Two authors who collectively have sold hundreds of millions of copies of their books decades after their deaths receive scant attention in academia. C.S. Lewis, according to Publisher’s Weekly, had sold 18 million copies by 2013. J. R. R. Tolkien, according to answers.com, has sold about 250 million copies.
But try finding a panel on either of them at the Modern Language Association. Perhaps it has something to do with the outlook of this literary pair.
Indeed, even during their lifetimes, despite spending most of their working lives as Oxford dons, both Lewis and Tolkien were more widely appreciated outside of academic and literary circles than within them.
“Both were out of step with their time,” historian Joe Laconte noted in a lecture at the Family Research Council last week. “They wrote epic tales with morals.”
“Most writers were writing anti-war novels.” Laconte, an associate professor of history at The King’s College in New York City, is the author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobes, and a Great War: How J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Catyclysm of 1914-1918.
“World War I led to cynicism and agnosticism in Europe for the ideals of the West but not for C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien,” Laconte averred.