WiSe 15/16: VS-Modernity and Alterity in the Literatures of Medieval Britain II: J.R.R. Tolkien
Andrew James Johnston
J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most astonishing cultural and literary phenomena of the twentieth century. His odd and idiosyncratic works jar with the modernist temper of his age. They seem to be ... read more
J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most astonishing cultural and literary phenomena of the twentieth century. His odd and idiosyncratic works jar with the modernist temper of his age. They seem to be devoid of anything that matters to contemporary human beings, e.g. psychology and sexuality. Drawing on a vast range of medieval sources, the Oxford professor of medieval English language and literature created a fictional world all of his own, seemingly completely out of touch with the reality that surrounded him. And not surprisingly, the protectors of high literary culture tend to dismiss Tolkien for his nostalgic escapism and sometimes even accuse his books of downright fascist tendencies. Nevertheless, his principal work, The Lord of the Rings, invariably comes out on top whenever the British are asked to name their favourite book.
This course seeks to take a closer look at these issues and subject Tolkien's fiction to critical scrutiny. These are only some of the questions we will ask: Where does Tolkien take his ideas from? Is he really that simple? Are there contemporary issues he responds to? Is there a theory behind his texts? What are the political notions that they negotiate? Does sexuality matter in his work?
Students are expected to do a lot of reading for this class. Amongst other things we will be reading The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion (in that order). Other material will be put at the students' disposal when the semester starts.