The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

Falling into academia

In the course of researching and thinking about my essay for the Tolkien and medieval literature course, I found myself spontaneously slipping into what might be termed an academic mode. Tolkien problematises fire, apparently, placing it in an ambiguous position within a matrix of associations and oppositions that pervade his works. Monsters, qua monsters, are contextualised in Beowulf by means of their perilous fluids, which serve to establish their estrangement from mortals and… you get the idea.

I am also, now that it’s time to write the thing, composing epic footnotes (which reminds me that I should read Flann O’Brian’s The Third policeman) which bear only tangentially on the main matter. There’s a small chance I’ll be able to justify (to myself, if to no one else) an appendix on the contagion of grimmr in Vǫlsunga saga and the Poetic Edda subsequent to the eating of Fáfnir’s heart. And of course nothing will be translated, either from Old English, Old Icelandic, or Hobbit, unless unavoidable. Does this require delving into The Peoples of Middle-earth in order to learn that Razar is Pippin’s real name? Yes, of course; if I cannot get away with this sort of irritating geekery in a course on Tolkien, where else may I?

I was going to say that this is a regression of roughly a decade, but I suspect a number of my friends would say that in fact the cause of this behaviour is always in me, and this is simply the first chance I’ve had in a while for it to manifest in this particular form. They are no doubt right.

Posted by jamie on August 27, 2003 17:47+12:00


Previous discussions about specialisation and generalisation can't help but leap to mind :-)

Posted by: Michael on August 28, 2003 09:50+12:00

I can thoroughly recommend The Third Policeman. All Flann O'Brien is good, but it may be one of his best. I also liked The Dalkey Archive.

Of course, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams have both made great use of the comic footnote.

And you know, Tolkien buff that I know you to be, JRR could hardly resist footnoting every gaddamn page either, in his scholarly work and in his appendices to LOTR.

Ah, footnotes.

Posted by: stephen on August 31, 2003 11:33+12:00

I'm with Michael - The Third Policeman is essential reading for a Tolkien scholar, and has shaped the way I see the world. Other than that I have no comment as I always seem to be in agreement with your postings. Don't let the Tolien academics off too lightly. The Inklings are on your side and are cheering your efforts :)

Posted by: lindsay on September 2, 2003 08:13+12:00