Thursday, January 17, 2008

Race, Ecology, and Middle Earth

For anyone interested, I've posted a link to Niels Werber's article "Geo- and Biopolitics in Middle-Earth" under 'External Links' on our Blackboard site (I would have included a link here; however, access to the article via Project Muse requires that we go through an SIUE portal).

It's a thought-provoking article about racial and ecological discourse in Lord of the Rings in the context of mid-twentieth century Nazi rhetoric concerning race and environment.

Have a read through and share your thoughts once you get blogging!

6 comments:

Eachus24601 said...

I tried accessing the link through blackboard and I couldn't login to muse. Here's how I got the article.

In lovejoy library go to online resources, project muse, and login with your student ID.

Now that you are in Muse go to New Literary History.

From the drop down menu select volume 36, and number 2.

There you'll find the article Geo- and Biopolitics of Middle-Earth.

Hopefully this helps anyone else if you're having problems. I'll post again when I get a chance to read it.

Doug Simms said...

Thanks for letting us know about the link! I'll see if I can't fix that.

DS

Eachus24601 said...

Alright, this isn't exactly what I expected from an article. I don't agree with Niels Werber; and I feel this article as a plow to piggyback the popularity of Tolkien's revitalization.

Trying to get sympathy for the Orcs is like trying to get sympathy for Hitler. His concepts on Total War and Total Enemy would be founded except that the humans are the outnumbered defenders. If the Orcs hadn't tried to Ethnic Cleanse the Humans there wouldn't even be a war in middle earth.

I see where he's coming from on how the land takes on the characteristics of the races of middle earth. But having Orcs frolicking in their fields of wildflowers like little house on the prairie isn't exactly stunning literature. Also saying that Germany harbors latent feelings of genetic disposition just because the movies and books became popular is a non sequitur argument.

I would write more but I have to barricade my house before "Sie Germans" get here.

Doty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laura said...

I found an article about Tolkien's military career, thought I'd share it. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/influences.html

Doty said...

On page 229, Werber, referring to LotR, notes that Germans are "able to enjoy the pleasures of a story based on race, soil, and blood without the smallest amount of a bad conscience." While this is a potentially progressive note, I find it rather irrelevant. If the same thing could be said about someone like Werber himself, my interest might be gained. However, being an English major, I see just how uninterested people are in literature. Not only to few people even read books anymore, but even fewer read into them. Because of this, I seriously doubt that the general population of Germany considers the parallels between the biopolitical and geopolitical characteristics of Germany and Europe surrounding WWII and of the world that brave, little Frodo travels through on his way to ominous Mount Doom in the dark land of Mordor.

I would also guess that a small percentage of the people who answered the poll never even read the books. One must take into consideration that this poll was conducted through a major television broadcaster. Most of the people who responded to the poll, therefore, did so because they were watching television. And since that means that all the responders were television watchers, one can assume that most of them had at least heard of the LotR movies, the last of which had been release in German theaters in December of 2003, less than a year before this survey was conducted. This would leave the images from this epic, three-part movie still fresh in the minds of television and movie watchers everywhere. It can then be assumed that, when presented with instructions to choose their "favorite" anything from a list, a responder will choose something familiar, like the blockbuster movie adaptation of LotR. One will also be interested to know that five of the top ten favorite books have been made into movies (two of which are currently still under production), including Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in America). The list I'm referring to can be found at http://www.zdf.de/ZDFde/inhalt/7/0,1872,2181735,00.html.

That said, this is a very well-written and well-researched article. I think the concept of "absolute foe" holds true not only here, but in many Hollywood movies and books. Often there is no thought of remorse when a hero kills a villain. In fact, there is a planned feeling of joy and relief, because now the protagonist is no longer in danger, even if that means the antagonist is dead. This attitude can be observed in popular movies, novels, and video games all over. Think about it the next time you swat at a fly or a mosquito. Did you swat at it because it posed a threat to you, or just because it came within reach? Thank God for books like No Country for Old Men that reaffirm the humanity of humans, not just the humanity of heroes.