Dennis Wilson Wise

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Fields of Research

I study modern fantasy and science fiction, but most especially J.R.R. Tolkien and the major epic fantasy series that have their origins from 1977 through 2000. In particular, I study the relationship between fantasy literature and political theory, although other interests include:

  • feminist theory / gender violence
  • law & literature
  • Old vs. New Weird
  • Utopian Studies
  • 20th-century alliterative poetry (based off the medieval verse form)
  • 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.

For anyone interested in discussing these issues (or anything else), just shoot me an email at dwwise@arizona.edu.

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