In this paper I examine The Lord of the Rings through the lens of genre criticism. I take issue with the commonplace characterisation of the work as an ‘epic’ or a ‘romance’, a tendency that has restricted interpretations of the work and tied criticism of it too exclusively to that of medieval literature. I argue that the work should be viewed as a modern novel: an open-ended and capacious text comprised of numerous generic traditions, including the previously overlooked genre of travel literature. After establishing a working definition of travel writing, I analyse The Lord of the Rings's paratextual materials (such as maps and appendices), the focalisation and construction of its narrative, its attempts to ‘authenticate’ itself through the inclusion of pictorial artefacts, and its depiction of foreign peoples, all the while comparing it with a range of travel texts (factual and fictional) from the Middle Ages to the present day. I conclude by suggesting that the tropes and techniques of travel writing enabled Tolkien to work towards his ultimate aim in The Lord of the Rings of creating an internally consistent secondary world, as outlined in his essay On Fairy-Stories.



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