PATCHEN MORTIMER erhaps no author of the past century has inspired such a contentious debate as the one surrounding J. R. R. Tolkien. Countless readers consider The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion--not to mention the creation of the attendant languages, histories, maps, artwork, and apocrypha--the greatest creative accomplishment of a modern author. His many critics dismiss his work as childish, irrelevant, and worse. If his defenders and detractors have common ground, it is in their shared tendency to consider Tolkien's works escapist and romantic, the work of a man removed from his own time. In doing so, however, they make an appalling oversight. Tolkien's project was as grand and avantgarde as those of Wagner or the Futurists, and his works are as suffused with the spirit of the age as any by Eliot, Joyce, or Hemingway. Thus, it is vital that Tolkien's work be placed in conversation with his contemporaries--that it be regarded not as isolated or anachronistic, but as part of the literary current. By turns a soldier, linguist, and mythographer, Tolkien was a writer fully in touch with his era, and his work reveals modernist attributes--and even ambitions of modernist scope--that deserve
Tolkien Studies – West Virginia University Press
Published: May 16, 2005
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