‘Small Hands Do Them Because They Must’: examining the reception of The Lord of the Rings among young readers

Shelton, Luke (2020) ‘Small Hands Do Them Because They Must’: examining the reception of The Lord of the Rings among young readers. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This project explores how the reception of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings by younger readers differs from the understanding of the novel preponed by scholarship. A questionnaire and two activities were used to assess the reception of thirty young readers. The data set created from these responses was then compared to the current understanding of Tolkien’s work among scholars, as determined by a lengthy literature review. While several of the traditional aspects of a thesis for an English PhD are maintained, the study also employs methods and analysis from other fields. In this way, the study is unique and, perhaps, groundbreaking in its approach to reception studies.

The specific areas of investigation are young readers’ understanding of the genre, characters, and setting of The Lord of the Rings. By examining the ideas that young readers have about genre, this project provides commentary on the impulse critics have to confine texts to easily-defined categories. By analyzing young readers’ response to characterization, this project confronts the assumption that children have a simplistic reading of characters. Finally, by discussing young readers’ interpretation of setting, this project validates the environmental and ecological concerns of this young readership.

The narrow aim of the project is to fill a gap in Tolkien reception studies by examining the response of readers younger than eighteen, and thereby improve understanding of J.R.R. Tolkien’s readership. The larger goal of the study is to confront and reexamine the assumptions of literary scholars and critics. This study demonstrates the disconnect between much of the scholarly conversations about fantasy literature and the lived experiences of young readers. It gives voice to a population that is underrepresented in scholarly conversations, and it supports the idea of more inclusive and diverse critical discussions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, Middle-earth, Young Readers, Reception, Reader Response, English Literature, Children's Literature, Young Adult Literature, Fantasy Literature, Fantasy Genre,
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Fimi, Dr. Dimitra
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Luke Shelton
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81312
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 May 2020 11:43
Last Modified: 29 May 2020 11:46
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81312

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