LotR (was Re: reviews (but not of MC))

mecha godscylla mechagodscylla at hotmail.com
Tue Dec 16 11:26:08 EST 2003

>>>Not to harp, but why is authorial intention a conclusive argument-ender 
>>>to this discussion? I know Tolkien said the book wasn't an allegory, but 
>>>it is damn easy to read as one. There seems to be some space here for 
>>>debate: just because Tolkien made these pronouncements doesn't mean he's 
>>Avoiding all questions of authorial intent (except the one about how I 
>>seem to recall seeing it expressed as 'auctorial' intent in the long-ago 
>>before all my critical theory books were destroyed in a **Flood.  Did my 
>>encounter with the word 'auctorial' take place in a liminal zone?), I 
>>guess I'll just toss this into the topic like a superball --- wasn't 
>>Tolkien setting out to write *myth?*
>What's your point? A myth can quite easily be allegorical; in fact, most of 
>them are, in some way.

Your response intrigues me and inspires some questions.  Do you see allegory 
as an umbrella category into which myth fits?   And secondly, *can* an 
allegory be unintentional?  Can it be that Tolkien specifically said he 
didn't write an allegory, but accidentally did so anyway?

The distinction I had been used to drawing between allegory and myth went 
something like this - in an allegory there is a 1:1 relationship between the 
symbol and its meaning. There is a an author-intended correct reading and 
each symbol is meant to mean what the author has determined it to mean. As 
perhaps Deborah and/or Melissa might point out, that doesn't stop the reader 
from doing as she pleases, but it *is* a point of reference, to my mind.  
Can one read an intentional allegory and not ask oneself "What does the 
author mean for this symbol to mean?"

On the other hand, I would say that one can make an allegorical reading of a 
myth (after all, one can do whatever one likes), but one reader's 
allegorical reading does not in any way preclude or exclude different 
readings, allegorical or otherwise, by others.  Just as all squares are 
rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, all myths may to some extent 
lend themselves to allegorical readings, but to my mind not all allegories 
rise to the level of myth, and any allegorical reading of a myth is a 
deterministic one that does not encompass all possible readings of a myth.  
So while an allegory may be entertaining and diverting, thought provoking 
and persuasive, the myth remains and the allegory can be, at best, one 
possible route of investigating the myth - like one particular goat track on 
a mountain.

"I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to 
the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 
‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the 
reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.” 

I'd have to fall in with the Professor on this one.  And adding to it, I 
would observe that "the purposed domination of the author" can also refer to 
the essayist who argues for a particular allegorical reading.

But I'm game to entertain any number of allegorical readings and see how 
they stand up to a bit of batting about, so if you've got one in mind I'd 
enjoy hearing it.

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