Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The question of race in Beowulf [and Tolkien's scholarship thereof]

kzer_za
Lorien

Sep 28, 9:36pm

Post #1 of 22 (2148 views)
Shortcut
The question of race in Beowulf [and Tolkien's scholarship thereof] Can't Post

https://daily.jstor.org/...-of-race-in-beowulf/


I know Tolkien and race is a sensitive and sometimes overdone topic, but this article takes a different angle on it than the usual so I thought it would be worth discussing. First of all, I don't know enough about the relevant scholarship to fully evaluate this article's claims, but I will put a couple of critiques here.

First of all, I'm not sure why the author is drawing a connection from "the curse of Ham" to Cain to show that Tolkien racialized Grendel. Ham is not a "descendant of Cain" and they have little to with each other besides both being characters in the first section of Genesis. It seems she's just jumping between points and getting her biblical references mixed up? And Grendel is associated with Cain in the original text, it's not something Tolkien added...Really not sure what's going on there.

Also, if you're going to say "he upheld the English empire's white supremacy" you should also note what Tolkien said about the British empire, eg: “I know nothing about British or American imperialism in the Far East that does not fill me with regret and disgust.” (letter 100) If you want to argue he was still influenced by the Empire from his culture despite this, fine, but I don't think it's fair to make this accusation while ignoring his actual views on the subject (which the author may well be unaware of).

Let's try to keep this discussion civil.


(This post was edited by kzer_za on Sep 28, 9:40pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 28, 10:35pm

Post #2 of 22 (2092 views)
Shortcut
Simply put [In reply to] Can't Post

the current fashion in PC academia is to accuse any and everybody of racism, sexism or the like. Usually always as ignorant as the linked article, by people who know nothing about the subject they're denouncing before the People's Tribunal.

In other words, it's complete bovine excrement.

(Incidentally, it was the poet some thousand years ago who named Grendel a descendant of Cain. Not Tolkien. How some of this drivel ever gets published......)


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Sep 28, 10:37pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 29, 12:22am

Post #3 of 22 (2072 views)
Shortcut
Grendel's Descent [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
(Incidentally, it was the poet some thousand years ago who named Grendel a descendant of Cain. Not Tolkien. How some of this drivel ever gets published......)


Yes, kzer_za makes that same point in the middle of the original post. Though I expect the reference to Cain was added by the Christian monks who recorded Beowuld rather than the unknown, original author(s).

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


The Dude
The Shire

Sep 29, 12:25am

Post #4 of 22 (2072 views)
Shortcut
The most striking aspect [In reply to] Can't Post

...about these kinds of pieces – not always but in most cases – is the overall mind-numbing banality of what is actually written here. One can agree or disagree with the overall viewpoint, in this particular case about Tolkien or elsewhere, but it would really help if the relevant article had some basic sense of structure, originality, or erudition.


I do not consider myself a Tolkien expert at all, but over the years I have stumbled upon post-Lacanian Marxist articles on the “Lord of the Rings”, and even a piece that discusses the Eye of Sauron from the perspective of psychoanalytic critical theory. I did not agree with most of the arguments put forth in these articles, some were downright ludicrous, but those pieces were at least intellectually stimulating; i.e., they had something to say that could not be published in Teen Vogue as well. They did not just amount to a series of decontextualized comparisons, odd anachronisms, or downright embarrassing jumps to conclusions.

Perhaps it is only a coincidence but when reading such papers as the one linked here one gets the unmistakable feeling that the author is really unsatisfied with their work in boring-old academia (“All that reading!”), and would have rather preferred to work as an opinion-piece writer for Salon or Vox; that is, as a “thought leader” of today (or was it 2010?), harvesting the endorphin-inducing benefits of social-media-based interactions along the way.


squire
Half-elven


Sep 29, 1:43am

Post #5 of 22 (2063 views)
Shortcut
I don't disagree with some of the criticism already posted, [In reply to] Can't Post

because I also thought many of the 'facts' about Tolkien and his work were distorted or wrong, and the level of analysis did seem shallow or casuist at times. But...

But I have to say I was interested in the idea of a racial or colonialist critique of medieval and Anglo-saxon studies in the 20th century. It is a legitimate set of questions to ask: not so much why are the heroes of traditional European literature white (duh), but how does the study of that heroism and that whiteness intersect with the undoubted racialism of Euro-America's conquest of the non-white world in the same period as when modern Western literary, philological, and cultural scholarship were basically invented? What happens when people of color, absorbed deliberately into Western academicism, begin to point out that things that seem obvious to their professors are not as obvious to them? Is a culture's view of its past to be unchanging, when the culture itself is not unchanging in very large and even radical ways? Does framing or arguing a question less than fluently mean the question is itself invalid or uninteresting?

Thanks for posting this - perhaps Tolkien fans of color on this site can contribute an angle or two or response that I as a more or less traditional-minded white guy may have missed.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 29, 5:52pm

Post #6 of 22 (1983 views)
Shortcut
Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

We are talking about Beowulf, not Othello or Don Quixote. The Beowulf poet lived in an ethnic monoculture, one where race was not even on his mental horizon- why should it be? The furthest his consciousness of "race" would have gone was the difference between Englisc and Wealas.


Quote
What happens when people of color, absorbed deliberately into Western academicism, begin to point out that things that seem obvious to their professors are not as obvious to them?


Speaking generally, not an invalid question; but in this particular application wholly off the mark, since the paper in question is a jumble of utter ignorance and political cant, churning up a classic exercise in guilt-by-insinuation. What does the author "point out that is not obvious to" previous, white Anglo-Saxonists? Nothing whatsoever, aside from the laughable rubbish claim that Grendel was somehow "black" (derived from a gormless unfamiliarity with that fundamental cultural text, the Old Testament).


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Sep 29, 5:53pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 29, 5:56pm

Post #7 of 22 (1969 views)
Shortcut
Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Perhaps it is only a coincidence but when reading such papers as the one linked here one gets the unmistakable feeling that the author is really unsatisfied with their work in boring-old academia (“All that reading!”), and would have rather preferred to work as an opinion-piece writer for Salon or Vox; that is, as a “thought leader” of today (or was it 2010?), harvesting the endorphin-inducing benefits of social-media-based interactions along the way.


Hate to break it to you, but this is precisely the way to advance along the tenure track in contemporary academia. The modern trivium is race, class, and gender. And it pays a lot better than Vox or Salon.


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 2, 12:01pm

Post #8 of 22 (1759 views)
Shortcut
Some of the critics are monsters??? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
What happens when people of color, absorbed deliberately into Western academicism, begin to point out that things that seem obvious to their professors are not as obvious to them?


I agree it's a legitimate and interesting area. But I thought that the clearest bit of Dr Kim's article was the assertion that people of colour have been, and still are being, deliberately excluded from the study of Beowulf and similar sources. She complains of "black and non-white scholars being shut out of medieval studies", and "incidents of white supremacy and gatekeeping". She says that "As a result of these incidents, studying Beowulf has long been a privilege reserved for white scholars."

(I'm supposing we'd all agree that this is utterly deplorable if true, but I'm also supposing that few people likely to join this discussion have the knowledge or personal experience of the field to comment on whether it is true?)

I interpert Dr Kim as meaning that, if only the 'gatekeepering' and 'white supremecy' could be corrected then we might have new insights - maybe even as unexpected and stimulating to the field as Tolkien's 'Monsters and the Critics' was in his day. That does indeed seem at least a possibility, if one accepts that Beowulf scholarship has become restricted to a certain kind of groupthink. Understandably, it's impossible to say what such a new unepxected contribution would be without actually contributing it, and so what we're missing (if anything) can't be proven.

The article then moves on to the promised-in-the title "The question of race in Beowulf" (as opposed to "The question of racism in Beowulf scholars"). Like others, I found the argument unsatisfying. Who puts race there - the Beowulf poet? The critics (especially Tolkien)? I wasn't sure. I didn't find myself bound to agree from Dr Kim's article that "Tolkien would have read Beowulf’s Grendel, who is linked to Cain, as a black man". Perhaps as an amateur only peripherally interested in Beowulf I'm missing explanations that Dr Kim's fellow Assistant Professors of Medieval Literature would not need. But I also wondered -- if I temporarily accept that assertion as true, how does that affect or change Tolkien's insights in 'Monsters and Critics'? I thought his contriution was principally:
1) to see the poem as a worthwhile work of literature, and
2) to argue that it properly contains monsters against which the hero must ultimately fail, but against which he must nonetheless not give up.

I'm missing the racism in that insight. IMaybe the idea is that racism is inherent in stories about monsters (e.g. because one could see monsters as an alien race and readers are encouraged to feel that 'the only good monster is a dead monster'). But I'm just guessing here - perhaps the point is something else entirely.

I enjoyed reading some of Toni Morrison's comments of Beowulf, which I located as being in a set of essays called "The Source of Self Regard". One can read some of it in this Google Books URL : https://books.google.co.uk/...ge&q=beowulf&f=false I also hadn't previously heard about the novel 'Grendel' by John Gardner. In it, Gardner imagines Grendel's search for meaning in the world, which sounds interesting.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 4, 12:31am

Post #9 of 22 (1682 views)
Shortcut
The [In reply to] Can't Post

situation was nailed in a recent piece by Gilbert Sewall (The Twilight of the Humanities):


Quote
At most colleges and universities the faculty and administrative apparatus that controls hiring and promotion, academic presses, and discretionary money feels obligated to go with the intellectual flow. Mediocre colleges and universities teem with copycat professors who seek to bring postmodern style and identity politics to the provinces. They do so unimaginatively, so that questionable theories, social subversion, and transgressive antics get dumbed down into further mediocrity.



squire
Half-elven


Oct 4, 4:00am

Post #10 of 22 (1651 views)
Shortcut
That sounds like every social institution since the dawn of time [In reply to] Can't Post

Did Sewall show that academia used to be different, so that most colleges and universities at some point within living memory bucked the intellectual flow, had no copycat professors, and refused to teach the dominant intellectual paradigm of the time to the provinces? Are mediocre colleges, questionable theories, transgressive antics, and social subversion something new in the history of higher education, according to Sewall?

That's not my understanding of main street America's ongoing battle with its elite educational institutions, going back to ... oh, roughly the beginnings of European settlement.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 4, 4:49am

Post #11 of 22 (1647 views)
Shortcut
Wasn't the point of "The Cave", a group to which Tolkien belonged... [In reply to] Can't Post

...to rebel a certain kind of orthodoxy in Oxford's teaching of English language and literature?


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 4, 4:49am

Post #12 of 22 (1648 views)
Shortcut
And speaking from personal experience, it's not just in the humanities. [In reply to] Can't Post

I remember fellow students complaining that some of our math and science teachers merely wanted students who would "parrot" back the answers.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 4, 4:52am

Post #13 of 22 (1646 views)
Shortcut
I don't know about "deliberately", but... [In reply to] Can't Post

as someone who has attended a lot of Tolkien (and Inklings) conferences as well as the annual medieval conference in Kalamazoo for many years, I can say that the attendees are overwhelmingly white -- far more so than, say, the company where I work. I wish there were more people of color at both kinds of events! (And the medievalist conference, apparently stung this year by some bad publicity which I missed, is now taking steps to be more encouraging and welcoming.)


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 4, 4:54am

Post #14 of 22 (1652 views)
Shortcut
All that said, this appears to be a poor article. [In reply to] Can't Post

Even skimming it quickly, I see a number of errors of fact and highly dubious interpretations.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 4, 4:58am

Post #15 of 22 (1650 views)
Shortcut
Too few writers consider how wrong their own "enlightened" opinions will someday seem. [In reply to] Can't Post

I guarantee you that 80 years from now, some critics are going to be looking back at Toni Morrison's writings, praised by this scholar, and complain about how backwards or narrow-minded she was.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 4, 9:13am

Post #16 of 22 (1620 views)
Shortcut
A general response [In reply to] Can't Post

If I may, I'd like to take in many replies since and before my "Some of the critics are monsters??" post. So this is addressed ot the thread generally, not just in reply NE Brigand.

"All that said, this appears to be a poor article." I don't think that's in dispute in this discussion. Several of us have commented on faults in it, such as it being difficult to follow the logic. But, speaking of logic, isn't the quality or style of the writing irellevant to whether it describes a situation that is true? The assertion that Beowulf studies (or Medievalism or however you'd like to frame the arena) has a race problem is not a conclusion Dr Kim reaches by the logic of her article -it is an opening assertion based on work by Kathy Lavezzo (about Tolkien's treatment of Dr Stuart Hall) and on the resignation of Dr Mary Rambaran-Olm. Dr Kim's article has nothing more to offer about whether this assertion of a race problem is true - one would have to read the references in that passge of Dr Kim's article, for example, Dr Mary Rambaran-Olm's article here https://medium.com/...premacy-17c87b360bf3 and a letter of support to her here https://medievalistsofcolor.com/2019/09/


"The Twilight of the Humanities", "the current fashion in PC academia" " the unmistakable feeling that the author ... would have rather preferred to work as an opinion-piece writer for Salon or Vox" etc. are likewise a species of ad hominem attack. Rubbishing academics generally, or those in the humanities, or any other subset of them doesn't have any effect except distraction from the truth or otherwise of what they are saying. That has to be judged case by case, surely?
Let's suppose there is currently a fashion for looking for racism everywhere, or that is the current way to make one's career progress. Naturally that might result in some low-quality accusations, as well as some alid ones as new light being shone on areas that could do with it. Is the idea that a fashion for this work invalidates all (not just some) of the findings? That is illogical, surely? Ironically, if you argue that there are silly fashions in academia, then you are arguing that the academic establishment is not good at correctly using its power to decide who, and whose ideas, currently progress. That is exactly the patronage system that could ('could', not 'must') readily be abused for racist (or other -ist) purposes.

I'm not in the field, or in any way responsible for how it behaves, and cannot prove whether it has a widespread race problem or not. But I don't think that rubbishing the uncomfortable idea away is the right thing to do about it.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 4, 5:24pm

Post #17 of 22 (1591 views)
Shortcut
Fair play [In reply to] Can't Post

It's true that poor Joy Kim serves almost as a walking, talking strawman, her piece is so execrable and easy to lambast. But that is still somewhat related to shooting the messeneger.

So what of the message? It's one of guilt-by-insinuation. Tolkien, it is claimed, was "born and raised in South Africa," and supposedly that heritage (which is implied, though not stated, to include an adherence to apartheid) is used as a bludgeon. But of course the statement is doubly false: technically, because Tolkien was born (to English parents) in the Orange Free State seventeen years before there was a South Africa, and factually false in that he was most decidedly not raised in Africa at all; he was removed to England at the age of five and was raised in Birmingham. In adult life he had only one memory of Africa: a eucalyptus Christmas tree drooping in the blazing summer heat.

So what did he think of his putative heritage? Well, as he wrote to Christopher, then serving in SA in the RAF:

Quote
As for what you say or hint of 'local' conditions: I knew of them. I don't think they have much changed (even for the worse). I used to hear them discussed by my mother; and have ever since taken a special interest in that part of the world. The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort. not many retain that generous sentiment for long.

And as he stated bluntly in his valedictory address,

Quote
I have the hatred of apartheid in my very bones.


And yet we see Stuart Hall slyly identifying Tolkien as a "South African" (not by name, but by a label which implies "Botha-Smuts-De Klerk" without, quite, saying so. This despite Tolkien's many-times repeated statements that he was an Englishman through and through, and in particular a West Midlander. As he told Christopher, Stenton's Anglo-Saxon England is the "intriguing story of the origins of our peculiar people. And indeed of us in particular. For barring the Tolkien (which must long ago have become a pretty thin strand) you are a Mercian or Hwiccian (of Wychwood) on both sides." It was his habit, when signing hotel registers, to give his nationality as "English," not "British," and his letters are full of his disdain for the Empire. He was, in sum, a classic Little Englander.

Lavezzo's paper is, simply put, a hatchet job. It's much more competently executed than Kim's bumbling effort, but for that reason it is all the more to be censured: Lavezzo can't plead stupidity. What it boils down to is that age-old whine, "It's because I'm black, isn't it?" No, Dr. Hall: it's because you proposed an idea that any English professor of Tolkien's generation would have regarded as heretical. One would expect exactly the same reaction had some student proposed to a music professor born in 1892 that the curriculum include rock and roll. Tolkien, after all, had once opposed the English School including any work written in Modern English, and supported the view that "students can read novels on their own time." Tolkien, although a moderate and a peacemaker in the Lit-Lang wars, was nonetheless Lang and saw little merit in studying languages that weren't, in Kim's word, "foreign." (To Tolkien, of course, OE was anything but).

Nor did this exchange "exclude Hall from Anglo-Saxon studies." Especially since his rejected proposal had nothing to do with Anglo-Saxon at all!

________________________

As to the broader qustion: why are there so few, if any people of color in Anglo-Saxon scholarship? Well, to start with one might first ask why there are are so few people at all in Anglo-Saxon scholarship? It's a very small field, an academic niche; the glory days of comparative philology are long gone and Tolkien himself was perhaps the last great exponent. So we have a very small smaple size; and moreover that smaople is entirely self-selected. People choose to pursue this tiny specialty because they really want to, because they have a passion for it, even though there is little money and less career opportunity to be had (unlike, say, the burgeoning and lucrative field of Victimhood Studies).

It probably also is not too much of a stretch to observe that this desire is most likely to be found among people who feel a personal connection to the subject; Tolkien believed, rather unscientifically, that he had a genetic predisposition to West Midland dialects. It is hardly a surprise that in the 19th-century glory days of Germanic philologty, almost every single practitioner came from Germany, Scandinavia or England? You won't find any Italians or Spaniards or Frenchmen or Russians; they certainly had philologists, but they had their own linguistic traditions to mine.

It seems to me that cases of non-English, non-Germanic aspirants wanting to be Anglo-Saxonists are very thin on the ground, and in terms of any having been actually thwarted, in other words the current demographic having come about through anything more sinister than self-selection, we have only the case of Dr. Rambaran-Olm. Well, in her case we have only her naked allegation that "I’ve struggled to prove my worth as a scholar, as my skin color constantly impedes on how I am perceived and in turn what I am capable of achieving." Together with (anonymous) hearsay claims of overtly racist comments made by others.

(to be continued)


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Oct 4, 5:25pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 4, 5:55pm

Post #18 of 22 (1585 views)
Shortcut
Con't [In reply to] Can't Post

And of course there is the rather irrelevant railing about how ignorant neo-Nazis today misappropriate Beowulf (as if ignorant real Nazis, in Tolkien's words "that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler," didn't misappropriate Scandinavian myth!!!) This has nothing to do, at all, with Anglo-Saxon scholarship. It does however form a carnival-mirror reflection of what Tolkien had to say: "Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."

But when we get to the meat of her complaint, her own ill-received work, what we are seeing is her railing against the "Eurocentrism" of Early English studies (oh, the horror!). In particular she cites this:

Quote
But consider important figures within the early English narrative, like the late 7th/early 8th-century monks Hadrian and Theodore — refugees from Asia Minor whose influence had an enduring effect. Hadrian described as “a man of African race” might be the most important ‘black Briton’ in English history,..


Black? Really? Here I give you the beginning of his bio from the Catholic Encylopedia: "St Hadrian of Canterbury (otherwise known as St Hadrian the African), was born in a Greek speaking part of Cyrenaica in Libya around AD 635." Does it really need rehearsing that, just as with the A-S translator who coined Sigelhearwan for "Ethiopians," pre-Renaissance Europeans had virtually no contact with black Africans save the occasional literary reference to Nubians or Abyssinians (and one, singular, embassy in the 15th century); and that in the Late Classical era of Hadrian and Theodore "Africa" meant the Mediterranean littoral, only, and even that as an extension of Africa proper, modern Tunisia? Cyrenaica, in particular, was a region populated in the first instance by Berbers, and then from the 7th c. BC onward colonized by Greeks, who dominated Cyrene and environs through the Roman period and even the Vandal kingdom. St Hadrian was no more "black" than Cleopatra was.

Now, a professor these days could easily get away with that in an African Studies department (where Black Athena is actually used as a textbook!), or even a history department, but since the rather isolated backweater of philology and Anglo-Saxon studies still apparently has standards, she couldn't get away with it and is now crying "RAY-cists!"

Now, I'm not familiar with Dr Rambaran-Olm's work; but I have just a suspicion that she quit not because she was discriminated against because of her melanin level, but because she was frustrated; and she was frustrated because her effort of infecting the field with the modern diabolic trivium of Race, Class & Gender which has ravaged so much of the humanities, failed. So she took herr ball and went home.

Not to be too condescending, but... buh-bye.

So how does this, actually, all affect Tolkien's mighty legacy? Well, to quote Cassius, Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves.


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 4, 6:15pm

Post #19 of 22 (1575 views)
Shortcut
I [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Did Sewall show that academia used to be different, so that most colleges and universities at some point within living memory bucked the intellectual flow, had no copycat professors, and refused to teach the dominant intellectual paradigm of the time to the provinces? Are mediocre colleges, questionable theories, transgressive antics, and social subversion something new in the history of higher education, according to Sewall?

That's not my understanding of main street America's ongoing battle with its elite educational institutions, going back to ... oh, roughly the beginnings of European settlement.


would respond that there is nothing at all new about third-rate professors at second-rate provincial universities feebly aping the great or at least influential minds of their day. What is different is that in days gone by they were feebly aping scholarship, not rubbish. As Sewall points out, the political cancer began at Harvard and Yale, not Slippery Rock.


squire
Half-elven


Oct 4, 7:31pm

Post #20 of 22 (1572 views)
Shortcut
Is "It's because I'm black, isn't it" an age-old whine? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am trying to imagine someone saying it before about 1980, and failing. Before then, the question didn't need to be asked, I'd venture. And by now, it seems it's a double-edged hyper-ironic joke that has so many angles it's become almost meaningless.

Although a lot of your argument is sensible on the face of it, given Tolkien's background and the nature of Anglo-saxon studies, I feel that the tone (including terms like 'whine', for instance) is at best insensitive, with hints of a whininess of its own.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 4, 10:02pm

Post #21 of 22 (1555 views)
Shortcut
Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

then my prosody has failed me on this occasion, because the tone I was aiming for was sneeriness.

I can remember it going back to the mid-70s, which is about as early as I was conscious of anything socio-political. But where I have really, really heard it, over and over again has been in my professional life. Repeatedly having to come up with a tactful way to explain to a client, "No, it's not because you're black and the cops are racist. It's because you jacked up a convenience store and the whole thing was recorded on videocamera." Or, "No, you weren't fired because you're black. You were fired because, according to your time card, you came in late or didn't show up at all about one day in four." Yes, I practiced criminal and civil-rights law; and I have heard 'racism' trotted out as an excuse - by my own clients, the people I was trying to help and would damn sure pursue any factual allegations of racism on behalf of - enough times that at a dollar a pop I'd be driving a Bugatti now.

So, excuse me for being slightly jaded.

Now, as to Dr Stuart Hall: what is one to make of his never naming this professor, but pointedly identifying him (inaccurately) as "South African"? What could be the purpose of that, other than to insinuate that the professor in question (obviously Tolkien) was a racist apartheidmonger whose opposition was to Hall's skin color, not the merit of his proposal? Can you find any other explanation for it?

Nor in the hatchet-piece is it ever considered that Hall was, in effect, caught on video, belied by his timecard, in other words that there was an entirely rational basis for {Tolkien} to reject a proposal which I'm sure must have grated against JRRT's every nerve; it represented everything he had been trying since 1925 to keep out of the English School.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Oct 4, 10:02pm)


squire
Half-elven


Oct 4, 11:34pm

Post #22 of 22 (1541 views)
Shortcut
Thanks for the explanation [In reply to] Can't Post

That helps me a lot in understanding your tone and where you're coming from.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.

 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.