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The Monsters and the Critics (1983)

by J. R. R. Tolkien

Other authors: Christopher Tolkien (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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640628,279 (4.08)11
Complete collection of Tolkien's essays, including two on Beowulf, which span three decades beginning six years before The Hobbit to five years after The Lord of the Rings. The seven 'essays' by J.R.R. Tolkien assembled in this new paperback edition were with one exception delivered as general lectures on particular occasions; and while they mostly arose out of Tolkien's work in medieval literature, they are accessible to all. Two of them are concerned with Beowulf, including the well-known lecture whose title is taken for this book, and one with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, given in the University of Glasgow in 1953. Also included in this volume is the lecture English and Welsh; the Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford in 1959; and a paper on Invented Languages delivered in 1931, with exemplification from poems in the Elvish tongues. Most famous of all is On Fairy-Stories, a discussion of the nature of fairy-tales and fantasy, which gives insight into Tolkien's approach to the whole genre. The pieces in this collection cover a period of nearly thirty years, beginning six years before the publication of The Hobbit, with a unique 'academic' lecture on his invention (calling it A Secret Vice) and concluding with his farewell to professorship, five years after the publication of The Lord of the Rings.… (more)
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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I won't give a rating. I read (parts of) the German translation, and it was very peculiar to read comments on translating Beowulf from Anglo-Saxon into Modern English - in German. It's not that the translation itself is bad, (in fact it is very well done) just that this is something that isn't really suitable for translating.

It might be interesting to read the English if it were easily available, but I have no desire to search for it.
  MarthaJeanne | Dec 20, 2020 |
This collection of essays include some that have influenced my understanding of the history of the languages and literatures of Great Britain, as well as the uses and misunderstandings of Fantasy. ( )
  elizaforest | Feb 5, 2018 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2154968.html

This is a collection of seven lectures by Tolkien, of which I think I had previously read only "On Fairy Stories" and "A Secret Vice". As always, they are an interesting insight into how his mind worked, or at least how he wanted us to think it worked. The more academic pieces (in particular the second, "On Translating Beowulf") are somewhat moored in academic controversies of their time, which may or may not have subsided by now and which in any case I am not close to. But the title piece rises above that to give an argument for appreciating Beowulf as a real story with serious monsters, rather than just a source for scholarly discussion on vaguely related topics, and that is the point made in the vivid metaphor of the man who built his tower on inherited land.

The other highlight for me, even as a non-Welsh speaker, is the lecture "English and Welsh" urging those with an interest in the history of the English language not to ignore its nearest geographical neighbour. He makes the same general point made much later by McWhorter, that English shares a significant substratum with Welsh (and he is very insistent that it is Welsh/British rather than the Goidelic languages), though interestingly uses a completely different set of linguistic/grammatical clues to McWhorter in making the argument. So there may well be something to it.

"On Fairy Stories" has quite a lot of information about Tolkien's views of other works of fantasy literature, ancient and modern; it is a bit less successful at setting up an analytical framework for looking at fairy stories as a whole (Farah Mendlesohn seems to me to have a more useful and more widely applicable approach), but again he makes a convincing emotional appeal to treat the stories first and foremost as stories for an intended audience, rather than for anything else. His valedictory address, at the end of the book, is an amusing but somewhat rambling justification for wandering off the point for most of his career, but in fact a commitment to an aesthetic of narrative seems to have been precisely the point, one which he successfully communicated through both his fiction and his non-fiction. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Aug 12, 2013 |
Not exactly scintillating reading, especially if not already a fan of Tolkien. As he himself admits in one of the lectures (for which these essays were the manuscripts), he was not a particularly interesting lecturer. The only essays likely of broader interest are his famous "On Fairy Stories", and "A Secret Vice" (on invented language). Gladly, these are also the most readable of the bunch, and "On Fairy Stories" alone is with the price of the volume. I'm glad to have it on my shelf, but doubt I'll be reading it regularly, apart from referencing that jewel in the middle. ( )
1 vote chriskrycho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Fascinating subject material, albeit slightly difficult to follow. ( )
  Mithril | Jun 22, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolkien, J. R. R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
De Turris, GianfrancoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donà, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krege, WolfgangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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FOREWORD
With one exception, all the 'essays' by J. R. R. Tolkien collected in this book were in fact lectures, delivered on special occasions; and while all were on specific topics, literary or linguistic, the whole audience on those occasions could in no case (save perhaps that of the Valedictory Address) be presumed to have more than a general knowledge of or interest in the subject -- and the one piece in this collection that was not a lecture, On Translating Beowulf, was not addressed to experts on the study of the poem.
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A collection of Essays including "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics". Do not combine with the essay published by itself or with "Beowulf and the Critics" which is Michael Drout's analysis of the essay.
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Complete collection of Tolkien's essays, including two on Beowulf, which span three decades beginning six years before The Hobbit to five years after The Lord of the Rings. The seven 'essays' by J.R.R. Tolkien assembled in this new paperback edition were with one exception delivered as general lectures on particular occasions; and while they mostly arose out of Tolkien's work in medieval literature, they are accessible to all. Two of them are concerned with Beowulf, including the well-known lecture whose title is taken for this book, and one with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, given in the University of Glasgow in 1953. Also included in this volume is the lecture English and Welsh; the Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford in 1959; and a paper on Invented Languages delivered in 1931, with exemplification from poems in the Elvish tongues. Most famous of all is On Fairy-Stories, a discussion of the nature of fairy-tales and fantasy, which gives insight into Tolkien's approach to the whole genre. The pieces in this collection cover a period of nearly thirty years, beginning six years before the publication of The Hobbit, with a unique 'academic' lecture on his invention (calling it A Secret Vice) and concluding with his farewell to professorship, five years after the publication of The Lord of the Rings.

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