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Beowulf and the Critics (Anglais) Relié – décembre 2002

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Book by J R R Tolkien Michael D C Drout

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Né en 1892 à Bloemfontein (Afrique du Sud), de parents anglais, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien passe son enfance, après la mort de son père en 1896, à Sarehole près de Birmingham (Angleterre), dont sa famille est originaire. Diplômé d'Oxford, il sert dans les Lancashire Fusiliers pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, puis travaille en 1919 au célèbre Dictionnaire d'Oxford. Il obtient ensuite un poste à Leeds, puis une chaire de langue ancienne à Oxford de 1925 à 1945 et, enfin, une chaire de langue et littérature anglaises de 1945 jusqu'à sa retraite, en 1959. Spécialiste de philologie faisant autorité dans le monde entier, J.R.R. Tolkien a publié en 1937 Bilbo le Hobbit, considéré comme un classique de la littérature enfantine ; il tient en 1939 une conférence qui deviendra l'essai Du conte de fées. Paru en 1949, Le fermier Gilles de Ham a séduit également enfants et adultes. J.R.R. Tolkien a travaillé quatorze ans à la trilogie du Seigneur des Anneaux : La Communauté de l'Anneau (1954), Les Deux Tours (1954) et Le Retour du Roi (1955), œuvre magistrale qui s'est imposée dans tous les pays.
Dans Les aventures de Tom Bombadil (1962), Tolkien déploie son talent pour les assonances ingénieuses. En 1968, il enregistre sur disque les Poèmes et chansons de la Terre du Milieu, tirés des Aventures de Tom Bombadil et du Seigneur des Anneaux.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien est décédé en 1973.

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Amazon.com: 11 commentaires
82 internautes sur 83 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A New Look at Tolkien's Thought 21 janvier 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This book is a much longer, easier to read version of Tolkien's famous 1936
lecture of Beowulf, called "The Monsters and the Critics." I've read
"Monsters and the Critics," and liked it, but Beowulf and the Critics is
much better, not only because it is easier to follow, but because Tolkien
puts in a lot more interesting material, including two very good poems
about dragons. According to the editor, Tolkien started writing this book
for his students at Oxford, and it shows.
Tolkien argues that Beowulf is a great poem and that the monsters in it (a
troll named Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a dragon) are essential to the
poem's theme. I think he makes his case. He also provides a summary of
the study of Beowulf, from the discovery of the manuscript until he wrote
this book in the 1930's, which is actually much more interesting than it
The editor has written a good, clear introduction that explains how all
this scholarly material relates to Tolkien's other work in Old English and
to his Middle-earth books. The notes are unbelievably extensive, and while
I didn't read straight through them all, the things I did look up were
explained very clearly.
While there aren't any Hobbits, dwarves or elves, I still strongly
recommend this book to anyone who really wants to know how Tolkien's mind
58 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An incisive analysis of the nature of the poem Beowulf 9 janvier 2004
Par Bruce Trinque - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
JRR Tolkien's 1936 "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" is generally accorded to be a seminal study of the great Old English poem "Beowulf", focusing attention upon the work itself as a consciously crafted piece of literary creation rather than as merely something of historical or quaint antiquitarian interest. "Beowulf and the Critics" presents two extended lectures from the mid-1930's that were successive steps towards Tolkien's final essay. The greater length of these lectures, perhaps especially "Version B", may provide an easier path to appreciating Tolkien's views of the poems than the more dense "The Monsters and the Critics". Editor Michael Drout provides voluminous explanatory notes about every possibly obscure reference in Tolkien's lectures. In addition, lengthy textual notes are provided so that the interested scholar may trace the process of revision used by Tolkien in writing his lectures.
In his preface Drout mentions the likelihood that there are two natual audiences for this book: Those who read it because the name "Tolkien" is on the cover; and those who read it because "Beowulf" on the cover. (And Drout writes that "the most valued audience of all [is] those who read the book because it says both 'Tolkien' and 'Beowulf' on the cover" -- I'm pleased to count myself in that group.) To be candid, those Tolkien enthusiasts who pick up the volume expecting to find discussions of elves and hobbits will be disappointed. There are few direct references to Tolkien's better-know fictional works (although there is an interesting extended footnote discussing the relationship of Shakespeare's "King Lear" to certain aspects of "The Lord of the Rings.") However, if they press on to fathom Tolkien's concept of what Beowulf's poet was truly saying, then they will be rewarded, I believe, with a deepening of their own appreciation of the world later created by Tolkien. And, of course, they may come to appreciate "Beowulf" in itself.
Students of "Beowulf" will undoubtedly be more directly rewarded by this book that presents insights into the poem (and earlier criticism of that work) not so accessibly set forth in the later, more famous essay. If nothing else, this work presents an opportunity to once again consider the artistic intent of the Beowulf poet, speaking to us over a gulf of over a thousand years, yet illuminating a tradition of thought and conduct that still influences our modern world.
41 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Ian Myles Slater on: Editing the Master 28 décembre 2004
Par Ian M. Slater - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This volume is well designed to convey a huge amount of information in as painless a form as possible. It is a meticulous edition, with commentary, of two manuscripts by J.R.R. Tolkien, representing stages of his thought in the years before his British Academy lecture, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" (1936; published 1937). That short work has been described as being, although not the beginning of "Beowulf" criticism, the beginning of all *modern* "Beowulf" criticism. It was a revised and condensed version of a longer work, which had already gone through two drafts, presented here as edited by Michael Drout, as the "A" and "B" Texts (designations apparently beloved by medievalists).

The 1936 lecture is the title piece in the 1984 collection of some of Tolkien's essays, with which this book should NOT be confused, and is found in several anthologies of "Beowulf" criticism. It is beautifully expressed, and vigorously argued, but, with its compressed references to old disputes, at times a little hard to follow in detail. I found that careful readings of R.W. Chambers' magisterial "Beowulf: An Introduction to the Study of the Poem" (1921; third edition, 1953) and use of Fr. Klaeber's great edition (1922, 1928, 1936), both referred to by Tolkien, were very helpful, and worth the time (if not essential!) for any student of the poem anyway. But the critical (or uncritical) consensus Tolkien was attacking long ago faded from the scholarly mind. (It persists in third-hand opinions, often repeated by people who should know better.)

This presentation of the work-in-progress which produced "The Monsters and Critics" unfolds the reasoning process and critical disputes behind its crisp rhetoric, and reveals beyond any doubt that Tolkien's disclaimer of detailed knowledge of the secondary literature was the typical medieval-style "modesty trope" some of us suspected anyway. (More than suspected, really, since the 1983 publication of other Tolkien material on "Beowulf," edited by Alan Bliss as "Finn and Hengest.")

Among other issues, the resemblance of Tolkien's reading strategies for "Beowulf" to the then-emerging "New Criticism" is explored, and shown to be coincidental -- beyond sharing in the "spirit of the age," if one cares to take that approach. (I have actually seen a "history of criticism" which dismissed "Monsters and the Critics" as merely applying New Criticism to medieval literature, and offering nothing original -- which suggested, just as a matter of chronology, a lack of qualifications to write such a history.)

There is information, too, on the probable dates and present conditions of the manuscripts, on the emendations and original readings in the sometimes difficult-to-read handwritten pages, and similar matters. And this is tucked away where those who need the information can find it, and those who aren't interested can ignore it. (It might even serve as a student's introduction to physical descriptions of manuscripts, given that Tolkien's text is, mainly, in modern English, and the issues more immediately clear, than in, say, the case of the "Beowulf" manuscript itself, or of the two texts of Malory -- or the A, B, and C versions of "Piers Plowman.")

Annotations on the two versions supply identifications, translate quotations in a large number of languages, and generally clarify Tolkien's statements for non-professionals on the one hand, and for scholars seventy or eighty years removed from the intended readership on the other.

There are interesting sidelights. Some appear as Drout traces the origin of Tolkien's metaphors and allegories in the published lecture. The published version has a now-famous image of the poem as a Tower, made of more ancient stones which have attracted attention away from the view of the Sea at the top. The resemblance to passages in "Lord of the Rings" seemed to suggest he was borrowing an evocative image from his own developing mythology. Michael Drout shows that the passage started as a fable about a rock garden, and provides references to show that it was then the latest fashion in England. Who would have guessed it? Tolkien as landscape gardener, not Tolkien as secondary world-creator! And this doesn't stand alone, although it is the easiest example to describe.

Drout's editing, in my opinion, manages to meet the needs and expectations of two sets of readers -- scholars and students, and curious Tolkien fans -- quite well. A second reading has left me as convinced as the first time through. And I feel qualified to say this, although I am not the ideal reviewer for this book.

That ideal reviewer would be a professional scholar of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) language and literature, who is also fully at home in the history of "Beowulf" criticism, and at the same time a well-informed fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. In other words, someone very much like the actual editor. There are such people; I am hoping to hear from some of them in the academic journals, whether Medievalist, Germanist, or Tolkienian (!).

I am at best a rough approximation of this ideal reviewer. I had courses in Old English, including a "Beowulf" seminar, during which I translated a lot of the major poems (and have the notebooks to prove it), and read through much of the major (and some minor) English-language Beowulf studies through the 1970s. As a Tolkien fan, active mainly in the 1970s, I can point to a set of listings in the 1981 Revised Edition of Richard West's "Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist." In a fanzine I then edited, I sometimes managed to wear both hats simultaneously, as with a review of "Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition," by Howell D. Chickering, Jr. Although I haven't kept really current, I have worked my way through Michael Alexander's text edition, with facing-page glosses, for Penguin Classics (1995), and the bi-lingual version (2000) of Seamus Heaney's celebrated translation.

So, for me, getting to see Tolkien's thoughts on the poem in the process of formation was very exciting. And learning precisely which critic or critics he was responding to, was a well-guided tour through unexpected corners of old familiar places. The editor's observations on how Tolkien's thoughts on the work of the Beowulf-poet sometimes reflect his own experiences writing stories and poems that would not appear before the public for years appealed to the fan side. At least the sort of fan who enjoyed the successive volumes of "The History of Middle Earth," even while despairing of mastering the mass of new material.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Single most importance piece of criticism on Beowulf in the 20th century 8 mai 2008
Par Eardstapa - Publié sur Amazon.com
The mind reels at the thought of anyone describing this work as being irrelevant or having "outlived its time." Tolkien was, quite literally, a first rate scholar of Anglo-Saxon who knew the material of Beowulf better than most of his contemporaries. In terms of importance to the study of the poem, Tolkien's essay is frequently cited as the most significant piece of work in the history of Beowulfian criticism. There are no serious scholars of Old English literature who have not been influenced in some way by Tolkien's study of the poem. This work is seminal.

That being said, Tolkien is not the final word on Beowulf. Scholarship has progressed greatly since the writing of TMATC and there are elements of the story which Tolkien does not cover in as much detail as is merited (namely, Grendel's mother). Also, if you do not like Tolkien's style of prose in LOTR, then you will most likely not enjoy it here. However, that is more a matter of the reader's tastes than Tolkien's ability. This essay is a must-read for anyone desiring better knowledge of the text. Persevere and you will not be disappointed.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Second, revised edition of 978-0866982900 8 septembre 2013
Par Flash Sheridan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is the second, revised, edition of 978-0866982900 (Beowulf and the Critics (Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, Vol. 248)), though Amazon doesn't link the two. Based on the preface, it's substantially improved over the first edition (which I've only looked at briefly), most notably in rendering Tolkien's underlined text in italics. This edition is a magnificent work of scholarship on Professor Drout's part; his explanatory notes are worth checking even if you catch Professor Tolkien's references, since he provides copious detail and full contexts for the quotations. Scholars back then showed commendable nobility, and could _write_, even some of those Tolkien was refuting: "...only they are on the right side, though it is not the side that wins. The winning side is Chaos and Unreason; but the gods, who are defeated, think that defeat no refutation." (W.P. Ker) And Klaeber (one of Tolkien's main targets), quoting a review of the published essay by another of Tolkien's targets, R.W. Chambers: "the finest appreciation which has yet been written of our finest Old English poem "

As for Professor Tolkien's essay, the second draft is well worth reading even if you've read the final, published version. The B draft here presented is greatly inferior to the final version, which shows how hard Tolkien worked to achieve his apparently effortless style; but it's far longer, and covers far more material. One tip: use at least three bookmarks, to keep you place for the text, the explanatory notes for version B, and the explanatory notes for the A version, to which the B notes often refer.
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