Project Title: The Tale We’ve Fallen Into: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Fandom, and the Post-Christian Quest for Meaning.
School: School of Critical Studies
About Rev. Thomas’s Research
How do non-religious fans of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) make spiritual meaning with his fiction? This project constructs an interdisciplinary framework of fan reception studies, narrative theology, and scholarship on Tolkien and religion to develop a survey probing non-religious fans’ spiritual experience of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). In-depth rhetorical analysis of survey findings will inform the development of educational materials for public engagement with spiritual themes in Tolkien’s work. The study responds directly to ongoing controversies over diverse readings of Tolkien by broadening the hermeneutical horizons of Tolkien studies and theorizing secular fandom as a post-Christian community of meaning.