G. B. Smith’s “Elzevir Cicero” and the Construction of Queer Immortality in Tolkien’s Mythopoeia
Keywords:John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Geoffrey Bache Smith, Hauntology, Queer Theory, Mythopoeia
Following the death of J. R. R. Tolkien in 1973, an obituary appeared in The Times quoting Tolkien as having said that his “love for the classics took ten years to recover from lectures on Cicero and Demosthenes.” This contentious relationship between Tolkien and the Greco-Roman past contrasts with the work of unabashedly classicizing poet Geoffrey Bache Smith, a school friend of Tolkien’s who was killed in the Great War. When Tolkien collected Smith’s poems for posthumous publication, this paper shows, Smith’s engagements with the ancient world became part of Tolkien’s own philosophy of immortality through literary composition. Within his 1931 poem “Mythopoeia,” and his 1939 speech “On Fairy-Stories,” Tolkien articulated a unified method of mythmaking by looking back to his lost friend’s understanding of mythology as a type of ancient story-craft that enabled poets to preserve the dead against the ravages of time. By tracing a triangular path through the relationships between Tolkien, Smith, and the classical past inhabited by figures like Cicero, this paper argues that Tolkien not only recovered a “love for the classics,” but used classical texts to “recover” his lost friend, granting Smith a queer, classical immortality in return.
Copyright (c) 2022 Kathryn H. Stutz
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with thersites agree to the following terms:
- Publishing in thersites is free of any charges.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication.
- Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, so long as the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. The journal is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. More information about this license is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).