Date of Award

4-21-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Mills Harper - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Randy Malamud - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott Lightsey - Committee Member

Abstract

Tolkien may not have intentionally created his fictive nations to mirror real nations, but his world certainly bears the scars of his experiences of war. The World Wars heightened his fear of losing everything that he loved about his local culture through literal obliteration or assimilation into another culture in the event of England’s losing. Tolkien saw the nation as a social construct that potentially could minimize losses, if not wholly protect local culture from the forces that threatened to destroy it. Yet he also perceived the nation’s limitations in its ability to protect culture. A nation could grow too large for itself, becoming obsessed with consuming other nations. For Tolkien, national property-amassing leads to a loss of the cultural identity that nationhood aims to preserve. When the forces threatening individual nations become overwhelming, those nations often need to join forces to prevent being taken over by other, more powerful countries. An examination of Tolkien’s fiction and numerous other sources, including essays and personal letters, suggests that he felt that separate nations should co-exist without imposing on one another, and that the nation taking over others would lose its own identity, whether gradually or suddenly. Despite Tolkien’s efforts to distance himself from what he felt modernity represented, his fiction (whether consciously or not) grapples with the mid-twentieth century ideological conflicts surrounding the nation. The resulting sense of loss and powerlessness underlies much of Tolkien’s fiction and leads him to a concept of the nation as an imperfect protector of culture, tempered by its need to rely on other nations.

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