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Tolkien and the Critics : Essays on J. R. R.…

Tolkien and the Critics : Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the… (1968)

by Neil David Isaacs (Editor), Rose Abdelnour Zimbardo (Editor)

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    Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Provides chronological as well as geographical background to LOTR

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As a time capsule, this book is amazing.

This essay collection was published in 1968 -- before the appearance of The Silmarillion, or the History of Middle-Earth, or any of the Tolkien biographies. So there is a lot the essayists don't know. This results in a lot of speculations which proved dead wrong.

On the other hand, the essayists themselves are quite distinguished, including men such as C. S. Lewis and W. H. Auden who knew and truly understood Tolkien the man. In some ways, that makes their contributions far more valuable than more recent "criticism." And, because the Tolkien phenomenon was (relatively speaking) just beginning, the level of worship in this book isn't as great as it came to be in later volumes.

So some of the work here, such as Auden's "The Quest Hero," is both inspiring and insightful. Some, such as Burton Raffel's "The Lord of the Rings as Literature (which denies that this, the greatest of modern romances, is literature), is utterly wrong-headed. (Unless Chaucer's Knight's Tale and Franklin's Tale aren't literature, either, since they're romances, too.) Some parts, with their investigation of language or folklore, stand up; some do not. It is just what you would expect for a collection moving up toward the half century mark. Still, if you are a serious collector of Tolkien criticism, there are things you will find useful -- and if you are new to Tolkien, it will give you some idea of how people felt about him at the time when he was still alive and able to frown on their more obvious mistakes.... ( )
  waltzmn | Jan 23, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isaacs, Neil DavidEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zimbardo, Rose AbdelnourEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed

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For Our Halflings:
Ian, Jonathan, Daniel, Adam and Anne
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Niel D. Isaacs
This is surely a bad time for Tolkien criticism. Stories in Holiday, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, Saturday Review, and the Luce(fer) publications, to say nothing of the feverish activity of the fanzines, do not produce a climate for serious criticism.
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