Turning back the tides: the Anglo-Saxon vice of ofermod in Tolkien’s Fall of Arthur AND The neighbors in the village: Frost’s debt to Dante, Longfellow, and James in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Colin J. Cutler (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Anthony Cuda

Abstract: Tolkien’s Fall of Arthur has at its heart the theme of ofermod, a theme which appears throughout Tolkien’s criticism and creative work. In his essay “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son,” he argues that the Anglo-Saxon word ofermod in the poem The Battle of Maldon condemns the warband’s leader for an over-reaching pride which places his men in desperate straits. There has since been much ink spilled on the precise meaning of ofermod, with several scholars taking exception to Tolkien’s interpretation of the word. In its survey of the critical debate, this paper conducts a study of the word and its derivatives in various Anglo-Saxon texts, taking the Microfiche Concordance to Old English as its starting point. After weighing in on the critical debate surrounding ofermod, I then trace Tolkien’s creative use of the theme in both his tales of Middle-Earth and his pastiche of “The Battle of Maldon” to establish the patterns of its temptation, attraction, use, and effect in his work before analyzing these same patterns as driving motivations for the characters in The Fall of Arthur. The Neighbors in the Village: Frost’s Debt to Dante, Longfellow, and James in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” (2016) Frost’s much-anthologized and often-quoted “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has received much critical attention for its formal characteristics and ambiguity. This paper, however, establishes its connections to Frost’s first volume of poetry, A Boy’s Will, and his interaction with Longfellow, Dante, and William James. The refrain to Longfellow’s “My Lost Youth” providing the title, A Boy’s Will exploits and complicates the images of roads, woods, and wind that Longfellow’s poem employs. After discussing Longfellow’s poem and Frost’s further development of those images throughout A Boy’s Will, this paper traces Frost’s complicated interaction with Dante’s images of stars in the same volume before weaving all of these threads together as they reappear in “Stopping By Woods on Snowy Evening.” Finally, I explore how Frost’s well-documented philosophical debt to William James is apparent in the formal and imagistic stasis of the poem’s last verse.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Anglo-Saxon, Arthur, Dante, Ofermod, Robert Frost, William James
Tolkien, J. R. R. $q (John Ronald Reuel), $d 1892-1973 $t Fall of Arthur
English language $y Old English, ca. 450-1100 $x Semantics
Frost, Robert, $d 1874-1963 $t Stopping by woods on a snowy evening
Frost, Robert, $d 1874-1963 $t Boy's will

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