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The Catholic Culture Podcast

A weekly podcast hosted by musician and writer Thomas V. Mirus, exploring everything Catholic, with a special focus on arts and culture. Dedicated to the Holy Family. An extension of

Mar 29, 2021

J.R.R. Tolkien is commonly perceived as a reactionary who totally rejected the modern world, and whose literary influences began and ended with the Middle Ages. Holly Ordway's new book, Tolkien's Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages, debunks that view of Tolkien's life and work.

Ordway begins with an invaluable critique of the sources of this misconception, especially the official biography written by Humphrey Carpenter, who admitted his own bias and desire to portray Tolkien as an uptight fuddy-duddy.

She then proceeds to examine the works of modern literature we know Tolkien read, gleaning insights about how he may have been influenced either by acceptance or rejection of what he found in those works. In this interview we focus on Tolkien's reading of the father of modern fantasy, William Morris, the adventure writer H. Rider Haggard, the now-unknown religious romance John Inglesant, and even literary modernists like James Joyce and Roy Campbell, and realists like Sinclair Lewis.

Watch this conversation on YouTube:


Tolkien’s Modern Reading

Daphne Castell interview with Tolkien

Diana Glyer’s books on the Inklings:

The Company They Keep



Some of the many books enjoyed by Tolkien mentioned in this episode:

William Morris, The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains

H. Rider Haggard, She

Joseph Henry Shorthouse, John Inglesant

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Andrew Lang’s fairy tale collections

Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books

E.A. Wyke-Smith, The Marvellous Land of Snergs

John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps and the other Richard Hannay books

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