Category Archives: Publishing

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Rounded Globe

We now have a brand new website for Rounded Globe.

Have a look: feed your mind! All our ebooks can be read online, downloaded (Kindle, tablet) for free, and legally shared with others. And all our ebooks embody scholarly excellence.

The original site went up just over a year ago and for some months contained only two ebooks – my essay on Tolkien and Donald Winch’s Carlyle lectures on the history of political economy.  Over last summer we began to receive more essays and proposals. Today we have seven ebooks for (free) download and another seven forthcoming over the next few months. As the content of our library grew it became clear that we needed a better way of organizing and displaying its contents. I’m very pleased with the result, which embodies the aesthetic and design philosophy of my co-founder Andrew Holgate.

Over the last year I’ve occasionally asked myself why I’m putting so much time and effort into a venture that can make no money. Sometimes my answers are negative. For example, the intense irritation I feel every time a paywall prevents me from accessing some scholarly article I need for my own research.

Other answers are of a mixed nature. Five years of teaching at a university convinced me that such an environment is corrosive to learning and scholarship. A genuine thirst for knowledge is corrupted by obsession with grades (students) and publication numbers and career promotion (professors). My life today is an attempt to engage with what I love on my own terms, without the bullshit and without the egos. Rounded Globe arises naturally out of this choice.

And this, I have come to think, leads to the bottom line: Rounded Globe is worth doing because it is a good thing.

  • It is a good thing to make high quality scholarly essays accessible – filtering out all the jargon and overblown theoretical nonsense, and offering them online to anyone who wants to read them.

It is as simple as that. After a lot of previous turbulence my life has become relatively stable. I now have a permanent home and my editing work brings in sufficient income to pay the bills. So with the time that I have left to me I’d like to do some good things.

JTR

Journal of Tolkien Research

I just received an automatic email from the Journal of Tolkien Research (JTR) saying my new Tolkien article – ‘Fantasy Incarnate: Of Elves and Men’ – has been published.  JTR is an open access journal, so you can read the article here. This post is not about the article, however, but the journal it has just appeared in.

This is my second peer reviewed Tolkien paper. The first, ‘The Peace of Frodo’, appeared in  the last volume of Tolkien Studies (TS). Consider the following comparisons.

TS is a traditional scholarly journal, which appears in print and electronic form. You can purchase the printed volume for $60.00. You can purchase an electronic form of my article (I do not know how much this costs), but cannot access it for free unless you are a member of a subscribing institution.

JTR is an open access electronic journal. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can read all content for free.

I submitted my TS article in January of 2014. It was accepted without a demand for revisions but did not appear until December 2015.

I submitted my JTR article in late January of this year. In late February I received three peer reviews and an editorial letter requesting revisions, which I completed on Saturday (March 12). This Monday morning (March 14) I received the email informing me that the article is now published online.

Note also the following. Having written my TS paper I worked up the ideas into a small electronic book that I published on Amazon (it is now available for free on Rounded Globe). In this ebook I not only clarified my ideas but also developed them further in light of the recent publication of Tolkien’s Beowulf (which had not yet appeared when the TS article was submitted). This electronic ebook was thus a development of the TS paper, yet appeared over a year earlier! Consequently, when the TS paper finally appeared it was seen by many as a development of my ebook.

And note also this: on Friday I communicated with a fellow author who, like myself, is an independent scholar, and therefore without access to traditional scholarly journals, and like myself has an article in the recent volume of TS. In the course of our communication I discovered that she was unaware of the fact that her article has finally been published! Neither of us has yet received a complimentary copy of our article, even in electronic form, which means that we, the authors, have no access to our own published work!

Of course, there are costs to the JTR model. Basically, the journal cuts its own costs to a minimum by leaving all copy-editing to the authors of the articles. This is no bad thing. But this is something scholars will have to get used to, and at present the articles hosted on JTR can look a little scrappy. Yet if academics mastered the computer, they can certainly master basic copy-editing skills.

Bradford Lee Eden, the editor of  JTR, is Dean of Library Services at Valparaiso University. I infer (perhaps incorrectly) that JTR was born from some hard thinking about the new digital age and the place within it of modern universities coming out of library studies (if that is the correct name for this discipline). Whether or not that is the case (and I’d like to know), Brad deserves some hearty thanks and congratulations. I’d urge anyone considering submitting a Tolkien-related article to consider JTR as their first port of call.

Eric_Gross_Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse_Jutland

Tolkien’s English Mythology (revisited)

It is now two years since I first formulated the idea that Tolkien’s stories of Middle-earth were conceived as the stories of a lost English mythology. Since then the publication of Tolkien’s Beowulf commentary has amply corroborated this thesis, and my own research has established more clearly its range and, also, its limitations. The time feels ripe for a brief review.

First, three core facts.

Firstly, Tolkien’s undergraduate career at Oxford followed closely in the wake of the big event in Edwardian Anglo-Saxon studies – the publication of H.M. Chadwick’s The Origin of the English Nation. Chadwick broke new ground in tracing the history of the English before they ever came to Britain, and – crucially – he did so by reconstructing the mythology of the ancient English tribes.

Secondly, Tolkien’s mature scholarship demonstrates that he accepted Chadwick’s idea that the spiritual center of pre-migration English life had been a sanctuary on the (now Danish) island of Zealand.

Thirdly, Tolkien’s mature scholarship demonstrates that he believed the English migration to Britain to have been caused by a period of ruthless Danish military expansion, which saw the Danes conquer Zealand, take over the ancient cult, and – again, crucially – make the ancient mythology of the English their own, in so doing distorting and it remaking it in their own more warlike image.

From these three facts two implications are obvious and straightforward.

Firstly, when Tolkien talked of an ancient English mythology he had in mind, not the ancient stories told in and about Britain (as nearly all Tolkien scholars seem to believe) but the ancient stories told by the English in their original homeland between the Baltic and the North Sea.

Secondly, the parallel between Tolkien’s stories and various Norse myths is not to be taken at face value (it nearly always is). Tolkien certainly took the Norse stories as a starting-point, but what he wanted was to get back to the original ancient English stories that he believed lay behind them.

All of the above seems to me undeniable. What comes next is invariably speculative, and this for the reason that Tolkien himself, faced with reconstructing the ancient English stories, had no choice but to make imaginative leaps into the dark. The best we can do is hold up points in the ancient extant stories that evidently exercised Tolkien’s imagination, read his scholarly musings on these points, and take note of the fairly obvious parallels found in his own fairy stories. Here are three such points, but for the close textual readings and arguments necessary to support them you will have to look at my published and forthcoming work.

Firstly, there is the Norse story of King Froda, a king who ruled in a time of peace and security when a gold ring could be left on the highway without anyone taking it. In his Beowulf commentary Tolkien declares that behind this Norse myth was an older legend, bound up with the ancient cult of the English on Zealand. We can read The Lord of the Rings as providing a story of the original Froda (Frodo), who was not a king, but was closely connected with one (Aragorn) and also with the dawning of a great golden age of peace. And we can note Faramir’s twice repeated statement about the Ring, that not if he found it on a highway would he take it (Two Towers).

Secondly, Beowulf begins with the story of Scyld Scefing, who arrived as a baby from over the sea and on his death departed back over the ocean. Perhaps no other lines in this Old English poem so exercised the imagination of Tolkien. With this in mind we can look with Frodo into the Mirror of Galadriel and see a great ship born out of the West on wings of storm, and another with fairy lights departing into the West. And again we see how Tolkien came to think of later ages confusing the stories of Aragorn and Frodo – for the ship that comes out of the West bears Elendil, the first King and forefather of Aragorn, whereas the ship that departs into the West bears Frodo, the Ring-bearer.

And thirdly we can note the story told in Old Icelandic of the love of the god Frey with Gerdr, daughter of the giant Gymir. In his 1939 lecture on ‘Fairy Stories’ Tolkien connected this story with the love story of Ingeld and Freawaru, found in Beowulf. The god called Frey by the Norsemen is the same that the ancient English called Ing, who was at the center of the ancient English cult on Zealand. Tolkien points out that both Ingeld and Freawaru bear names associated with this cult, and that their story clearly contains a mythological dimension. Nevertheless, he suggests that these two lovers were historical, yet playing out in real life a very ancient story (much more ancient than that of Frey and Gerdr), bound up with the cult, and telling of the love between the members of two very different houses. Careful inspection of his argument (which I do not reproduce here) suggests that here we have some of the seeds that within a few years would sprout, in Tolkien’s own imagination, into the  story of the love of Aragorn, King Elessar, who weds an Elven bride, Arwen Undómiel.

And a parting observation on the reception of these ideas. By January 1st, 2014 I had a first working scholarly paper on these themes, which I submitted to the academic journal Tolkien Studies. The paper was accepted but as of today volume 12 of Tolkien Studies, in which it will appear, has still not been published! Meanwhile, in the summer of 2014 I developed the argument of this paper into a small ebook, which I published under the title Tolkien’s Lost English Mythology, which was released in October 2014.

Last summer I wrote a second academic paper, which has also been accepted by Tolkien Studies, and which examines Tolkien’s scholarly writings of the 1930s in order to chart the development of his search for the ancient English mythology that could be detected on the outer edges of Beowulf. But when this second scholarly paper will appear in print not even Gandalf could tell you!

So this coming January I plan to take a month out of my normal work in order to, once again, write up the fruits of my research – which includes some sustained reflections on Tolkien’s idea of fantasy – in a new ebook, tentatively titled On the Shores of the Shoreless Sea: essays on Tolkien’s Faërie .

Image: Eric Gross, ‘Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse – Northern Jutland, Denmark‘, (cc) license.

Rounded Globe

Ye Machine publishing‘ has now established Rounded Globe, a non-profit organization dedicated to the production and dissemination of first rate high quality scholarship.

Here is the ‘About’ blurb:

Scholarly writing has become inaccessible. Highly specialized, narrowly focused, filled with jargon, bloated with theory; the massively overpriced articles and monographs that embody current work in the humanities are affordable only by a handful of university libraries.

Rounded Globe books are free from jargon, written for the intelligent layperson, and released under a legal license that allows them to be freely shared with others.

Our distribution model is based upon trust. Scholars publish with us because they want to introduce their work to a wider public. We are highly selective in what we choose to publish. Our readers trust our authors with their time and mental effort. Our authors trust our readers to give something back in return for a gift of time, expertise, and scholarly craft.

Rounded Globe’s production work includes copy-editing, coding, and cover design, and is funded entirely by donations.

Check out the site, download existing titles, consider contributing yourself!

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