Traditionally, the "Inklings" C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams have been seen as separate from the literature of their time: as innovative in an idiosyncratic way at best, and as reactionary and in deliberate opposition to contemporary progressive writing at worst. Recent years have seen a gradual change in this view, but few studies to date have attempted to read Lewis, Tolkien and Williams alongside their most famous contemporaries: the literary modernists.
This monograph represents the first full-length study to draw explicit and in-depth comparisons between the Inklings and writers such as T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and David Jones among others. An examination of both thematic and structural concerns reveals a number of shared issues that go beyond mere responses to the cataclysmic events of the first half of the twentieth century. Myth as theme and structuring device, world-building as an attempt to render the author's subjective reality objective and authoritative, writing as an (unsuccessful) attempt to overcome the nightmare of history, and language as both the paradoxical means of creation and the reason creation must fail: these concerns and tensions are central to the works of both Inklings and modernists. In establishing that the works of Lewis, Tolkien and Williams contain aspects that can be termed "modernist", this study also hopes to show that certain aspects of modernism might very well be termed "fantastic".