Tolkien is unfortunately underrated as a theorist in literary studies—in fact, alas, generally invisible to the mainstream. This essay draws attention to his ideas about sub-creation and allegorical “dominion” of the reader, contrasting Tolkien’s stated and implied theories with those of Roland Barthes, and elucidating Tolkien’s concern with “the delicate balance between authors, authority, and interpretive freedom.” Saxton draws on “Leaf by Niggle,” The Silmarillion, and The Lord of the Rings for examples of Tolkien’s theories in action.

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