J. R. R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism

J. R. R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism

J. R. R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism

J. R. R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism


"J.R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism annotates over 1,600 reviews, articles, essays, books, and other commentary on the creator of Middle Earth. Author Judith A. Johnson also provides a bibliography of Tolkien novels, poems, interviews, and other published works; essays describing Tolkien's writings and summarizing the critical response to them; and an appendix listing Tolkien-related organizations, societies, and publications." American Libraries


Tolkien criticism continues to appear in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, and books. Previously unnoticed references to Tolkien and his secondary world, Middle-earth, continue to be discovered. For these reasons and others, no bibliography of works about Tolkien can profess to be complete. When I began this project several years ago, I naively assumed that I could do a complete bibliography. I quickly discovered that I could not. Thousands of letters have appeared in hundreds of newspapers and magazines; dozens of footnotes referring to Tolkien work have appeared in numerous articles about Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and other Old English and Middle English literary works. To annotate more than a sample of these would result in a multivolume set of Tolkien bibliographies. To find all of them would be impossible. The letters in publications like Mythlore, Minas Tirith Evening Star, Orcrist, The Tolkien Journal, Niekas, and The Times Literary Supplement are well worth reading. A book-length collection of them would be a treasure-trove for Tolkien enthusiasts. But none of the letters is included here.

The book reviews in the publications named above are frequently excellent. I have included those which review works by Tolkien. For reasons of space, not as a negative comment on their quality, I have omitted most of those which review books about Tolkien's works. A sampling of them from popular magazines and scholarly journals is included, but the primary focus is on criticism of Tolkien's works, not on criticism of criticism of Tolkien's works.

The book's organization is chronological. Each chapter contains a brief introductory essay describing works by Tolkien published within a particular decade and summarizing the patterns or trends of critical responses during the decade. (Chapter I covers more than one decade; there were fewer pieces of criticism in the thirty-plus years between 1922 and 1954 than in any single year following the appearance of The Lord of the Rings.)

Following the introductory essay of each chapter is a section entitled Works by Tolkien, listing the works alphabetically by title, with reference numbers (e.g., Al). The reference numbers continue in sequence throughout the book; the first listing in the "A" section of Chapter II is A51.

The "B" section of each chapter, entitled Critical Response is an annotated bibliography organized alphabetically by critics' surnames, for each year separately. Again, the reference numbers continue in sequence throughout the book; W.H. Auden, for example, published articles about Tolkien in 1954, 1956, 1957, 1961, and 1968 that appear as entries B100, B224, B272, B294, and B640, respectively.

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