Back to All Events

Perilous Beauty: Tattoos, Redheads, and Tolkien

  • Winants Auditorium, Graves Hall (map)

Monday, September 23
Winants Auditorium, Graves Hall

J.R.R. Tolkien reflected deeply, and in a distinctively Catholic way, on the power of beauty to enchant and corrupt. Why in The Lord of the Rings do Men so often fear the Elf Queen Galadriel as "perilous"? These perils of Elvish beauty are Tolkien's Catholic version of anxieties explored, for example, in Shakespeare's ambiguous portrait of the seductiveness of Cleopatra; in Herman Melville's fascination (in Moby Dick) with the exotic beauty of tattoos; and in the Pre-Raphaelite painters' obsession with stunning redheads. Tolkien's Catholic response to the problem of perilous beauty comes into sharper focus when we compare his art to these great predecessors.

David O’Connor is a faculty member in the departments of Philosophy and of Classics at the University of Notre Dame. His teaching and writing focus on ancient philosophy, aesthetics, ethics and politics, and philosophy of religion. Dr. O’Connor is an acclaimed teacher and lecturer. His online lectures on love and sexuality have reached a wide international audience, and are the basis of his two recent books, Love is Barefoot Philosophy (in Chinese translation, 2014) and Plato’s Bedroom: Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love (2015). He has also published extensively on the relation between philosophy, art, and literature, in both the ancient and the modern world.