The ‘Romantic Faëry’: Keats, Tolkien, and the Perilous Realm
Date: 27 January 2020
University of Exeter
Masters by Research in English Studies
The Tolkien Estate Limited has given permission for the quotations from J R R Tolkien’s published works and unpublished manuscripts in this thesis and for its dissemination by the University of Exeter for the purposes of scholarly research and study. The J R R Tolkien materials may be further quoted in the context of quotation from the ...
The Tolkien Estate Limited has given permission for the quotations from J R R Tolkien’s published works and unpublished manuscripts in this thesis and for its dissemination by the University of Exeter for the purposes of scholarly research and study. The J R R Tolkien materials may be further quoted in the context of quotation from the thesis provided that both the author of the thesis and The Tolkien Estate Limited as copyright owner are acknowledged with due prominence. Prior permission must be sought from The Tolkien Estate Limited for any other use or reproduction of the J R R Tolkien materials. The scope of this thesis covers the influence of John Keats’s work on J. R. R. Tolkien’s tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Book of Lost Tales and The Lord of the Rings. It draws on Tolkien’s academic works: ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’, On Fairy-stories and brings to light unpublished manuscripts from Tolkien’s undergraduate notebooks and 1930s lecture notes held at the Bodleian Library in the University of Oxford. Collectively they evidence his awareness and adoption of material by Keats and the forgers James Macpherson and Thomas Chatterton. The thesis builds on what little scholarship exists on Tolkien, Keats, Chatterton and Macpherson by offering primary evidence and fresh insights into their shared interests into national history. The thesis argues that Keats and Tolkien share a conception of Faërie as the national heritage of England and Britain, as well as a debt to Macpherson and Chatterton, the early Romantic writers of the ‘Age of Forgery’ in the 1760s. Keats captured history and Faërie in a tapestry of pictures that afterwards inspired William Morris and the other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Morris subsequently influenced Tolkien’s work and the thesis will argue that the ‘perilous’, folkloric Faërie that Tolkien examined in On Fairy-stories is distilled to him through Keats and Morris in a chain of influence. It will argue that Tolkien initially adopted literary techniques and poetic diction from Keats in his first draft of his mythology in the 1910s. With the second draft in the 1920s, the thesis will argue that Tolkien’s maturity led him to critically rework Keats’s poems in ‘The Lay of Leithian’. The works of Macpherson, Chatterton, Keats and Tolkien reacted against the prevailing taste of their respective times by resurrecting a pre-imperial period of their nation’s past; they sought to engender a sense of nostalgia in their contemporaries and prompt a revived interest in what had been lost. It will identify that Tolkien and Keats inherited two prime methods for authenticating or feigning history: the oral tradition and the written word.
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