Today we see a new publication of one of the best and probably the most serious Tolkien publishing companies in existence. I'm talking about a new book by Walking Tree Publishers named tolkien's Shorter Works.
tolkien's Middle-earth and its legendarium have drawn extensive scholarly attention. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings have been studied and analysed by numerous critics. One could fill a library with critical works about tolkien's Middle-earth alone. But there is more to Tolkien than the history and legends of Middle-earth, and there has hitherto been a certain lack of academic criticism focused primarily on his shorter fictional works Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major, Roverandom and his poetry. While Tolkien is best know for his Middle-earth related books his other tales are all small pearls which most of the time are equally, if not more, interesting.
Although scholarly evaluations of these works exist, they often deal with the shorter texts more as an afterthought, as footnotes to the 'major' texts rather than as demanding attention in their own right. This dearth of studies suggests that it is time for a closer look at tolkien's 'Shorter Works'.
The new book, tolkien's Shorter Works, collects the findings of a joint conference of Walking Tree Publishers who co-organised this event in order to celebrate their tenth anniversary, and the German Tolkien Society at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany in 2007.
Various interesting aspects, details and connections are unearthed which are likely to broaden not simply the understanding of tolkien's Shorter Works, but also of the author's overall fictional work as well as the man and author J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
Last month Walking Tree Publishers released another interesting title, namely The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition by Martin Simonson.
Like Beowulf, Tolkien’s work has also failed to be properly appreciated and assessed due to a general refusal to accept the centrality of monsters, because despite its ‘monstrous’ originality and fantastic setting, it is very clearly, and not only chronologically, at the centre of twentieth-century literature.
The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition is an attempt to account for the particular genre interaction that governs Tolkien’s tale and put it in a meaningful relationship with the contemporary literary context. At the same time, it is a quest to track down one of the most famous and elusive literary monsters of the past century by filling out a long-neglected white space on the map of comparative literature and genre criticism.
At the end of last year Walking Tree Publishers released some other 'must read' books, of which I will try and publish extensive reviews in the coming months (I'm spending every free minute I can find reading in these books).
The first is of course The Silmarillion: 30 Years On, which I have described here. Here is a small list of the books you should really buy if you are serious in trying to learn more about Tolkien:
How we Became Middle-earth
Following the release in 2001 of the first film of Peter Jackson's adapted trilogy of J.R.R. tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of The Ring, a wave of "Ring Fever" swamped the world, with reprints of the novel, guidebooks, Internet sites, memorabilia and toys, video and computer games, location tours and extended DVDs. Taking a Cultural Studies perspective, this collection of essays examines the cultural issues generated by tolkien's novel and Jackson's films. In particular, by applying a variety of cultural, media and literary theories, the essays in this collection attempt to answer the question: How did we become Middle-earth? Topics covered range from fan culture in an age of IT, globalization, transnational capitalism and consumerism to the local socio-political implications of the Rings tale, and the formation of a Middle-earth in our real (or, as argued by the French philosopher Jean Beadrillard, our no-longer real but hyperreal) world.
This book includes a total of twenty-four chapters, as well as foreword, index, filmography and photo illustrations. It is suitable for broad audience, and can be used for educational and academic purposes.
Myth and Magic: Art according to the Inklings
Myth, magic, art and literary creativity were central topics of discussion among the Inklings. Their common interest in these themes finds expression in their literary as well as critical works, which may thus be put in relation to each other in order to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the group’s stance on these issues.
This volume contains papers by inklings-scholars from the USA (Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, Devin Brown), the UK (John Garth, Colin Duriez, Patrick Curry), Switzerland (Dieter Bachmann), Germany (Thomas Honegger) and Spain (Martin Simonson, Eduardo Segura, Eugenio Merino-Olivares, Fernando J. Soto & Marta García de la Puerta, Margarita Carretero-González, Miryam Librán-Moreno) that investigate these topics in the work of individual authors and explore the interconnectedness of these concepts in the thinking of the members of this group.
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