A Tolkien Compass

A Tolkien Compass

A Tolkien Compass

A Tolkien Compass

Synopsis

Ten writers with different viewpoints explore the political, religious, cosmological, and psychological principles of the creator of The Lord of the Rings. As leading Tolkien authority Tom Shippey (author of J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century) observes in his foreword, A Tolkien Compass lives up to its name by providing vital guidance to both new and seasoned travelers in Middle-earth.

Excerpt

The ten critical essays which follow come from what one might call the Age of Innocence of Tolkien studies. Jared Lobdell, introducing them back in 1975, could survey the field in a single paragraph, his second, and could claim that A Tolkien Compass was the first occasion on which Tolkien 'fans' could see their work and their opinions collected. Things are very different now. If one wants to survey the field of Tolkien studies, it is necessary first to look at Richard C. West's Tolkien: An Annotated Checklist, Revised Edition (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1981), second, at Judith A. Johnson's J.R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism (Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 1986), and third, bringing matters up to the present day, at the long bibliography by Michael Drout, Hilary Wynne, and Melissa Higgins, 'Scholarly Studies of J.R.R. Tolkien and his Works (in English), 1984–2000' in Envoi vol. 9, no. 2 (Fall 2000), pp. 135–165. These three works between them contain several hundred pages of studies, with entries now running well into the thousands.

Tolkien studies have moreover not only become more frequent, they have become increasingly professionalized. It was unlikely, in 1975, that any professional critic could gain tenure at a recognized university by writing on Tolkien, while in the United Kingdom at least, professing an interest in Tolkien was almost certain death for any hopeful candidate seeking entrance to a department of English. Residual hostility to Tolkien remains strong in the critical profession and the media, showing itself in remarks such as Judith Shulevitz's in the New York Times Book Review as recently as 22nd April, 2001, that Tolkien's mission has turned out to be [death to literature itself,] or in Germaine Greer's response to Tolkien's victory in a readers' poll organized by Waterstone's bookstores: [it has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out to be the most influential writer of the twentieth century. The bad dream has materialised] (W Magazine, Winter 1997). However, readers' polls in the end cannot be denied, certainly not when they keep coming up with the . . .

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