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 LOTR: Please don't kill me.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Feb 05, 2002
Sorry for being tres mauvais tone, but a recent comment about "Lord of the Rings" started me on a train of thought:

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The more I think about it, the more clear it becomes to me that "LOTR" is the ultimate epitome of the postmodernist novel. Whereas other authors consider the stylistic as a sort of literary game, taking the ideas half-seriously, Tolkien drives the ideas of postmodernist literature to the extreme logical conclusion. "LOTR" to me is a concentrated postmodernist book, what you get when you strip out everything not related to the postmodernist ideal.

For example, if you take a look some other acknowledged postmodernist classics, like Pavicz[1], you see almost the same style of discourse. In fact, it would be very interesting if someone did a comparative analysis of Tolkien and Pavicz.

[1] Word of warning: I've a pretty sketchy knowledge of Pavicz. I know that, judging by current fashions, that firmly places me in the very bottom of the social ladder as far as literature is concerned; please don't hold it against me. Really, I'm not as dumb as I look!


serious question (none / 0) (#1)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Feb 5th, 2002 at 12:13:09 PM PST
Is your first name Vadim and are you a photographer living in Israel?

No. (none / 0) (#2)
by tkatchev on Tue Feb 5th, 2002 at 12:49:41 PM PST
Fact is I am not Jewish. (And I do not live in Israel.)

Peace and much love...

What is the postmodernist ideal? (none / 0) (#3)
by elenchos on Tue Feb 5th, 2002 at 08:51:08 PM PST
I mean, LOTR is what you get when you strip out things like character and subtext, and dispense with the craft of writing. But does that mean that the postmodernist ideal is a bunch of characters you tell apart by what color they wear just doing stuff. Event, event, event, the end. Or, as has been said a lot lately, all narrative.

To see a real postmodernist in action, start following Charles Mudede at, espceially his film reviews and Police Beat column. Nothing like Tolkien.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

omygod... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by poltroon on Tue Feb 5th, 2002 at 11:17:22 PM PST
I think tkatchev might be on to something, sort of... It's like you just said: event, event, event. As long as there's no end or logical sequence, and they have nothing to do with each other, we've got ourselves some postmodernism!

Problem is, the Tolkien events are all very similar, and sort of pretend to lead up to one big finale. But really, maybe they could just as easily exist as dismembered parts, like one part on the back of a cereal box, and another part handwritten by one of those biblical fanatics on a piece of paper tucked in a phone booth.

See Mudede's Narratemes essay.

Postmodernist literature. (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by tkatchev on Wed Feb 6th, 2002 at 12:28:05 AM PST
Generally, postmodernist literature is accepted to have three characteristics:

  • Lack of plot or decent characterization.
  • Makes very heavy use of cultural archetypes and out-of-context quotes from other literature.
  • Plays with language simply for the sake of language games.

Peace and much love...

You may (none / 0) (#8)
by hauntedattics on Wed Feb 6th, 2002 at 05:17:43 AM PST
be onto something here. I've never thought of Tolkien as a postmodernist, but the way you describe postmodernist literature sounds quite a lot like LOTR.

I enjoy reading the LOTR books, but I always try to read them in context, i.e., as just a slice of a giant mythology set out in The Silmarillion.

And given that Tolkien was a linguist by profession, it's not too surprising that he liked to play with words and create new languages.

Hey! (1.00 / 1) (#5)
by jin wicked on Tue Feb 5th, 2002 at 09:45:46 PM PST
Would you mail me a postcard with some Russian handwriting on it and some cool stamps and everything from Russia? Because that would be really neat.

"Ars longa, vita brevis...Art is long, life is short."

BLASPHEMY (lol jk) (none / 0) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Feb 6th, 2002 at 05:22:15 AM PST
i've just breifly read through the comments, and being a tolkien fan i suppose im a bit biased, but comments like "I mean, LOTR is what you get when you strip out things like character and subtext, and dispense with the craft of writing."

Dispense with the craft of writing? Have you even read all of tolkiens work? It sounds like you havent. In fact thats the first comment that in any way presents a negative view towards LOTR and tolkiens work. LOTR and the Silmarillion are the most enjoyable and well-written books that i've ever had the priveledge of reading. I find any book that you can read at least once a year and find something new you love about it is purely an example of the true craft of writing.

p.s. i know that what i've said has absolutely nothing to do with postmodernist writing, but for gods sake dont attack the book of the century.

I think you would enjoy the phone book. (none / 0) (#10)
by elenchos on Wed Feb 6th, 2002 at 12:09:56 PM PST
Something new every year.

By the way, how does one pick out good writing? What in Tolkien, for example, makes you call it "well written"?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

From a postmodernist viewpoint, (none / 0) (#11)
by tkatchev on Wed Feb 6th, 2002 at 12:34:21 PM PST
Tolkien's big plusses are clever placenames and lack of characterization. Postmodernist writers view that as plus -- a sort of escape from the bounds of cloying earthly realities into the realm of pure associativity.

So for a postmodern analysis of Tolkien, the characters in the book should be viewed purely as a placename that denotes cultural archetypes. They exist only insofar as to outline some sort of behaviour stereotype or pattern of thinking.

Tolkien, if viewed as a master postmodernist writer, avoids too obvious stereotyping, and focuses instead on the more subtle, subconscious cultural behaviour archetypes. For example, instead of showcasing "greed", he outlines a lust for power through the desire for universal happines.

Peace and much love...


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