Socrates; Feb. 18, 2005 03:44 AM

Whereas I have found my way to this site; and whereas it does not uphold a “family board” policy as does TORn (of which policy, for the record, I heartily approve); therefore I thought that I might try out the following discussion here. It relates to the one thread I ever started that got deleted on TORn. And to make one thing perfectly clear: I do not wish to complain about that deletion -- in fact, I am perfectly prepared to defend it and, for the record, might well have made it myself had I been an admin.

Anyway, with that prolix preamble out of the way, here goes: One of the things which the “family board” policy in place at TORn makes difficult to discuss is the possibility of sexual imagery in Tolkien. I concede at the outset that is highly unlikely that Tolkien ever meant to put any sexual imagery in; but, to quote the words of the eminent Oxford logician, mathematician, poet, and photographer the Rev. Charles Luttwidge Dodgson, “if a single word may mean more than we mean when we say it, how much more then may an entire poem or book mean than its author meant when he wrote it?” Nota bene, Rev. Dodgson wrote long before Freud.

I also freely admit one may overdo things. Videlicit the following:

From Brenda Partridge, “No Sex Please -- We’re Hobbits: The Construction of Female Sexuality in *The Lord of the Rings*”, cited after J. Pearce, *Tolkien: May and Myth*, Pp. 142-143, whose also the ellipses:

Shelob’s lair, reached by entering a hole and journeying along tunnels, may also be seen to represent the female sexual orifice. At the entranced Frodo and Sam have to force themselves through the bushy, clutching growths (the pubic hair)... These growths turn out to be cobwebs which enmesh the victim, but Frodo, with the obvious phallic symbolism of the sword, pierces the web... The diction used to describe the tearing of the web, ‘rent’ and ‘veil,’ is traditionally associated with the tearing of the hymen.
Galadriel’s phial... also represents a phallus more potent than their swords...
Despite the phial’s powers, Frodo as a man is ultimately overpowered by the female Shelob; paralysed by her venom he lies helpless waiting to be sacrificed at her will. He is rescued only through the valiant struggle of his male companion, Sam.
The description of Sam’s battle with Shelob is not only a life and death struggle of man and monster, good against evil, but also represents a violent sexual struggle between man and woman. Shelob’s ‘soft, squelching body’ is a metaphor for the female genitals swollen and moist in sexual arousal... Her impenetrable skin hangs in folds like the layers of the labia...
So Sam valiantly stabs at the monster, pitifully helpless as she rears over him... The male organ, puny compared with the vast, evil smelling mass of the female, is described in euphemistic sexual terms as ‘his little impudence’...
And so Sam and Shelob interlocked climax in an orgasm with the male phallus thrusting hard, inflicting great pain and a deadly blow deep into the female sexual organ... In the aftermath of the climax, as the erection subsides, the male, though victor, is again seen as frail and overwhelmed by the female’s bulk.
Shelob then crawls away in agony as Sam in a final gesture holds up the phial, once more asserting male supremacy, brandishing the phallus, male symbol of power...
The imagery portraying this gesture appears at first sight to be more overtly religious, representing the Christian victory over paganism. However, as we have seen before, in *The Lord of the Rings* sexual implications are shrouded in religious symbolism... Once again Tolkien interprets myth in such a way as to reveal his inner fear or abhorrence of female sexuality, but his attitude is reinforced by the prejudices inherent in religious symbolism itself.”

No laughing now! This was a perfectly serious academic tract. Really! (It has been said that some critics in their criticisms of authors reveal far more about themselves than they do about the authors whom they’re criticising.)

Anyway, if Partridge probably goes a wee bit too far in her desire (need?) to see sexual imagery everywhere in the encounter with Shelob, do you think that (unwitting though it have been) there may actually be some there? (There are perfectly respectable analyses of Homer’s Odyssey, by the way, which discuss the uterine imagery present in the description of the Cyclops’ cave into which Odysseus is driven.)
Or is this all bunkum? Leaving aside snide comments about Brenda Partridge’s analysis, is it just straining too much to see any sexual imagery in the passage? For example, Tolkien makes much of the symbolism of light -- starlight in particular -- throughout his works. Surely it is more natural to see Galadriel’s phial in that context rather than as a phallic symbol.
As to the long tunnel, as has often been pointed out, Frodo’s journey through a tunnel (at the end of Bk. IV) is set in direct parallel to Aragorn’s journey through a tunnel (at the start of Bk. V): in both cases, the journey through a tunnel seems rather to be a symbolic journey through death -- Frodo seems to die quite literally; Aragorn walks “the paths of the death.” Both make it through the “death” and emerge from the subterranean chamber back to the light of day. Aragorn’s leading forth of the souls of those previously trapped under the earth suggests even more, but I’ll leave it there.
Finally, as to the spider: It is a fact of biology that the spider one has to worry about is the female of the species. Many people are arachnophobes -- and Tolkien was trying to write a particularly terrifying scene. Why should he not have chosen a giant spider to lie in wait at the end of that tunnel? Spiders, after all, are particularly horrifying in that they actually paralyse their prey and then, while it is still alive, inject into it a solution which liquefies its innards so that the spider can suck the fluid out later. For sheer horror it’s hard to top. Wasn’t that Tolkien’s goal in this passage?
Or, in your view, might there be something to it after all? Was Tolkien consciously aiming at certain effects, but subconsciously said (as Rev. Dodgson would have phrased it) more than he meant to say?
Questions? Comments? Weird noises?

 

 

Menexenus, Feb. 18, 2005 06:21 AM
I rather agree with your analysis than Partridge's. Her analysis strikes me as that of someone who wants to see sexual references everywhere whether it makes sense or not. I don't really believe that whenever there is a tunnel somewhere there is a hidden reference to female genitals and in that case I really don't think it has anything to do with it. Death on the other hand seems much closer to the mark.


Hippothales, Feb. 18, 2005 06:49 AM
Is there nothing in this world that hasn't been touched by someone who is fan of Freud? I think this lady is stretching things a bit. (I'm sure she'd find something sexual about that statement too). Sometimes a spider is just a spider.
wink.gif

*commences weird noises*

Parmenides, Feb. 18, 2005 06:57 AM
Oh, weird noises. Definitely some of those!

*looks up "videlicit"* Okay, I have no idea what that word means.
blink.gif

Edit: ok, "videlicet", now I get it. Should have used Dictionary.com in the first place.

I'd have to say that this analysis by Partridge is way, way overdone. I just can't see Tolkien, even subliminally, interpreted in this manner. It boggles my mind, actually. It is far more likely he was simply trying to write a terrifying, horrifying encounter with an evil monster. I don't like spiders, but I don't see fighting off a giant spider with a sword as a battle between the sexes.

QUOTE
(It has been said that some critics in their criticisms of authors reveal far more about themselves than they do about the authors whom they’re criticising.)


Yes, I'd say this has a lot to do with Ms. Partridge and her state of mind.

Wasn't there some of this male vs. female imagery discussed in the Reading Room during the Sil discussion of Ungoliant and Melkor?


Ctesippus, Feb. 18, 2005 08:50 AM
Tolkien, his Victorian attitudes towards sex notwithstanding, probably didn't intend the chapter to be read in the way this essayist perceived it. That's a bit of a reach, IMO.

*nods head curtly - wonders why people are still looking at him expectantly*

Oh, SORRY!

*clears throat*

Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax,
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax!


Meno, Feb. 18, 2005 08:55 AM
QUOTE (Ctessippus @ Feb 18 2005, 07:50 AM)
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax,
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax!


Sorry to hijack this thread (if I must contribute I too believe the critic was reaching too far but I believe one could use that metaphor, even if it was intended) but Ctessippus, did you just quote Aristophanes's the Birds?


Anytus, Feb. 18, 2005 09:15 AM
QUOTE (Socrates @ Feb 18 2005, 01:44 AM)
Or, in your view, might there be something to it after all? Was Tolkien consciously aiming at certain effects, but subconsciously said (as Rev. Dodgson would have phrased it) more than he meant to say?
Questions? Comments? Weird noises?


First, thanks for posting this it is an aspect of Tolkien that needs to be addressed, and TORN cannot address this issue fully. I can imagine what a subject line on TORN like "Sam and the tearing of the hymen" would look like!

I sense that at some level what Partidge finds is "there" in the text, but as with all such Freudian interpretations of literary works, one you identify phallic and vaginal imagery, there's not much else you can do with it. Partridge is using pretty standard Freudian dream interpretation techniques (in fact very hackneyed categories since Freud's On the Interpretation of Dreams is a fascinating document of late Victorian Sherlock Holmes-like sleuthing, and I encourage people to go out and read it so that they know what exactly "Freudian" means aside from the cliches; it's a really interesting and surprisingly subtle book), and hence her conclusion about Tolkien's "inner fear or abhorrence of female sexuality" is one of those just goes nowhere. For Freud, uncovering the underlying meaning behind the imagery of the "Dreamwork" (to use his term) exposes it to the sunlight where it evaporates, being nothing but a primitive unconscious drive that, when exposed, basically withers because it cannot survive in the conscious world of the waking. This is the foundation of the "talking cure" that Freud developed in his treatment of hysterics (or took from his colleague Breuer); once the hidden desire is voiced directly and not through imagery, it resolves itself and disappears.

The bottom line for Patridge's analysis is she says the imagery shows Tolkien shows that he had an "fear or abhorrence of female sexuality" he inherited ultimately from Christian faith. Well, yes, but then what? Where do we go from there? The "pay off" for all those interpretational acrobatics is minimal at best, and it falls back into a pretty banal statement of something we could easily know from other, more direct routes. What, Tolkien was ambivalent about women? Religious iconographic images represent the fear of the vagina or the hymen? Uh, yup. We could have deduced on our own without too much help from tunnel imagery or other tired symbols.

Now I will say that at a basic, most likely unconscious level, yes that imagery is there. But it's like saying Orthanc is a huge phallic symbol of POWER! Of course it is, but what next? Where's the beef as they used to say in the 80s? Ooops. that's phallic again. Now I will say that I am a big fan of well-conceived psychoanalytic criticism and I certainly am a huge admirer of psychoanalytic feminist theory (I'm biased towards the French Lacanian theorists), but Partridge is the kind of sloppy application of pop-psychology versions of Freud that makes the whole school an easy target.

What she should have done is examine how the sexual imagery informs other thematic threads in the text, or how they can shed new light on some of the mythic sources which Tolkien used (such as the cyclops episode you cite). As it is, she goes through a lot of effort just to come to a rather tired conclusion. And like the unconscious desire to kill the father and sleep with the mother, once said, the conclusion and the whole analysis just evaporate and stall like a Balrog (because he ain't got no wings but smoke 'n mirrors).

Whew, that was long.... but here there's no ticking clock o' death at my back. Thanks for posting this. I hope Curious and squire come over here; I'd love to hear what they have to say on this topic!!!

 


Ctessippus, Feb. 18, 2005 09:24 AM
QUOTE (Meno @ Feb 18 2005, 07:55 AM)
QUOTE (Ctessippus @ Feb 18 2005, 07:50 AM)
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax,
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax!
Sorry to hijack this thread (if I must contribute I too believe the critic was reaching too far but I believe one could use that metaphor, even if it was intended) but Ctessippus, did you just quote Aristophanes's the Birds?


It's Aristophones, alright, just a different critter. I was quoting his "Frog's' chorus." (I take it his birds chorus is different, right?)

Culture maven that I am, I first heard it in that episode of Star Trek where "Plato's Stepchildren" use their telekinetic abilities to prompt television's first interracial kiss - oops - talk about hijacking the thread and taking it in weird directions !
tongue.gif

I'll stop right now, with apologies to Socrates!


Cepahlus, Feb. 18, 2005 10:39 AM
Great post Socrates! And welcome to the boards!
smile.gif

You know, I'm of the mind that you could find a sexual reference in almost *any* piece of literature if you look hard enough. It appears to me that this author had on her phallic magnifying glass and was trying to hard to find something to satisfy her sexual needs. Talk about rose colored glasses wink.gif

I'm sure there are many other aspect of LOTR that can be translated into something sexual: The hot, burning Balrog stuck in the Caves of Moria? The groaning struggle of Frodo to "ascend" to the top of Mt. Doom to reach the "climax" of the story. The problem here is, it seems the author's literary skills were quite wasted in academia--sounds like she should have forayed into slash.
wink.gif

Particularly with lines like:
QUOTE
The male organ, puny compared with the vast, evil smelling mass of the female,

blink.gif

um. ew.


Adeimantus, Feb. 15, 2005 11:15 AM
I remember this original thread and its deletion! (I think)

As for the metaphor - works for me!

And, besides, what guy HASN'T delved too greedily, only to awake that nameless terror from which he fled?


Glaucon, Feb. 18, 11:48 AM
QUOTE (Adeimantus @ Feb 18 2005, 10:15 AM)
And, besides, what guy HASN'T delved too greedily, only to awake that nameless terror from which he fled?


Had a good night, did you, Adeimantus? (And did she have wings?)

Me, I'm less sure of all the tunnelling and more confident of the very powerful sexual imagery that is more to the forefront of Tolkien's writing about both Ungoliant and Shelob. It's a very disquieting image of female sexuality—dangerous, all-engulfing, capable of reducing not only the male but all of creation to nothing. I don't see that Freudian theory in particular adds illumination of value to this, but then I've been dismissive of psychoanalytic lit crit for eons, particularly of this rather reductive, imagery-based sort of analysis.

Naturally, sheer horror was the goal. But there is—I think undeniably—a very strong characterization of that horror as particularly female, and sexually so. So where do we go with that? Do we have to say it reveals something about the author? I hope not—I don't like that game either. But it's there: the sexual is part of the text, and I'm sure not only here.

And if I fucking HATE spiders and believe they are ACTUALLY evil and plotting to take over the world, does that mean I secretly detest my own female sexuality?

blink.gif


Antiphon, Feb. 18, 2005 12:14 PM
As a general rule, I think it very likely that LOTR is stuffed full of Tolkien's darker and deeper thoughts and fears; and, given his life story, I imagine they were plentiful.

I'm not sure about the phallic imagery; it seems to me that somebody fearing female sexuality isn't thinking about penises. But I've always seen Shelob as a sexual predator; the female spider is almost a cliche in that regard, and Tolkien's word choices seem clearly to reinforce that. I'm less inclined to interpret the whole narrative as a deliberate metaphor for sex as I am to see subconscious feelings or attitudes seeping into Tolkien's story.

Certainly I think such an interpretation would be fairly consistent with the rest of the work; Galadriel is a kindly mother-figure who's powerful but distant; Eowyn is pitiable but needy and so Aragorn flees her; Arwen, the model bride, is pretty much invisible. As a whole I think one could see LOTR as the work of a man who fears or is reluctant to engage with women.

As others have said, I'm not sure what good it does you to theorise that, but there you go.


Ctessippus, Feb. 18, 2005 02:20 PM
I wouldn't rule out the possibility that some subconscious revulsion on JRR's part could've informed his writing, the Shelob incident included. As to whether or not it's "valid," that's up to each reader, and whether or not the above analysis resonates with them in terms of their appreciation of the scene.

Also:

"the vast, evil smelling mass of the female"

Now there's a culturally-conditioned perception if ever I've seen one. Many aesthetic responses may be hard-wired into us, but the language of that quote gives away a cultural prejudice. How can something smell evil? Is it possible for something to smell "pious"?

 


Socrates, Feb. 18, 2005 02:59 PM
QUOTE (Anytus @ Feb 18 2005, 08:15 AM)
I sense that at some level what Partidge finds is "there" in the text, but as with all such Freudian interpretations of literary works, one you identify phallic and vagainal imagery, there's not much else you can do with it.
...
Now I will say that at a basic, most likely unconscious level, yes that imagery is there. But it's like saying Orthanc is a huge phallic symbol of POWER! Of course it is, but what next?
...
What she should have done is examine how the sexual imagery informs other thematic threads in the text, or how they can shed new light on some of the mythic sources which Tolkien used (such as the cyclops episode you cite).
...

(Elipses mine.)


Thanks -- nice comments. I read Freud's On the Interpretation of Dreams many years ago; from what I remember of it, it struck me as having more common sense than many of the employments of this mode of analysis.

I agree with you that often the identification of sexual imagery is often nearly meaningless since the sexuality of the image is purely subsidiary: Orthanc is phallic, yes; but the phallic symbolism merely re-inforces what Orthanc primarily and obviously represents: power, might, strength (whether intellectual or physical) -- and we can see that without having to analyse the symbolic meaning of the erect phallus. The same would apply to any tower in the tale: Barad-dur; the White Tower of Ecthelion; etc. Nor is Tolkien using the phallic symbolism of a tower in any particular way (at least not that I can see): It would be one thing if (to construct a near parody) an author were to write a book in which two nations went to war, the one of which had its headquarters in a great tower and the other of which had its headquarters in a circular building; and then re-inforced this imagery. But in the LotR both sides have towers -- the one in Isengard is black, the one in Minas Tirith is white; the one in Mordor comes tumbling down, the one in Cirith Ungol (apparently) remains standing -- but then again so do Orthanc and the White Tower too for that matter; and on and on.

(As an aside: I wonder if it were a particular joke on Tolkien's part to make Orthanc black. After all, as a denizen of academe, Tolkien knew full well what colour the tower is which academics are supposed to inhabit. Saruman -- his name means "clever man" in Old English (Mercian dialect, to be exact) -- is perhaps Tolkien's most excessively cerebral character. Tolkien glossed "Orthanc" as "cunning mind" in Rohirric; the word occurs in Old English and has usually been understood as meaning something like "cunning work/design." So, here's Mr. Cleverman, living in a high tower called Cunningmind; and Mr. Cleverman has lots of book-learning but gets lost in forests ("he has no woodcraft"), can't see what's under his own nose (the Ents blindside him), and gets tripped up in his intrigues with Sauron because he's too conceited to realise that Sauron is using him. What a perfect man to stick into an ivory tower crammed full of books -- only Tolkien, perhaps, as a joke purposefully made the tower black.)


Socrates, Feb. 18, 2005 04:41 PM
QUOTE (Antiphon @ Feb 18 2005, 11:14 AM)
As a general rule, I think it very likely that LOTR is stuffed full of Tolkien's darker and deeper thoughts and fears; and, given his life story, I imagine they were plentiful.


I think you're right to say that Tolkien's deeper and darker fears run through the narrative of the LotR: To take one obvious example, it seems to me no coïncidence that so many of Tolkien's heroes are orphans (like Tolkien) or don't have much of a family life (or what family life they do have is fairly grim).

Take the episode of Denethor and Faramir. If I'm not mistaken, it's the one episode in the LotR in which we see a father interacting with his son at any length (I'm excluding from this, e.g., Sam and the Gaffer or Farmer Maggot and his sons). The fathers of most of the other major protagonists either died when their sons were young (Aragorn's, Frodo's, Éomer's) or are safely off-stage (Gimli's, Legolas'). The one time we see a father and a son together, the scene contains so much unrequited and embittered love that it's (for me at least) difficult to read.

But does this reveal anything profound other than that Tolkien, who'd never really known his own father, felt the lack keenly and worried about whether or not he was being a good father to his own sons? His worries and insecurity in the matter of fatherhood may well have influenced his description of the breakdown in Denethor's and Faramir's relationship; but does this realisation lead us anywhere?

At any rate, according to Tolkien's biographer, Tolkien was an extremely loving father who continually involved himself in his children's small affairs while they were growing up and who practically doted on them. He was never afraid to show them affection in public despite living in an age when fathers rarely did that. On one occasion he spent hours on the beach looking for a toy dog that one of his sons had lost the day before; and, when he couldn't find it, invented the story of "Roverandom" to console his boy on the loss. That doesn't exclude, of course, deep and pervasive private fear in the matter of fatherhood -- which may have entered into the LotR at the subconscious level.


Socrates, Feb. 18, 2005 04:48 PM
QUOTE (Adeimantus @ Feb 18 2005, 10:15 AM)
I remember this original thread and its deletion! (I think)

As for the metaphor - works for me!

And, besides, what guy HASN'T delved too greedily, only to awake that nameless terror from which he fled?


Hah! Excellent!

Also, interesting that someone remembers the original thread. That just proves that we're both old-timers, Adeimantus. Now, where's my cane?

 


Pythodorus, Feb. 18, 2005 07:55 PM
Just a quick note: I vaguely remember reading Partridge's essay many years ago, when I was young enough to be outraged. I seem to remember Partridge making a point of one other line from the Shelob encounter: "Frodo's hand wavered, and slowly the Phial drooped" (emphasis Partridge).


Zeno, Feb. 19, 2005 02:39 AM
QUOTE (Socrates @ Feb 18 2005, 02:44 AM)
Anyway, if Partridge probably goes a wee bit too far in her desire (need?) to see sexual imagery everywhere in the encounter with Shelob, do you think that (unwitting though it have been) there may actually be some there? (There are perfectly respectable analyses of Homer’s Odyssey, by the way, which discuss the uterine imagery present in the description of the Cyclops’ cave into which Odysseus is driven.)
Or is this all bunkum? Leaving aside snide comments about Brenda Partridge’s analysis, is it just straining too much to see any sexual imagery in the passage? For example, Tolkien makes much of the symbolism of light – starlight in particular -- throughout his works. Surely it is more natural to see Galadriel’s phial in that context rather than as a phallic symbol.
Finally, as to the spider: It is a fact of biology that the spider one has to worry about is the female of the species. Many people are arachnophobes -- and Tolkien was trying to write a particularly terrifying scene. Why should he not have chosen a giant spider to lie in wait at the end of that tunnel? Spiders, after all, are particularly horrifying in that they actually paralyse their prey and then, while it is still alive, inject into it a solution which liquefies its innards so that the spider can suck the fluid out later. For sheer horror it’s hard to top.


first of all may I say great post! and great to see you Socrates!

I too like the overall family nature of the boards at Torn.. but its a shame that it prevents mature discussions like this one

I can still remember my prof in college telling us about that cave in the Odyssey!!!
I wondered at the time ( I was about 20 ) how much action I had missed in other stories since I sure missed that!

well I approach writing as I do art, and feel passages can certainly mean different things to different people its a very fluid thing.

I tend to reject this type of over analysis however because she seems to have an agenda that is for me distracting from the mythology

perhaps Tolkien was afraid of spiders and of course she would be female !! she isn't the only icky creature (the fell beast were stinky weren't they?) Bad things are ugly in Middle Earth . (whats interesting to me is how PJ's shelob is so sleek .. nothing like book shelob and lacks her menace-- is this because we don't perceive movie shelob as female? )

this whole phalic thing makes me nuts.. how are they supposed to kill her?? with a noose??? most weapons penetrate!

galadriels phial? I have to say its light versus dark, not male vs female (or at the least the good female / vs evil )

if I were to see this as any sort of sexual overtones I would have to go with the old theory of Frodo's journey to adulthood .. he goes into the cave hand in hand with his friend after the encounter with the female (and Sam's temptation of the ring another female symbol)

hmmm but then he is reunited with Sam

ok thats another thread ....

what fascinates me about shelob is we actually hear her voice, and feel like she is more of a predator than the other villains, is she evil? or hungry?


Parmenides, Feb. 19, 2005 07:10 AM
Ok, question:

Freud was an atheist, correct? So he approached his philosophy of people's motivations from a strictly atheistic viewpoint.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic. So wouldn't it make more sense to analyze the underlying motivations for Tolkien's work by looking at his religion, and the themes present therein? (such as the light vs. dark, good vs. evil themes) I'm thinking that what was going on in Tolkien's head as he was writing were struggles such as did he have a good relationship with his (Catholic) God, had he gone to confession that week, etc.
tongue.gif

Or is that too naive? Should one be approaching the analysis of someone's writing from one's own belief system or from the author's belief system?

(Please be patient with me--I went to college and took computer programming classes--great for writing computer code but pretty useless if you are trying to participate in a literary discussion.)


Aristoteles, Feb. 19, 2005 07:54 AM
QUOTE (Lysis @ Feb 19 2005, 11:10 AM)
Ok, question:

Freud was an atheist, correct? So he approached his philosophy of people's motivations from a strictly atheistic viewpoint.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic. So wouldn't it make more sense to analyze the underlying motivations for Tolkien's work by looking at his religion, and the themes present therein? (such as the light vs. dark, good vs. evil themes) I'm thinking that what was going on in Tolkien's head as he was writing were struggles such as did he have a good relationship with his (Catholic) God, had he gone to confession that week, etc.


I think a Freudian would reply that Freud's theories work with the unconscious mind, so that whatever the author thought was informing their work, or whatever background she or he came from, the structure of their unconscious is the same as everyone else’s and so is susceptible to analysis in exactly the same way. So motivations are irrelevant: it's a universal theory which is supposed to work on any and all of us.

Of course, Freud himself said that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar, so go figure.

I'm a bit rusty on this – I used to teach Freud to philosophy undergrads and I've managed to blank most of it out since then (I've been even more successful with Lacan).

 


Lysis, Feb. 19, 2005 10:23 AM
QUOTE (Zeno @ Feb 19 2005, 01:39 AM)

this whole phalic thing makes me nuts.. how are they supposed to kill her?? with a noose??? most weapons penatrate!


Ha! Good "point"!

Although Frank Herbert would say that "there's no artistry in killing with the tip [of a sword], that it should be done with the edge"...


Anytus, Feb. 19, 2005 11:41 AM
QUOTE (Lysis @ Feb 19 2005, 05:10 AM)
Ok, question:

Freud was an atheist, correct? So he approached his philosophy of people's motivations from a strictly atheistic viewpoint.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic. So wouldn't it make more sense to analyze the underlying motivations for Tolkien's work by looking at his religion, and the themes present therein? (such as the light vs. dark, good vs. evil themes)


Freud's entire theory is based on the idea that religious belief and dogma are ways the unconcious mind tries to cloak and cope with inner drives and desires to make them more palatable to the waking conscious mind. Freud wrote extensively on religion, Christianity and his own Judaism (what he was born into), and of course had lots to say about the God the Father image, the idealization of the Virgin, etc. For Freud, these are just conceptualizations of one's own biological father, mother, etc., and religion is a way of masking primitive drives for pleasure (sex) coming from the Id. Freud dabbled in lots of religions (he loved to collect religious figurines and icons from all over the world), but Carl Jung was the one who wrote on non-Western religions--but he broke with Freud by not reducing it all to basic sexual urges and allowed for there to be shared "collective" unconscious psychological ideas ("archetypes") that were reflected in religion and were not all purely sexual and family-based in nature.

(Sorry to go on, I studied lots of Freud in the past so it's a big interest, though I looked at Freud from a literary critic's point of view as a particular historical and cultural way of explaining the mind, definitley not as "truth." I ain't no psychoanalyst and I have grave doubts about all psychoanalysis as a means of helping people; some love it, but most im my experience get screwed up. Other kinds of therapy seem to be much more effective in helping people, so I'm also not knocking all therapy or "shrinks.")

But as I mentioned above to get back on topic, in the end to say that Tolkien is using Catholic imagery and all of it refelcts this desire to control the feared sexuality of the female (Sam hacking at Shelob with his lil' Sting, etc.) is kind of boring and makes us ask "so what"? That's about the most obvious kind of Freudian reading one can make, and doesn't really go anywhere. That kind of schlocky Freudian reading of Tolkien is like cramming all the pieces of a puzzle into a set form and lopping off the parts that don't fit (Eowyn is not really addressed, and she adds some wrinkles to the whole female sexuality stuff Patridge is talking about).


Phaedo, Feb. 19, 2005 12:05 PM
Hi, sibs.... Zeno reminded me to come back... I have been away for a while and am so happy to see all the folks participating here.

Like Socrates, I totally endorse the family-oriented nature of TORN, but alot of my LOTR interests have slid toward the decidedly non-family oriented side, so.....

Fascinating post....right up my eclectic, self-educated alley....

Also, Anytus, let me say that the classic type of psychotherapy (not Freudian psychoanalysis) saved my life after a disastrous marriage. But it took me four tries to find a shrink who knew what she was doing. Like anything else, there's a lot of mediocrity out there with scattered pockets of excellence. And the psychology books that have made the most sense to me are Jung and the folks who came out of the various 12-Step programs, just to "show you the mechanism" of my thoughts....

So. On to Shelob and sexual imagery.... With Dodgson, I think that even over-the-top readings like Partridge's are totally allowable and worthy of discussion, although I agree that criticisms like hers tell us more about the critic than the text.

I think that LOTR uses so many powerful, universal, and dare I say archetypal images and themes, that it can be discussed on many levels, including the sexual. One of the things that getting interested in hobbit slash did for me was to "clue me in" to a more adult understanding of LOTR's sexual themes. I first read the work as a child and it took the movies and fanfiction to boost me into a broader and deeper and more complex reading of some of these things.

My opinion is that Tolkien may have been dealing with his issues with women via the women, including Shelob, in his story. He says himself that the way the story germ uses the soil of experience is very complex. But there are so many images and objects that can be sexualized, that it gets kinda ridiculous after a while if you try to make everything sexual. I mean, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, you know?

But that doesn't mean it's not instructive, interesting and/or entertaining to play around with what it might mean to see Shelob and Sam's battle as a sexual metaphor. I would point out, using Partridge as a starting place, that even if we see the phial as phallic, it was a gift to Frodo from a woman. So that has to be factored in.

I think it's totally okay to see the tunnel as metaphorically vaginal, but you have to broaden the symbolic discussion to see how male and female roles and power struggles play out throughout history and throughout the work.

One of the explanatory metaphors about the tunnel that really works better for me here is the Hero's Journey one that Socrates already alluded to. I think it was Campbell who noted the tunnel/journey to the underworld phase of the Journey that many heroes must undertake (ha... pun) on their quests. That the underworld has a feminine vibe is true; recall the old pre-Christian European ideas of the Mother Goddess and her womb, with women being the dealers in both death and life. Hecate, Kali, Demeter and her sisters have all but vanished from our ascetic, Western ideals of divinity. But some underworlds do have a masculine vibe as well.

One of the female/male symbolic things that interests me now about this portion of the tale is how you can see Frodo as the Princess in the Tower, rescued by the knight-errant, Sam, and yet, how in other ways Frodo takes on the male role of the Wounded Grail King who has to hand on the land to his own heir, Sam, who then goes on to marry and re-invigorate society.... I think Tolkien didn't mean to do all that consciously, but that doesn't mean we can't see the symbolism in there. The story is so rich, and draws on everything Tolkien ever knew and studied. The characters really transcend the tale and become archetypal, to me. The movies certainly caught that flavor.

That's one reason slash fascinates me -- it's all about messing with gender roles and seeing what happens if you do; how things change and how those changes can shed light on our preconceptions and our habitual ways of doing things. Also it's great fun.....
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Zeno, Feb. 19, 2005 12:41 PM
QUOTE (Lysis @ Feb 19 2005, 09:23 AM)
QUOTE (Zeno @ Feb 19 2005, 01:39 AM)
this whole phalic thing makes me nuts.. how are they supposed to kill her?? with a noose??? most weapons penatrate!

Ha! Good "point"!

Although Frank Herbert would say that "there's no artistry in killing with the tip [of a sword], that it should be done with the edge"...


LOL well I'm into fencing.. so we play to penetrate!!

whoooot lets hear it for the phalic symbol !!!
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Zeno, Feb. 19, 2005 01:02 PM
QUOTE (Lysis @ Feb 19 2005, 06:10 AM)
Ok, question:

Freud was an atheist, correct? So he approached his philosophy of people's motivations from a strictly atheistic viewpoint.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic. So wouldn't it make more sense to analyze the underlying motivations for Tolkien's work by looking at his religion, and the themes present therein? (such as the light vs. dark, good vs. evil themes) I'm thinking that what was going on in Tolkien's head as he was writing were struggles such as did he have a good relationship with his (Catholic) God, had he gone to confession that week, etc.

Or is that too naive? Should one be approaching the analysis of someone's writing from one's own belief system or from the author's belief system?

(Please be patient with me--I went to college and took computer programming classes--great for writing computer code but pretty useless if you are trying to participate in a literary discussion.)


this opens a whole different can of worms...

(bear with me as well, I'm obviously not scholary

I often wonder about Tolkien's Catholsism and his mother, who meant everything to him (understandably so) Would he of remained a Catholic if he didn't see his mother as something of a marytr ? In his eyes she died for her faith

I think we get a more powerful mix of imagery from this than simply a Catholic viewpoint .. I believe its where the theme of fighting the long defeat comes from.. and Tokien's negative (depression?) outlook on the world

for me thats the overarching theme of LOTR, the word hope is used so much in the films but I don't feel it the same way in the books

Tolkien himself said the theme was primarily death even that isnt a Catholic theme is it? , there is no afterlife or saviour recognized

but I digress
tongue.gif

no I don't think you can view something only through the faith the writer/artists acknowledges, and that faith is part of the mix but not all of it

esp after reading the Silm which is for me such a pagan story


Echecrates, Feb. 20, 2005 04:20 PM
NOW we're talking!

Somewhat random comments on the preceding posts:

Socrates:
It would be one thing if (to construct a near parody) an author were to write a book in which two nations went to war, the one of which had its headquarters in a great tower and the other of which had its headquarters in a circular building; and then re-inforced this imagery. But in the LotR both sides have towers

That depends
on how you define "sides". Hobbits, you know, live in holes or rounded protrusions.

I've always thought that the presence of hobbits was what made the absence of women in LotR less of a problem for the reader. Hobbits are almost the exclusive bearers of "non-sexual" characteristics stereotypically assigned to female characters--they nurture, they fear, they subordinate themselves to the wishes of others, etc. So it is very interesting to me when Phaedo points out that "you can see Frodo as the Princess in the Tower, rescued by the knight-errant, Sam. I am more inclined to see Sam as a mother rescuing her young, although the image becomes vastly more complicated when you admit that Frodo was attacked by a mother in the first place.

Glaucon:
Naturally, sheer horror was the goal. But there is—I think undeniably—a very strong characterization of that horror as particularly female, and sexually so. So where do we go with that? Do we have to say it reveals something about the author? I hope not—I don't like that game either. But it's there: the sexual is part of the text, and I'm sure not only here.

Antiphon:
I'm not sure about the phallic imagery; it seems to me that somebody fearing female sexuality isn't thinking about penises. But I've always seen Shelob as a sexual predator; the female spider is almost a cliche in that regard, and Tolkien's word choices seem clearly to reinforce that. I'm less inclined to interpret the whole narrative as a deliberate metaphor for sex as I am to see subconscious feelings or attitudes seeping into Tolkien's story.


The sexual imagery is undeniably "there" but I agree with Antiphon that the story is more complicated than Partridge's cartoonish reading. For one thing, the oozing mother spider in the tunnel is just too obvious for JRRT to have missed unless he was himself blinded to the imagery with all that blindness implies about his unconscious. If he was aware of the excessive nature of the imagery in this scene, he meant it; if he was not aware of it, his unconscious meant it. But meant what?

An idea that has interested me for a long time but that I have never really thought through is this: on the surface of LotR is a dearth of womanhood--once one leaves the Shire, there are no domestic scenes, no non-iconic females (except for Éowyn, who seems to tell her own separate, somewhat 20th-century feminist story). The surface is almost entirely male, yet disturbing female imagery roils right beneath the crust, finally erupting in Shelob's cave. Is there a story that takes into account both of these currents? Is one commenting on the other?

 

 

Anytus, Feb. 20, 2005 05:20 PM
QUOTE (Echecrates @ Feb 20 2005, 02:20 PM)
I've always thought that the presence of hobbits was what made the absence of women in LotR less of a problem for the reader. Hobbits are almost the exclusive bearers of "non-sexual" characteristics stereotypically assigned to female characters--they nurture, they fear, they subordinate themselves to the wishes of others, etc. So it is very interesting to me when Phaedo points out that
"you can see Frodo as the Princess in the Tower, rescued by the knight-errant, Sam. I am more inclined to see Sam as a mother rescuing her young, although the image becomes vastly more complicated when you admit that Frodo was attacked by a mother in the first place.

I like that point about the Hobbits being "feminized" and specifically "maternalized" through their association with a kind of life in the womb, so to speak, versus the obviously phallic world outside. On Sam and Frodo, there is of course that old canard of their relationship being that of two gay lovers, but you're right that Sam exhibits more of a maternal instinct in Mordor even though he defers to Frodo as his socio-economic better. This definitely appears when Sam must carry the child-like Frodo piggy-back.

There is a whole weird old mother thing going on here. Look at all the dead or absent mothers in almost every single case with an important male. Is Tolkien having male-male relationships such as Frodo and Sam substitute for maternal relations? Then we have the monster Mom in Shelob, or the ethereal but impotent Mom in Galadriel. (Arwen is the only one who fulfills the culturally-appointed role as domestic partner and then royal mother, so she brings a maternal function back into the end of book at the same time as Eowyn assumes a more traditional wifely role).

I remember a while back on TORN you posted a very interesting indictment of Kubrick's 2001 centering on its efforts to deny the maternal function and replace it with a kind of sterile masculine procreation (leading to the Star Baby). I wonder how Tolkien fits here with his absent mothers.


Apollodorus, Feb. 21, 2005 04:20 PM
Reading through your excellent post, Socrates, I must admit the first thing that sprung to mind was a 'Scenes from the Hat' game that took place a few months ago on TORn - the subject was something like "things that sound rude in LOTR". There were literally hundreds and hundreds of answers to that post and double entendre could be found just about everywhere in the book. Incidentally, I think it was one of the funniest things ever on TORn and parts of the book have never been quite the same again since!
blink.gif

I seem to remember that Shelobs Lair featured quite predominently in many of the answers and sexual innuendo was rife in this chapter. However, I don't believe that Tolkien deliberately wrote sexual references into the text and you really can find innuendo in just about any piece of writing when you start trying.

Great post Socrates. It's nice to see you here. Isn't it nice to be able to talk like grown-ups!
smile.gif

Anytus, Feb. 23, 2005 08:09 PM
QUOTE (Apollodorus @ Feb 21 2005, 02:20 PM)
Reading through your excellent post, Socrates, I must admit the first thing that sprung to mind was a 'Scenes from the Hat' game that took place a few months ago on TORn - the subject was something like "things that sound rude in LOTR". There were literally hundreds and hundreds of answers to that post and double entendre could be found just about everywhere in the book. Incidentally, I think it was one of the funniest things ever on TORn and parts of the book have never been quite the same again since!


There were some priceless responses on those threads! And hey, they were basically little LOTR Rorschach tests in which each poster could do free associations (same thing for the Caption posts) and tell us what's on their minds.

ohmy.gifohmy.gifohmy.gif

 

 

Simmias, Mar. 3, 2005 04:48 AM
*Looks around for a good place to make his first post*

*Finds it - a Socrates essay*

I doubt many of you remember me - I left TORn in 2002 - too pissed off by the admins and joined TORC. There's a long story as to how I got here, but that's for another day.

Has anyone considered the sexuality in the Movies? Obviously Jackson picked up on Tolkien's themes. Consider these quotes from the three movies and you'll see what I mean:

FOTR
I smell it in the air.
Hmm, well now that should please him, hmmm.
You come and go as you please.
You don't mind if I eat, do you?
It's all in hand.
This will be a night to remember!
No, no the big one, big one.
That was good!
Put it somewhere out of sight.
I will risk no hurt to the Ring.
Hold out your hand Frodo, it’s quite cool.
Don't tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it.
We do not know who else may be watching!
Here is a nice one Sam.
It comes in pints?
Can I have some meat?
Arwen, ride hard. Don’t look back!
This is wonderful!
You said you'd bind yourself to me.
I will take it! I will take it!
If our luck holds the Gap of Rohan will still be open to us.
The passage south is being watched.
It is a strange fate we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing… such a little thing.
Speak “friend” and enter.
There’s something down there.
No, but the air doesn’t smell so foul down here.
Now there’s an eye opener and no mistake.
The ground shakes.
A Shadow moves in the dark.
They are coming.
That would have skewered a wild boar.
Nobody tosses a dwarf.
Stay there. Hold on. Hang on! Lean forward!
Come, she is waiting.
I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this.
I cannot do this alone.
Then I know what I must do. It's just...I'm afraid to do it.
You will taste man flesh!
I suggest you take some rest and recover your strength.
You will beg for death before the end!
Give it to me!
The Horn of Gondor!
I’m coming with you!
Far too eager and curious for a hobbit, most unnatural.
I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge
He'd probably come with me if I asked him
I have thought of a better use for you…
For that is why you have come, is it not...my old friend?
Is that so hard?
Saruman is coming for the Ring
It is hardly possible to separate you
Wait! We are coming too!
nai yarvaxea rasselya! (May your horn be bloodstained!)
The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep.
We should never have come here.
There’s something down there.
Can you give it to them, Frodo?
Have you ever seen it Aragorn? The white tower of Ecthelion?
The mirror shows many things
There are other ways, Frodo

TTT
It’s getting heavier.
Yes, I can smell it.
We wantssss it!
But Papa says Eothain must not ride Garold, he is too big for him!
We’re not going no further till we’ve had a breather!
They are not for eating!
Just a mouth full.
Don’t talk to it, Merry. Don’t encourage it.
Come, hobbits, come. We move quickly.
Master should be resting. Master needs to keep up his strength.
Cold be heart and hand and bone.
The air is so close in here.
I do not ask you to come with me, Sam.
There’s another way. More secret and dark way.
Leave me alone you snake!
I told you to take the wizard’s staff!
Breathe the free air again, my friend.
Your leechcraft would have had me crawling on all fours like a beast!
Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day.
It's the ring. You can't take your eyes off it. I've seen you.
They are young, tender. They are nice. Yes they are! Eat them! Eat them!
Even you couldn’t say no to that.
Come on, get me up here, I’m a rider!
Make for the lower ground!
Look! There’s smoke to the south!
Let them come.
Where is the horn that was blowing?
Let’s hope they last the night.
Hold them! Stand Fast!
It's too big for us.
Toss me.
Gimli! Aragorn! Get out of there!
Hurry! Inside! Get them inside!
And a little family of field mice that climb up sometimes and they tickle me awfully. They’re always trying to get somewhere…
Yes. Yes! The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep one last time!
What are we holding on to, Sam?

ROTK
Go on! Go on, pull it up!
It's my birthday and I wants it.
Well, let's just have his head and be done with it
Sméagol did it once; he can do it again.
She hungers for sweeter meats . . .
We can't do this by ourselves, Sam. Not without a guide.
I need you on my side.
I am on your side, Mr. Frodo.
Come, Sméagol.
I just want to look at it! Just one more time . . .
Put it back!
Understand this: things are now in motion that cannot be undone.
So I imagine this is just a ceremonial position.
It's the deep breath before the plunge.
Not that way!
You ride with us?
Pull back!
Come, master!
He wants It. He needs It, Sméagol sees it in his eyes!
Very soon he will ask you for It! You will see!
None have come, my Lord.
More will come.
We have till dawn. Then we must ride.
Why have you come?
Too few have come.
Ride with me.
Who enters my domain?
You will suffer me!
My sons are spent.
It's the only way! Go in . . . or go back.
What's that smell? Orcses filth . . . orcses come in here sometimes.
Ahh! It's sticky! What is it?
Arise! Arise! Riders
Do not come between the Nazgûl and his prey.
Éowyn, my body is broken. You have to let me go . . .
Stop your squirming
Not if I stick you first.
Give it to me
Take mine. There's a few drops left.
Pull back! Pull back!
What about side by side with a friend?
Give me your hand!
Not quite. There's room for a little more.
Each of us must come and go in the telling.

 

 

Cebes, Mar. 3, 2005 01:53 PM
Wow, Simmias, you lost me there. I'm not sure how taking statements completely out of context is a valid way to suggest hidden meaning. But some very funny pictures did come to mind. biggrin.gif

Hello everybody!
wave.gif

There are a lot more familiar names on this thread than anywhere else I've been. I got stuck in "Off Topic Mischief" because I didn't figure out to keep scrolling down to the rest of the page until this morning.
doh.gif

I've been wondering where everybody was!

Anyway, very interesting discussion. As I read through the posts, I kept feeling a bit confused. I think there are bits of at least two completely different conversations being intermingled. One conversation is a discussion analyzing LOTR to reflect back onto Tolkien personally in regards to his process, both conscious and unconscious. The second conversation has nothing to do with Tolkien, IMO, and is about plumbing the depths of the richness of the characters, symbols, archetypes, etc that is available in this work.

I get the impression that most of us here are in agreement that trying to read much of Tolkien's personal emotional/sexual process into LOTR is not of much interest, or interesting for a rather short time because we lack information. As Lysis suggests, it is much richer material, if one is inclined to analyze the work in order to learn more about Tolkien, to track his religious process. There is much more information available and can give some realistic guide posts for orientation.

In regards to the second conversation, Anytus, pointed out that the imagery is easily seen as sexual and ask the next important question which is, so what? The 'so what' is probably going to get personal if it is going to go anywhere. It might not fit in with the academic public process. For example, the reading that Socrates copied about the presence of a gay archetypal 'Double' in LOTR could offer some interesting imagery for a young gay man struggling with trying to figure out what he needs or is looking for. The whole point of archetypes and archetypal stories is that they can give us clues about our own hidden mysteries and how to interact with them or maybe influence a movement or change in a different direction. The beauty of the process is that it is irrelevant if the author 'put it in there' deliberately or not.. As far as I am concerned, if I find it, its there for me. I think what defines a great author are those that write stories of endless applicability (as Glaucon mentioned in the beginning of the thread).

Tolkien has succeeded (uncomfortably, actually, I think for him) to create a real myth. We are sitting here 'talking' right now because something(s) in this story spoke to us strongly enough that we had to connect about it. And for each person, there is/are place(s) where, as we read, a level of feeling gets aroused that is quite personal. Exploring what place in the story touches each person and why can take us into some very intimate issues. The 'so what' starts with the initial movement of feeling and continues if we take the time to unravel/play with what image or archetype that has been energized. Whether or not our 'aroused archetype' (heh) follows along Tolkien's continued story thread will determine whether we find further 'guidance' or information.

So, yes, Partridge's reading of Shelob's lair, I think does reflect on her at least as much as it reflects on Tolkien. There is a 'reason' why that scene caught her attention. But, she's probably not the only one who noticed that scene that way. Is it just personal or is there some cultural issue? I think there could be a cultural issue and we may be witnesses to an Entish conversation where a sentence comes through every 50 years or so in regards to our cultural process around females, angry females, female sexuality etc. Its real. There is a real problem around female sexuality on this planet. Its the oldest conflict.

Be careful about dissing the old women saying rude uncomfortable things.

*suddenly notices she's standing on something*
smile.gif

Anyway, its good to ask 'so what' but the answer may be a while. Having someone make the observation can be the start of tracking a pattern or the start of nothing. It depends on what happens next.

So I think its valid to pull up different levels of the images and see how they stand the light of day and discuss what that means to people. Spending too much time on trying to determine 'if its really there' is pointless because the answer is always 'no' ( of course, Tolkien didn't write it with that in mind) and 'yes' (Tolkien's writing can be like looking in Galadriel's mirror--"For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be.....But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger...").

Great conversation, everybody. Lets keep it going!


Crito, Mar. 3, 2005 05:09 PM
QUOTE (Simmias @ Mar 3 2005, 12:48 AM)
I doubt many of you remember me - I left TORn in 2002 - too pissed off by the admins and joined TORC. There's a long story as to how I got here, but that's for another day.


OH My God!

wub.gif

TLE!!!

*fierce hug* Damn glad to see you, boy!


Ok, I'll quit with the huggy shit... but it's been FAR too long since I've "seen" you! May I geek out just a little that you are here?

Crito

 

 

Socrates, Mar. 6, 2005 04:08 AM
QUOTE (Simmias @ Mar 3 2005, 03:48 AM)
I doubt many of you remember me - I left TORn in 2002.


TLE! How've you been, mate? I've not seen you in half-a-dozen months of Sundays!

*Does the male back-slapping and bear-hugging thing.*

Hope you've been taking care of yourself. Good to see you again!

Oh, and loved the collection of suggestive lines. Almost forgot about that.


Anytus, Mar. 6, 2005 12:04 PM
QUOTE
In regards to the second conversation, Anytus, pointed out that the imagery is easily seen as sexual and ask the next important question which is, so what? The 'so what' is probably going to get personal if it is going to go anywhere. It might not fit in with the academic public process. For example, the reading that Socrates copied about the presence of a gay archetypal 'Double' in LOTR could offer some interesting imagery for a young gay man struggling with trying to figure out what he needs or is looking for. The whole point of archetypes and archetypal stories is that they can give us clues about our own hidden mysteries and how to interact with them or maybe influence a movement or change in a different direction. The beauty of the process is that it is irrelevant if the author 'put it in there' deliberately or not.. As far as I am concerned, if I find it, its there for me. I think what defines a great author are those that write stories of endless applicability (as Glaucon mentioned in the beginning of the thread).

Great conversation, everybody. Lets keep it going!


I have to wean myself of TORN-think where threads vanish and I forget that new replies can appear and conversations don't die off after the server belches!
smile.gif

I think you're exactly right about how the reading must go personal, beyond the author and the text, if it's going anywhere. Readings like Partridge's are the kind that ultimately are intended to psychoanalyze the writer, for the most part, in a pretty unsophisticated way. Bad quasi-psychoanalytic readings abound, and those don't get anywhere because they tend to be focused on the Author's inner psychological life more than on the Reader and how the reader's inner life is shaped by imagery, archetypes, etc. We don't need to probe into whether Tolkien's fear of spiders was his fear of female sexuality or his desire for his mother. But how readers use LOTR as the stock of their own mental imagery is an interesting matter. This goes beyond the level of academic approaches to Tolkien, but then again the best kind of readings that use Freud and other psychological approaches do circle back to the reader. For the average reader, what does matter most is how the story means something to her/him, and that entails how the story resonates with aspects of her/his own sexual identity, conflicts, relationships, feelings of strength or powerlessness, etc.

I know I probably tend to incorporate LOTR into my own mental dramas, and am sure that it does influence me in some ways that are not available to my conscious mind. Maybe I am reacting to it on an unconscious level and using it to work through some of my own psychological issues. I don't find the Gollum example resonating with me particularly, but perhaps there are deeper forces at work and I am blocking (I remember the sketch with Lorraine Newman in the original SNL in which she played a stewardess from Encino who, in group therapy with a John Belushi Mafia hitman, would tell him "Yoouure bloooockking!").

Interesting response which I'll have to think about more.


Cebes, Mar. 6, 2005 10:11 AM
QUOTE (Anytus @ Mar 6 2005, 11:04 AM)
I know I probably tend to incorporate LOTR into my own mental dramas, and am sure that it does influence me in some ways that are not available to my conscious mind. Maybe I am reacting to it on an unconscious level and using it to work through some of my own pschological issues.

Interesting response which I'll have to think about more.


So, I'm gathering from that statement that even though you are very engaged with LOTR, you are not consciously aware of any particular thread, character, scene etc. of it that is significantly emotionally charged for you?

Is this too personal? I'm not going to ask about specifics. I was just intriqued by your 'apparent' lack of awareness of LOTR's personal influence on you contrasted with your knowledge and engagement around it in RR. It 'seems' contradictory, but of course, it probably isn't, I just don't have the information.

I just wanted to confirm that you really don't know cause that is what I heard you say and that surprised me.

BTW, your footer is a stitch. And I've actually been hanging around in RR enough to 'get' everyone's archetypal dialogue. The picture really caught me off guard. When I first glanced at it, my first take was that it was something by Heronymous Bosch, LOL! Then I looked a little closer and noticed the round windows and doors and suddenly, OMG, those are hobbits! What the hell are they doing with that skeleton? I finally figured it out. Very different image.

 

 

Anytus, Mar. 6, 2005 11:19 AM
Oh sure, I have very strong personal resonances with characters in the book. Pippin is the one I connect to and identify with the most, along with the other Hobbits. I see him as the outsider, the little guy fighting the world, etc. But what I am not going to say is that these characters are a way of enacting deep sexual issues or creating a sexual self as the writer of the Two Towers Jungian reading of Frodo-Sam-Gollum outlines. I spent a lot of time studying psychoanalysis as a graduate student, so I have reservations about Freudian or Jungian approaches that rely heavily on sexuality or that try to posit universal archetypes for sexual identity or other mystical truths.

I do know that LOTR and other books and movies are satisfying for psychological reasons of self-image, self-esteem, feelings of pride, "ego-boosting" in a more ordinary sense, etc., so that kind of applicability is something I readily see and feel. My thing is I've been too immersed in the technicalities of Freud and post-Freudian guys, so my reaction is often to the technical nature of these kind of psychological approaches rather than to the kind of identification with the characters on a more general level.

This is what grad school does to you, as I said in another post. You can't stop analyzing why you are liking something and have to explain why you feel what you feel!
smile.gif

It's also very hard to discuss this on an internet board where we all come at topics from very different angles and with different experiences!

The footer pic, btw, is of Saruman's Death by the British artist Joan Wyatt. Zeno started a thread about it here:

Tolkien art by Wyatt

I just took a shine to that picture. I guess I also identify with Saruman, since he can't get a break in the Dark Lord racket and has to suffer the humiliation of turning to vapor in the Shire! I guess a Freudian reading of my response would be that my humiliation is over some kind of sexual inadequacy.... Saruman does squat in a really big tower he took from its rightful owners! See, there I go again!


Cebes, Mar. 7, 2005 04:42 PM
QUOTE (Anytus @ Mar 6 2005, 10:19 PM)
But what I am not going to say is that these characters are a way of enacting deep sexual issues or creating a sexual self as the writer of the Two Towers Jungian reading of Frodo-Sam-Gollum outlines.

I do know that LOTR and other books and movies are satisfying for psychological reasons of self-image, self-esteem, feelings of pride, "ego-boosting" in a more ordinary sense, etc., so that kind of applicability is something I readily see and feel.

Its also very hard to discuss this on an internet board where we all come at topics from very different angles and with different experiences!

I just took a shine to that picture. I guess I also identify with Saruman, since he can't get a break in the Dark Lord racket and has to suffer the humiliation of turning to vapor in the Shire! I guess a Freudian reading of my response would be that my humiliation is over some kind of sexual inadequacy.... Saruman does squat in a really big tower he took from its rightful owners! See, there I go again!


Having LOTR become a part of someone's 'enacting of deep sexual issues' is probably going to be rare and possibly hard to even know it is happening. The only behaviors that I could think of that might indicate that, is if one starts using LOTR images in one's dreams i.e. if one's own internal psychodrama starts using the characters or two: if one finds oneself having sexual fantasies about one of the characters. The fanfic certainly indicates quite a bit of that going on.

Post graduate school psychosis aside, don't you think there is a reason why someone would fantasize about Frodo rather than Aragorn for example? Of course, it really wouldn't be for one person to speculate about another, because there are probably many reasons why. That's why its such a personal reflection. And I do find it interesting that you have such a soft spot for Saruman. Maybe a little academic white tower brotherhoodness going on? (" But its sooo easy to miss the big point when one has been over focussed for years," D_D explains to the Valar). ; )

I find it continually alluring that everybody approaches the topics from such different angles. It makes it hard to pin things down or come to any great agreements or conclusions but what great conversations (except they don't usually go on long enough for my taste!.)

I agree, most of the emotional interaction with the story is of a much lighter nature (self-esteem, pride etc that you mentioned).