- The Ring Goes Ever On
The conference commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Lord of the Rings was held between the 11th and 15th of August 2005 at Aston University, Birmingham, England. The proceedings fill up 834 pages in two voluminous tomes containing nearly one hundred essays in all. It is admirable that the Tolkien Society seeks to be as inclusive as possible, and to provide a forum in which participants from a variety of backgrounds—professional scholars, academics, graduate students, translators, presidents of fan clubs and national Tolkien societies, creative writers, and others—may gather together to share their perspectives on Tolkien’s work. Regrettably, a small number of papers delivered at the 2005 conference were submitted to the editor of the proceedings, yet not published, and the authors were never notified of this decision before the proceedings went to press. It is hoped that an addendum to the proceedings will be forthcoming.
Sarah Wells states in her Editor’s Note that her editorial philosophy was to go lightly on issues such as standardizing language, so as to provide as accurate a record as possible of the contents of the conference. This is a justifiable aim, and it does give the reader a good idea of the diversity of backgrounds and critical approaches of the conference participants. But while respect for the linguistic idiosyncrasies of individual authors provides a pleasing variety of prose, going lightly on basic formatting and style leads to undesirable results, such as inconsistency in listing references. There does not seem to have been any basic style sheet or guidelines for notes and bibliographies. Some essays are lacking bibliographies and footnotes altogether, in spite of the fact that the authors refer to works other than Tolkien’s, and this detracts from the overall scholarly quality of the volume. Another rather serious flaw is the apparent lack of any proofreading of the manuscript, which would have spared some of the authors the embarrassment of committing to print lexical errors such as [End Page 143] “deflagrates” instead of “deflects,” and “ loose” instead of “lose.” Most essays are free of misspellings and typographical errors, but a few have some that are so glaring that even the most cursory copy-editing would have caught them: “ahnd” instead of “and,” “post-moder” instead of “post-modern,” and “oman” instead of “Roman” are aberrations that appear on one single page (I: 148).
A set of eyes real eyes, not virtual ones is necessary; in one essay, the author’s automatic spell-check led to humorous results, replacing the names “Boromir” with “Boomer” and “Isildur” with “Insider” (“Frodo’s Temptation, Frodo’s Failure” by Douglas Charles Rapier). One essay in Volume II, “Hobbits, Tolkien, and God” by Jill Delsigne, is printed twice within the same section (II: 23–31; and II: 99–107). Finally, there should have been more consistency in the format of the biographical sketches of the authors and the abstracts included at the beginning of each essay. While it is useful in a volume of this size and scope to have brief summaries of the essays, some abstracts are repetitive and longer than necessary. One essay was printed with neither abstract nor biographical sketch, which prompted this reviewer to turn to “Google” in the hopes of finding some information about the author, Kate Karageorgi (spelled Karegeorgi in the proceedings), who turns out to be the president of the Greek Tolkien Society, a fact which certainly would have warranted a mention. The quality of the essays is mixed; a few of them tell us virtually nothing new about Tolkien or his work, but many contain unique perspectives and insights, and some are outstanding. The presence of so many conference participants from different linguistic backgrounds and literary traditions...