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Title: J.R.R. Tolkien and the morality of monstrosity
Author: Fawcett, Christina
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis asserts that J.R.R. Tolkien recreates Beowulf for the twentieth century. His 1936 lecture, ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’ sets the tone not only for twentieth century criticism of the text, but also Tolkien’s own fictional project: creating an imagined world in which ‘new Scripture and old tradition touched and ignited’ (‘B: M&C’ 26). At the core of his analysis of Beowulf, and at the core of his own Middle-earth, are the monsters. He creates creatures that are an ignition of past and present, forming characters that defy allegory and simple moral categorization. To demonstrate the necessity of reading Tolkien’s Middle-earth through the lens of his 1936 lecture, I begin by examining the broad literary source material that Tolkien draws into his creative process. I assert that an understanding of the formation of monstrosity, from classical, Augustinian, late medieval, Renaissance, Restoration and Gothic sources, is fundamental to seeing the complexity, and thus the didactic element, of Tolkien’s monsters. As a medieval scholar and professor, Tolkien’s focus on the educational potential of a text appears in his critical work and is enacted in his fiction. Tolkien takes on a mode of writing categorized as Wisdom Literature: he writes a series of texts that demonstrate the imperative lesson that ‘swa sceal man don’ (so shall man do) found in Beowulf. Tolkien’s fiction takes up this challenge, demonstrating for the reader what a hero must do when faced with the moral and physical challenge of the monster. Monsters are a primarily didactic tool, demonstrating vice and providing challenges for the hero to overcome. Monsters are at the core of Tolkien’s critical reading; it must be at the core of ours.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN Literature (General) ; PN0441 Literary History ; PR English literature