting Thomas is the only poster who I would really punch in the nose if I met him.

*end rant*

Shouting Thomas said...

But I think Shouting Thomas is the only poster who I would really punch in the nose if I met him.

I'm semi-retired these days, Jim.

I'd love to have a fist fight with you, but at my age, I'd just shatter my hand.

Not a grandpa yet. My daughter is due next June!

Marshal said...

kimsch said...
The Father Christmas Letters that he wrote for his son Christopher is a wonderful book.

I love the fact that the original manuscripts are just up the road.


Many of the backstory histories are great reads also. The Silmarillion starts of slow, but the stories later in the book flesh out the histories alluuded to in LOTR. People who found LOTR interesting but overlong might enjoy those.

Sam L. said...

southcentralpa: Good One!

edutcher said...

Why?

Maybe because the little darlings haven't the intellectual sophistication to study Moliere, Aeschylus, Chekov, or Noel Coward.

Chuck Currie said...

Waterstone's Top 100 Books of the Century - #1 Lord of the Rings.

Why wouldn't you study Tolkien?

How about - Louis Markos' "On the Shoulders of Hobbits - the Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis"

For a quickie - NRO's Between the Covers - John J Miller interview with Louis Markos

Cheers

Patrick said...

Jim in St. Louis celebrating Festivus with "the airing of grievances."

Good for the soul.

kimsch said...

Marshal,

My aunt bought me the Silmarillion for my birthday when it came out. Loved it.

Shouting Thomas said...

Abridged version of Jim in St. Louis' rant...

Hell is other people!

It was a good rant, Jim!

Rusty said...

Why does Marquette have the manuscripts?
Marquette was the first institution to ask Tolkien for the manuscripts in 1956 and paid him about $5,000.


I did not know that.

Paddy O said...

Why study Tolkien?

*Contemporary literature
*Influence of folk traditions on contemporary society (look where he gets the names of his dwarves)
*Philology (he created languages, then culture and stories to go with them)
*Pop culture/sociology
*Postmodern literature (Tolkien, I could argue, was an early expression of literature after modernity)
*Writing
*modern mythology
*history of mid-20th century Britain

In short, Tolkien makes a lot of sense for an English or Literature major to study, and having his manuscripts and works would add a significant boon to someone focused on study, and Marquette is simply offering an avenue of specialization that should define advanced scholarship.

sabeth.chu said...

i took the plunge, and the long hard road through christopher tolkien's history of middle-earth. 12 volumes. but afterwards you have an insight into how literature is made like never before.
marquette got themselves a bargain!

Chuck Currie said...

I find there's a pretty straight line from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings through the Iliad/Odyssey to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Virtuous adventures - good and evil - the known and unknown - the great mysteries - heroes and villains - God and gods.

Cheers

edutcher said...

Congrats, Shout.

Shouting Thomas said...

I'm excited, edutcher. Thanks!

Baron Zemo said...

"I really can't stand Inga and Garage/shilo can be stupid and that whoreoftheinternet is vile, Cedarford is anti-semite, Mede is too self satisfied and smug and Althouse can be very school-marm, Chip needs to get laid more and Palladian needs to get laid less, and I could go on and on- but of course my opinions are just that- mine. But I think Shouting Thomas is the only poster who I would really punch in the nose if I met him."

Holy shit!

Bob Costas post on Althouse.

Marshal said...

Chuck Currie said...
Virtuous adventures - good and evil - the known and unknown - the great mysteries - heroes and villains - God and gods.


There's a lot more to it than good vs evil or the religious elements. One of his main themes was that everyday people - those who prefer to not to get involved - are the ones that make the difference. That theme has many applications. The greatness is in the variety of themes and in how they interact.

Baron Zemo said...

Meade should definitely check out "The Hobbit."

He can learn about the proper care and maintenance of hobbit feet.

That is gonna come in real handy the next time she asks for a pedicure.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Once you have an Encyclopaedic Knowledge of All Things Tolkien, what do you do?

The same thing you'd do with an encyclopedic knowledge of any other author: become a barista.

Baron Zemo said...

Oh one thing.

I doubt that Palladian would say that he needs to get laid less.

Not that this is any of our business. Just sayn'

Chuck Currie said...

Shouting Thomas: "The Lord of the Rings has been seized on by hippies and leftists for decades as their favorite druggie myth, but, it is, in fact a repudiation of everything they believe."

I was a hippie/leftie/Vietnam vet in the late 60s early 70s, and I and my friends all seized on to the Hobbit/LOTR, and don't forget Watership Down. Then we moved on to Dostoevsky/Tolstoy/Brautigan/Kerouac/Heller/Heinlein/Vonnegut.

I grew out of my hippie/leftie ways, but still hold on to my love of the Hobbit/LOTR/Watership Down, and all the hippie/leftie/beat authors (I know, Dostoevsky/Tolstoy?).

Cheers

Shouting Thomas said...

Chuck, I'm a huge Dostoevsky fan, and a middling Tolstoy fan.

Chuck Currie said...

Marshall: " ..everyday people - those who prefer to not to get involved..."

The ordinary man (woman) who does extraordinary things. It's "the hero's journey" as outlined by Joseph Campbell.

Cheers

MadisonMan said...

To answer your question: Because there is demand for it, and because students pay money to take it.

@Shouting: Have a great time with the grandkid. My sister became a grandmother in November. To say she is smitten with the little girl would be vast vast vast understatement.

creeley23 said...

This past Thanksgiving I listened to the BBC radio drama of Lord of the Rings while driving to visit family scattered over the southwest. The BBC version is thirteen hours long and far more faithful to the books and their spirit than the Peter Jackson movie extravaganza.

While listening, I was struck by what an extraordinary tribute to hardy middle-class values Tolkien had created -- completely at odds with the modernist aesthetic, which is why few college courses are offered on Tolkien.

creeley23 said...

More and more I think that Lord of the Rings is *the* masterpiece of English literature in the second-half of the 20th century, not that that will be acknowledged any time soon.

What other novels compare?

As modernism devolved into postmodernism, the pickings get very slim. Lolita, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five, Henderson the Rain King -- to name some of the few top post-1950 entries in the Modern Library listing of best English novels.

Lolita is the best of the lot for Nabokov's sheer power as a prose stylist, but there is no getting around that is a tale told by a pedophile. Unless one is onboard for its transgressive frisson or persuaded that it is a deeply moral novel underneath, it's kind of icky reading. At least it's nothing I want to read again.

However, LOTR is such a loving and lovely creation that it repays repeated encounters. Despite its appearance as an overlong fairy tale, it is deep, mythic, and complex, and as well thought-out as Ulysses. Everything in Middle Earth is the tip of an immense iceberg that Tolkien had envisioned.

I know of no other recent literary work that takes me through such a range of emotions and leaves me contemplating the larger values of life as Lord of the Rings. I know that I am not alone in this.

southcentralpa said...

creeley 23 You'd get a certain amount of argument from those who would nominate O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin books for that niche.

Jim in St Louis said...

creeley23-
right on the money, I agree about it being THE masterwork of the last century. But I think that JRRT was pulling from a history of nordic/celtic sagas that have been lost. So somehow its both modern and ancient.

creeley23 said...

southcentralpa: Could be. I've a friend who is crazy for the O'Brian series, but I've only seen the Russell Crowe movie.

Jim in St Louis: To be sure LOTR is informed by Tolkien's knowledge of nordic/celtic sagas, which is part of its charm since most of us do not know those sagas beyond, perhaps, vague awareness of Beowulf leftover from school days.

I'm grateful Tolkien avoided turning it into a Christian allegory, although Tolkien himself was deeply Catholic. I find C.S. Lewis's Narnia tales thin because they are so obvious that way.

However, the Christian notion of sacrifice does come through Frodo, who never fully recovers from the wounds he suffered in his battles with evil and thus loses the comfortable, happy hobbit life he had looked forward to, so that others, notably Sam Gamgee, can live that life.

Jim S. said...

I don't see anything unusual about having a course on Tolkien. Not only is he one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, but professors often teach courses on very narrow subjects that are near and dear to their hearts. I've seen some schools that have courses on C. S. Lewis specifically or more generally the Inklings.

creeley23 said...

I don't see anything unusual about having a course on Tolkien.

Jim S.: It's not that unusual to have *a* course on Tolkien. Much less substantial courses can be found in current college offerings in the various media and identity departments.

However, we are far from seeing standard courses on Tolkien, in spite of his great, I would argue, literary achievement. Tolkien is way too white, conservative, male, Christian, and bourgeois -- all death in the academy for some time now.

But then again, from what I hear they aren't teaching Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner much either. Got to make room for Toni Morrison and such.

Jim in St Louis said...

"I don't see anything unusual about having a course on Tolkien."

Isn't funny how words change- liberal education used to mean something about the person learning, that they were liberal=free=not bound to labor and could pursue learning purely for the sake of learning.

as opposed to learning something like..oh..saw the law.

why not have academia promote this? The problem is equivalence. Dr of Tolkien studies is very different from Dr of Medicine.