Computing the interlace structure of The Lord of the Rings

— James Tauber, independent scholar

Paper given 4 July 2022 at IMC 2022 Session 241

In his well-known 1975 essay, Richard C. West explored the notion, which he credits first to George H. Thomson, that Tolkien adopted the medieval technique of entrelacement or interlacing’ in writing The Lord of the Rings. This paper makes use of computational narrative analysis to identify and visualise examples of this interlace structure. The analysis, part of the ongoing work of the Digital Tolkien Project, starts with marking up the text of The Lord of the Rings for certain paragraph-level features such as participants, locations, passage-of-time indicators, and direct speech. This markup is then used to identify narrative discontinuities and analepsis’ in the text and to visualise the structure of the interwoven narrative. Although focused on The Lord of the Rings, some interlacing is also demonstrated in The Hobbit, and the techniques and tools described in this paper could be used for other texts, including in medieval literature.

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date recorded 📅2022-01-24
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