Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Infiltration, subversion and inversion of Tolkien

We live in a world in which all major institutions have been corrupted by New Leftism (political correctness) - and have now been substantially turned-against their original functions to 'converge' on being sub-divisions of the single, linked, totalitarian bureaucracy.

Tolkien is, of course, one of our greatest champions in opposition to this long-term trend - yet the professional interpretation of Tolkien is (of course) not exempt from these larger social trends; especially insofar as Tolkien's works have become the subject of study in universities and colleges; institutions that function as trail-blazers and standard bearers for the very worst evils of secular (anti-Christian) modernity.

Thus we come to a very extreme example of the phenomenon - a new book of academic essays called Tolkien and Alterity - 'alterity' being one of those tendentious inventions meaning 'otherness' in the New Left sense of anything other-than what Tolkien personally was: a married Christian family man, dedicated to his English ancestry, with a strongly traditional Roman Catholic sexual morality.

So the title means, in effect, Tolkien interpreted as anti-Tolkien.

The titles of the book chapters say everything needed:

Tolkien: A Bibliographical Essay on Tolkien and Alterity.
Race in Tolkien Studies: A Bibliographic Essay.
Revising Lobelia.
Medieval Organicism or Modern Feminist Science? Bombadil, Elves, and Mother Nature.
Cinema, Sexuality, Mechanical Reproduction.
Saruman’s Sodomitic Resonances: Alain de Lille’s De Planctu Naturae and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Cruising Faery: Queer Desire in Giles, Niggle, and Smith.
Language and Alterity in Tolkien and Lévinas.
The Orcs and the Others: Familiarity as Estrangement in The Lord of the Rings.
Silmarils and Obsession: The Undoing of Fëanor.
The Other as Kolbítr: Tolkien’s Faramir and Éowyn as Alfred and Æthelflæd.

On careful consideration (for 10 milliseconds); I shall not be purchasing a copy - especially considering the standard price of a hundred dollars (minus one cent) for 270 pages...

The only consolation is that Tolkien and Alterity will (very probably) only be read-through by one or two individuals who are professionals in this specialised domain of 'scholarly' discourse; and bought only by academic librarians who are spending other-people's money... 

(Sadly, one of the chapters is authored by Verlyn Flieger, who is now 84 years old and has written some of the very best Tolkien criticism and scholarship ever. I don't know what this specific essay is like - but her presence in this volume apparently confirms my observation that advancing age nowadays is more likely to be an incremental succumbing to the prevalent evil insanity than it is to be associated with 'conservatively' standing-against the foolishness and wickedness of ephemeral and evil dominant trends. Hence the large numbers of youth-emulating elders - often pierced, tattooed and plastically surgeried - that I see round and about nowadays.)  


Dexter said...

I don't know how I managed to read LOTR many times throughout my whole life and never detect Saruman's sodomitic resonances. Obviously I should read more carefully next time. Or perhaps I am merely dull-witted...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dexter - I suppose the correct answer is that it is ALL 'there' - IF you are actively-looking-for-it (or, in the case of 'resonances', perhaps, *listening* for it?).

John Fitzgerald said...

I remember when I did my History MA at the University of Manchseter (2006-09) someone - a PhD student I think - giving a paper on Tolkien's use of the word 'queer' in LOTR and The Hobbit - e.g. 'a lot of queer things went on in the Great Forest.' Apparently this was meant to show that though Tolkien's conscious mind pretended that homosexuality didn't exist, his unconscious mind found a way for it to btrak through into his writing.

I read the abstract but didn't attend. A friend of mine (an atheist) did, however, and said it was an awful paper, though the room was packed and the audience lapped it up, even giving the speaker a standing ovation. Incredible nonsense, the whole thing. When I hear of stuff like this I can't help but feel that the West is ripe for conquest.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - This kind of thing isn't new - a very early biographical critical study by William Ready (paperback 1969) - Understanding Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings - is one of the most error-filled and misleading of books (unfortunately, it was also one of the first secondary books of Tolkien I bought, at a time when info was scarce): Ready suggested that The Inklings was a (repressed) homosexual grouping.

Such interpretations are evidence of a profound moral inversion, that is now (thanks to mass media and the Western educational system!) so common as to be statistically-normal (the kind of inverted perspective that invented and popularised 'heterosexuality' as a relativistic term for objectively-biologically-functional attraction and sexuality).

S.J., Esquire said...

On careful consideration (for 10 milliseconds)

Haha, hilarious.

The only consolation is that Tolkien and Alterity will (very probably) only be read-through by one or two individuals

Yes, quite.

The other day I overheard some co-workers making homosexual innuendo about the Hobbits, in the context of a discussion about the upcoming TV series. This type of demonicization of Tolkien's work used to bother me intensely, and I tried to figure out why - it's partly because I regard Tolkien as a last bastion of Goodness that just ought to be untouchable, damn them (can't they leave ANYthing alone?); but also, it's that I regard (as you do) LotR as inspired, and therefore I would think that it should have a Good and Wholesome effect on everyone who comes in contact with it, like lembas-bread.

Well, Tolkien himself (thru Gandalf) did say that "There is nothing that Sauron cannot turn to evil uses". How appropriate and self-referential, J.R.! It's incredibly interesting to me to hear that this is not new, and makes me think that the Enemy recognized the import of Tolkien's work right off the bat.

Bruce Charlton said...

SJE - Yes, while of course - the visceral reaction agains the spirit of the Lord of the Rings was evident from the earliest reviews; and especially among those most deeply empathic with the dominant secular, Leftist and sexual revolutionary world view.

The response was originally that of a predator: disdain, mockery and rejection; but as with other aspects of culture, the New Left often also pursues a 'parasitic' strategy - infiltration, subversion, inversion - and tries to kill from within.

I expect we shall see more and more of this attempted parasitic destruction, and Tolkien's deep-popularity continues and the importance of Tolkien becomes more evident in these spiritually-darkening times.

Bruce Charlton said...

Edited comment from CCL: "...one can find in Tolkien's work the contrast between the healthy and licit sexuality of the heroic and the illicit and perverse sexuality (or asexuality) of the vile.

"I think it is not at all unlikely that Tolkien's orcs (elves fallen into a state of utter depravity after millennia of evil works) may be cast as "other" ...

"Tolkein very properly does not dwell on the particular ... character that may underlie these characters behavior, but on the horrid effects. But we may not have this luxury, I think we can be under a responsibility to explicitly connect the evil results to the perverted nature of ... "alternate" sexuality.

"Of course we should be affronted when sexual perversion is imputed to the characters that are exemplary of virtue. But I think there is room to consider how unhealthy sexuality results in weakening or abolishing the ties between natural parents and children through which the vital cultural allegiance to virtue is transmitted through generations.

"This theme of entirely depraved races, cultures which transmit only evil and viciousness down through thousands of years, is clearly found in Tolkien. And I think it is pertinent to our present battle to explore what degree of awareness Tolkien (with his rich and carefully developed milieu) had of the connection between the means by which a race propagated and the moral character typical of its members.

Though of course we should rely on the current academic establishment to get the morals wrong."

Keri said...

I suspect this book will be very easy to avoid and well worth doing so.

I do think though that your focus on the poverty of leftist intellectual culture downplays the severity of the problem. Luckily there is still some religious intellectual culture, but it has little popular sway or awareness, I don't think it essentially left or right. There is little to no right wing intellectual culture in our universities, why that is I'm not sure, maybe right wing culture has its home more in a corporate culture. Yet the HR departments their lap up left wing "diversity". What do we make of people reacting to the excesses of leftist culture by voting for Donald Trump? Desperation? But that's terrifically misguided.

I think the only kind of revolution that will save us is a spiritual and imaginative one and Barfield (& Inklings) could be a key to that, but it will need to disseminate into popular imagination and thought. It's good that Tolkien has sparked popular interest and I think we shouldn't under estimate the good Tolkien has already done, but it hasn't made an obvious effect on contemporary thought hopefully your work will play a part in that and that there will be an S curve in development.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Keri - You probably haven't looked at my mini-books Thought Prison and Addicted to Distraction...


...where I argue that there is no 'Right' in mainstream 'Western' politics (ie including New Zealand!), or public discourse - there are only degrees of Leftism.

So Trump would count as a middling Leftist - since he uses only materialist/ utilitarian/ this-worldly arguments, and favours/ or does not repent many aspects of the sexual revolution (eg sex outside marriage and multiple marriages).

The only real alternative to the Left is a society based on religious principles, which looks beyond the material world, and this mortal life, and *tries* to make things so that public life and discourse will conform to what is understood of divine hopes and wishes.

Of course, there are several, and in some respects very conflicting, religious ideals - so in practice the proper political debate should be on the question of 'Which religion', and only then the specifics of how best this ought to be achieved.

My firm conviction is that from where we are now, we can only make things better overall by first having a spiritual/ religious awakening - and this must be in individual people (in their 'hearts').

And it is here that Tolkien and the other Inklings have been, and can be in the future, of great help.

Keri said...

You have written extensively Bruce, no, I hadn't seen those. Looks interesting.

I'm not sure what you're saying about left and right. I'd rather say there is no Conservatism than no right, and yes New Zealand as much as the rest of the Western world (East probably isn't that different).

Bruce Charlton said...

"I'm not sure what you're saying about left and right."

There is only The Left - in various versions; in mainstream Western public discourse.

An example of what I mean is that nowadays people would regard the Communists and the Nazis and Left and Right - however, the Nazis were on the Left, as evidence not only be their materialism and doctrinaire-atheism and many characteristic Left-Wing policies; but by their name, which translates as National Socialist German Workers Party - they were nationalist socialists.

To (pretend to) regard an explicitly socialist workers' part as 'Right Wing' is part of the (deliberate) current confusion!

If we must use the term Right Wing, then such a party or movement would be (by intention) religious first and foremost, and derive their politics *from* that (either religion or politics must come first, and unless religion comes first, it will in practice, nowadays, come nowhere important or significant: religion and spiritual aspects will in practice merely be fitted-around political priorities, as expediency dictates).

Keri said...

Maybe I should read those earlier links before commenting further, but your distinctions seem to be too much your own to be useful. Left & Right are political terms and pretty secular. The Right in the US hints at Church and State being closer but there have been religious impulses on the left elsewhere. But what you're getting at seems to be an ideal Right, it seems like you're taking a political secular term and trying to make it religious. How does defining all modern Western political parties as left help us think about them? Maybe a few Muslim counties could be defined as Right and they don't seem very appealing as an ideal.

I can't see how it makes sense to regard Christian as Right wing, have you read David Bentley Hart's rather provocatively titled essay "Are Christians Supposed to Be Communists?"


Hart is no apologist for modern PC culture, I find him one of the best modern Christian thinkers and social commentators. Do you know his work? What do you think of John Milbank's ideas on the emergence of the secular? I admit to only a passing knowledge but I think he's on the right track in tracing the emergence of the secular as a supposedly "neutral' idea and it's consequences is at the heart of our social problems.

Bruce Charlton said...


I have written extensively on these matters at my Bruce Charlton's Notions bog - and I don't really want to rehash it on this blog.

But to summarise, as you have inferred, I regard *all* mainstream discourse as incoherent - infected by Barfield's RUP, in other words - including theologians such as DBH and JM.

Anonymous said...


To add to your recommended reading, George Grant (an Inklings lover who was active in the Socratic Club in Oxford) is interesting about the way in which modern 'conservatism' is largely something of the 'Age of Progress', to which he contrasts strands of a tradition from before the 'Age of Progress' that included Swift, Samuel Johnson, and Coleridge, and looks back to, e.g., Richard Hooker.

It is curious (and something which I have not tried hard enough to know about) how our political vocabulary is dominated by the seating arrangement in the National Assembly of the French Revolution!

It is intriguing in this context to see how C.P. Snow uses the language of 'left' and 'right' in Corridors of Power (e.g., to characterize the spectrum of the Conservative Party of the 1950s - !).

Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (2008) includes a lot of interesting matter, though he seems hardly a reliable guide as a 'thinker' himself.

DBH is a great admirer of George MacDonald... considered as theologian (which is what Lewis accents in his MacDonald Anthology).

Attempts to hijack Tolkien invite comparison with attempts (down the millennia, from the beginning) to hijack Christianity.


Have you looked into seeing if you can get a review copy, read Verlyn Flieger's essay, and at least browse the rest, to see what worthwhile stuff may have slipped 'past watchful dragons'?

David Llewellyn Dodds