Call for Papers: Theology and Tolkien

No proper list of the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century can exclude the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. His works are not only much-read and beloved, but also Hollywoodized (Peter Jackson), and have launched (or, perhaps, re-envisioned) an entire genre of fiction. As a result, they have made an indelible impression on popular culture, even more so after the release of Jackson’s films.

It is not surprising that Tolkien’s works are ever so subtly deeply theological. Though Tolkien (perhaps wisely) eschewed the outright Christian allegory of his friend-in-writing, C. S. Lewis, there is no doubt from the close reading of his works (as well as a consideration of his personal correspondence) that Tolkien’s world is deeply indebted to Christian theology—even if we may suggest that his work is the ‘Esther’ of the Inklings. Media derivatives, while hewing close to the source material, also put a unique spin on the works’ theology, even as it moves from books to movies to pop culture.

We invite submissions for a peer-reviewed volume on Theology and Tolkien for the Theology and Popular Culture series published by Lexington Books / Fortress Academic. The volume editor is Douglas Estes (associate professor, South University).

The primary objective of this book will be to investigate theological themes in Tolkien’s works—broadly defined—with an eye to pop culture. To help the reader understand the purpose of this book, the essays within will not interact with Tolkien the individual, or his historical background, only his narrative works and their derivatives. Essays will sit at an intersection of theology, culture, and narrative/film.

Essays should focus on the theology of works set within the Tolkien universe in any media, including but not limited to the literary works, the movies, the video games, and the artwork.

 

Although many of the projected essays will likely consider the primary works, we are especially keen to ensure at least a third of the essays consider theological aspects in Peter Jackson’s film trilogies; further, to have a few essays that use other starting points such as the legendarium, the art of Alan Lee or John Howe (or other), the languages or the culture, the video games, or other, for theological investigation.

Current contributors include Philip Ryken (author of The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth), Alison Milbank (author of Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians), and Lisa Coutras (author of Tolkien’s Theology of Beauty: Majesty, Splendor, and Transcendence in Middle-earth).

Possible topics could include:

  • Theology proper / the creation story in The Silmarillion
  • Eudaimonia and the Hobbit life
  • Just war/pacifism in LOTR/Hobbit/movies/legendarium
  • Theological anthropology of various races
  • Theology of friendship between humans, dwarves, elves/Samwise, Frodo
  • Divination and palantíri
  • Theological implications of Tolkien languages (Sindarin or the Black Speech)
  • The absence of God
  • Satanology and Morgoth (or Sauron)
  • Theology of hope in LOTR/legendarium
  • Angelology and the Maiar (Istari and/or Balrogs)
  • Original sin and Orc / Elf history
  • Light and hope in the art of Alan Lee
  • Sin/corruption and the rings of power/Nazgûl
  • Eternal life, the Grey Havens, and the extended narrative closure of Jackson’s ROTK
  • Justice, human economy in Jackson’s TDOS
  • Ecotheology and Ents
  • Two Towers and Augustine
  • Theological imagination
  • Theological appropriation of paganism
  • Theological theme in any work

(These are merely ideas to spur thinking, great ideas beyond these are encouraged.)

The target audience for this book is scholars of religion, theology, and literature, though given the topic essays are to be written in a manner accessible to the average educated reader and jargon-free. Prospective contributors should submit abstracts of 300-700 words and full CVs to theologyandtolkien@gmail.com by May 15, 2020. Contributors should expect to deliver full chapters of 5000–6000 words by May 15, 2021, with editorial revisions due by Aug 15, 2021.

About the Editor:

Douglas Estes (PhD, University of Nottingham) is associate professor of New Testament and practical theology at South University. Douglas has written or edited nine books; his most recent books are a Greek grammar resource, Questions and Rhetoric in the Greek New Testament (Zondervan, 2017), and an edited volume (with Ruth Sheridan) on narrative dynamics in John’s Gospel, How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel (SBL Press, 2016). He is the editor of Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education (Lexham Press) and a regular contributor to Christianity Today.

For more information see: Pop Culture and Theology.

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