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    Latest Topics


    Tolkien's Legendarium and Literature as a Living Body

    While the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings have gained their well-earned places in western literature, Tolkien’s published works were only a small scrap of the material he created and wrote about Middle-Earth over a span of 60 years. Tolkien’s ideas of Middle-Earth’s languages, history, and cultures changed time and time again, even in the span of writing a single short story. Tolkien’s ‘Legendarium’ evolved so frequently that it took a life of its own.

    What does Tolkien’s Legendarium teach us about the creative process? Most of the work he created violently contradicted itself, does that impact what we view as ‘canon’? Can having this outside body of work flavor how we read the Lord of the Rings? Do the works published after his death, such as the Simarillion and the Children of Hurin count as Middle-Earth ‘canon’? Was it acceptable for Christopher Tolkien to compile these new books from his father’s works? Since new Tolkien work is being published to this very day, can we say that Tolkien’s stories are still evolving even in the post-Peter Jackson age?

    • Great topic. I'm not a big fan of Tolkien (I tried, but couldn't get into the whole LOTR franchise). That said, I'd be the first to say he is a freaking genius when it comes to creating fantasy worlds. Fantasy authors, IMHO, face unique challenges because along with characters and settings, they have to create the rules and standards for an entire fictitious society, and keep them consistent. Very few can do that. This is also a timely topic, considering how big fantasy still is (Harry Potter, Twilight, Once Upon a Time, Emerald City, you name it). I personally have former colleagues who'd love this article. – Stephanie M. 7 years ago
    • This is a great topic. I would recommend reading what Christopher Tolkien has written about publishing his father's work. If you own some of the works mentioned, you already have access to his introductions. – C8lin 7 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    This is a well-researched and informative overview. I’ve been following news about the Switch, but this is one of the most comprehensive run-downs I’ve seen and I learned a lot. Great work.

    The Nintendo Switch: Pre-Launch Analysis

    This was a fantastic introduction to Thomas Aquinas’ thought, and very informative to me! I would love some sort of follow-up to this article, but I doubt you could find many other animated films that connected so effortlessly to Thomism, ahahhah.

    Inside Out and St. Thomas Aquinas' Philosophy of the Emotions

    I was considering Boogie Nights too, but I think at the end of the day, despite the circuitous nature of most of PTA’s works, the film primarily follows the exploits of Dirk Diggler and those who are tied to him. What I’m gathering from this (hella excellent) piece is that ‘hyperlink cinemas’ generally don’t have such a clear-cut protagonist, forcing you to connect three or more narratives.

    Hyperlink Cinema and the Prevalence of Intertwining Stories

    I have to agree with Lusk22. Though scole certainly had (his? her?) heart in the right place, I wish that the piece had taken a few more editing runs before making it to print. The argument was pretty wobbly in places.

    For one thing, being collected in a trade paperback does not make something a graphic novel. If it was serialized through floppy comics, and published as a book… Then its not a graphic novel. A graphic novel is a long-form comic, intended to be published in book-form from the get-go. Contract With God, Maus, Persepolis, and Fun Home all were originally published as books with intended literary merit. Those are all graphic novels. Watchmen, which was originally serialized in 12 issues, is often called a graphic novel due to ITS literary themes, but still is not. Watchmen’s writer, Alan Moore, even declared,

    “I’ve no objection to the term ‘graphic novel,’ as long as what it is talking about is actually some sort of graphic work that could conceivably be described as a novel. My main objection to the term is that usually it means a collection of six issues of Spider-Man, or something that does not have the structure or any of the qualities of a novel, but is perhaps roughly the same size.”

    I recognize that this might come off as pedantic, but if we are to have this discussion we need to separate the two often-contradictory definitions that often get thrown together, that a graphic novel is just a published series of comics, and that a graphic novel is a ‘mature’ comic.

    Now, what is maturity? Scole points out that many comics and graphic novels have come to include sex and violence, and that is evidence of them not being for kids. While that is certainly true, there is a difference between these themes being used in comics for literary merit versus for shock value. While they are fun to read, many comics featuring, say, the Joker have him doing horrible things to people that… don’t really make you think. They are just to prove how evil he is, not to make you re-evaluate your positions. On the other hand, a comic series like Alias used Marvel’s universe to tell a story of how racism, depression and the trauma of sexual abuse can cause just as much alienation and strife in a world with superpowers (which led the comic transitioning well into the powerful Netflix series Jessica Jones, I should add.) Comics and graphic novels can tell really powerful stories with dark aspects of the human experience, but its important to not confuse portrayal of those dark aspects as maturity in and of itself.

    Finally, I have to say its pretty clear the scole loves comics, and keeps up-to-date on the latest and greatest that contemporary Marvel has to offer (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Ms. Marvel, etc.) However, I cannot abide with (his? her?) insistence that graphics novels are unpopular and less prevalent than they’ve been previously. We are currently in a golden age for graphic novels, with North American publishers like Fantagraphics and Drawn-and-Quartered publishing dozens, if not hundreds, of stellar graphics novels each and every year. Just because the author (who mostly seems to read superhero comics, and I can’t blame ’em, they’re great fun) isn’t familiar with the current graphic novel scene, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

    The Social Stigma of Comic Book Reading