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Philology: Lords of the Ring

Vak 2010-2011

Admission Requirements

Elementary knowledge of medieval culture and 19th- and early 20th-century literature.


Recreation of ancient stories was already common in the Middle Ages and it came back with Romanticism, together with visions and fantasy-worlds – the demarcation-lines are often difficult to draw. What they have in common is that they all present closed worlds, circled or ringed round so as to be self-referential and autonomous. As a result they are more clearly ideological than the “open” systems of modern art. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings will be analysed within this tradition, but, preceding that, examples will be studied from the 19th and early 20th centuries of the various forms of this tradition and the various ideologies expressed in them: from vision to fantasy, from the Green Left to nationalism. The worlds of King Arthur and Tristan, Ivanhoe and Jeanne d’Arc, the forests of adventure and dark vaults and caverns have been recreated between Blake’s visions and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, as replies to 19th and 20th-century industrialism and imperialism. We will concentrate on how the past is coloured by the imagery and character – configuration typical of romance.

Course Objectives

Genre-conventions of historicizing fiction, New Historicist analysis, Study and application of secondary sources. Oral and written reporting on those.


The timetable will be available from July 1 onwards on the Department website.

Mode of Instruction

Two-hour seminar per week.


  • Essay 3000-5000 words at the end of the course (75%)
  • Class-paper and participation (25%)
  • Extension by written examination


This course is not supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan, Penguin Classics
  • Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ed. Ian Duncan, Oxford World’s Classics (or Penguin)
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, e.d J.M. Gray, Penguin Classics, 1983
  • Matthew Lewis, The Monk, ed. Emma McEvoy, Oxford World’s Classics (or Penguin)
  • Arthurian Poets: Matthew Arnold and William Morris, e.d James P. Carley, Boydell & Brewer, 1990 (Possibly download from
  • William Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and “A Song of Liberty”, in The Norton Anthology of English Literature
  • William Morris, The Wood Beyond the World, The Wood Beyond The World, Project Gutenberg editions
  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, ed. M. Thomas Inge, Oxford World’s Classics (or Norton)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, any edition.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”, in The Tolkien Reader, Ballantine, 1966 or Tree and Leaf, Allen & Unwin, 1964, or, possibly, various other collections.


Students can register through uSis.

Register for Contractonderwijs

Register for À la Carte

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: