Tolkien and the Modernists

Literary Responses to the Dark New Days of the 20th Century

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About the Book

The Lord of the Rings rarely makes an appearance in college courses that aim to examine modern British and American literature. Only in recent years have the fantasies of J.R.R. Tolkien and his friend, C.S. Lewis, made their way into college syllabi alongside T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This volume aims to situate Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings within the literary period whose sensibility grew out of the 19th–century rise of secularism and industrialism, which culminated in the cataclysm of world war.
During a pivotal moment in the history of Western culture, both Tolkien and his contemporaries—the literary modernists—engaged with the past in order to make sense of the present world, especially in the wake of World War I. While Tolkien and the modernists share many of the same concerns, their responses to the crisis of modernity are often antithetical. While the work of the modernists emphasizes alienation and despair, Tolkien’s work underscores the value of fellowship and hope.

About the Author(s)

Theresa Freda Nicolay teaches at St. John Fisher College, where she is the Coordinator for the Center for Academic Excellence, and is the author of a monograph on early American women writers as well as journal articles on the teaching of writing. She lives in Rochester, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Theresa Freda Nicolay
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7898-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1720-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Introduction  1

One. Rekindling an Old Light  9

Two. Industrialism, Instrumentality and “antiquity so appealing”  25

Three. The Lord of the Rings: “Insubstantial dream of an escapist”  55

Four. Modernist Disaffection and Tolkienian Faith  77

Five. The World as Wasteland: The Landscapes of Loss  101

Six. The Wasteland Within: Alienation in Tolkien and the Modernists  135

Seven. Postmodern Monsters and Providential Plans  162

Bibliography  187

Index  191