In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews71 This is a valuable study for students and scholars, which gives an insight into Yourcenar's art and brings forth a focused view of Yourcenar as a creator of myths. CLAUDINE G. FISHER Portland State University VERLYN FLIEGER. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983. 167 p. Verlyn Flieger's study of Tolkien focuses on The Silmarillion (1977). For most readers, this is a less satisfying work than The Lord ofthe Rings (1965): the body of invented history and myth that served so admirably as a backdrop for the story ofthe ring loses its depth and mystery when brought forward into the spotlight. Flieger argues that, though less engaging than The Lord ofthe Rings, The Silmarillion is no less meaningful and indeed is inseparable from the other tale if one is to understand Tolkien's intentions. Any critic of Tolkien must take Tolkien's own critical work into account. Flieger, like T.A. Shippey in The Road to Middle Earth (1983), takes her clue from Tolkien's philological readings of literary works. The Silmarillion in particular must be read as a meditation on language. By tracing certain key terms like the English and Elvish words for light through their metamorphoses in The Silmarillion, Flieger shows how the work illustrates Tolkien's understanding of the role of language in the generation of myth. Like Owen Barfield, whom he admired, Tolkien believed early man to have understood language at once concretely and metaphorically; myth-making occurs when there is no separation between a word's physical and spiritual applications. One ofhis primary aims, both as a critic and as a fantasist, was to recapture that undivided perception, lost in mankind's striving for knowledge , selfhood, and power. The fall from grace — the gradual fragmenting of the original light of creation into the pale and unstable reflections of it in sun, moon, stars, andjewels — that constitutes the major theme of TAe Silmarillion can be seen, says Flieger, as a symbolic portrayal of this splintering of meaning. Flieger is most successful in connecting Tolkien's fiction to his scholarship. She is less successful in tying his creations to biography. In a chapter titled "A Man of Antitheses," she argues that the polarities in his fantasies — light and dark, fall and redemption — spring from a mixed temperament that swung between hope and despair. This argument is built on two quotations from his letters (one only five words long) and on citations from Humphrey Carpenter's Tolkien: A Biography (1977). Even if we accept the thesis, it does not tell us why Tolkien's hope and despair took the particular literary form they did, rather than being embodied in metaphysical verse or realistic fiction. Nor does it explain why Tolkien's psychological state should produce one work, The Lord ofthe Rings, whose ambiguities are weighted toward optimism, and another, The Silmarillion, in which small victories are far outnumbered by crushing defeats. The difference may have much more to do with the literary ancestries of the two works than with biography, the former being derived primarily from fairy tale and the latter from Beowulf and Scandinavian 72Rocky Mountain Review legend, although Tolkien's temperament certainly led him to admire and emulate those works. For an account of the origins of Tolkien's brand of fantasy, I would recommend Carpenter's and Shippey's studies and Tolkien's essays on fairy stories, Chaucer, and Beowulf. However, Flieger's is a well researched and sympathetic reading of The Silmarillion, a work whose importance she goes far toward demonstrating. Her analysis indicates that the book, although consisting ofa number ofshort tales composed over many decades, is a unified whole with a deeply felt meaning. Flieger writes clearly and economically, and in her discussion of language, metaphor, and the art of fantasy she opens up an important avenue of inquiry for students of Tolkien and other fantasists. BRIAN ATTEBERY Idaho State University JOHN GARRARD. Mikhail Lermontov. Boston: Twayne Publishers , 1982. 173 p. This study, an addition to the Twayne's World Author Series, is intended for the reader with little or no background in Russian literature. It is a solid introduction to...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 71-72
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.