The Perilous Beauty of The Lord of the Rings

Presented by David O'Connor

J.R.R. Tolkien's famous novel returns over and over to the question of whether human beings can be exhilarated by the beauty of the Elves without being corrupted or destroyed by it. Tolkien inherited this theme, of the fascination and peril of entering the realm of faery, from a long tradition of European story-telling, going back to Odysseus's fantastic travels in Homer's Odyssey. Tolkien made a particularly rich inheritance of movements and issues in nineteenth century Romanticism, from religion, literature and painting. We enjoy the gripping story of The Lord of the Rings more when we can place Tolkien in the larger history of these artistic themes, and some of his finest inventions--Tom Bombadil, Galadriel, Treebeard, even Shelob--come alive with new poignancy when illuminated in this light. We will also see that Peter Jackson's movie versions draw on the same inheritance for some of their best scenes.

About David O'Connor

David K. O'Connor is a faculty member in the department of Philosophy and of Classics at the University of Notre Dame. His teaching and writing focus on ancient philosophy, aesthetics, ethics and politics, and philosophy of religion. Dr. O'Connor is an acclaimed teacher and lecturer. His online lectures on love and sexuality have reached a wide international audience, and are the basis of his two recent books, Love is Barefoot Philosophy (in Chinese translation, 2014) and Plato's Bedroom: Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love (2015). He has also published extensively on the relation between philosophy, art, and literature, in both the ancient and the modern world.