Nikki's Reviews > Beowulf and the Critics

Beowulf and the Critics by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Oct 16, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction, medieval-literature
Read on October 16, 2011

Tolkien's original essay, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, was amazing -- if only for its impact on the study of Beowulf. I'm hard-pressed to think of any other essay that changed the world of literary studies so completely. This essay basically sent scholarship in its current direction, rescuing it from the pitfalls of scholarship Tolkien saw in his contemporaries: the tendency to lament the way critics wanted the poem to be something it was not, or to assume that it was what they wanted, and to dismiss the monsters as trivial, or to fail to fully consider the implications of the pagan and Christian references in the poem. Anyone attempting to write about this poem, or wanting to read the academic work surrounding it, should probably begin here. Although Tolkien may have been wrong about some of his conclusions -- perhaps, for example, the dating of the poem -- his influence on the field is remarkable.

This edition, though, I would only recommend to people eager to go in depth into Tolkien's argument. It includes two drafts of the original essay, making it possible to see the development of Tolkien's essay over time. Even I, alas, am not that interested, despite my dual interest in Tolkien and Beowulf. Still, it could be very useful for close analysis.
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