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Tolkien among the Moderns

Tolkien among the Moderns

Edited by Ralph C. Wood

It has long been recognized that J. R. R. Tolkien’s work is animated by a profound moral and religious vision. It is less clear that Tolkien’s vision confronts the leading philosophical and literary concerns addressed by modern writers and thinkers. This book seeks to resolve such uncertainty. It places modern writers and modern quandaries in lively engagement with the broad range of Tolkien’s work, while giving special attention to the textual particularities of his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings.

In ways at once provocative and original, the contributors deal with major modern artists and philosophers, including Miguel de Cervantes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emmanuel Levinas, Iris Murdoch, and James Joyce. The essays in Tolkien among the Moderns also point forward to postmodernism by examining its implications for Tolkien’s work. Looking backward, they show how Tolkien addresses two ancient questions: the problems of fate and freedom in a seemingly random universe, as well as Plato’s objection that art can neither depict truth nor underwrite morality. The volume is premised on the firm conviction that Tolkien is not a writer who will be soon surpassed and forgotten—exactly because he has a permanent dwelling place “among the moderns.”

Contributors: Ralph C. Wood, Germaine Paulo Walsh, Helen Lasseter Freeh, Michael D. Thomas, Peter M. Candler, Jr., Phillip J. Donnelly, Dominic Manganiello, Scott H. Moore, and Joseph Tadie.

“This collection of essays places Tolkien in the context of the big themes of philosophy, historically and today. It will speak to readers who are already drawn to the work of Tolkien and who either have a desire to see into his work more deeply or desire to see how his work might be employed to think about other matters, for example, how might the work of Tolkien impact the so-called warfare between poetry and philosophy. I believe that the work of Tolkien is here to stay, that it will continue to stand the test of time, and that intelligent, curious readers will find Tolkien among the Moderns deeply rewarding.” — Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College

“This well-written collection of essays makes an important contribution to Tolkien studies by extending Tom Shippey’s perception of Tolkien as a modern. Defined on the one hand by Tolkien’s relationship with Plato, Nietzsche, Levinas, and postmodernism, and on the other in relation to the novels of Cervantes, James Joyce, and Iris Murdoch, Tolkien among the Moderns repositions The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion to explore important moral, ethical, aesthetic, and theological issues.” — Jane Chance, author of The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and coeditor of Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages

“The works of J. R. R. Tolkien not only engage the reader with the challenges presented by perennial truth, they also engage modernity with the challenges presented by the enduring wisdom of the past. This volume, edited by the inveterately reliable literary scholar Ralph C. Wood, sheds some truly penetrating light on Tolkien’s relevance to the troubled age in which we live.” — Joseph Pearce, author of Tolkien: Man and Myth and Frodo’s Journey

ISBN: 978-0-268-01973-0
E-ISBN 978-0-268-15854-5
312 pages
Publication Year: 2015

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Ralph C. Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God.

“Among the delights of these collections are . . . in Tolkien among the Moderns, edited by Ralph C. Wood, an account of the somewhat unexpected friendship between Tolkien and the philosophical novelist Iris Murdoch.” — Times Literary Supplement

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Tolkien among the Moderns


Edited by Ralph C. Wood

 Tolkien among the Moderns
Paper Edition
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It has long been recognized that J. R. R. Tolkien’s work is animated by a profound moral and religious vision. It is less clear that Tolkien’s vision confronts the leading philosophical and literary concerns addressed by modern writers and thinkers. This book seeks to resolve such uncertainty. It places modern writers and modern quandaries in lively engagement with the broad range of Tolkien’s work, while giving special attention to the textual particularities of his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings.

In ways at once provocative and original, the contributors deal with major modern artists and philosophers, including Miguel de Cervantes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emmanuel Levinas, Iris Murdoch, and James Joyce. The essays in Tolkien among the Moderns also point forward to postmodernism by examining its implications for Tolkien’s work. Looking backward, they show how Tolkien addresses two ancient questions: the problems of fate and freedom in a seemingly random universe, as well as Plato’s objection that art can neither depict truth nor underwrite morality. The volume is premised on the firm conviction that Tolkien is not a writer who will be soon surpassed and forgotten—exactly because he has a permanent dwelling place “among the moderns.”

Contributors: Ralph C. Wood, Germaine Paulo Walsh, Helen Lasseter Freeh, Michael D. Thomas, Peter M. Candler, Jr., Phillip J. Donnelly, Dominic Manganiello, Scott H. Moore, and Joseph Tadie.

“This collection of essays places Tolkien in the context of the big themes of philosophy, historically and today. It will speak to readers who are already drawn to the work of Tolkien and who either have a desire to see into his work more deeply or desire to see how his work might be employed to think about other matters, for example, how might the work of Tolkien impact the so-called warfare between poetry and philosophy. I believe that the work of Tolkien is here to stay, that it will continue to stand the test of time, and that intelligent, curious readers will find Tolkien among the Moderns deeply rewarding.” — Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College

“This well-written collection of essays makes an important contribution to Tolkien studies by extending Tom Shippey’s perception of Tolkien as a modern. Defined on the one hand by Tolkien’s relationship with Plato, Nietzsche, Levinas, and postmodernism, and on the other in relation to the novels of Cervantes, James Joyce, and Iris Murdoch, Tolkien among the Moderns repositions The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion to explore important moral, ethical, aesthetic, and theological issues.” — Jane Chance, author of The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and coeditor of Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages

“The works of J. R. R. Tolkien not only engage the reader with the challenges presented by perennial truth, they also engage modernity with the challenges presented by the enduring wisdom of the past. This volume, edited by the inveterately reliable literary scholar Ralph C. Wood, sheds some truly penetrating light on Tolkien’s relevance to the troubled age in which we live.” — Joseph Pearce, author of Tolkien: Man and Myth and Frodo’s Journey

ISBN: 978-0-268-01973-0

312 pages

“Among the delights of these collections are . . . in Tolkien among the Moderns, edited by Ralph C. Wood, an account of the somewhat unexpected friendship between Tolkien and the philosophical novelist Iris Murdoch.” — Times Literary Supplement