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Call for Papers (book project)

Tolkien and Modernity

In Author of the Century Tom Shippey characterizes Tolkien not only as one of the most important authors of the 20th century but also underlines that Tolkien was an author of that century in the sense that he was deeply influenced by his time and that this is reflected in his fictional work. In A Question of Time and other works Verlyn Flieger voiced a similar opinion. Our project on Tolkien´s modernity intends to take this observation one step further. If, as we assume, Middle-earth was indeed deeply influenced by the historical and cultural circumstances and events that took place during Tolkien’s lifetime, the question arises as to what extent the fictional writings of the Professor reflect this influence. Furthermore, we intend to investigate whether these ‘contemporary’ influences are still active and may, via Tolkien’s works, affect modern day readers of Tolkien’s fiction. This ‘connection’ to the 20th century, next to its literary and aesthetic qualities, may explain the success of The Lord of the Rings (and Tolkien’s other fiction) and its lasting attraction for the reader of the 20th and the 21st centuries.

The aim of the proposed volume is to examine whether the named assumption is valid. Authors who may want to take a closer look at Tolkien´s assumed modernity from different perspectives are invited to contribute to the project on the following topics:

-ethics and morality in Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the Silmarillion (including good as well as bad behaviour and attitudes)
-politics and the political organization of the people of Middle-earth
-free will and freedom in Middle-earth
-the description and assessment of violence and war
-women in Middle-earth (especially, of course, the roles of Luthien and Eowyn)
-the different forms of leading a good or fulfilled life and how readers of today may identify with or long for it
-the intertraditional literary dialogue in The Lord of the Rings

Additional perspectives (and ideas on who might be able and willing to write about them) are very welcome.

A discussion along the lines sketched above may lead to a re-evaluation of Tolkien’s place within the context of 20th-century literature and it is hoped that Tolkien criticism will, in good time, go beyond the ‘defense’ of Tolkien’s work against (mostly) unfounded allegations that condemn his work as infantile, conservative, racist, fascist, and chauvinist. It is the aim of this volume to help overcome the largely unproductive critical squabbles that have dominated much of 20th century criticism and to try and look at Tolkien with an unprejudiced mind.

If you would like to contribute to this volume, please submit an abstract (200-300 words) outlining your article proposal till 30 September 2005. Upon acceptance, full articles are due by 30 April 2006.

Contact and further inquiries:
Frank Weinreich (fw(at) or Thomas Honegger (Tm.honegger(at)

A note on the editors Frank Weinreich and Thomas Honegger:

Frank Weinreich (*1962) graduated in philosophy, communication sciences and politics and received a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Vechta for his dissertation on ethics and bioethics. Focal points of his research are studies in ethics, bioethics, technology assessment, the use of the New Media in education and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. His main interest in Tolkien is the philosophy in his fictional work and its possible meanings for the readership of today. In this context, he recently published on free will in Middle-earth, ethics in Middle-earth, and the political structures of Gondor and The Shire. He is member of the Board of Editors of Hither Shore, the German Yearbook of Studies on Tolkien and Modern Fantasy and, with Thomas Honegger, editor of Edition Stein und Baum, a new project dedicated to the publication of works on Tolkien and Modern Fantasy in German. He is currently working as publisher, media consultant and freelance author in Bochum Germany.

Thomas Honegger (*1965) holds a PhD from the University of Zurich. He is the author of From Phoenix to Chauntecleer: Medieval English Animal Poetry (1996) and co-author of a book on Tolkien and ethics. He has edited two volumes on Old and Middle English language and literature and various collections of articles on Tolkien. Apart from his publications on animals and Tolkien, he has written about Chaucer, Shakespeare, and mediaeval romance. He is Professor for Mediaeval Studies at the Friedrich-Schiller-University (Jena, Germany). Homepage: Mediaevistik.html