New Book Overturns Common Misconceptions About J.R.R. Tolkien’s Influences

Tolkien’s Modern Reading by Holly Ordway—the first book under the new imprint Word on Fire Academic—is a major corrective to the view that J.R.R. Tolkien was dismissive of modern culture.

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries has released the first book under its new imprint, Word on Fire Academic, titled “Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages.”

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Influences

Written by Dr. Holly Ordway, “Tolkien’s Modern Reading” addresses the widely accepted view that Tolkien was dismissive of modern culture, and that “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” are fundamentally medieval and nostalgic in their inspiration. In fact, as Ordway demonstrates in this major corrective, Tolkien enjoyed a broad range of contemporary works, engaged with them in detail and depth, and even named specific titles as sources for and influences upon his creation of Middle-earth. Drawing on meticulous archival research, Ordway shows how Tolkien’s genius was not simply backward-looking: it was intimately connected with the literature of his own time and concerned with the issues and crises of the modern world.

Ordway is the Cardinal Francis George Fellow of Faith and Culture at the Word on Fire Institute and Visiting Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a Subject Editor for the “Journal of Inklings Studies.” She is also the author of “Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith” and “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms,” as well as numerous articles and chapters about imaginative apologetics, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings.

“‘Tolkien’s Modern Reading’ is the fruit of ten years’ labor of love,” Ordway explained, “and it’s a great joy and honor to have it be the first title in Word on Fire’s new Academic line. Working on it has greatly deepened my admiration for Tolkien and added to my own enjoyment of his writings. I’ve attempted to take a page out of his book and to write literary criticism that’s both detailed and appreciative. As I’ve worked on the project, my understanding of Tolkien’s creative imagination has become more informed and I’ve become more impressed by his genius. I hope that readers of the book will likewise find it encourages them to know Middle-earth better and to relish it more richly.”

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Word on Fire Catholic Ministries ( exists to draw people into the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and thereby give them access to all the gifts that Jesus wants his people to enjoy. To be most effective in this mission, Word on Fire places an emphasis and urgency on the use of contemporary forms of media and innovative communication technologies.

Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages
by Holly Ordway
January 25, 2021
Hardcover, 392 pages

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