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  • The Year’s Work in Tolkien Studies 2003
  • David Bratman (bio)

Responses to the flood of interest in Tolkien generated by the Lord of the Rings films of Peter Jackson continued to develop in 2003. Fewer direct appreciative articles on Tolkien were published in general magazines. Instead, books directly capitalizing on the wave began to appear. There were three new books on Tolkien for children. There were books marketed as introductory guides to Tolkien which failed to provide introductory guidance. There were books loaded with useless bullet-pointed lists. There was the first sign of books treating Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Jackson's films as interchangeable. But more significant criticism carried on. This was, for instance, the year that Tolkien translation studies came into their own.

The outstanding work of Tolkien scholarship published in 2003, and winner of the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award the following year, is Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth. Covering Tolkien's adolescence and young adulthood through his service in World War I, this was the first originally researched biography of Tolkien, if only a partial biography, to appear since Humphrey Carpenter's standard work in 1977. Some of the best books on Tolkien from 2003 are updated revisions of older books: The Road to Middle-earth by Tom Shippey and Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon by Brian Rosebury. Following Gandalf by Matthew T. Dickerson, Tolkien in the Land of Heroes by Anne C. Petty, Secret Fire by Stratford Caldecott, and Tolkien Through Russian Eyes by Mark T. Hooker are new full-length studies of significant merit. The People's Guide to J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Erica Challis, despite its too-promising title and scattered coverage, is a notable book for general readers.

The outstanding collection of original essays about Tolkien of the year is Tolkien the Medievalist, edited by Jane Chance (London: Routledge, 2003), an uneven but highly ambitious book. It is the first of, to date, three Tolkien-related volumes to emerge from the International Congress on Medieval Studies. The papers mostly discuss Tolkien's mediation of medieval literary and theological concepts in a modern context in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The individual papers from each are discussed below. Essays by Christine Chism and Gergely Nagy, among others, are particularly outstanding. Chance's "Introduction" (1-12) summarizes the papers and argues for the need for scholarly investigation of Tolkien's medieval inspiration.

Another volume whose papers are discussed individually below is The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All, edited by Gregory [End Page 241] Bassham and Eric Bronson (Chicago: Open Court, 2003). This belies its subtitle and some equally cute headings by being a serious collection of diligent but brief and relentlessly superficial essays on philosophical topics. While not breaking any new ground or offering profound insights, it demonstrates, more than do some other volumes in its "Popular Culture and Philosophy" series for their subjects, the presence of serious philosophical issues in the work it examines. Concerning Hobbits and Other Matters: Tolkien Across the Disciplines, ed. Tim Schindler (St. Paul: Dept. of English, University of St. Thomas, 2001) is a privately published Tolkien symposium proceedings not previously considered here.

Mythlore published no articles on Tolkien in 2003. The full journal issues devoted entirely to Tolkien covered here are The Tolkien Society's Mallorn, issue 41, and the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship's Parma Eldalamberon, issue 14.

This chapter covers 2003 publications and some 2001-02 publications omitted from last year's survey. Dates of journals are given when not 2003.

Works by Tolkien

The two newly published works by Tolkien from 2003 are both linguistic in nature. Early Qenya & Valmaric (Cupertino, 2003) is Parma Eldalamberon 14, the fourth volume of a chronological survey of Tolkien's major linguistic texts with detailed commentary by their editors. "Early Qenya Fragments" edited by Patrick Wynne and Christopher Gilson (3-34) analyzes some short lists of names and verb forms that Tolkien attached to his notebooks for The Book of Lost Tales and the Qenya Lexicon, probably in the late 1910s. "Early Qenya Grammar" edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden (35...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1547-3163
Print ISSN
1547-3155
Pages
pp. 241-265
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-09
Open Access
No
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