The Lord of the Rings 1954-2004:
Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder

Wayne G. Hammond + Christina Scull (editors)

Marquette University Press 2006
A book review by Danny Yee © 2008
The twenty papers in this volume, from a 2004 conference, cover a wide range of topics, with most about The Lord of the Rings but some addressing Tolkien's other works or Tolkien Studies more generally. (Peter Jackson's films are barely mentioned.) The papers are scholarly, with a full apparatus of references and notes, but most are broadly accessible.

Richard West focuses on the love story of Arwen and Aragorn, which was a late addition to The Lord of the Rings. Sumner Gary Hunnewell evaluates the role of naysayers in Tolkien's works. And Marjorie Burns and Jane Chance offer different perspectives on class differences and hierarchies in Tolkien.

John Garth traces the influence of Tolkien's Great War experiences, especially on the journey of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Matthew Fisher looks at the influence on Tolkien of Augustine's theology and the Beowulf-poet. Paul Edmund Thomas and Christina Scull both consider aspects of the planning and inspiration of The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien's often uncertain progress in writing it. And David Bratman uses the evidence of omissions and revisions in The Lord of the Rings to help us understand Tolkien's artistry.

John Rateliff considers the significance of Middle Earth being situated in the past of our own world, rather than in an alternate reality, and its original framing as a "mythology for England". And Verlyn Flieger writes about the framing of The Lord of the Rings as a book in its own reality, the Red Book of Westmarch.

Douglas Anderson looks at the early reception of The Lord of the Rings by the science fiction community. And Mike Foster describes his experiences teaching university courses on Tolkien.

Some of the papers require a background in linguistics or philology, or at least a deeper interest in language or Tolkien Studies. Arne Zetterson looks at recent work on one of Tolkien's special interests, the "AB Language" dialect of Middle English and its key text the Ancrene Riwle. T.A. Shippey explores the etymological background to some of Tolkien's words. Arden Smith writes about Tolkien's knowledge and use of Gothic. Carl Hostetter explains the failings of various neo-Elvish languages based on Tolkien's created languages, comparing them with a 19th century guide to English written by Portuguese who couldn't speak the language. And Michael Drout applies philological tools to the drafts of The Monsters and the Critics, tracing the rhetorical evolution of Tolkien's published lecture.

Charles Elston gives a brief biography of Blackwelder and Wayne Hammond surveys the role of special collections in Tolkien Studies.

I have read The Lord of the Rings many times and most of Tolkien's other works including much of the History of Middle-Earth, but nothing of broader Tolkien scholarship. So I found this volume a nice introduction to the variety of modern Tolkien Studies, as well as a source of insights into Tolkien and his work.

March 2008

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%T The Lord of the Rings 1954-2004
%S Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder
%E Hammond, Wayne G.
%E Scull, Christina
%I Marquette University Press
%D 2006
%O hardcover, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 087462018X
%P 387pp