Dennis Wilson Wise

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20th-Century British Literature

The bulk of my work on British writers comes from my dissertation on J.R.R. Tolkien. To date, much of the best work on Tolkien comes from methodologies such as textual criticism, biographical Criticism, source criticism, or, to a lesser extent, historical criticism. Looking at Tolkien from the viewpoint of critical theory or political philosophy, however, is more rare. My goal is to read Tolkien through the lens of Leo Strauss, a German-born political philosopher who spent the majority of his career at the University of Chicago. Strauss’s main themes involve a resuscitation of classical political rationalism and classical natural right. Whereas Tolkien tends to do poorly when seen from many contemporary approaches to critical theory, a Straussian lens helps illuminate what is most intriguing about Tolkien — and, in the process, allows me to put Tolkien in dialogue with mainstream academic literary criticism to a greater extent than previously done.

I have also done extensive work in critical theory.


  • Dissertation on J.R.R. Tolkien and Leo Strauss (title: TBA).
  • “Book of the Lost Narrator: Re-Reading The Silmarillion as a Unified Text.” Accepted by Tolkien Studies. Will be published in volume 13, 2016.
  • “Book of the Lost Narrator: Rhetoric and Esotericism in the published Silmarillion.” Conference presentation in Leeds, England, 2015.
  • “Trauma in War Novels: Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy.” Seminar in Modern British Literature, class presentation, 2014.
  • “Classical Poetry and Modern Political Philosophy: Spenser and Machiavelli in A View of the State of Ireland.” Scientia et Humanitas 4 (2014): 1-20. Print.
  • “The Ideological Norms of The Silmarillion’s Aristocratic Narrator.” Graduate conference presentation in Athens, GA, 2014. Essay also a recipient of MTSU’s Wolfe Graduate Writing Award, 2013.


  • “Reading Hélène Cixous.” Seminar in Feminist Theory: class presentation, 2014.
  • “Franz Fanon and Violence.” Seminar in Postcolonial Literature and Theory: class presentation, 2013.
  • “Mikhail Bakhtin and the Marxist Treatment of the Folkloric.” Critical Theory Seminar: class presentation, 2014.
  • “Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology, and Cognitive Narrative Theory.” Seminar: Narrative Theory and Consciousness: class presentation, 2007.
  • “Tzvetan Todorov’s Structuralist Approach to the Fantastic.” Intro to Grad Study: class presentation, 2006.
  • “Parataxis, Polyphony, and Poetics in The Sun Also Rises.” Bakhtinian analysis of Hemingway’s novel, written for a seminar in semiotics, bestowed Kent State English Department’s top award for undergraduate writing in 2006.