​​​​​​​Ents against the Futurists: Tolkien on Beauty and Vanity.

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​​​​​​​"Ents against the Futurists: Tolkien on Beauty and Vanity."

Perspectives on Beauty: Agathon Institute Lecture Series 2022-23

"Ents against the Futurists: Tolkien on Beauty and Vanity."

Graham McAleer, Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University (MD) and author of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings: A Philosophy of War, will delve into concepts of Beauty in The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien's Elves are beautiful, yet dogged by constant war, including civil war. Why is beauty insufficient in maintaining peace? Why can the Elves not just enjoy their magnificent art and one another? The problem is vanity. Unless properly set within a wider value framework, beauty can cause mayhem. Pascal famously observed that had Cleopatra's nose been a few millimeters shorter the history of the world would be entirely different. I dwell a good deal on The Lord of the Rings but also The Silmarillion, Tolkien's magnum opus and the story of how three beautiful jewels cause havoc in Middle-earth. I will argue that Tolkien's lore is one long meditation on beauty, and its problematic twin, vanity. I will further argue that Tolkien contemplated this problem not only because it is an ancient one, reaching back to Plato and Aquinas, but because the Futurism art movement had brought it clearly into focus again. Futurism (known as Vorticism in England) celebrated values of beauty which Tolkien, and the older Platonic and Christian traditions, considered vanity, and thus malign. It was no surprise to Tolkien that Futurism was the art movement embraced by fascism. The lecture will include some slides of Tolkien's own drawings and artworks by the Futurists to illustrate their aesthetic dispute.

Ben Willmott
Event Snapshot
When and Where
November 10, 2022
7:30 pm - 8:45 pm
Room/Location: 1510, Stan McKenzie Commons

Open to the Public

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interdisciplinary studies
performing arts