IMC 2017: Sessions

Session 1019: Otherness in Tolkien's Medievalism

Wednesday 5 July 2017, 09.00-10.30

Organiser:Dimitra Fimi, Department of Humanities, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Moderator/Chair:Kristine Larsen, Department of Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University
Paper 1019-aDisability in Tolkien's Texts: Medieval 'Otherness'?
(Language: English)
Irina Metzler, Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Research (MEMO), Swansea University / Projekt 'Homo Debilis', Universität Bremen
Index terms: Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Social History
Paper 1019-bTolkien's Other Middle Ages
(Language: English)
Thomas Honegger, Institut für Anglistik, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Language and Literature - Middle English, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1019-cThe Invisible Other: Tolkien's Dwarf-Women and the 'Feminine Lack'
(Language: English)
Sara Brown, Department of English, Rydal Penrhos School, Conwy
Index terms: Gender Studies, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1019-dOur World, the Other World, and Those In-Between: Community with and Separation from the Dead in Tolkien's Work
(Language: English)
Gaëlle Abaléa, Centre d'Etudes Médiévales Anglaises (CEMA), Université Paris IV - Sorbonne
Index terms: Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Philosophy
Abstract

This session explores various aspects of the construction and role of the ‘other’ in J. R. R. Tolkien’s medievalism. Irina Metzler surveys the representation of disability in Tolkien’s mythology and its medieval analogies and constructions. Thomas Honegger focuses on Tolkien’s critique of chivalry in his medieval scholarship but also in his construction of the ‘other’ Middle Ages in his creative work. Sara Brown addresses an important figure of medieval literature and legend, the Dwarf, focusing on the ‘othering’ of female Dwarves by their very absence. Gaëlle Abaléa interrogates the world of the Dead as ‘other’ in Tolkien’s legendarium, examining its boundaries, and its relation to Faerie.

Metzler – Disability in Tolkiens’ texts: medieval ‘Otherness’?
The paper explores how disabled figures are used by Tolkien as tropes for a wider narrative purpose. Two disabled characters in the tale of Turin would according to the social model of disability be the only genuinely disabled figures, in that they neither lose their disability, nor overcome it, nor are seemingly unaffected by disability (in which case it isn’t actually disability). Other characters offer comparisons with the medieval world Tolkien knew so well: Parish, lame and demandingly needy at the beginning, from a medievalist perspective loses his limp gradually once re-united with Niggle in the Otherworld, much as the medieval afterlife in heaven knew only of intact bodies. And Frodo is like the medieval saints/ martyrs, in that his disability remains with him even in the Otherworld. Similarly with Beren whose loss of right hand recalls a martyr’s mark.

Honegger – Tolkien’s Other Middle Ages
It is probably no coincidence that Tolkien’s critical stance towards (misguided) ‘chivalry’ finds, on the one hand, explicit expression in his scholarly publications on The Battle of Maldon and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and, implicitly, in his works of fiction. Tolkien scholars such Martin Sternberg or Vincent Ferré have read Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham as a thinly veiled critique of chivalry. Yet Tolkien’s critique can also be perceived in his narrative of the War of the Ring in so far as he consciously excludes ‘the knight in shining armour’ and thus puts his epic in contrast to the (in England since the 19th century) prevalent view of the Middle Ages.

Brown – The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’.
Female Dwarves, or Dwarf-women, are notably absent from Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium. Throughout the histories of the Dwarves, Dwarf-women are unseen, present only in relation to the male Dwarves, and none are encountered in the narratives. Unable to construct their own identity other than that of not being male, the only identity offered to Tolkien’s Dwarf-woman is fashioned through simple biology: they are female and may bear children. Reading Tolkien through Kristeva, de Beauvoir, and Butler, this paper posits that Tolkien’s female Dwarves are the ‘invisible women’ of the legendarium, exploring their marginalisation and their consequent situating as the abject ‘Other’.

Abaléa – Our world, the Other world and those in-between, community with and separation from the Dead in Tolkien’s work.
The belief in an identity between our world and the Other world is an ancient one. As a Catholic, Tolkien believed in the communion between the living and the dead. However, is it not contradictory with the belief in a clear border, like in many traditions, between the two realms, leading to taboos and rituals marking this separation; the land of the dead being sometimes superposed with the world of Faerie? And what of those in between?