Dennis Wilson Wise

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Fields of Research

Fantasy literature? Political theory? You’ve come to the right place … those are my main subjects of study. Some other interests include:

  • feminist theory / gender violence
  • alliterative poetry & the modern Alliterative Revival
  • law & literature
  • Old vs. New Weird
  • Utopian Studies
  • Theories of Natural Right
  • historical fiction

For political theory and fantasy, however, you can find a good introduction to my approach in an open-access article, “On Ways of Studying Tolkien: Notes Toward a Better (Epic) Fantasy Criticism,” published in The Journal of Tolkien Research, vol. 9, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-25.

My in-progress monograph is tentatively titled, Specters of Tolkien: History, Totality, and Thymos at the Beginning of Epic Fantasy. My book argues that we should read Tolkien’s work as a clash between ancient and modern political thought, and this clash leads Tolkien, among other things, into helping resuscitate a modern literary analysis of thymos—a term from ancient Greek that covers a constellation of concepts like honor, rage, outrage, and esteem. Thus, even though Tolkien is often read as conservative or ahistorical (much like the epic fantasy genre he influenced), his work nonetheless helps us understand modern political society better because he defamialiarizes so many of the theoretical assumptions that modernity tends to take for granted.

My other major current project is a critical anthology called Speculative Poetry and the Modern Alliterative Revival (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). As the title suggests, it argues that a revival of the medieval verse form, analogous to what happened in the 14th century, is currently happening within speculative poetry …. and I’m collecting the SFF poems to prove it. As this is a critical anthology, it’ll include a 40-page introduction, notes, and several appendices.

For anyone interested in discussing these issues (or anything else), just shoot me an email at

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