Date of Award


Document Type



Language, Literature and Writing

First Advisor

Dr. Crystal Downing


Reader response theory states that a literary text is never fully formed until it enters the mind of the reader, who uses his or her personal experiences and understanding of the world to fill in the gaps. Our realities thus influence the stories we read and tell. However, the converse is just as true; the stories we hear, read, and tell throughout our lives leave an indelible mark upon our realities. We all carry within us the narratives of our cultures, which in turn influence the art we create. Alfred, Lord Tennyson and J.R.R. Tolkien both understood this concept and implemented it in their respective works, Idylls of the King and The Lord of the Rings. Though both authors drew from ancient mythic traditions in cultures that viewed myths as superstitions of the past or children’s entertainment, both of their works reflect their cultural situatedness. By displacing current issues of their respective eras into mythical settings of the past, both authors sought to confront what they perceived as problems of their times.