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
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.
*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.
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
(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
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*
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax,
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax!
Meno, Feb. 18, 2005 08:55 AM
@ 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!!!