Based on their successful undergraduate course at the University of Southern California, Abigail E. Ruane and Patrick James provide an introduction to International Relations using J. R. R. Tolkien's fantastically popular trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Because Tolkien's major themes—such as good versus evil and human agency versus determinism—are perennially relevant to International Relations, The Lord of the Rings is well suited for application to the study of politics in our own world. This innovative combination of social science and humanities approaches to illustrate key concepts engages students and stimulates critical thinking in new and exciting ways.
"What a nice way to initiate students into international relations theory! Young people often know imagined worlds with multiple polities better than they know their own history. Middle-earth offers a hefty dose of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Russian lore into the bargain. Here in Rohan, we are immensely pleased."
—Iver B. Neumann, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, coeditor of Harry Potter and International Relations
"The great 'trick' of this book is that it is more than a catchy hook and a way to explain IR theory that would be accessible to students. It also adds something to the theoretical interpretation of IR. The authors aren't just using LOTR to tell us about IR as it exists—they use it to critique its boundaries and then to suggest to students an accessible but theoretically more sophisticated way to look at IR theory."
—Laura Sjoberg, University of Florida
"This book is a welcome addition to the growing list of texts that make great works of fantasy and science fiction available to IR scholars. Ruane and James do a nice job bringing out the complexity of Tolkien's masterwork, showing both how one might use Tolkien to illustrate IR concepts, and how one might go about extracting Tolkien's own theories about politics from the story. You will want this book as your companion on any quest to draw insights about our world from Tolkien's tale of the end of Middle-earth's Third Age."
—Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University
Cover image: © redcrayola/Veer
Praise / Awards
"What a nice way to initiate students into international relations theory! Young people often know imagined worlds with multiple polities better than they know their own history. Middle-earth offers a hefty dose of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Russian lore into the bargain."
—Iver B. Neumann, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
"The great 'trick' of this book is that it is more than a catchy hook and a way to explain IR theory that would be accessible to students. It also adds something to the theoretical interpretation of IR. The authors aren’t just using LOTR to tell us about IR as it exists—they use it to critique its boundaries and then to suggest to students an accessible but theoretically more sophisticated way to look at IR theory."
—Laura Sjoberg, University of Florida
Guides for Instructors
Thank you for choosing The International Relations of Middle-earth. To make your reading of the book easier, we have prepared a number of Powerpoint slides as well as sample exams and other supplementary materials, which we hope will be helpful for instructors to use. In lieu of one single booklet, we opted to make available a batch of documents that can be downloaded individually from the University of Michigan Press website. They are either in Powerpoint (slides) or Word (exams and other materials) format so that after downloading to your desktop or storage devices, you can still revise, update or manipulate them for academic purposes.
There are ten Powerpoint documents in total. When making these slides, we tried to relate to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and the textbook as much as possible, often using LOTR events, figures and context to explain some important concepts and theories. At the same time, we reference historical and contemporaneous facts and scenarios whenever possible. Of the Powerpoint documents, #1 is a very brief overview of the course whereas all other documents are of substantive content. In particular, #2 and #3 aim at driving home the critical notion of nation-states in international system to start the conversation about international relations. While #2 dwells on the definition and nature of the state, #3 provides a succinct but also memorable presentation of the historical evolution of the international system. Thereafter Powerpoints #4 to #10 each corresponds to the seven chapters of the Middle Earth book. Regrettably, we have to remove all images in the slides because of copyright concerns.
Other supplementary materials (in Word format) include a sample syllabus, several handouts and exams that I have used in the past at University of Southern California. To familiarize yourself with the scenes and the flow of stories of LOTR as well as to facilitate discussions, we recommend that you watch the LOTR film series directed by Peter Jackson. Instructors may want to and assign appropriate sections of the LOTR books as required readings.
Dornsife Dean’s Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California
Below is the list of Powerpoint and Word documents:
Powerpoint slides (10 in total):
Word documents (8 in total):
A. Figure 1. Triangulating International Relations
B. Figure 2. Thinking about IR
C. Table 1. Approaches to International Relations from World War I Onward and Illuminative Characters from LOTR
D. Table 2. International Relations: A Rainbow of Theoretical Approaches
E. Figure 3. Levels of analysis and the causes of war
F. Figure 4. World War I, the War in Iraq, and the War of the Ring
G. Table 3. Feminist IR and Assumptions about What Exists (Ontology)
H. Table 4. Feminist IR and Assumptions about What We Know and How We Should Learn (Epistemology and Methodology)
I. Table 5. Waves of Feminist Approaches and Illustrative Characters
J. Figure 5. How perspective influences definition of "the problem"
K. Figure 6. Different lenses highlight different sides of "the problem"
L. Table 6. Quasi Relationships of Similarity (+) or Dissimilarity (-) between Approaches Based on the Race Their Associated Characters Bear in LOTR
M. Table 7. Examples of Concerns about Order and Justice by Issue Area according to Various IR Paradigms
N. Figure 7. Considering multiple dimensions of International Relations: Taking a broader view