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Tolkien and Metafictinon


Sep 9 2013, 12:54pm

Views: 492
Tolkien and Metafictinon Can't Post

I thought I'd start a pretentious thread about Tolkien and the notion of 'meta-fiction'. If anyone follows the journal 'Tolkien Studies' you may have noticed that over the last few years they've been running quite a few papers on the question of Tolkien's meta-fictional conceits. Brljak's article (2011) for instance argued that the overall conceit of the Lord of the Rings - that it is ultimately a translation of an unknown number of 'manuscripts' (only the initial manuscripts in the tradition having been actually written by Bilbo, Frodo and Sam) - is actually its defining characteristics and should be granted far more attention.

For example Brljak argues that we cannot 'view' the story contained within the pages of LoTR without some degree of readerly skepticism, given that Tolkien alerts us to the manuscript conceit in the Prologue (indeed explains it in considerable depth). He therefore argues for a new approach to Tolkien that "problematizes", to use that hideous piece of Po-Mo jargon, the novel's claim to authenticity. Furthermore, he argues that the prevalence of novelistic technique argues against the status of the work as a straightforward translation of 'Frodo's memoir' - instead we should see it as a 'history' that has been 'novelised' by successive generations of scholars.

But if we view the work in this way, what are we to make of its claims to verisimilitude? We treat the LoTR as though it were an unproblematic window into this 'Secondary World' - but what if (just bear with me!) it is nothing of the sort, and instead is an artistic compilation from out of that secondary world, but which represents it only fictionally.

This is perhaps all very ridiculous, but Brljak and Gergely Nagy have been arguing for some years that some kind of meta-fictional approach to Tolkien's work is essential. It both creates, and possibly distorts and undercuts, that familiar sense of 'depth' that Shippey and others have commented on.

Your thoughts about this?

Subject User Time
Tolkien and Metafictinon Bombadil21 Send a private message to Bombadil21 Sep 9 2013, 12:54pm
    An interesting approach Na Vedui Send a private message to Na Vedui Sep 9 2013, 2:37pm
    Hmm- if you accept the meta fiction idea does it help explain anything which is difficult to explain otherwise? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Sep 9 2013, 8:39pm
        Yeah, to me it seems to make things more disjointed and confusing. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Sep 9 2013, 8:53pm
            Yes... it's an interesting idea, but..... elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Sep 9 2013, 9:18pm
    Contrast Equals Interest squire Send a private message to squire Sep 10 2013, 3:40am
    Mixed thoughts Fredeghar Wayfarer Send a private message to Fredeghar Wayfarer Sep 10 2013, 8:42am
        That's great Fredeghar.. elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Sep 10 2013, 5:48pm
            You did say it coherently. But in Quenya. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Sep 10 2013, 5:49pm
                ? Quenya elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Sep 10 2013, 5:55pm
    I wish I could stop thinking... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Sep 10 2013, 4:28pm
    How much can we trust the narrator then? Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Sep 11 2013, 2:57pm
    Froda Elthir Send a private message to Elthir Sep 11 2013, 4:37pm
        Games linguists play Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Sep 12 2013, 2:27am
    Speculating . . . brennanspeaks Send a private message to brennanspeaks Sep 14 2013, 3:32am
        Mae govannen Brennanspeaks elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Sep 15 2013, 7:57am
        Fun speculation CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Sep 15 2013, 2:09pm


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