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Дм. Винoxoдов
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"Who invented the stories anyway?" a Reformed perspective on Tolkien's theory of fantasy
by Imbert, Yannick F., Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary, 2010, 380 pages

Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation defends the thesis that J. R. R. Tolkien's theory of fantasy has to be understood as much in his theological context as in his academic context. We assert that Tolkien's theory is specifically Thomist in its theological nature. To support this assertion, our first goal is to show that J. R. R. Tolkien's overall theory of fantasy is based on his Roman Catholic faith. The second goal is to offer a Reformed evaluation of Tolkien's theory of fantasy to provide the basis for the subsequent development of a Reformed and covenantal theory of fantasy.

Beginning with a brief presentation of Tolkien's life, we then examine his historical background more closely, paying particular attention to the influence of John Henry Newman in the context of nineteenth-century English Roman Catholicism. Newman's influence is particularly crucial to the development of Tolkien's faith, and so to his theory of fantasy.

The second and third chapters explores Tolkien's theory in the context of contemporary academic debates. Tolkien scholars, while paying close attention to major themes in Tolkien's theory of fantasy, have at times underestimated the importance of ongoing academic debates in which Tolkien participated. In these two chapters, we consider successively language and mythology to reach a better understanding of Tolkien's own view regarding these topics. We conclude that, while Tolkien follows contemporary theories regarding language and mythology, his own convictions in these matters is strongly informed by his Roman Catholic faith.

The fourth chapter unites the conclusions of the preceding chapters in order to present Tolkien's theory of fantasy. In particular, we examine Tolkien's notions of man as subcreator, the nature of imagination, and his definition of "Faërie." In this chapter, the dissertation focuses on Tolkien's underlying theological convictions to present the core of our thesis regarding the theological nature of Tolkien's theory of fantasy. Relying heavily on the works of Thomas Aquinas and G. K. Chesterton, we conclude that the Thomistic notion of analogy between God and man is particularly important to Tolkien's understanding of the nature of imagination and fantasy.

Finally, chapter five presents a Reformed critique of Tolkien's theory of fantasy. Since Tolkien's fantasy relies on a Thomist starting-point, our evaluation is mostly based on the Van Til's criticism of Thomism. We apply Van Til's criticism against the notion of "autonomous reason" to Tolkien's use of imagination as an "autonomous" concept. We conclude that instead of defining fantasy along the lines of an analogical relationship between God and man, it is better to consider that fantasy is intrinsically ethical, rather than ontological.

Fantasy and realism: Tolkien, the eucatastrophe, and fantastic realism
by Ulrich, Andrea Margarette, M.A., The University of Regina (Canada), 2006, 92 pages

Abstract (Summary)

Realist fiction, since the rise of Victorian realism, has been privileged by both scholarly and popular circles, while the "pop-culture" genre of fantasy has fallen into disrepute as escapist, formulaic, and mass-manufactured. However, realism and fantasy are not necessarily antagonistic genres, as both contain mimetic impulses and subsequently approach reality, though through different paths. Using the theories of Goethe ("Truth and Probabilities in Works of Art") and Tolkien ("On Fairy-Stories") and arguing that reality may be approached through a coherent and seemingly independent secondary world, I contend that fantasy, through what I call fantastic realism, represents reality. To support my argument, I look at the realist aspects of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings , focusing on the following areas: verisimilitude through detail and character, free will and determinism, and most importantly, endings. The depth and coherence of Middle-earth is similar to the verisimilitude of realist novels, and the characters are similarly three-dimensional and believable; however, characters in fantasy are shaped more by free will than the pessimist determinism of realism, and fantastic realism, unlike traditional realism, which tends to focus on the more difficult and dire aspects of life, is characterized by what Tolkien calls the eucatastrophe , the ending marked by joy. Fantasy, because of its disconnection to consensus reality, is able to present joy as realistic and believable. To reinforce my argument, I briefly examine two post-Tolkien works of fantasy, Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell . Ultimately, the genre of fantasy is worthwhile and meaningful because of the refreshing and profound way it approaches reality.

Tolkien's two faces of war: Paradox and parallel structure in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth"
by Grybauskas, Peter, M.A., University of Maryland, College Park, 2010, 84 pages

Abstract (Summary)

J.R.R. Tolkien once referred to The Lord of the Rings as a "rather bitter, and very terrifying romance." This paper examines the paradoxical representation of Tolkien's war--one which is at once bitter and romantic--in The Lord of the Rings and the dramatic dialogue, "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son." Structural comparison of the works suggests that Tídwald and Torhthelm, the two voices in opposition throughout "The Homecoming," in some sense continue their unending debate on the nature of war in Books III-VI of The Lord of the Rings . The structures of these works, defined by contrasting visions of war, reflect Tolkien's ongoing struggle to square the two incompatible strands. The tension between these two views of war is a crucial ingredient to Tolkien's work--and a struggle never tidily resolved.

Mirror on Middle-earth: J. R. R. Tolkien and the critical perspectives
by Timmons, Daniel Patrick, Ph.D., University of Toronto (Canada), 1998, 271 pages

Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation evaluates the commentary on J. R. R. Tolkien, which includes the author's self-criticism. Commonly-held views of Tolkien reception, such as that there is a large body of "hostile" criticism or that relatively few "serious" studies exist, are misinformed. Rather than being concerned about the presence of negative or adulatory views of Tolkien, scholars should acknowledge the potential problems in adopting Tolkien's comments on his own works, especially since many of these remarks are slippery or possibly disingenuous. Still, as the varied and numerous critical perspectives on Tolkien indicate, for sixty years scholars have recognized the literary depths and merits of the author's writings.

The first part of the dissertation examines the elusive literary concept "fantasy" and the premises of "Tolkienian fantasy;" this analysis sets the context for the discussion of the scholarship on Middle-earth. Next, the study evaluates the first major period in Tolkien criticism, which starts with reviews of The Hobbit in 1937 and ends at the publication of the second edition of The Lord of the Rings in 1965. In the years following the publication of the Middle-earth tales, Tolkien provided commentaries on the creative inspirations behind them. The dissertation assesses the initial block of Tolkien's self-criticism, such as his article "Tolkien on Tolkien."

The next major period of commentary comprises studies published between 1966 and 1976 (the year before the initial publication of The Silmarillion ). The dissertation then examines another significant block of Tolkien's self-criticism, which includes the collection of his letters. The last chapter provides an assessment of the current state of the extensive and diverse commentary on Tolkien.

Therefore, the customary labels for Tolkien criticism, such as "hostile" vs. "laudatory" or "popular" vs. "serious," are more misleading than representative. While there may be starkly differing views of Tolkien and uncertainty as to whether he is considered a "canonical" author, his writings remain among the most widely read and consistently admired works of literature of the twentieth century.
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