giovedì 23 giugno 2016

La prima recensione al primo testo accademico di Tolkien, 1922

The Year's Work in English Studies 1920-1
A cura di Sir Sidney Lee e F. S. Boas
The English Association / Oxford University Press, Londra
1922, pp. 195

La rivista
Pubblicato annualmente, The Year's Work in English Studies è giunto al suo 94mo volume. Raccoglie la più importante rassegna bibliografica dei lavori scientifici e letteratura in lingua inglese oltre ad un’immensa panoramica dalle opere in Old English a quelle contemporanee.

La recensione ad A Middle English Vocabulary di Tolkien
Nel 1922, la Clarendon Press di Oxford pubblicò A Middle English Vocabulary di Tolkien, prima in volume singolo e poi inseito nel libro di Kenneth SIsam Fourteenth-Century Verse and Prose. Inizialmente previsto per il volume di Sisam, il Glossario di Tolkien a causa di ritardi non vu incluso nella prima edizione del 1921. In questo numero di The Year's Work in English Studies 1920-1, Margaret L. Lee, recensì il volume di Sisam ed elogiò il lavoro del giovane Tolkien da poco approdato all’Università di Leeds come Lettore di Lingua e Letteratura Inglese. Credo sia la prima recensione al primo testo accademico di Tolkien.

Di seguito la sola parte iniziale della lunga recensione della Lee dove si presenta il libro di Sisam e il Glossario di Tolkien (pp. 41-43).


[By Margaret L. Lee]

Two general observations may be made in regard to the year's work of this section; first, that in the majority of cases the purpose of the modern author or editor has been literary, social, or historical rather than linguistic; secondly, that an unusually large proportion of the books considered deal with matter belonging to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Mr. Sisam's volume of extracts from fourteenth-century writers1 forbids any narrow definition of the nature of its appeal. In it we seem to possess what has so long been lacking to the student of late Middle English – an altogether excellent collection of representative pieces.
Anthologies culled from Old and Middle English literature have hitherto tended to emphasize the philological value of the passages chosen, at the expense of literary interest (Professor Cook’s Literary Middle English Reader (1915) is a noteworthy exception, but has little in the way of textual annotation.) Mr. Sisam's collection, on the contrary, is so edited as to appeal both to linguistic and literary scholarship, and this in itself implies a high level of attainment. The Introduction, a delightful piece of critical prose, deals with the growth of romance and of new metrical forms during the thirteenth century, thus leading on to a detailed study of the fourteenth century, with its alliterative revival on the one hand, its fresh tide of foreign influence on the other, and its development of a new literary type, the Miracle Play. The discussion of the Middle English didactic or moral poem leads to an interesting digression, meant to prove that the large proportion of such poems among existing MSS. is inconclusive, since ‘up to Chaucer's day, the greater the popularity of an English poem, the less important becomes the MS. as a means of early transmission. To determine the relative popularity of the longer tales in verse we need, not so much a catalogue of extant MSS. as a census that cannot. now be taken, of the repertoires of the entertainers.'
In a concluding section Mr. Sisam provides some hints on the Study of early literature which should be of real benefit to students. The need for intensive plus discursive reading, and of a 'sensitive' attitude towards the writings dealt with, has seldom been so much as referred to in the ordinary text-book, which is apt to assume a finished scholarship on the part of the untrained student. Mr. Sisam writes as a teacher no less than a man of letters, and his point of view is broadly humanistic.
The scheme of the book excludes selections from Chaucer, ‘who suffers when read in extracts . . . although without him fourteenth. century literature is a body without a head’. The point is debateable; but if it be conceded, the choice of pieces leaves little room for criticism. Robert Mannyng, Richard Rolle, Langland, Mandeville, Barbour, Wiclif, Gower, Treviso, and Minot are the chief individual authors represented, and there are plentiful extracts from the anonymous West Midland alliterative poems, the lyrics, and the York and Towneley plays. Each extract is introduced by a few clear paragraphs of general information, and elucidated by several pages of notes which fulfil the double function of exciting interest in subject-matter and in form. The volume includes an Appendix of nearly thirty pages on the English Language in the fourteenth century, so compact and suggestive as to constitute an altogether admirable introduction to the study of Middle English from the linguistic point of view; and (in the later edition) a Vocabulary, which is also issued separately for purchasers of the book in its earlier form.2 It is unfortunate that this separate issue is unpaged, and that it should be entitled a Vocabulary on the cover and a Glossary within. But these small points do not obscure the fact that Mr. Tolkien has worthily completed a piece of work which can hardly he praised too highly by teachers whom experience has brought to realize the underlying unity of all literary and linguistic study worthy of the name. 

Mr. Tolkien gives 'exceptionally full treatment to what may rightly be called the backbone of the language', eg. he devotes much space and care to the various meanings of the prepositions to, and the various forms of the pronoun he, or the verb habben, rather than to suggested etymologies of the rare and obscure words contained in his texts. The result is a Vocabulary with exhaustive textual references, having a value independent of the extracts to which it is appended – comparable indeed in fullness and interest with Heyne’s Glossary to Beowulf and a few others like it. The treatment of convertible symbols such as Ʒ and g, þ and th, v, i and y, is particularly to be commended.
We hope that future editions of Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose will be printed on more opaque paper, on which students could insert their own marginal annotations in ink.

1 Fourteenth-Century Verse and Prose, ed. by K. Sisam. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921. Xxxiii + 264 + App. 27 pp. 7s. 6d. net.

2 A Middle English Vocabulary, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922. (Not paged). 4 s. 6d. net.

Alla fine del testo, un elenco di libri dove compaiono i due di Sisam e Tolkien usciti nel 1922.
Sulla prima pagina una etichetta dell'Università di Oxford.

Di questa rivista, nella mia collezione trovano posto anche i numeri del 1923, 1924 e 1925 che contengono i saggi sulla Filologia firmati da Tolkien.