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Renewed Shall Be Blade That Was Broken: Tolkien, Modernity and Fascist Utopia
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This thesis consists of a close reading and meta-analysis of themes and patterns in the works that comprise the fictional world of “Middle-Earth” created by J. R. R. Tolkien, in specific relation to the culturally prevalent views of the decadence of modernity and the ideological dynamics of fascism. This thesis explores the ideological dynamics of the fictional world constructed by Tolkien’s texts, and argues that his work contains demonstrable similarities to the ideological dynamics of fascism in its response to the existential challenges of modernity. To clarify, this thesis does not argue that Tolkien’s fiction can be read as “fascist,” tout court, but rather to give a comprehensive outline of how the fictional world created within his texts relate to discourses critical of modernisation and to what extent the aesthetic and ideological dynamics of this world present what I will call a fascist utopia. Tolkien’s work will be approached using the arguments and theories from canonical texts and authors regarding discourses on modernity, including works from the fields of philosophy (Nietzsche), political economy (Marx and Engels), literary studies, sociology (Durkheim, Weber and Simmel) and psychology (Freud). Alongside this I will use relevant studies of fascism to analyse how Tolkien fits within and relates to the aforementioned discourses. I assert the findings that Tolkien creates a world which, in its attempts to renew the values of the past through the presentation of mythology, rootedness, community, agrarianism and hierarchy, demonstrates a semi-fascistic utopia. This is not to cast aspersions or make claims about Tolkien’s creative intentions or personal ideology, rather an observation as to the content and themes of his fictional world. I will argue this fictional world aligns with fascist concepts of identity, nationhood, heritage, mythology and renewal; however, at the same time finding it non-aligned with the central thrust of fascism, in its overt condemnation of industrialism and technology. This contradictory combination produces a fictional world which presents the renewal of what Roger Griffin terms the “shields against ontological terror” (75) now lost or delegitimised in the modern age.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 55
Keywords [en]
Tolkien Modernity Fascism Modernism Utopia
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-159897OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-159897DiVA, id: diva2:1246668
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Available from: 2019-08-19 Created: 2018-09-09 Last updated: 2019-08-19Bibliographically approved

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