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."
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.
"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
"This collection of essays places Tolkien in the context of the overarching questions of human significance, both historically and contemporarily. It will speak to readers who are already drawn to the work of Tolkien and who desire to see into his work more deeply or to see how his work might be employed to think about other matters, for example, how it might 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
"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
“Wood has collected nine essays, all from Tolkien scholars, that address Tolkien’s ‘modernity’ as a writer. Essays connect Tolkien to such moderns as Joyce and Eliot through their interest in myth and history . . . All of the readings refute interpretations or dismissals of Tolkien as an escapist Don Quixote doing battle with the windmills of a world that is somehow more ‘real,’ more relevant than the one he creates in his vast legendarium.” —Choice
“As editor of Tolkien Among the Moderns, Ralph C. Wood provides excellent work in both his compilation of and contribution to this work . . . This collection of essays brings a variety of scholars together to challenge this preconception and argue that Tolkien’s works have profoundly impacted modernity. . . Wood’s work would be welcome to any audience desiring deep analysis of Tolkien and his writings.” —Catholic Library World
“This volume provides many coherent and penetrating insights about the mind and vision of J.R.R. Tolkien.” —Anglican and Episcopal History