Tolkien’s critique of modern evolutionary and progressivist thought

**** Mitchell, Philip Irving. “ ‘Legend and History Have Met and Fused’: The Interlocution of Anthropology, Historiography, and Incarnation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘On Fairy-Stories’.” Tolkien Studies 8 (2011): 1-21. Examines Tolkien’s critique, shared with Catholic historian Christopher Dawson, G.K. Chesterton, and Owen Barfield, of the modern evolutionary and progressivist reduction and rejection of mythical, religious, spiritual, and supernatural sensibilities. Focuses particularly on the influence of Dawson’s Progress and Religion on Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories,” as evidenced in the unpublished drafts. Highly recommended.

Tolkien’s literary style

*** Rateliff, John D. “ ‘A Kind of Elvish Craft’: Tolkien as Literary Craftsman. Tolkien Studies 6 (2009): 1-26. This article examining Tolkien’s literary style was specially commissioned for this volume of Tolkien Studies. Rateliff argues that Tolkien’s typically spare sensory description of scenes is meant to draw the reader in by having him provide his own images of the scenery. Digresses at the end into a somewhat trivial (even if valid) and, for purposes of the present article, irrelevant critique of the decision of leading scholars to change future editions of the LOTR to have Merry say that there are only “five” ponies in the stable at Crickhollow.

Metaphysics of Scripture

Creation’s language is universal and inescapable: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Ps. 19-1-33). A couple of things. The first is how the Creator speaks creation, and creation returns the favor by speaking the Creator. Second, and as Paul tells us, it is because the language of creation is unavoidable that sinners are left “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

On not knowing what’s good fer ya

“[N]ot everyone is mature enough to know what is of advantage to him…” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon 3.3)

On teaching

“[T]eaching, moreover, begins with those things which are better known and, by acquainting us with these, works its way to matters which lie hidden.” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon 3.9)

What to read and how

“If you are not able to read everything, read those things which are more useful. Even if you should be able to read them all, however, you should not expend the same labor upon all. Some things are to be read that we may know them, but others that we may at least have heard of them…” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon 3.13)

Naming and knowing natures

“[A] man cannot come to know the natures of things if he is still ignorant of their names.” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon 6.3)

Evangelium Comercii

“Commerce penetrates the secret places of the world, approaches shores unseen, explores fearful wildernesses, and in tongues unknown and with barbaric peoples carries on the trade of mankind.” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon 2.23)

Pax Comercii

“The pursuit of commerce reconciles nations, calms wars, strengthens peace, and commutes the private good of individuals into the common benefit of all.” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon 2.23)