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Beowulf and the Critics (Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, Vol. 248) Hardcover – December 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies
  • Hardcover: 461 pages
  • Publisher: Mrts; 1St Edition edition (December 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0866982906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0866982900
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,436,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892.1973), beloved throughout the world as the creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a fellow of Pembroke College, and a fellow of Merton College until his retirement in 1959. His chief interest was the linguistic aspects of the early English written tradition, but even as he studied these classics he was creating a set of his own.

Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
So, for me, getting to see Tolkien's thoughts on the poem in the process of formation was very exciting.
Ian M. Slater
Editor Michael Drout provides voluminous explanatory notes about every possibly obscure reference in Tolkien's lectures.
Bruce Trinque
The mind reels at the thought of anyone describing this work as being irrelevant or having "outlived its time."
Eardstapa

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a much longer, easier to read version of Tolkien's famous 1936
lecture of Beowulf, called "The Monsters and the Critics." I've read
"Monsters and the Critics," and liked it, but Beowulf and the Critics is
much better, not only because it is easier to follow, but because Tolkien
puts in a lot more interesting material, including two very good poems
about dragons. According to the editor, Tolkien started writing this book
for his students at Oxford, and it shows.
Tolkien argues that Beowulf is a great poem and that the monsters in it (a
troll named Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a dragon) are essential to the
poem's theme. I think he makes his case. He also provides a summary of
the study of Beowulf, from the discovery of the manuscript until he wrote
this book in the 1930's, which is actually much more interesting than it
sounds.
The editor has written a good, clear introduction that explains how all
this scholarly material relates to Tolkien's other work in Old English and
to his Middle-earth books. The notes are unbelievably extensive, and while
I didn't read straight through them all, the things I did look up were
explained very clearly.
While there aren't any Hobbits, dwarves or elves, I still strongly
recommend this book to anyone who really wants to know how Tolkien's mind
works.
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on January 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
JRR Tolkien's 1936 "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" is generally accorded to be a seminal study of the great Old English poem "Beowulf", focusing attention upon the work itself as a consciously crafted piece of literary creation rather than as merely something of historical or quaint antiquitarian interest. "Beowulf and the Critics" presents two extended lectures from the mid-1930's that were successive steps towards Tolkien's final essay. The greater length of these lectures, perhaps especially "Version B", may provide an easier path to appreciating Tolkien's views of the poems than the more dense "The Monsters and the Critics". Editor Michael Drout provides voluminous explanatory notes about every possibly obscure reference in Tolkien's lectures. In addition, lengthy textual notes are provided so that the interested scholar may trace the process of revision used by Tolkien in writing his lectures.
In his preface Drout mentions the likelihood that there are two natual audiences for this book: Those who read it because the name "Tolkien" is on the cover; and those who read it because "Beowulf" on the cover. (And Drout writes that "the most valued audience of all [is] those who read the book because it says both 'Tolkien' and 'Beowulf' on the cover" -- I'm pleased to count myself in that group.) To be candid, those Tolkien enthusiasts who pick up the volume expecting to find discussions of elves and hobbits will be disappointed. There are few direct references to Tolkien's better-know fictional works (although there is an interesting extended footnote discussing the relationship of Shakespeare's "King Lear" to certain aspects of "The Lord of the Rings.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This volume is well designed to convey a huge amount of information in as painless a form as possible. It is a meticulous edition, with commentary, of two manuscripts by J.R.R. Tolkien, representing stages of his thought in the years before his British Academy lecture, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" (1936; published 1937). That short work has been described as being, although not the beginning of "Beowulf" criticism, the beginning of all *modern* "Beowulf" criticism. It was a revised and condensed version of a longer work, which had already gone through two drafts, presented here as edited by Michael Drout, as the "A" and "B" Texts (designations apparently beloved by medievalists).

The 1936 lecture is the title piece in the 1984 collection of some of Tolkien's essays, with which this book should NOT be confused, and is found in several anthologies of "Beowulf" criticism. It is beautifully expressed, and vigorously argued, but, with its compressed references to old disputes, at times a little hard to follow in detail. I found that careful readings of R.W. Chambers' magisterial "Beowulf: An Introduction to the Study of the Poem" (1921; third edition, 1953) and use of Fr. Klaeber's great edition (1922, 1928, 1936), both referred to by Tolkien, were very helpful, and worth the time (if not essential!) for any student of the poem anyway. But the critical (or uncritical) consensus Tolkien was attacking long ago faded from the scholarly mind. (It persists in third-hand opinions, often repeated by people who should know better.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eardstapa on May 7, 2008
Format: Unknown Binding
The mind reels at the thought of anyone describing this work as being irrelevant or having "outlived its time." Tolkien was, quite literally, a first rate scholar of Anglo-Saxon who knew the material of Beowulf better than most of his contemporaries. In terms of importance to the study of the poem, Tolkien's essay is frequently cited as the most significant piece of work in the history of Beowulfian criticism. There are no serious scholars of Old English literature who have not been influenced in some way by Tolkien's study of the poem. This work is seminal.

That being said, Tolkien is not the final word on Beowulf. Scholarship has progressed greatly since the writing of TMATC and there are elements of the story which Tolkien does not cover in as much detail as is merited (namely, Grendel's mother). Also, if you do not like Tolkien's style of prose in LOTR, then you will most likely not enjoy it here. However, that is more a matter of the reader's tastes than Tolkien's ability. This essay is a must-read for anyone desiring better knowledge of the text. Persevere and you will not be disappointed.
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