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robin_anne_reid ([personal profile] robin_anne_reid) wrote2015-11-14 05:33 pm

The question of Tolkien Criticism

Another View on the State of Tolkien Criticism Today

The L. A. Review of Books published an essay on "Tolkien Criticism Today"by Norbert Schürer.

In 2800 words, Schürer discusses seven critical publications (from a variety of publishers) published from 2013-2015.

The seven publications are: Tolkien Among the Moderns (2015), University of Notre Dame Press; Tolkien in the New Century (2014), McFarland; Arda Inhabited (2014), Kent State University Press; Tolkien's Sacramental Vision (2014), Second Springs Books; Tolkien The Forest and the City (2013), Four Courts Press; Light Beyond All Shadow (Reprint 2013), Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; and A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien (2014), Wiley Blackwell.

His conclusion, based on this incomplete group of publications, is that Tolkien criticism today is in a "sad state" (para. 4) with few exceptions (he lists Jane Chance, Michael Drout, and Verlyn Flieger as the excellent exceptions). The reason for this "sad state," he claims, is:

Academic literary criticism has long been caught between these two versions of Tolkien — the difficult litterateur and the successful populist. On one hand, critics do not want to be seen as fawning fans, so their writing adopts a scholarly tone. On the other hand, they want to appeal to fans, so they have to cater to popular sentiment. They need to address controversial topics, but they cannot attack the author if they want to find readers among fans, and while they often try to address the entirety of Tolkien’s published imaginary writings (known as the legendarium) they can only rely on readers being familiar with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and often only in cinematic form (para. 3).

He approves (somewhat) of Tolkien: The Forest and the City but considers the Companion to be the best and to also supply "academic cachet" (para. 22).

Not surprisingly to anyone knows me, I completely disagree with his assessment of the state of Tolkien Studies generally. I believe some of the critiques he levels against Tolkien Studies are true of all bodies of literary criticism. In other cases, I argue that he is simply ignoring evidence that would contradict the he has made, claims that are inflated and unsupported by any evidence whatsoever.

First: Schürer does not explain the reasons for choosing the seven works that he did, not even giving a rationale for limiting the works to publications from 2013-15. Some of the works are published by university presses, and some by more specialized presses ("niche" presses in his word). There does not seem to be any clear reason for choosing these books from the total number of books published during the time period.

The MLA International Bibliography lists seven monographs and nine critical anthologies that were published during 2013-2015, the dates of publication for the works he is discussing. Three of the seven books Schürer discusses are on this list (I have bolded them); four are not, probably because they are written for popular or student audiences.

Since his list of seven is not comprehensive, I wonder why he chose the ones he did. He fails to supply this information.


Brawley, Chris. Nature and the Numinous in Mythopoeic Fantasy Literature. Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Cesff): 46. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Print.

Curry, Patrick. Deep Roots in a Time of Frost: Essays on Tolkien. Cormarë Series (Cormarë): 33. Zürich, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2014. Print.
Jeffers, Susan. Arda Inhabited: Environmental Relationships in the Lord of the Rings. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 2014. Print.

Nicolay, Thersa Freda. Tolkien and the Modernists: Literary Responses to the Dark New Days of the 20th Century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Print.

Parsons, Deke. J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy. Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Cesff): 47. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Print.

Pask, Kevin. The Fairy Way of Writing: Shakespeare to Tolkien. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2013. Print.

Risden, E. L. Tolkien's Intellectual Landscape. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. Print.

Ryan, J. S. In the Nameless Wood: Explorations in the Philological Hinterland of Tolkien's Literary Creations. Cormarë Series (Cormarë): 30. Zürich, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2013. Print.

Zaleski, Philip, and Carol Zaleski. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015. Print.


Arduini, Roberto, and Claudio A. Testi. Tolkien and Philosophy. Cormarë Series (Cormarë): 32. Zürich, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2014. Print.

Conrad-O'Briain, Helen, Gerard Hynes, and Darryl Jones. Tolkien: The Forest and the City. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 2013. Print.

Eden, Bradford Lee. The Hobbit and Tolkien's Mythology: Essays on Revisions and Influences. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Print.

Eilmann, Julian, Allan Turner, and Michael D. C. Drout. Tolkien's Poetry. Cormarë Series (Cormarë): 28. Zürich, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2013. Print.

Houghton, John William, et al. Tolkien in the New Century: Essays in Honor of Tom ShippeyJefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Print.

Kowalik, Barbara. 'O, What a Tangled Web': Tolkein and Medieval Literature, a View from Poland. Cormarë Series (Cormarë): 29. Zürich, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2013. Print.

Vaccaro, Christopher. The Body in Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on Middle-Earth Corporeality. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013. Print.

Second: Schürer's argument seems to be based on two assumptions I do not share: the first is that "critics....want to appeal to fans, so they have to cater to popular sentiment" (para. 3).

He does not identify which of these seven critical works is "catering" to fans (or if any of them are), and the placement of this claim at the beginning of his essay implies he is making a general evaluation of Tolkien criticism as a body, rather than only pointing to recent work, but even that is not clear.

Additionally, Schürer fails to distinguish between critics who are academics writing peer-reviewed scholarship for the (primary) audience of other academics and critics (including but not limited to academic critics) writing criticism for a wider audience.

In the second category, I'd place John Garth's superb Tolkien and the Great War published in 2005.

There is a third category these days, academics writing works designed to be read by students (in which I'd place the Companion). Those works are important and needed (I've written for that audience myself!), but they tend to provide information on the existing scholarship rather than make original arguments to contribute to the scholarship.

Of course, any published work can be read by any audience, but I do think it's important to acknowledge the different writing expectations and choices that come with writing for different audiences in a critical review of scholarship.

Evaluating a popular work written for a general audience against standards for peer-reviewed scholarship does a great disservice to the popular work. For example, I'd say that Schürer's claim that "[critics] can only rely on readers being familiar with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and often only in cinematic form" (para.3) is completely and provably in error when it comes to academic criticism.

As someone who has been engaged in writing Tolkien scholarship the past ten years or so, who has published and read scholarship for the journals, anyone wishing to publish scholarship in a peer-reviewed journal or an anthology published by an academic press needs to know more than the two main works. There is a growing body of work relying on the use of Christopher Tolkien's HoME. Knowledge of the legendarium and knowledge of the published scholarship on Tolkien's work is required.

I am not sure that Schürer himself has that knowledge!

An author search for his publications in the MLA Bibliography found that as far as the MLA is concerned, he has not published any work on Tolkien.

I am not sure why he was chosen to write this review essay; perhaps neither Mike Drout nor David Bratman, the two most prominent and well-known specialists in tracking Tolkien scholarship, were available (if they were even contacted). But seeing Schürer's record of publications, as well as learning his specialization is 18th century literature, supports my sense of him having assumptions and biases regarding literary scholarship that I do not share.

His MLA listed publications

(I'm giving up on manually putting in the coding for italicizing the titles, both in this list and the longer list below!). :

Schürer, Norbert. "A New Novel by Charlotte Lennox." Notes and Queries 48 (246).4 (2001): 419-22. Print.
---. "An Interview with Robert Morgan." Pembroke Magazine 36 (2004): 252-60. Print.
---. "Charlotte Lennox: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Documents." Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2012. Print.
---. "Continuity and Discontinuity in Eighteenth-Century Indian Historiography." Eighteenth-Century Studies 42.3 (2009): 453-58. Print.
---. "Emmanuel Dongala: Writer between Worlds: An Interview." Xavier Review 22.2 (2002): 41-54. Print.
---. "Four Catalogues of the Lowndes Circulating Library, 1755-66." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 101.3 (2007): 329-57. Print.
---. "Jane Austen's Bookshop." Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer 26.2 (2012): 8-11. Print.
---. "Jane Cave Winscom: Provincial Poetry and the Metropolitan Connection." Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 36.3 (2013): 415-31. Print.
---. "Millay's 'What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why'." Explicator 63.2 (2005): 94-96. Print.
---. "Pamela's Entertainment: Authorship, Book History, and the English Canon." Eighteenth-Century Studies 35.4 (2002): 637-42. Print.
---. "Sophia/Charlotte Lennox." Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2008 of Broadview Editions (Broadview Editions). Print.
---. "Sustaining Identity in I'tesamuddin's the Wonders of Vilayet." Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 52.2 (2011): 137-55. Print.
---. "The Impartial Spectator of Sati, 1757-84." Eighteenth-Century Studies 42.1 (2008): 19-44. Print.
---. "The Storming of the Bastille in English Newspapers." Eighteenth-Century Life 29.1 (2005): 50-81. Print.
Schürer, Norbert Ernst. "Lennox and Smollett in the Literary Marketplace: Authorship and Readership after Fielding and Richardson." Duke U, 2002. 3406-06. Vol. 62. Print.

I did not assume that just because I did not recognize his name that he had never published anything on Tolkien: I know from my own work, including two recent bibliographic essays, that Tolkien scholarship is currently large enough that it is no longer possible to know *all* the published criticism on the legendarium.

There will be, increasingly, specialization which is a part of any large body of literary criticism. That specialization seems a natural progression, but I suspect Schürer may not approve of the growing multi-disciplinary approaches that are a hallmark of cultural studies and that have also begun to appear in Tolkien studies.

I tend to think that this wider range of methods and approaches shows the vitality of the field (a claim that Dimitra Fimi makes and supports in her superb monograph published in 2009: Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits, Palgrave Macmillan, one of many books which contradicts Schürer's claim about the shallowness of Tolkien studies during the past ten years).

Related to the issue of critics pandering to fans to sell critical books is the assumption that "fans" and "critics" are somehow always already separate.

Fans can and do write critical commentary of Tolkien's work, and not all critics/academics distance ourselves from being fans, a distancing stance that was perhaps once required to support the myth of academic objectivity.

I suspect, given Schürer's commentary on Tolkien's work and style as well as his conclusion, that he would not identify as a fan. But his idea that the primary audience for Tolkien scholars is only fans (instead of other Tolkien scholars) strikes me as bizarre as does the idea that fan demands would affect what a critic would say:

Just as importantly, Tolkien should not be treated with kid gloves because he is a fan favorite with legions to be placated, but as the serious and major author he is (para.22).

Since the quote above is Schürer's conclusion, he provides no evidence for this claim that critics treat Tolkien "with kid gloves" for fear of these legions of fans.

One major Tolkienist, who is one of the experts on Tolkien scholarship (as shown by this essay and the bibliographic database on Tolkien criticism that he maintains), Michael D. C. Drout and his co-author Hilary Wynne call out Tolkien critics for *mocking* fans.

In their bibliographic essay, they argue that academics need to stop making fun of fans in their Tolkien scholarship: Endnote 36: "Among the many critics who go in for fan-mocking, the most distinguished are Rosebury (1–3) and Humphrey Carpenter in his January 20, 1997 interview in The Independent (cited by Pearce, 3)") (in: "Tom Shippey's J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century and a Look Back at Tolkien Criticism since 1982," (2000), Michael D. C. Drout and Hilary Wynne).

It is easy to find Tolkien fans discussing the scholarship (in negative as well as positive ways). For example, fans in the Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza have discussed the recent anthology edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie Donovan, Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, a collection which was published in 2015 but apparently has not come to Schürer's attention.

If he is not aware of it, I would recommend he see Deidre Dawson's excellent review of the Croft and Donovan anthology which can be found at the Journal of Tolkien Research. [Disclosure: I wrote the bibliographic essay for P&F, and am on the editorial board of JTR.]

I tend to think that he is not aware of the anthology given the nature of his praise for Adam Robert's discussion about "women in Tolkien":

For instance, Adam Roberts makes an innovative and sophisticated argument about women in Tolkien: He claims that female characters in The Lord of the Rings challenge the male-female hierarchy because they embrace renunciation. This femininity is at the heart of Tolkien’s ideology: “a complex repudiation of masculine values of ‘agency’ and ‘action’ in favor of what is, at root, a religiously informed concept of passionate passivity.”(para. 1).

Another area in which Schürer is ignorant of the scholarship is Tolkien's writing style:

Furthermore, much of Tolkien’s work is written in an indigestible faux-medieval style; there are long descriptions of imagined countrysides, and he sprinkles in countless obscure references to invented fantastic histories (para. 1).

As an academic who is one of the handful doing stylistics analysis on Tolkien's work, I completely disagree with the claim in the last sentence as would others who have done stylistic analysis of Tolkien's work, including Elizabeth Kirk and Michael D. C. Drout.

In fact, Schürer does not seem to be familiar with Tolkien scholarship in general, something I would expect for anyone discussing the *current* state of the scholarship. He mentions Jane Chance, Tom Shippey, and Verlyn Flieger who are the three most important Tolkienists—the scholars who founded the academic study of Tolkien—but does not cite any of their work and ignores the fact that they have published scholarship using some of the methods and approaches that he seems to find weak: linguistic, source, and cultural studies.

There is also this odd and unsupported claim:

It is curious that the vast majority of Tolkien criticism in the last decade or so consists of collections of short essays rather than scholarly monographs: It is as if critics do not have the patience to explore their topics in sufficient depth — or, as Tolkien detractors such as Harold Bloom might argue, as if there isn’t enough substance to Tolkien to sustain sophisticated and compelling arguments (para. 7).

An MLA search of books with "Tolkien" as a subject term published during 2005-2015 resulted in 46 hits.

An MLA search of book collections with "Tolkien" as a subject term published between 20015-2015 resulted in 37 hits.

Now, not all of the 46 books are single-author studies of Tolkien's work (but I would not expect them to be!). I could do some further refining of the numbers, but since a number of the anthologies will have a broader focus than just Tolkien's works, I'd be surprised if there was a huge difference in the final results.

It could be that the difficulty of academic publishers, documented extensively, has affected scholarship on Tolkien, with critical anthologies and peer-reviewed journal articles being more likely to be published than monographs, and single-author monographs being difficult to place.

Since Schürer seems to value "literary cachet," let me direct his attention to the Modern Languages Association 2002 Report on the Future of Academic Publishing which documents reasons for the drop in the publication of scholarly monographs as one example of the challenges facing all academic publishers. This problem has been extensively documented among humanities scholars (the sciences tend not to publish academic monographs), and I cannot believe that Schürer is unaware of this issue.

Finally, I do agree with what Schürer says should be the goal for all critical writing:

make well-developed, well-written, comprehensive, and compelling arguments (para.21)

And that Tolkien:

should be treated like any other author in being discussed in seriously peer-reviewed journals and established academic presses rather than in essay collections and niche publications (para. 21).

I simply do not agree that the academics who publish scholarship are not *generally* meeting these criteria (given that any body of work will have weaker publications), and that there is no significant work being done in peer-reviewed journals and by academic presses *as well* as the more popular and general publications.

Nor do I believe that critics who are not academics who wish to publish their ideas and interpretations of Tolkien's work should not do so simply because their approaches and publishers do not meet his standards.

Besides the MLA list of monographs and anthologies published during the past two years that I posted above, most of which, remember, Schürer ignores, below here is a bibliography, taken from the MLA, of peer-reviewed journal articles published in 2013-2015.

Following the list of articles are the titles of journals listed in MLA as publishing the 52 articles and a list of the MLA subjects assigned to them showing the scope of approaches/methods.

Abrahamson, Megan B. "J. R. R. Tolkien, Fanfiction, and 'the Freedom of the Reader'." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 32.1 [123] (2013): 53-72. Print.
Birns, Nicholas. "'the Inner Consistency of Reality': Intermediacy In the Hobbit." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 31.3-4 [121-122] (2013): 15-30. Print.
Bryant, Brantley L. "One Does Not Simply Laugh in Middle Earth: Sacrificing Humor in Peter Jackson's the Lord of the Rings." Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 5.2 (2014): 184-98. Print.
Cesereanu, Ruxandra. "'the Fantasy Complex': Close Reading: The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings." Caietele Echinox 26 (2014): 83-98. Print.
Chen, Fanfan. "Tolkien's Style of Fantasy: Hypotyposis, Metalepsis, Harmonism." Caietele Echinox 26 (2014): 63-82. Print.
Christie, E. J. "Sméagol and Déagol: Secrecy, History, and Ethical Subjectivity in Tolkien's World." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 31.3-4 [121-122] (2013): 83-101. Print.
Clinton, Esther. "Proverbial Play: J. R. R. Tolkien's Use of Proverbs in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings." Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship 31 (2014): 133-65. Print.
DeTardo, Merlin. "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies 2010." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 253-89. Print.
---. "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies 2011." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 259-326. Print.
Drout, Michael D. C., Namiko Hitotsubashi, and Rachel Scavera. "Tolkien's Creation of the Impression of Depth." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 167-211. Print.
Eichel, Andrew. "Interpreting 'sir Gawain and the Green Knight': Translation and Manipulation of Audience Expectations." Fifteenth-Century Studies 38 (2013): 41-63. Print.
Epstein, Rebecca, and David Bratman. "Bibliography (in English) for 2012." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 327-39. Print.
Epstein, Rebecca, David Bratman, and Merlin DeTardo. "Bibliography (in English) for 2011." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 291-307. Print.
Flieger, Verlyn. "But What Did He Really Mean?" Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 149-66. Print.
---. "How Trees Behave-or Do They?" Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 32.1 [123] (2013): 19-31. Print.
Gallant, Richard Z. "Original Sin in Heorot and Valinor." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 109-29. Print.
Garth, John. "'the Road from Adaptation to Invention': How Tolkien Came to the Brink of Middle-Earth in 1914." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 1-44. Print.
Goering, Nelson. "Lŷg and Leuca: 'Elven-Latin', Archaic Languages, and the Philology of Britain." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 67-76. Print.
Hirsch, Bernhard. "After the 'End of All Things': The Long Return Home to the Shire." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 77-107. Print.
Honegger, Thomas. "My Most Precious Riddle: Eggs and Rings Revisited." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 89-103. Print.
Imbert, Yannick. "Tolkien's Shire: The Ideal of a Conservative-Anarchist Distributist Governance." Journal of Inklings Studies 3.1 (2013): 25-53. Print.
Ivar Agøy, Nils. "Vague or Vivid?: Descriptions in the Lord of the Rings." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 49-67. Print.
Jakiel, Rafał, and Józef Jarosz. "Zum Gebrauch Der Übersetzungstechniken Bei Der Wiedergabe Der Eigennamen in Der Deutschen Translation Des Romans Von J.R.R. Tolkien the Lord of the Rings." Germanica Wratislaviensia--Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis 137; 3471 (2013): 95-112. Print.
Jakupcak, Maria Frassati. "'a Particular Cast of Fancy': Addison's Walk with Tolkien and Lewis." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 45-66. Print.
Kullmann, Thomas. "Poetic Insertions in Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings." Connotations: A Journal for Critical Debate 23.2 (2013): 283-309. Print.
Lionarons, Joyce Tally. "Of Spiders and Elves." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 31.3-4 [121-122] (2013): 5-13. Print.
Livingston, Michael. "Troy and the Rings: Tolkien and the Medieval Myth of England." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 32.1 [123] (2013): 73-91. Print.
Long, Josh B. "Disparaging Narnia: Reconsidering Tolkien's View Of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 31.3-4 [121-122] (2013): 31-46. Print.
Madsen, Catherine. "Theological Reticence and Moral Radiance: Notes on Tolkien, Levinas, and Inuit Cosmology." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 32.1 [123] (2013): 111-26. Print.
McGregor, Jamie. "Tolkien's Devices: The Heraldry of Middle-Earth." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 32.1 [123] (2013): 93-110. Print.
Mitchell, Phillip Irving. "'but Grace Is Not Infinite': Tolkien's Explorations of Nature and Grace in His Catholic Context." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 31.3-4 [121-122] (2013): 61-81. Print.
Munro, Rebecca. "The Art of the Lord of the Rings: A Defense of the Aesthetic." Religion and the Arts 18.5 (2014): 636-52. Print.
Ordway, Holly. "'Further up and Further in': Representations of Heaven in Tolkien and Lewis." Journal of Inklings Studies 3.1 (2013): 5-23. Print.
Organ, Michael. "Tolkien's Japonisme: Prints, Dragons, and a Great Wave." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 105-22. Print.
Prendergast, Monica. "Running around with Inmates, Maps and Swords: A Reflective Poetic-Narrative Autoethnography of a Prison Theatre Production." Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 18.3 (2013): 313-23. Print.
Rankin, Sherry. "'Where Are the Horse and the Rider?' an Approach to Using J. R. R. Tolkien's the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings to Teach Medieval Literature in the British Literature Survey Classroom." CCTE Studies 79 (2014): 48-57. Print.
Reinders, Eric. "Reading Tolkien in Chinese." Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 25.1 (2014): 3-27. Print.
Rogers, Hope. "No Triumph without Loss: Problems of Intercultural Marriage in Tolkien's Works." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 69-87. Print.
Saxton, Benjamin. "J. R. R. Tolkien, Sub-Creation, and Theories of Authorship." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 31.3-4 [121-122] (2013): 47-59. Print.
---. "Tolkien and Bakhtin on Authorship, Literary Freedom, and Alterity." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 167-83. Print.
Scott, Carolyn F. "'Beyond Hope He Saved Us': Trinitarian Analogies in the Lord of the Rings." Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 18.1 (2015): 132-51. Print.
Shank, Derek. "'the Web of Story': Structuralism in Tolkien's 'on Fairy-Stories'." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 147-65. Print.
Snow, Kayla. "What Hath Hobbits to Do with Prophets? The Fantastic Reality of J. R. R. Tolkien and Flannery O'connor." Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 17.4 (2014): 108-29. Print.
Sullivan, Karen. "One Metaphor to Rule Them All? 'Objects' as Tests of Character in the Lord of the Rings." Language and Literature: Journal of the Poetics and Linguistics Association 22.1 (2013): 77-94. Print.
Swank, Kris. "The Hobbit and the Father Christmas Letters." Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 32.1 [123] (2013): 127-44. Print.
---. "Tom Bombadil's Last Song: Tolkien's 'Once Upon a Time'." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 185-97. Print.
Testi, Claudio A. "Tolkien's Work: Is It Christian or Pagan? A Proposal for a 'Synthetic' Approach." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 1-47. Print.
Turnock, Julie. "Removing the Pane of Glass: The Hobbit, 3d High Frame Rate Filmmaking, and the Rhetoric of Digital Convergence." Film Criticism 37-38.3-1 (2013): 30-59. Print.
Vink, Renée. "'Jewish' Dwarves: Tolkien and Anti-Semitic Stereotyping." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 10 (2013): 123-45. Print.
Wallin, Mark Rowell. "Eurhythmatic Analysis: A Rhetoric of Adaptation." Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance 6.2 (2013): 125-39. Print.
Wodzak, Michael A., and Victoria Holtz Wodzak. "Visibílium Ómnium Et Invisibílium: Looking out, on, and in Tolkien's World." Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review 11 (2014): 131-47. Print.
Yoon, Minwoo. "[Nature in Tolkien's Fantasy Literature: The Economy of Slowness]." Medieval and Early Modern English Studies 21.1 (2013): 127-57. Print.

According to the MLA, here are the journals that published the 52 peer-reviewed articles listed above:
tolkien studies: an annual scholarly review 21
mythlore 12
caietele echinox 2
journal of inklings studies 2
logos: a journal of catholic thought and culture 2
ccte studies 1
connotations: a journal for critical debate 1
fifteenth-century studies 1
film criticism 1
germanica wratislaviensia--acta universitatis wratislaviensis 1
journal of adaptation in film and performance 1
journal of the fantastic in the arts 1
language and literature: journal of the poetics and linguistics association 1
medieval and early modern english studies 1
postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 1
proverbium: yearbook of international proverb scholarship 1
religion and the arts 1
research in drama education 1

MLA subject terms
tolkien, j. r. r. 7
fictional world 4
catholic novelists 3
christianity 3
film adaptation 3
jackson, peter 3
paganism 3
style 3
authorship 2
biographical approach 2
characterization 2
divine grace 2
heroism 2
lewis, c. s. 2
linguistic approach 2
nature 2
review article 2
the lord of the rings trilogy 2
the shire (fictional place) 2
3-d film 1
addison, joseph 1
aesthetic values 1
aesthetics 1
agrarianism 1
alice books 1
allegory 1
anarchism 1
anglo-saxon culture 1
antisemitism 1
armitage, simon 1
artistic freedom 1
arwen (character) 1
bakhtin, mikhail mikhailovich 1
barthes, roland 1
biographical information 1
blindness 1
bombadil, tom (character) 1
british columbia 1
buddhism 1
carpenter, humphrey 1
character names 1
characters 1
christian theology 1
collective unconscious 1
comitatus 1
creation 1
creativity 1
dante 1
depth 1

I have not spent much time addressing the criticisms of works Schürer considers evidence of the "sad state" of Tolkien criticism, and I don't intend to do so.

In most cases, it is because I have not yet read them (since they don't address the issues I focus on for my Tolkien scholarship, specifically applied linguistics/stylistics, queer and gender theories, and film studies).

I've been spending more time recently reading at peer-reviewed articles.

But I also decided that the larger disagreements I had with his commentary on Tolkien studies were important than focusing on individual works.

I will offer a reassuring ending for those who share his desire that publications on Tolkien come from publishers that will add "academic cachet" to the work: the recent publication by the Modern Languages Association of Leslie Donovan's anthology, Approaches to Teaching Tolkien's work should gladden their hearts.

Since I see that Dr. Schürer teaches Tolkien, although he has not published on Tolkien, I hope the volume will be of interest to him!
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[personal profile] dawn_felagund 2015-11-15 05:17 am (UTC)(link)
I come from the fan side and am only recently dipping my toes in the scholarly side, so I cannot claim exhaustive familiarity with published criticism of Tolkien, but even given what I do know of it, I wonder if he and I are reading the same things. I don't see the "pandering to fans," nor do I see avoidance of the posthumous works in the scholarship I'm reading--quite the opposite! I don't think I've ever read a scholarly work about Tolkien that addresses the films unless the work is about the films. I also read quite a bit that assumes familiarity not only with TH and LotR (the books!) but also The Silmarillion. (In fairness, I am mostly interested in The Silmarillion myself, so I tend to seek out these works before those solely about topics related to TH and LotR.)

In this passage--

Just as importantly, Tolkien should not be treated with kid gloves because he is a fan favorite with legions to be placated, but as the serious and major author he is (para.22).

--I wonder if he and I are looking at the same fans?

The fans I know--many of whom identify as fans and would resist the classification of "scholar" or "academic," although very knowledgeable about Tolkien (the books! even the posthumous ones!!)--are themselves often more critical of Tolkien than the academics are. For a long while, I noticed that, while fandom in general was heavily engaged with social justice issues, the Tolkien fandom largely avoided those discussions. In recent years (I'd say since the release of The Hobbit films and the ensuing influx of new Tolkien fans who were already involved in other Internet fandoms that were taking a social justice approach), I've seen that change dramatically. I now see a lot of fan critique of how Tolkien handles issues like gender, race, colonialism, and sexuality. Granted, this is likely dependent on where one is active. (I am thinking particularly of Tumblr as a site with a large Tolkien fandom presence that simultaneously identify as Tolkien fans while also being hugely critical of his work.) In fact, I'd wager that scholars are more likely to incite the anger of these fans by not criticizing Tolkien enough. They don't handle him with kid gloves and resent what they seem to see as Tolkien getting a free pass from the academic community. I had the experience earlier this year on Tumblr, while preparing a paper for the NY Tolkien Conference, of discussing some ideas about historical bias and gender and receiving negative comments on my work because I didn't go far enough in assigning responsibility to Tolkien for what this particular reader felt was a reprehensible record on how he wrote women. In eleven years of writing fan fiction, meta, and now scholarly works about Tolkien--all of which tend towards critique of Tolkien--I don't think I've ever received that kind of "how very dare you??" response from the rabidly devoted fan that Schürer imagines.

So while I'd agree that his claims about Tolkien-based scholarship and scholars are odd, I'd say the same about his views of Tolkien fans, who are on the whole much more intelligent, well read, and open-minded than he seems to want to give them credit for.
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[personal profile] calimac 2015-11-17 03:53 am (UTC)(link)
Forget about Schürer knowing insufficiently about Tolkien scholarship; he knows nothing about Tolkien, and that was obvious from his second sentence. For only someone who'd either never read The Lord of the Rings or who found it so alienating and offputting as to be incapable of saying anything meaningful about it could have written there, "The Lord of the Rings trilogy presents 1,000 pages of unrelenting heroism." Only heroism? And unrelenting? I'm reminded of Harold Bloom, who carefully searched The Lord of the Rings for the mightiest peroration he could find, claimed he'd turned to it at random, quoted from it entirely out of context (which would make anything designed as the climax of hundreds of pages of build-up to sound stupid), and then declared the entire work was like that.

Also it's not a trilogy; surely a specialist in the history of British literature would be familiar with the concept of the three-volume novel.