They are lighting the beacons! Mythprint and the Year's Work in Tolkien Studies

Richard Rohlin

New Member
My fellow Eagles and Dragons,

We've just received word from David Bratman (yes, that David Bratman). He's looking urgently for Tolkien Scholars to do two things:
  • Write reviews for Mythprint (see more below)
  • Contribute to The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies. This is a very important annual work and David has some gaps in coverage he is anxious to fill. He will provide the source material, so all he needs are some readers/reviewers.
I've put David's query below. If you are interested, you can reach out to him at dbratman (at) earthlink (period) net. Tell him Signum sent you!

And here's his query:

The qualifications for a good Year’s Work writer are rather exacting, and I’d define them like this:

1, Knowledge of their Tolkien. Has to be comfortably familiar with Tolkien’s entire oeuvre, including the posthumous work. Also in the facts and circumstances of Tolkien’s life and writing career. This is to enable them to judge and evaluate the quality of the works being described. A lot of writers on Tolkien are either shaky on their facts or know only a narrow slice of the subject, and the Year’s Work writer has to be able to perceive that. Detailed knowledge of the secondary literature is not so important, though one should know enough to tell how much knowledge the work being described displays.

2, Ability to read quickly and to synthesize. Read quickly, because even a small section has a lot of work to cover, and even without a time crunch (which we have) it’s tiring if you can’t absorb a lot. Synthesize, because that’s what a good Year’s Work writeup is. It should NOT be a point-by-point summary of the contents of the article. It is not a precis. It should, instead, be a free-written description of what the author is trying to say, the way the author goes about saying it, and how well it succeeds. It should primarily be descriptive, but evaluation should not be avoided if the article is above or below neutral and workmanlike.

3, Ability to evaluate work in the specific area of knowledge of the assignment. There are two vacant fields up this year.

3a, Ecocriticism. (1 anthology of 9 articles, 7 additional articles) Ecocriticism is a productive field for Tolkien, but it has a tendency to be full of cant and buzzwords. A good Year’s Work writer needs to be able to see through that.

3b, Source and Comparative Studies. (1 book – the revised edition of Lee and Solopova’s “Keys to Middle-earth”, so the writeup needs to emphasize the revisions, not the entire text – and 13 additional articles) This can be perilous because of a persistent tendency to perceive similarity as influence, and to spoil a good neutral comparative study by insisting that Tolkien must have read this source, or worse that it is the one true and only inspiration for his work, ignoring that Tolkien’s genius lay in what he made new, not in what he borrowed. A good Year’s Work writer needs to be properly skeptical of this.

I can supply most of the source material for these writeups, mostly in the form of PDFs.

As for reviews, I have three books I most urgently want to cover:

1, Verlyn Flieger, There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale – reviewer needs to be familiar with all her Tolkien scholarship

2, Zaleski, The Fellowship (at your suggestion) – reviewer needs to know Inklings history and facts

3, Amy Amendt-Raduege, The Sweet and the Bitter – reviewer needs literary criticism background to evaluate this book on the theme of death and dying in LOTR

Please let me know as soon as you can if you have anyone who can take any of these on.
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