Tolkien in the Classroom
#21
Coconut Ent Wrote:Joyce?! I cannot make head or tails of Joyce.

God help the little ones forced to read Joyce!

Joyce is great. I love his works. But I would agree that if the subject is not taught with the right degree of sensitivity that it can put the kids off for life.

Personally I am in the favourable position of not having had to read Joyce at school and so could approach him with an open mind in my adult life. I actually participated in a Joyce reading group for a while and this opened my eyes to some fascinating aspects of his work. It would have taken a very skilled teacher to open my eyes in a similar way.
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#22
It's a shame that so many people learned to hate literature because of dogmatic, narrow-minded, "icky-picky" teaching.

My students bring their unique life experiences to the text, and what they find there has validity. As they grow, and perhaps reread, they discover new things that resonate with their personal experiences. Just because I've read and reread a story, poem, or book several times doesn't mean my insight into the text is somehow superior. It may go deeper, but that doesn't make it "better."

T.S. Eliot, one of my favorite writers, once said (I'm paraphrasing here) that if the reader finds something in his work, then it must be there.

I have had teachers that presented symbolism and meaning in such set ways that they could not bear to be disagreed with. One of my university professors insisted that we use HER exact wording. For example, when defining the concept of ubi sunt in reference to literature, it didn't suffice to say, "a longing for things as they were in the past, or a return to the past." One had to parrot her: "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" I left that out of my answer, and had points taken off - I kid you not.

My best professor - I believe I took at least ten classes with him - always pushed us to find our own meanings in texts, to make connections between texts and other arts we were aware of, to see unifying themes. He never tried to cast us into his mold, but rather allowed us room in which to discover ideas that were personally relevant.

I"m not saying that there is no such thing as a professional literary critic, or someone who has such familiarity with a text that his opinions and insights carry the weight of authority. But I think new readers need to be gently nudged out of the shallows and into deeper waters, not thrown in to flounder where they can't touch bottom.

Sorry.....I got carried away.:roll:
When I die, I will know that I was alive, and that I loved and was loved. (moif)
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#23
Eldanuumea Wrote:One had to parrot her: "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" I left that out of my answer, and had points taken off - I kid you not.
Must have been a Francois Vilon fan. :roll:

BTW, the Sil '77 is on its way.
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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#24
:book:
I'm ready! Thanks for your generosity!

http://www.bopsecrets.org/recent/villon.htm
That link will take you to the very poem......

A funny side-note about this professor.....she came to class one Monday all flustered because they had buried non-white folks in the cemetery where her family's(uppercrust, old Southerners) tombs were. She said with great aggravation, "They're just letting anyone in these days." I swear that is exactly what she said.

(To be fair, she had expertise in the field of Southern lit. She is cited in the bibliographies in most published versions of Kate Chopin's The Awakening, a novella set in turn-of-the-century Grand isle and New Orleans. In the link below, scroll down for the critical article by Marie Fletcher......that's my dear eccentric prof.)

http://www.pbs.org/katechopin/resources.html
When I die, I will know that I was alive, and that I loved and was loved. (moif)
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#25
Eldanuumea Wrote:It's a shame that so many people learned to hate literature because of dogmatic, narrow-minded, "icky-picky" teaching.

[Brilliant stuff]...[/Brilliant stuff]

Sorry.....I got carried away.:roll:

Pray, get carried away as often as you like.

I applaud your views on teaching.


I love the story about "letting anybody in these days." Priceless.
Wrestling Darwin on a daily basis.

"Question boldly even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, He must more approve of the homage of reason than that of a blindfolded fear." -Thomas Jefferson
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#26
Mike of Quantum Muse Wrote:Pray, get carried away as often as you like.

I applaud your views on teaching.


I love the story about "letting anybody in these days." Priceless.

I can only second that. Well said!
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#27
Thanks to you both! You must have had great teachers somewhere along the line.Angel

When I played the closing sequence of the Fellowship movie, most of my students, having never engaged in any way with this story, were outraged......"Is that it? What happens next?"
I happily said, "You'll just have to read the next two installments!"

Actually, I plan to show them the battle sequences at Helm's Deep and then at Gondor. After all, everyone should experience the charge of the Rohan cavalry as well as Eowyn's brilliant defeat of the Witch-King (and Merry's, too, of course).
When I die, I will know that I was alive, and that I loved and was loved. (moif)
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#28
Alvin Eriol Wrote:I wonder if they have a similar edict regarding, say, The Golden Compass, or the Da Vinci Code, or perhaps Harry Potter, or even Greek, Norse, or Hindu mythology, as allegedly pushing some POV on one or more religious faiths?
In line with what August said, I don't notice much of a problem with mythology anywhere.
Most likely hot spot in public schools is increasingly anything thought to be of Christian influence unless by way of multicultural theme. Harry Potter and Golden Compass are likely to be refused in religious schools-unlikely to be taught in public schools, but often available as material in classroom libraries.
I am afraid that the matter of Tolkien, at least when it comes to the individual teacher decision, it is often coming from an unfortunate lack of familiarity of the teacher with the author and title, leading to the misunderstanding.

Quote:Actually, I plan to show them the battle sequences at Helm's Deep and then at Gondor. After all, everyone should experience the charge of the Rohan cavalry as well as Eowyn's brilliant defeat of the Witch-King (and Merry's, too, of course).
How exciting! Smile
[COLOR="Teal"]We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.
It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love as a changed person. [/COLOR]

[SIZE="1"]-W. Somerset Maugham[/SIZE]
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#29
Eldanuumea Wrote::book:
I'm ready! Thanks for your generosity!
Shucks, 'twarn't nuthin'. It was sitting neglected on the "Hardback Fantasy" shelf at a local used bookstore. I hate seeing Tolkien works just sitting there, like unclaimed pound puppies. BTW, there are both volumes of the Book of Lost Tales there, if you want them.
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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#30
Funny, but I've been noticing the number of HB Sil77's, apparently 1st American ed, on used bookshop shelves too. Some were in better shape than the one I bought back in 1978. I think I last counted 3 in 2 stores over the past mo. (There are a few around here I sort of "orbit" to & thru every so often.)

I could understand a bit of anxiety over using Lewis in coursework, but just a bit. LotR incorporates values that really are not only Christian but indeed ought to be nearly universal. Who exactly would have a problem with moral courage & rejection of obvious evil? After all, CSL repeatedly pointed out that many good values are virtually universal; every society that managed to stay viable longterm seems to have somehow or other adopted certain basic values in commmon with those of Judeochristianity, including the necessity for ethics and morality per se. (e.g. cf. The Abolition of Man)

I would say an in-depth examination of the motives & characters of, say, Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Saruman, Galadriel, Denethor, Eomer, Boromir, or Faramir, from the book, could be great fodder for classroom examination & criticism. How about the interlace structure & the Hand-of-Eru phenomenon & its handling? The possible symbolism of the Ring as it relates to power and corruption?
Many Defeats & Many Fruitless Victories Memoirs Gateway
For I was talking aloud to myself...the old...choose the wisest person present to speak to...
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#31
Today I brought in material about Jungian archetypes and we tried to relate LOTR characters to such figures as the Trickster, Wise old man, Wounded healer, Shadow, etc. We talked about how Superhero figures match up with such archetypes.

The whole area of power-corruption is one I haven't really explored with them. I will add that to next year's plans, because I think it's a hugely important motif and I am ashamed to admit that it didn't occur to me to include a lesson about it. Actually, trying to jam LOTR into the closing few weeks of school was not the best idea in the world. Next year, we'll hit it early on. I may even assign Fellowship as summer reading for my incoming sophomores.

BTW, Attalus, I will deeply appreciate anything you send my way! It's all good.....:daisy:
When I die, I will know that I was alive, and that I loved and was loved. (moif)
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#32
Alvin Eriol Wrote:LotR incorporates values that really are not only Christian but indeed ought to be nearly universal. Who exactly would have a problem with moral courage & rejection of obvious evil?

.....I would say an in-depth examination of the motives & characters of, say, Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Saruman, Galadriel, Denethor, Eomer, Boromir, or Faramir, from the book, could be great fodder for classroom examination & criticism.

But then you have 500 other works that also qualify, most of which don't involve hobbits and elves. Wink And so while Tolkein fans could definitely see the value of doing that... the non-fan other 99% is going to select something that they think, right or wrong, is better. It's just like us discussing Joyce above. There's no question that he was hugely influential on 20th century literature, and that he's widely regarded as one of the "greats." But if a number of us had a choice, we might choose any of 500 alternatives.
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#33
Alvin Eriol Wrote:I could understand a bit of anxiety over using Lewis in coursework, but just a bit. LotR incorporates values that really are not only Christian but indeed ought to be nearly universal. Who exactly would have a problem with moral courage & rejection of obvious evil? After all, CSL repeatedly pointed out that many good values are virtually universal; every society that managed to stay viable longterm seems to have somehow or other adopted certain basic values in commmon with those of Judeochristianity, including the necessity for ethics and morality per se. (e.g. cf. The Abolition of Man)

I still don't see overt Christian themes in LOTR. Influences, sure, but it's got Norse and Finnish influences as well. I would need to see an actual case of a teachers banning JRRT for Christian content before believing that had happened.

Lewis, sure. Lewis is as obvious as Milton in the religiousity of his works.

We read Milton, though. In public HS.
Wrestling Darwin on a daily basis.

"Question boldly even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, He must more approve of the homage of reason than that of a blindfolded fear." -Thomas Jefferson
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#34
I'm not sure you can learn how to read and write in any European-language-speaking country and not have some Christian influences, whether you even realize it or not...
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#35
Mike of Quantum Muse Wrote:I still don't see overt Christian themes in LOTR. Influences, sure, but it's got Norse and Finnish influences as well. I would need to see an actual case of a teachers banning JRRT for Christian content before believing that had happened.
The Christian themes of Redemption, Grace (the "Hand of Eru"), and steadfastness in the face of overwhelming terror and seemingly unavoidable torment and death are prominent; but, you are right, they are not exclusively Christian, by anymeans.

BTW, since this is a pre-Christian world, where are the Jews? Out in Harad, someplace?:question:
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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#36
:lol: I don't think Middle Earth is supposed to take place in pre-Christian times, is it? Or in any "times?" It's not on our Earth at all....
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#37
That's what JRRT said in one of the Letters. I haven't got it with me, though. He put a lot of effort into reconciling his maps and those of the current day.
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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#38
august Wrote::lol: I don't think Middle Earth is supposed to take place in pre-Christian times, is it? Or in any "times?" It's not on our Earth at all....

JRRT did indeed state that Arda was to be identified with "our world." (Technically, "Arda" came to refer to the entire Solar system in his later scheme of thought.)

To paraphrase a statement I vaguely remember, Middle-earth is our earth, but in an indefinitely past, mythical, time. In another statement, he estimated the War of the Ring took place roughly 7000 yrs ago (i.e. TA 3018 ~ 5000 BC?), & we're now in the Seventh Age, which I believe JRRT considered to have begun when Christ was resurrected. Therefore the historic "BCE" past would lie in the sixth age, & perhaps such fabulous times as the Greek Golden Age or the rise of the early Cretan "Minoan" civilization who wrote in Linear A, or the times in the legends of many peoples when gods and heroic human-divine hybrids walked could be the fifth age.
Many Defeats & Many Fruitless Victories Memoirs Gateway
For I was talking aloud to myself...the old...choose the wisest person present to speak to...
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#39
:lol: Our earth, but in a mythical time? Hmmm..... do I see a problem here...... ? :bounce:
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#40
Got my Sil in the mail today.....thanks again. Attalus!!:daisy:
When I die, I will know that I was alive, and that I loved and was loved. (moif)
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