“The Lady and Our Lady: Galadriel as a ‘Reflexion’ of Mary,” A Signum Thesis Theatre on Tolkien and Catholicism by Mickey Corso (Full Video)

Recently, Signum University MA student Mickey Corso presented his thesis “The Lady and Our Lady: Galadriel as a ‘Reflexion’ of Mary” to the public, which we were able to record for posterity. You can see the abstract and full discussion video below, and you can get a copy of the paper in the Signum library or here.

Besides the fact that a strong consideration of J.R.R. Tolkien and his Roman Catholic context along this line is sorely needed, I am proud to have been Mickey’s Supervisor. In this video, Mickey spent a bit of time presenting his ideas before responding to questions by me, by his second reader Dr. Sara Brown, and by the quite robust live audience. A global real-time conversation with research is one of the advantages of an interactive Thesis Theater. I hope that Mickey’s research can deepen your connection to Tolkien’s works.

Thesis Abstract

J.R.R. Tolkien asserted that

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision” (Letters 142).

In particular, Tolkien noted the influence of his devotion to the Virgin Mary on the character of Galadriel:

“I think it is true that I owe much of this character to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary” (Letters 320).

While many Tolkien scholars and critics have affirmed or argued against this connection, there is no comprehensive presentation of specific evidence for Tolkien’s claim through a close reading of the text in the context of Tolkien’s English Catholic piety and worldview.

This thesis investigates such evidence and demonstrates a reciprocal applicability, or reflexion, between Tolkien’s primary world devotion to Mary and his secondary world Galadriel. After articulating what Marian pious practices were widespread in early twentieth century Catholicism in England and considering the probability that Tolkien engaged in such practices, the thesis traces Galadriel’s depiction through the manuscript history into final form and relates it to prayers and teachings current in Marian piety to shed light on Galadriel’s development.

About the Presenter

Michael J. Corso, Ph.D. is a lifelong Tolkien fan who is excited to have earned a degree at Signum University. He also has a doctorate in Theology and Education from Boston College and is currently the chair of the theology department at Catholic Memorial School in Boston—where he regularly brings up Tolkien to his students. “Mickey,” as he is known to family and friends, is married to Catherine, his wife of 35 years, and has two daughters, Rebecca and Elise, who are themselves enthusiasts of all things Middle-earth.

About Signum Thesis Theaters

Our graduate students write a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theatre is where they can present their thesis to the Signum community and wider public, enabling them to explain their research in detail, and respond to questions from the audience.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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9 Responses to “The Lady and Our Lady: Galadriel as a ‘Reflexion’ of Mary,” A Signum Thesis Theatre on Tolkien and Catholicism by Mickey Corso (Full Video)

  1. danaames says:

    Very interesting – hope to be able to read the whole thesis, and I think you’re right that there’s (what for many readers would be) an interesting book in it.

    Don’t know this was purposeful, but the presentation fell within the “Lady Days” – how the medieval English Catholics, to my understanding, described at least the fasting period leading up to (for them) the Assumption of the Virgin, comemmorated in both East and West on 15 August. In the East, the umbra of the feast stretches until 23 August, so the posting of the video today would also fall within that time. In ancient Christianity, this is the major Marian feast.

    In the West, the question of whether Mary actually died was open until the Pope’s proclamation in 1950. In the East, being human (and therefore subject to death) she died and was entombed. When mourners went to the tomb again after 3 days, they found no body, only a sweet fragrance and flowers. Christ took her body that had given him all his humanity and united it with her soul, thus granting her Resurrection ahead of everyone else in love and honor. I find this completely plausible. I note how Anglicans have kept the names of some churches as “St Mary’s”, but that’s pretty much all.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dana, I wanted to give a quick response before I disappear for 10 days.
      Thanks for the note! Yes, Protestants, including Anglicans, aren’t terribly good at Mary–though my family attended a Church of England service for the Assumption 3 years ago at Westminster Abbey. It was the most elaborate and invested service I have attended outside of Roman or Eastern churches.
      I have much to learn on Mary.


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