Tolkien’s modern reading: Middle-earth beyond the Middle Ages

— review by Zachary D. Schmoll

5 October 2021 | Tolkien Studies, XVIII, 249

Holly Ordway’s thesis is paradoxically modest and bold. On one hand, her argument is restrained, as she says that in contrast to Tolkien’s modern reading, principally his medieval reading, but also the study of languages, his personal friendships with the Inklings and other formative experiences, especially in the Great War — occupy a more important place in his creative imagination” (9). The traditional picture of Tolkien, established in the authorized biography by Humphrey Carpenter and reinforced by numerous other works, emphasizes these elements of Tolkien’s inspiration to the exclusion of anything modern. Ordway cites Carpenter’s statement on Tolkien, He read very little modern fiction, and took no serious notice of it” (Carpenter 158; qtd. at 7), as a representative attitude that many have taken towards the Professor of Anglo-Saxon’s reading habits.…

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date recorded 📅2022-01-02
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