New Books on Tolkien

Today's stack of marking awaits
Today’s stack of marking awaits

The busyness of the start of term in September gradually turns into the marking marathon that is October and November, and the silence of my blog in those months is testimony to how the hours of my days and evenings have been taken up with course preparations and grading, grading, grading. I was just reading a post by another professor who has calculated how many words she writes in student feedback — read it here or take my word for it — it’s a lot! My situation is similar. Although I love teaching, I do get restless after a while when I have to spend time away from my research. A few more weeks of marking will take care of this term, but in the meantime the best that I can do is to track a few new books on Tolkien so that I can look forward to reading them and eventually getting back to my research.

Tolkien and Alterity, edited by C. Vaccaro and Y. Kisor

Right now, Palgrave Macmillan is having a 50% off sale until November 27th. Their books are expensive, so this is a good time to grab one if you can. I’m particularly interested in Tolkien and Alterity, edited by Chris Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor. According to the publisher’s blurb, the book “examines racialized, gender, and queer dynamics in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and other works by Tolkien to arrive at an understanding of how alterity functions in those texts.”

The volume opens with two bibliographical essays, one on “Queer Tolkien” by Yvette Kisor and one on “Race in Tolkien Studies” by Robin Reid. Both of these should be extremely valuable for anyone doing research in these areas. I haven’t read the book yet, but just taking a look at the table of contents and the nine other essays by well-known Tolkien scholars tells me I need to read this volume! Here is the table of contents from the Palgrave site:

  • Queer Tolkien: A Bibliographical Essay on Tolkien and Alterity. Yvette Kisor

  • Race in Tolkien Studies: A Bibliographic Essay. Robin Anne Reid

  • Revising Lobelia. Amy Amendt-Raduege

  • Medieval Organicism or Modern Feminist Science? Bombadil, Elves, and Mother Nature. Kristine Larsen

  • Cinema, Sexuality, Mechanical Reproduction. Valerie Rohy

  • Saruman’s Sodomitic Resonances: Alain de Lille’s De Planctu Naturae and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Vaccaro

  • Cruising Faery: Queer Desire in Giles, Niggle, and Smith. Stephen Yandell

  • Language and Alterity in Tolkien and Lévinas. Deidre Dawson

  • The Orcs and the Others: Familiarity as Estrangement in The Lord of the Rings. Verlyn Flieger

  • Silmarils and Obsession: The Undoing of Fëanor. Melissa Ruth Arul

  • The Other as Kolbítr: Tolkien’s Faramir and Éowyn as Alfred and Æthelflæd. John Holmes

Palgrave has a list of other valuable Tolkien books; check out all their offerings here.

J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, 2nd ed.Another essential collection for Tolkien researchers is Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull’s J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. First published in 2006, this three-volume set has been extensively updated and added to in a second edition forthcoming from HarperCollins.  Hammond and Scull explain the changes in the second edition in their blog posts here and here. My local bookseller tells me that the set should be available in December. No discounts on these very expensive volumes, but I’m expecting them to appear under our Christmas tree all wrapped up.

There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale Verlyn FliegerHere’s a new book coming in December that I definitely will be buying, a new collection of Verlyn Flieger’s essays on Tolkien, to be published by Kent State UP: “There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale”: Essays on Tolkien’s Middle-earth. This would complement an earlier collection of Professor Flieger’s essays in Green Suns and Faerie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s much easier to consult the work of one of the foremost Tolkien scholars of our day in one or two volumes rather than tracking down decades of essays in various sources. In addition, the publisher’s site states that some of the essays have been slightly revised to update them or eliminate repetition.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Romanticist and Poet by J. EilmannFinally, here’s a book from Walking Tree Press just published a couple of months ago: Julian Eilmann’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Romanticist and Poet. Eilmann has previously edited a volume of essays on Tolkien’s poetry which I found very useful, and now this is his monograph that views Tolkien in the light of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Romanticism. I’m very interested in Tolkien’s poetry, but my research focus is mainly on Tolkien’s debt to Old English alliterative verse. This book promises to take me beyond my current interests to give me a different perspective on Tolkien’s work.

I’m looking forward to our December break and a month of intense reading. Obviously, this post is about books that I haven’t yet seen (and no, no one has asked or paid me to promote their books!). For proper book reviews, you should check out the open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Tolkien Research, which includes a book review section. If you have access to a library database or subscription to the journal Tolkien Studies, you can also read book reviews and the “Year’s Work in Tolkien Studies” there. The peer-reviewed journal Mythlore, devoted to the Inklings and mythopoeic literature, also includes book reviews. This journal is available through library or individual subscriptions, but a recent welcome development is that past articles and reviews are also available online, though with an embargo on the most recently published work.

Happy reading and research, everyone! Let me know in the comments about any other new books you’re interested in reading.


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