Beowulf: The Monsters and the critics is an essay by JRR Tolkien. It’s about that good old epic poem that so many of us had to read in a literary history class: Beowulf.
We shall not speak of the animated abomination that would come so much later. Rather, just let me state that I’ve yet to run into a Tolkien scholar who does not hold Monsters to be essential reading for an understanding of Tolkien’s mindset regarding fantasy and literary criticism.
I can’t sum up the article better than this: it is Tolkien’s attempt to help readers view Beowulf in a new way–as a piece of art that can be examined as such. There is not necessarily any need to give it a place in history to see its value. It need not be an artifact to have meaning. It can be read solely as a piece of art. A piece of art about fighting monsters!
More than that I shall not say, but if this is your kind of thing, you can read the essay here.
A great read, if you’re the sort of oddball who can get up it.