In lieu of our Reading Day meeting, here are a few thoughts about the official topic: Nature and Industrialisation. Please comment if you find anything that interests you. We can then all read the comments and respond. It’s a bit longwinded but at least we can share our thoughts.
It has been suggested that we should finish our reading of The Hobbit in a similar way for our next meeting. I will try to post some thoughts of my own for that meeting which would be the first in April. Meanwhile, here are some ideas about the Reading Day topic:
Reading Day 2020
Nature and Industrialisation
A few ideas gleaned from The Return of the Rings Proceedings.
Larissa Budde argues in her essay that rather than a complete dislike of Industrialisation Tolkien actually takes a nuanced view it. At its worst it is equated with ‘domination and infertile uniformity’ and with actions that cannot be healed.
He doesn’t object to ‘moderate, useful technology’.
I would ask – is technology the same as Industrialisation, and don’t we need to define ‘Industrialisation’ when discussing its evocation in Tolkien’s work?
Can we say why exactly Tolkien objects to Industrialisation, because nature always takes things back, as he obviously knew. Is it just that the romanticised view of nature and the bucolic environment was part of his own cultural environment that became enhanced by personal experience?
If we look carefully at his work, isn’t nature shown to be just as difficult to live with, and dangerous because of its objective relationship to mortal-type life forms, as industrialisation, only in different ways?
And how do things like the dragons and the trolls fit into the topic?
Jim Clarke took a radical view of Tolkien and Industrialisation by looking at Russian plagiarised versions of Tolkien’s works. By doing so he opens up other questions:
Clarke asks ‘are the Elves frightened by enlightened scientific progress so that the frighten Men into destroying it?’
Clarke draws on Kirill Yeskov’s work to consider the extent to which Industrialisation is aligned with the vexed question of racial stereotyping in Tolkien’s work, so that it becomes linked to orcs because they are the slaves of Saruman and Sauron.
Does Tolkien wilfully ignore the view of nature that Tennyson described as ‘red in tooth and claw’, and the reality of rural life which had always been blighted by poverty, although mid-19th century depictions had largely glamorised it?
Do we learn something about ourselves if we examine our own willingness to go along with Tolkien’s investment in nostalgia and his opposition of the natural world to Industrialisation and ‘progress’?