Hilarity in Delaware: Christine O’Donnell and J.R.R. Tolkien, sitting in a tree…

As almost everyone now knows, Christine O’Donnell won the Republican Senate primary in an upset, and, as almost everyone now knows and will forget six months from now, she’s also unintentionally hilarious. One of her better moments comes from a 2003 essay on Tolkien discussed in “The Republican Senate candidate’s analysis of “Lord of the Rings” reveals her views on feminine roles.” Unfortunately, Salon’s copy of O’Donnell’s essay has been removed, but not before I caught this bit: “Even as I researched this article, the only writings on Tolkien and feminism I found were on websites for freebee high school essays.”

As Jason Fisher said in an e-mail, “Not a promising opening. When the only writings you can find are high-school level, it’s a strong indication that your research techniques are only high-school level.” Indeed: by 2003, Jane Chance had published extensively on Tolkien. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World came out in 2002. Tolkien Studies hadn’t been founded yet, but a lot of the material cited by it stretches back decades.

Even if you couldn’t find that material for whatever reason, the number of books about gender, gender construction, and gender symbolism in fiction is simply staggering; much of it could be and is being productively applied to Tolkien.

I sometimes say to my students that there is a world of ideas beyond the Internet or not available on it. They often don’t believe me, or if they do, don’t act on that belief. Now at least there’s a concrete example of failing to act on that belief in action.

Since humor is in the air like pheromones, it’s worth pointing to the Borowitz Report: “Delaware Masturbators March Against O’Donnell.” Where’s that parody coming from? See Christine O’Donnell, masturbation socialist on Slate.

I seldom comment on politics because I think most political discussions are really about people signaling what they perceive their values to be, not about the exchange of real information or ideas about the world beyond the individual espousing a particular point of view. But the opportunity to do so here is too rich to ignore and has led to a very amusing juxtaposition of post tags, and with O’Donnell, even Frank Rich gets into the spirit, writing for the New York Times:

But history will always remember her for taking a fearless stand against masturbation, the one national pastime with more fans than baseball.

Our great country has truly come a very long way if being anti-masturbation is now coded as being anti-American. In a world where drug stores are selling sex toys, how could it not be?

Every so often politicians emerge for whom pot shots are the optimal method of engagement; Slate writes from the left and so mostly attacks Republicans, but this bit is pretty hilarious:

And I guess it was those terrible experiences that led her to spend her life telling girls never to feel lust, which is a sensible and realistic thing to recommend.

Just say no to fun has been working well for centuries, whether from the early Progressives on Prohibition, the modern-day versions of the, or the anti-sex Republicans. Telling people not to feel lust is pretty close to telling people not to feel hungry; sure, you find the occasional monk who manages to fast for very long periods of time and primarily eats tea, bread, and fruit. The rest of us, however, will ask you to pass the potatoes, be generous with the wine, and ask whether you’ve tried the sumptuous French-Vietnamese fusion place up the street, the one with the amazing Pho.

Every so often, my students imply (usually they don’t say it outright) that English classes don’t matter, that what they learn in school doesn’t matter, and that they’ll succeed regardless. And every so often, the world offers up a story that implies they may be right.Christine O’Donnell is one such example.

One response

  1. Probably the most obvious book Christine O’Donnell should have discovered is Women Among the Inklings: Gender, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, by Candice Fredrick and Sam McBride, published in 2001 (two years before her essay). It’s not a perfect book, but it’s certainly relevant to her topic. And there are of course a wealth of individual articles on the characters she discusses, stretching back thirty years or more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: