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452 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE The Ring and the Cross: Christianity and The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Paul E. Kerry. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-61147064 -2. Pp. 310. $80.00 Following the release of Peter Jackson's film adaptations, J. R. R. 'Iolkiens The Lord of the Rings has received renewed attention. This recent rise in popularity has reignited the desire of many scholars and fans, religious and secular alike, to claim the text as their own. Assertions that it is a Christian text, or a specifically Catholic text, or a pagan text, or none of these can be found in popular blogs, church newsletters, and academic journals. The Ring and the Cross: Christianity and the Lord of the Rings claims to offer a chronological and thematic overview of existing scholarship on the relationship between the two, creating a space in which critics of opposing views can engage one another. While the relationship between Tolkien'spersonal religious convictions and his fictional works has been explored in the past, this collection now brings together many of the common arguments and approaches, situating them in context with one another and offering the reader a relativelycohesive view of the conversation. Paul E. Kerry introduces the anthology with a comprehensive historiography that charts previous scholarship and notes where the following chapters intersect with published arguments. This dense reviewcovers a variety of sources on relevant topics, including Tolkien'sown commentary on his work as well as his influential critical examination of Beowulf, critical claims of Christian, pagan, or otherwise religious influence; morality within the texts; the relationship between modernity and religious ideals; theological implications of Tolkien'smythology; the nature of Tolkien'sChristian Romanticism; and specificallyRoman Catholic interpretations. The vast scope of this introduction reflects the diversity of the articles contained within the anthology, which employ a variety of critical approaches, geared toward a broad spectrum of audiences, to come to sometimes radically and sometimes subtly different conclusions. The main body of the anthology is broken into two parts: "The Ring;' which includes arguments regarding Christianity in general, and "The Cross;' which narrows in focus to particularly Roman Catholic interpretations. Though the scope of the project is wide, Kerry has organized each chapter effectivelyinto a loosely strung trajectory that moves readers from the most foundational arguments to the more specific, ending in consideration of universalism and the final apocalypse. Throughout the work, distinctions between allegory and application, the nature of sub-creation, and the relationship between author and text surface (and are engaged) repeatedly, demonstrating the primary concerns of a scholar seeking to determine, assert, or deny a clear expression of Tolkien'spersonal Catholicism in his Middle-earth fiction. The first three chapters of the anthology explore the core question of whether The Lord of the Rings displays a worldview that is Christian or that is pagan. The BOOK REVIEWS 453 spirited exchange between contributors Ronald Hutton and Nils Ivar Ag0Y serves as an excellent example of how intense the scholarly discourse on this topic can still be. Using the same texts and the same commentaries, notably 'Iolkiens letters, the two critics arrive at dramatically disparate conclusions, underscoring the irreconcilable nature of the debate. This exchange is followed immediately by Stephen Morillo'sclaim that the "Middle-earth fiction, even the Silmarillion, is not, in any Significantor specific way, Christian" (106) and that many of the arguments to that end are "a sort of Christian ideological imperialism" (112). While claims that Tolkien's mythology is pagan or secular may at first surprise readers of a book subtitled "Christianity and TheLord of the Rings;' they illustrate nicely the anthology's announced purpose ofsurveying and engaging the conversation, rather than promoting a particular critical position. The following two chapters seek to reconcile Tolkien's integration of pagan and Christian ideals within his mythology. John R. Holmes offers a close examination of Tolkiens use of the word "heathen" in regards to Denethor's suicide, employing it as an example of the coexistence of pagan and Christian elements within the text; Ralph C. Wood then focuses on the concept of wyrd, "the pagan view that the world is at least partially ruled by weird forces...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 452-455
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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