Year of Graduation

2014

Directing Professor

Jeanette Barbieri

Abstract

This thesis studies J. R. R. Tolkien’s body of fictional work as his attempt to create an English national mythology, in the same vein as Romantic nationalists such as the Brothers Grimm. In so doing, I examine how Tolkien understood English identity and the ways this understanding influenced his writing. Tolkien’s letters, scholarly essays and lectures are used to gain an understanding of how Tolkien viewed England, identity, and how he saw the intersection between these issues and his fiction. The thesis focuses on his Middle-earth-based fiction, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well as The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth series published posthumously based on his notes. Based on these sources, I argue that Tolkien’s construction of English identity was based on England’s Anglo-Saxon past, with influence as well from northwestern Europe; while at the same time he excluded more British and Norman aspects from his construction of English identity. His Christian faith and environmental concerns also influenced Tolkien’s construction of English identity, and are evident in his fictional works. In coding these themes and values into his fiction, Tolkien was defending aspects of Englishness that he saw as threatened by various outside forces, as well as trying to tie his own beliefs intrinsically to Englishness.

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