English and Film Studies

ENGL 483 A1: Studies in Popular Culture: J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

T. Wharton

Few if any modern works of fiction have had a more significant impact on popular culture and reading tastes than The Lord of the Rings. More than sixty years after its original publication, J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy continues to attract legions of devoted readers, and has spawned a global media and merchandising industry, along with entire subcultures dedicated to Tolkien-inspired fan fiction, role-playing, games, art, and tourism. In this course we will examine the book’s enduring power and its peculiarities as a reading experience, while reconsidering Tolkien’s achievement in the wake of the cultural phenomena that have grown from it. We will also address ways in which the book’s themes continue to resonate with contemporary issues such as addiction, ethnic conflict, and environmental destruction.

This is not an introduction to the novel; it is assumed that participants will have read The Lord of the Rings prior to the course.

Primary text:

Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Lord of the Rings. HarperCollins one-volume edition, 2005.

Recommended reading:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s other major published fiction set in Middle-Earth:

The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

            Christopher Tolkien’s The History of Middle-Earth series.