Beyond Bree May, 2021, front cover
Beyond Bree May, 2021

Tolkien and the Classical World: ed. Hamish Williams

— review by Kristine Larsen

6 May 2021 | Beyond Bree, May, 2021, 6

In his introduction to this satisfyingly weighty volume, editor Hamish Williams (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena) assumes a rather defensive position; rather than casting a wide net of invitation for the reader to discover for themselves the importance of myriad Classical influences upon Tolkien and his works (defined in a rather narrow Western sense), the truth of those influences is taken as a monolithic given. The blame for our apparent ignorance is squarely laid at the feet of both the modern world’s embrace of The Sciences” (xvi) – ominously capitalized as in the case of Tolkien’s use of Power” in a letter concerning modern science (L 246) – and a presumed basic lack of Classical knowledge among those educated in postmodernity’”. (xvi) Both assumptions are equal parts unfortunate and unproductive in the mind of this reviewer, a scientist who greatly appreciates (and utilizes) the study of the Classical world” included in her own postmodern undergraduate education. More importantly, Tolkien himself noted in his famous essay On Fairy-stories” that as a young child he enjoyed history, astronomy, botany, grammar, and etymology” (TOFS 56), while in a 1964 letter Tolkien explained I am primarily a scientific philologist. My interests were, and remain, largely scientific”. (L 345)

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date recorded 📅2022-02-05
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