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24 Jan, 2021 (edited)
2021-1-24 12:18:13 AM UTC

Mr. Underhill wrote:

Stu wrote:

I have no idea what knowledge Colbert does or does not have, but the suggestion that one needs to have published material on a subject to be a scholar is completely wrong.

[I personally enjoy Tolkien, but am quite happy to leave the level of interest in him and his work that would make for being a scholar to others -- it just doesn't interest me *that* much]

I generally think of a scholar as someone who is published in their field of study. If Colbert isn't published (which I'm sure he's not) then he's not a scholar.

You might think that - but it definitely isn't the definition of one. I'm not sure we should criticise people on the internet for not using a definition that we have made up to fit our world view. Kind of feels like pots calling kettles black over word usage.

FWIW, my guess is that Colbert is just a dedicated fan, but I don't know that. he might spend several hours a week studying texts for all any of us know. Plenty of celebrities have lives that are not part of their public personas.
24 Jan, 2021 (edited)
2021-1-24 11:58:33 AM UTC
Colbert's fans believe him to be a Tolkien scholar not only because he can spout gobbets of LotR and Silm, but also (mainly?) because of his involvement with the movies. Owning Vigo's Aragon sword, and appearing in a Hobbit movie as 'Darrlygorn' goes a long way with them.

The way they talk of Colbert does make me think of them as a cult.
24 Jan, 2021
2021-1-24 12:09:20 PM UTC
This discussion has led me to think about what people mean by 'Tolkien scholar'.
I think of people like Shippey and Flieger, to name just two authors of books by Tolkien.

There may well be other definitions of 'Tolkien scholar', but I think there are two main groups - that is, folk who know a lot about Middle-earth and nothing else; and people whose interests lie in all of Tolkien's works. Middle-earth studies, and Tolkien Studies, if you like.

I like Middle-earth; but there's more to Tolkien than that. I like FGH, SWM and ATB; I like his poetry and academic works too (what I can understand of them). I'm very fond of his artwork, and I'm intensely interested in his biography; the spine of Tolkien studies as it were, which holds together all the other groups of Tolkien studies.

Tolkien studies or Middle-earth studies? What does the group think?
24 Jan, 2021
2021-1-24 1:20:32 PM UTC
It's difficult not to be judgemental. I think when you first encounter Middle-earth it's hard not to be enraptured by the secondary world to the exclusion of all else; there's a lot to know & learn. And people (or a certain type of people) really enjoy marshalling the "facts"; hence the tiresome focus on lore and canon. I think I was probably one of these people, back in my days. And I never personally found biography that interesting when I was younger. But as you get older, read more widely, I think it becomes a little easier to bring many aspects of Tolkien together in your head & for you to have a relationship with all of those things.

My own personal (specific) relationship with Tolkien & his work (and this is just something I've decided to focus on, it could be some other aspect) is The Silmarillion, because it brings together multiple aspects of Tolkien Studies proper —i.e. the secondary work itself (the fiction); the relationship of the secondary work to biography (Tolkien the published writer); and the transmission of his work to the reader today via the labours of Christopher (inc. his role in the publication of the work in 1977). For me, this is pretty broad; there's lots a variety e.g. fiction, biography, publishing, printing, etc.

But if peeps just want to discuss what Gandalf knew & when, that's fine too. However, I think the term "scholar" demands a little more knowledge than the Legendarium alone.
24 Jan, 2021
2021-1-24 7:32:14 PM UTC
The specific area of focus that the scholar wishes to focus on is down to them and their interest. Someone can be a broad Tolkien (the man) scholar, Someone can certainly be a middle-earth scholar, given the amount of material. Neither is my cup of tea, but if someone wants a detailed understanding of Tolkien's life, that's fine, and if someone wants to study which imaginary elf begat which imaginary elf and which pretend language they were speaking whilst doing it, that's fine. They both require someone to pursue the subject to a deep level, which is all that a scholar is.

I feel like this is all a very elitist discussion, and given the relative triviality of the subject matter is a bit silly.
27 Jan, 2021
2021-1-27 8:45:27 AM UTC
You do not have to published to be a scholar - I have had the opportunity of meeting people massively more knowledgeable about Tolkien than me who really have not had a publishing contract with HarperCollins.

Having said that, if you publish and you publish something good there can be no doubt that you are a scholar. The people I have met I can judge by my own level of knowledge - Colbert is a public celebrity with a possibly intermediate level of general knowledge on Tolkien's life and works at best. Judging from his pronounciation I would have to downgrade the marks given but that is just nitpicking.

I concur with the relative triviality of the matter; unfortunately, Colbert's words are heard by millions which makes it rather less trivial.

The terms of "Tolkien studies" and "Middle-earth studies" have been bandied around; the foreword to Drout's encyclopedia picks up on that.

Tolkien has gone beyond his life and works and as a franchise, well...

Anything goes.

We will be looking back fondly on Stephen Colbert once the series is there.
27 Jan, 2021
2021-1-27 9:43:48 AM UTC
Olwe writes:

''You do not have to published to be a scholar - I have had the opportunity of meeting people massively more knowledgeable about Tolkien than me who really have not had a publishing contract with HarperCollins.''

That's a very narrow definition of 'published'. I too have met many people who are far more knowledgeable than I am, and I can count on two hands how many of them have had books published by Harper Collins.

The majority of people I know who have written papers about Tolkien have had them published in Proceedings of Tolkien conferences and the like. Names which the public will have never heard of; but their knowledge and research are deep. They've read a lot on the subject; some from primary sources.
27 Jan, 2021 (edited)
2021-1-27 8:42:00 PM UTC
Colbert is a Charleston treasure, I once had the honor of using the next urinal over from him at a local baseball game.

I don't know his qualifications as a Tolkien scholar, but he's been known as a tremendous fantasy nerd around these parts for as long as he's been in the spotlight and longer. Peter Jackson once said “I have never met a bigger Tolkien geek in my life.” I know a few people who played D&D with him back in the day.

I'm not sure what value any of the above holds, but I enjoy the enthusiasm Colbert brings to Tolkien. There are worse interests to espouse with your fame. What's more, I'm not sure Colbert has ever claimed to be a scholar–just an enthusiast. In light of this, IMO what people on Facebook groups or web forums claim he is or isn't... well it's really neither here nor there.
27 Jan, 2021
2021-1-27 11:55:49 PM UTC

Caudimordax wrote:

.... In light of this, IMO what people on Facebook groups or web forums claim he is or isn't... well it's really neither here nor there.

5 Feb, 2021
2021-2-5 8:56:21 PM UTC
Come on, you guys, stop picking on Stephen Colbert and questioning his credentials! Shouldn't you stick to attacking me. Personally I was delighted to be "corrected" on air before 3 million viewers. Do you know how difficult it is to get a book cover shown on that program?

To be fair, you have to look at Colbert comments in the context to his satirical monologue telling Q-Anon supporters that they can be just as crazy (but less dangerous) if they join him and enter the world of Tolkien nerd culture. Like him you can spend your whole waking life reading Tolkien, doing Tolkien quizzes, games, arguing in on-line chats, and "reading the Tolkien Dictionary - like this one - and correcting it!"

He concludes with: “And I promise you, just like Q-Anon you will sound crazy and your family will beg you to find another outlet for your obsessive compulsive disorder.”

I find it brilliant that Stephen Colbert’s litmus test for insanity is an obsessive compulsive need to search for corrections in my Dictionary of Tolkien.

Of course, like Stephen, the Q-Anon’s would have to buy a copy of the Dictionary and read it first. So, excellent! Sounds like I’ll have whole new pool of readers.

My publisher now wants to send him copies of my boxed-set of six Tolkien reference books, as well as my Illustrated World of Tolkien, and the leather-bound Encyclopedia of Tolkien - and let him know, they’d love to have him correct the lot. Preferably live on air.

Anyway, Andrew, thank you for posting Colbert clip on your website.
All the best, David
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