Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Tolkien among the Moderns

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Tolkien among the Moderns

Article excerpt

Tolkien among the Moderns. Edited by Ralph C. Wood. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015, Pp. 303. $32.00, paper.)

J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most celebrated novelists of the twentieth century. As the author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (London: Allen 8c Unwin, 1954-1955) and The Silmarillion (London: Allen & Unwin, 1977), he revitalized the literary genre of fantasy. Academic scholars, throughout the twentieth century, did not give adequate attention to Tolkien's corpus due to the mistaken belief that it lacked philosophical substance. The release of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films generated renewed interest in Tolkien. Scholars such as Joseph Pearce, Bradley Birzer, Thomas Shippey, Ralph Wood, and Jane Chance responded by producing innovative, exciting, and perceptive literature on Tolkien. This edited volume, Tolkien among the Modems, greatly contributes to this burgeoning field of scholarship by analyzing Tolkien as an interlocutor with various modern thinkers and questions.

Tolkien despised many aspects of modernity. He was a conservative environmentalist who disdained the destruction of the English countryside, He was also a monarchist in politics, a defender of hierarchy and tradition, and a devout Roman Catholic who despised the Protestant Reformation. Yet, many of the essays in this collection convincingly show that Tolkien dialogued with modern thinkers. Helen Lasseter Freeh argues that Tolkien in The Silmarillion offers a robust defense of free will during a time in which few intellectuals defended the concept. Michael D. Thomas, in his analysis of the Lord of the Rings, makes the case that Tolkien rejected modernity's emphasis on rugged individualism; the trilogy, after all, centers on the actions of a fellowship rather than the triumphalist deeds of isolated individuals. Peter M. Candler Jr. compares Tolkien to his fellow philologist Friedrich Nietzsche and finds that the former turns many of the latter's arguments against religion upside down. Whereas Nietzsche believed that philology deconstructs Christianity to be mere chaos, Tolkien asserts that philology points to the sacramentality of the Christian faith. …

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