Call for papers: Tolkien Studies at PCA/ACA, March 2016


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After Robin Reid organized the first successful round of Tolkien Studies sessions two years ago at the Popular Culture Association conference in Chicago, Tolkien Studies has become a regular part of the PCA/ACA annual conference.  In 2016, the conference will be held in Seattle, from March 21-25. Paper proposals can be submitted from July 1st to October 1st.

More information about the conference and how to submit proposals can be found on the PCA/ACA Tolkien Studies page. You can also keep up with news of the conference and other items of interest by joining the public Tolkien Studies at the Popular Culture/American Culture Association Facebook group. If you join the group, you can download Robin Reid’s notes on all of the 2015 sessions. For another view of the 2015 meeting, see David Bratman’s report on the Tolkien Society blog. Going even further back, you can find my summaries of two of the roundtable discussions from the 2014 conference here and here.

Kalamazoo past and future


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I’ve been away for some time now on conference and research trips — more posts to come on those in the next few days. My last post over a month ago listed Tolkien sessions in Kalamazoo at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which has  come and gone. Happily, I realize there’s no need this year for me to summarize the Tolkien sessions or to compile accounts of various other presentations, as I’ve done in previous years. Instead, you can read the excellent Tolkien at Kalamazoo Round-Up by Dr. Andrew Higgins on his blog, Dr. Wotan’s Musings.

In addition, #Kzoo2015 hit the blogosphere from all directions, and if you want a taste of the many different topics that were presented and discussed, take a look at Jonathan Hsy’s #Kzoo2015 Blogroll, a feast of information that includes “links to blog postings and transcripts of individual paper presentations … archives of tweets, public notes from sessions, Prezi and YouTube presentations … and an alliterative poem.”

The organizers of ICMS waste no time in deciding on which sessions will be allowed for the following year. You can already take a look at the Sneak Preview of sessions for 2016. Sessions specifically dealing with Tolkien are the following:

The Tolkien at Kalamazoo group, organized by Brad Eden, has been allowed to sponsor three sessions.

  • Tolkien and Beowulf
  • Tolkien and Invented Languages
  • A roundtable in honor of Verlyn Flieger

The History Department at Texas A&M University – Commerce is sponsoring one session, organized by Judy Ann Ford:

  • Fathers, Sons, and Fosterage in the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien

The Department of Religious Studies & Philosophy at The Hill School is sponsoring one session, organized by John Wm. Houghton:

  • Asterisk Tolkien: Filling Medieval Lacunae

Even with these three sponsors, the number of Tolkien sessions has decreased in the last two years — not from lack of interest (the Tolkien at Kalamazoo sessions are always extremely well attended) but as a result of a deliberate decision by the ICMS organizers, who have limited most sponsoring groups (although not all, which is puzzling in itself) to 3 or 4 sessions. For many years, the Tolkien at Kalamazoo group sponsored up to eight sessions per year, but that kind of thriving scholarly growth is being pruned back by the Congress organizers. Too bad, but of course, it’s their Congress, and they must have their reasons, though I think some sponsors would like to see more transparency in the decision-making.

K’zoo 2015 sessions on Tolkien and medievalisms


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It’s that time of year again — planning for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, with its 500-plus sessions, at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.  Impossible to attend every session of interest, but in having to make decisions about which presentations to go to, I like to pull out a few possibilities. Here I have all the sessions that deal with Tolkien and then some that cover the broad topic of medievalisms. Of course, you should check the official program for the authoritative schedule and to double check times and rooms.

Tolkien sessions first of all:

Thursday 10 a.m. 
Session 33, Bernhard 204
Tolkien as Translator and Translated
Sponsor: History Dept., Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce
Organizer and presider: Judy Ann Ford, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce

–Tolkien’s Beowulf and the “Correcting Style.” Dean Easton, Independent Scholar
Sir Orfeo, the Classical Sources, and the Story of Beren and Lúthien. Sandra Hartl, Otto-Friedrich-Univ. Bamberg
–Translator and Language Change: On J. R. R. Tolkien’s Translation of Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight.  Maria Volkonskaya, Higher School of Economics, National Research Univ.

Thursday 1:30 p.m. 
Session 49, Valley II, Eicher 202
Christopher Tolkien as Medieval Scholar (A Roundtable)
Organizer: Douglas A. Anderson, Independent Scholar
Presider: John Wm. Houghton, Hill School
A roundtable discussion with Douglas A. Anderson; John D. Rateliff, Independent
Scholar; Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.; and Brent Landon Johnson, Signum Univ.

Thursday 3:30 p.m. 
Session 127, Schneider 2355
Tolkien and Victorian Medievalism
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: Amy Amendt-Raduege, Whatcom Community College

–J. R. R. Tolkien on the Origin of Stories: The Pardoner’s Tale Lectures and Nineteenth-Century Folklore Scholarship
. Sharin Schroeder, National Taipei Univ. of Technology
–Maps and Landscape in William Morris and J. R. R. Tolkien. 
Amanda Giebfried, St. Louis Univ.
–Tolkien’s Victorian Fairy-Story Beowulf .
Jane Chance, Rice Univ.

Thursday 7 p.m. 
Session 155, Fetzer 1045
Tolkien’s Beowulf (A Readers’ Theater Performance) and Maidens of Middle-earth
V, “Turin’s Women”
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: Thom Foy, Univ. of Michigan-Dearborn
–Tolkien’s Beowulf
Thom Foy; Andrew Higgins, Cardiff Metropolitan Univ.; Jewell Morrow,
Independent Scholar; Deidre Dawson, Independent Scholar; Mark Lachniet,
Independent Scholar; Richard West, Independent Scholar; Jane Beal,; Brad Eden
–Maidens of Middle-earth V: “Turin’s Women”
Eileen Marie Moore, Cleveland State Univ

Saturday noon.  Business Meeting, Tolkien at Kalamazoo. Bernhard 158

Sunday 8:30 a.m.   
Session 525. Schneider 1120
Tolkien as Linguist and Medievalist
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer and presider: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.

–The First Red Book: An Exploration of Tolkien’s Exeter College Essay Book
Andrew Higgins, Cardiff Metropolitan Univ.
–Inter-Elvish Miscommunication and the Fall of Gondolin. Eileen Marie Moore, Cleveland State Univ.
–A Scholar of the Old School: Tolkien’s Editing of Medieval Manuscripts. John D. Rateliff, Independent Scholar
–Immram Roverandom. Kris Swank, Pima Community College

Sunday 10:30 a.m. 
Session 549. Fetzer 1055
Tolkien’s Beowulf
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont

–“That does not attract me”: Lang./Lit. and the Structure of Tolkien’s Beowulf Commentary. John R. Holmes, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville
–Can a Geat Be a Knight? Tolkien’s Use of Chivalric Terminology in His Translation of Beowulf. Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ.
–The Weird Word Wyrd
. Amy Amendt-Raduege, Whatcom Community College
Beowulf Reimagined: Coming of Age in Tolkien’s Sellic spell. Amber Dunai, Texas A&M Univ.

Sessions or papers on medievalism:

Plenary lecture: Saturday 8:30 a.m.
The Notion of the Middle Ages: Our Middle Ages, Ourselves

Richard Utz
East Ballroom, Bernhard Cente

Thursday 10 a.m. Session 22
Looking Back at the Middle Ages
Presider: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Oklahoma State Univ.–Stillwater
–Abraham Wheelock and West Saxon Genealogy: Old English Rhythmical Prose in 1643/44. Patrick V. Day, Florida State Univ.
–Martin Sarmiento: A Medievalist at the Court of the Spanish Bourbon Kings. Maria Willstedt, Hamilton College
–Ghost of the Oak Gall: Scholarly Inheritance, Antiquarian Time, and Manuscript Cataloguing in the Medievalist Fiction of M. R. James. Patrick J. Murphy, Miami Univ.

Thursday 1:30 Session 95
Modernizing the Medieval for a New Generation: Medievalism in Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Organizer: Alexandra Garner, Bowling Green State Univ. Presider: Alexandra Garner
–“Minstrels get about and so do students”: The Role of Emotional Attachment and Historical Accuracy in the Impact of Young Adult Fiction. Esther Bernstein, Graduate Center, CUNY
–What in the World Is Wattpad?: Examining the Platform of Merlin’s Gold, The Camelot Code, and Other Offerings for Young Readers. Christina Francis, Bloomsburg Univ. of Pennsylvania
–Otherworld Boys and Modern Girls: The Medieval Irish Fairy Lover in Young Adult Fiction. Joanne Findon, Trent Univ.
–“Metaphorical Feudalisms”: Land, Obligations, and Power in the Young Adult Fiction of Tamora Pierce and Patricia A. McKillip. Amelia A. Rutledge, George Mason Univ.

Friday 10:00 a.m.  Session 214
False Friends: “Translation,” “Adaptation,” or “Creative Interpretation” of the Medieval Text?
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:
eth press
 Chris Piuma, Univ. of Toronto, and David Hadbawnik, Univ. at Buffalo David Hadbawnik
–The Nonce Taxonomies of Translation and Mary Jo Bang’s Inferno. Lisa Ampleman, Univ. of Cincinnati
–The Well of Anachronism: Experimental Translation, Medievalism, and Gender in Contemporary Poetics. Shannon Maguire, Wilfrid Laurier Univ.
–Return to Sender: Re-Flemishing Chaucer’s Flemish Tales in Verhalen voor Canterbury. Jonathan Hsy, George Washington Univ.
–“The harlot is talkative and wandering”: Conduct Literature, Medbh McGuckian, and the Postcolonial Subject. Katharine W. Jager, Univ. of Houston-Downtown

Friday 10:00 a.m. Session 216
Quantum Medievalisms (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:
postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies
Eileen Joy, BABEL Working Group Angela R. Bennett Segler, New York Univ.
–Schroedinger’s Woman. Tara Mendola, New York Univ.
–The Piers Plowman Uncertainty Principle. James Eric Ensley, North Carolina State Univ.
–Bedetimematter. Christopher Roman, Kent State Univ.–Tuscarawas
–Quantum Memory and Medieval Poetics of Forgetting. Jenny Boyar, Univ. of Rochester
–Quantum Queerness. Karma Lochrie, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington

Friday 10:00 a.m.
Session 221
The Neomedieval Image
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:
Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization (MEMO) Carol L. Robinson, Kent State Univ.–Trumbull
Pamela Clements, Siena College
–A Digital Caliphate of Their Own: The Paradox of New Media and Neomedievalism in the New Islamic State. Kevin A. Moberly, Old Dominion Univ., and Brent Addison Moberly, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington
–Gesturing the Neomedieval Image and “Medievalizing” the Gesture. Carol L. Robinson
–Remix Culture and the Neomedieval Videogame. Michael Sarabia, Univ. of Iowa
–(Digital) Geography and the Making of Myth. Lesley A. Coote, Univ. of Hull

Friday 1:30 p.m. Session 259
Critical Mediations (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:
International Society for the Study of Medievalism Amy S. Kaufman, Middle Tennessee State Univ. Amy S. Kaufman
–Le Roman de Jubal Sackett: Louis L’Amour reads Chrétien de Troyes. Cory James Rushton, St. Francis Xavier Univ.
–“What if your future was the past?”: Temporality, Gender and the “Isms” of
Outlander. Leah Haught, Georgia Institute of Technology
–Knighthood and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Identity and Posthuman Medievalism in Sons of Anarchy. Valerie B. Johnson, Georgia Institute of Technology
–Studying Medieval Disabilities in the Post-Modern World. Wendy J. Turner, Georgia Regents Univ.
–Gothic Aesthetics. Dina Khapaeva, Georgia Institute of Technology

Friday 3:30
. Session 314
Political Medievalisms
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:
International Society for the Study of Medievalism Amy S. Kaufman, Middle Tennessee State Univ. Amy S. Kaufman
–“D’Aliénor d’Aquitaine au bûcher de Montségur”: Medievalism and Identity in the Right-Wing Populism of the Ligue du Midi. Michael R. Evans, Central Michigan Univ.
–Blaming William of Ockham: The Far-Right’s Critique of Medieval Nominalism
Daniel Wollenberg, Univ. of Tampa
–Crusades, Templars, and Cyberjihad: Political Medievalisms in Social Media
Andrew B. R. Elliott, Univ. of Lincoln

Saturday 10:00 a.m. Session 370
Metaphysical Medievalisms
Sponsor: International Society for the Study of Medievalism Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Middle Tennessee State Univ. Presider: Carol L. Robinson, Kent State Univ.–Trumbull
–Medieval Elements in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” William Racicot, Independent Scholar
–The Grail, American Fascism, and William Dudley Pelley. Kevin J. Harty, La Salle Univ.
–“Miracle of the Meat”: The Relationship of Medieval Eucharistic Miracles to Eucharistic Miracles in Contemporary Native American Novels. Rebecca Fullan, Graduate Center, CUNY
–The Post-Medieval Reception of Heretical Movements: From Arnold of Brescia to Fra Dolcino. Riccardo Facchini, Univ. Europea di Roma

Saturday 1:30  
Session 442. Bernhard 158
From Frodo to Fidelma: Medievalisms in Popular Genres (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society
Organizer: Helen Young, Univ. of Sydney
Presider: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Oklahoma State Univ.–Stillwater
–Black in Sherwood: Race and Ethnicity in Robin Hood Media. Kris Swank, Pima Community College
–Hedgehogs and Tomb Raiders in King Arthur’s Court: The Influence of
Malory in Adventure Games. Serina Patterson, Univ. of British Columbia
–The Zombie Apocalypse in the Classroom and Medieval Plague. John Marino, Maryville Univ.
–Crimes and Conspiracies in Town and Court: Embodying Late Medieval Life. Candace Robb, Independent Scholar
–Found Footage: The Popular Credibility of the Grimms’ Tales. Thomas R. Leek, Univ. of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
–Arthuriana for Children: Narrative Integrity and the Medieval in Gerald
Morris’s Squires Tales. Alexandra Garner, Bowling Green State Univ.
–Medievalism and the Popular Romance Novel. Geneva Diamond, Albany State Univ.

Saturday 1:30
Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: Sources, Influences, Revisions, Scholarship
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:C. S. Lewis Society, Purdue Univ.; Center for the Study of C. S. Lewis and Friends, Taylor Univ. Joe Ricke, Taylor Univ.

–Ransom as Pilgrim: A Reflection of Dante’s Commedia in Out of the Silent Planet Marsha Daigle-Williamson, Spring Arbor Univ.
–Walking beneath Medieval Skies: C. S. Lewis’s Challenge to Modern Minds. Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
–The Medieval Sources and Inspiration for C. S. Lewis’s Understanding of Self and Society. Hannah Oliver Depp, Politics and Prose Bookstore/American Univ.
–Bridging the Gap between Medieval and Modern Science: The Middle Way of C. S. Lewis. Dennis Fisher, Independent Scholar

Saturday 3:30
.Session 462
Women of the Medieval World/Medieval Women of the World
Sponsor: Organizer: Presider:
Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship (SMFS) Seokyung Han, Binghamton Univ.
Sally Livingston, Ohio Wesleyan Univ.
–Non-Uppity Women Poets of al-Andalus in Their Apartment
Doaa Omran, Univ. of New Mexico
–On the Re-establishment of Gender Roles in Medieval Korea
Seokyung Han
–Same-Sex Intimacies in an Ethiopian Hagiography: The Queer Relations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Female Saint Walatta Petros. Wendy Laura Belcher, Princeton Univ.
–Medieval Feminisms and Antipodean Medievalisms. Elie Crookes, Univ. of Wollongong

Saturday 3:30. Session 496
Teaching Medieval in a General Education Context (A Roundtable)
Organizer: Alison Locke Perchuk, California State Univ.–Channel Islands Presider: Amy Caldwell, California State Univ.–Channel Islands
–Art History. Peter Scott Brown, Univ. of North Florida
–Medieval English Literature. Andrea Harbin, SUNY–Cortland
–Medievalisms and Popular Culture. A. Keith Kelly, Georgia Gwinnett College
–Astronomy. Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
–Vernacular Languages. Marilyn Lawrence, New York Univ.
–Religion. Heidi Marx-Wolf, Univ. of Manitoba
–History. Susan Taylor, Univ. of Houston–Victoria

Saturday 3:30  
Session 501. Bernhard 158
Martin and More: Genre Medievalisms
Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society
Organizer: Helen Young, Univ. of Sydney
Presider: Stephanie Amsel, Southern Methodist Univ.
–Medievalism, Feminism, and “Realism” in Game of Thrones. Kavita Mudan Finn, Southern New Hampshire Univ.
–Save the Cheerleader, Save the World: Yesterday’s Heroism Today. Valerie Dawn Hampton, Western Michigan Univ./Univ. of Florida
–Detectives in the Middle Ages? The (Exceptionally) Popular Genre of Medievalist Crime Fiction. Anne McKendry, Univ. of Melbourne
–White Hats for White Plumes: The Western as Arthurian Romance
Reimagined. Geoffrey B. Elliott, Oklahoma State Univ.–Stillwater

And here is another chance to attend the astrolabe session by Tolkien scholar / astronomer Kristine Larsen:

Friday 9:30 p.m.
A Hands-On Introduction to Astrolabes (A Workshop)
Organizer: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.A hands-on workshop on the basic use of a medieval astrolabe, with examples taken from Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe. Each of the first forty attendees will take home a free cardboard astrolabe.

Tolkien at UVM conference April 10-12


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The 12th Annual Tolkien at University of Vermont conference is just days away.  The conference is free and open to the public. It starts with a Friday night Fireside reading at which participants can get up and read their favorite passages, and continues on Saturday with a day of conference presentations. On Sunday afternoon, the University Tolkien Club organizes a “Springle-Ring Shire Festival” with all kinds of fun activities.

This year’s conference theme is Medieval Verse Narratives, and the keynote speaker is Dr. Michael D.C. Drout, who will be speaking about “Scholarship as Art, Art as Scholarship: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf.”

The other presentations are:

Gerry Blair (Independent Scholar). “J.R.R. Tolkien, Performance Artist and Modern Medievalist.”

Jamie Williamson (University of Vermont). “Verses and Prose: Medieval Narrative, Nineteenth Century Medievalism, and Tolkien.”

Andrew Liptak (Independent Scholar/Norwich University). “Modern Fantasy’s Roots in Medieval Verse.”

Kristine Larsen (Central Connecticut State University). “Guinevere, Grimhild, and the Corrigan: Witches and Bitches in Tolkien’s Medieval Narrative Verse, or, Good Girls Don’t Use Magic (Except if You’re Galadriel, but Elf Magic is Diff erent, and Who Ever Said Galadriel was a Good Girl?)”

Andrew C. Peterson (Harvard). “A Brief Exploration of Tolkien’s Alliterative Verse and Echoes of The Fall of Arthur Heard in Middle-earth”

Christopher Vaccaro (University of Vermont). “’Dyrne langað’: Secret Longing in Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings.”

Anna Smol (Mount Saint Vincent University). “Poetic Time-Travel in The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son

Cheryl Hunter (Independent Scholar). “Beowulf and Thorin as Ancestral Heroes: Their Choices, and the Dragons They Face.”

and Undergraduate Voices

For more information and to view past programs, you can go to the conference website.

Talks on Tolkien: Dawn Walls-Thumma on transformative works


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I had originally announced “Talks on Tolkien” as a winter series, and even though the snow is still slowly melting in my corner of the world, we have passed the spring equinox and the Fall of Sauron, which should be bringing us into a new age. So this post will present the last video in my series for this winter. That doesn’t mean that I won’t post a video here every now and then in the coming months, but I do have to move on to focus on other things.

The previous seven videos I’ve presented here have all featured established scholars who have published books in the field of Tolkien Studies (Flieger, Shippey, Drout, Croft, Garth, Fimi, Rateliff). I thought that for the last video, I would turn to a new scholar — though she is someone with plenty of experience in the area of fandom: Dawn Walls-Thumma, known as Dawn Felagund to some. Dawn’s talk, “Transformative Works  as a Means to Develop Critical Perspectives in the Tolkien Fan Community,” was presented at Mythmoot III in January. If you’re wondering what the term “transformative work” means, here is the definition offered by the Organization for Transformative Works: “A transformative work takes something extant and turns it into something with a new purpose, sensibility, or mode of expression” — in other words, fanfic, vids, artwork by fans can all be classified as transformative works.

In her presentation, Dawn talks about the rise of Tolkien fandom and the development of different fan communities with the advent of Internet fandom. She presents the results of a survey asking people about their experiences in fandom and why they write fanfiction. You can follow along with the super handout that accompanies the talk.

If you’re interested in responding to Dawn’s Tolkien Fan Fiction Survey, she is keeping it open until December. A couple of other sources that she mentions include the OTW Fanlore wiki, which has a Timeline of Tolkien Fandom. She also made use of data from another fan survey by centrumlumina, which you can consult here.

Dawn is currently a Master’s candidate in the Humanities at American Public University where, following Tolkien’s inspirations, she is working on a thesis on Beowulf.  She has presented at the Mythmoot II and Mythmoot III conferences, and will be at the New York Tolkien Conference in June speaking about the historical bias in Tolkien’s works and how this motivates the creation of fan fiction. She recently published an article in Mythprint. On her fan side, Dawn Felagund is the founder and owner of the Silmarillion Writers’ Guild, which just celebrated its tenth anniversary, and a moderator on the Many Paths to Tread archive and Back to Middle-earth Month, an annual event that seeks to promote the creation of Tolkien-based fanworks. You can also find her on Tumblr: dawnfelagund; Twitter: @DawnFelagund; or her blog, the Heretic Loremaster.

If you have a favorite Tolkien fan community or transformative work (or want to mention any other matter) please let us know in the comments!

Other Tolkien videos and podcasts

In selecting the few talks that I’ve featured in the last two months, I’ve had many videos and podcasts to choose from. If you’re looking for more, there are excellent talks in the Tolkien at Oxford podcasts featuring recorded lectures by Dr. Stuart Lee and Dr. Elizabeth Solopova and others. Tolkien in Oxford: A Symposium held at Merton College last November has now posted audio recordings of most of their presentations.

Of course, no series of Tolkien videos or podcasts is complete without the work of Corey Olsen, aka “The Tolkien Professor,” whose Mythgard podcasts are available from his website or iTunes. Mythgard has also recently instituted an online guest lecture series — an excellent idea, especially for people who can’t get to conferences. The first lecture in the series delivered just last week by Dr. Michael Drout on “Lexomic Analysis of Beowulf and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Scholarship on the Poem: A Confluence” is now available in video or audio files. You can also find occasional videos of Mythgard lectures online by Dr. Olsen and others.

This list by no means covers all that there is. For example, I’ve just discovered this audio recording of a lecture delivered in January at Wheaton College by Dr. Olga Lukmanova: “Tolkien in Russia: There and Back Again.” Or you can try a lecture by Dr. Alaric Hall on “Tolkien in Leeds.” There’s so much more out there, but I have to stop myself now as this is getting far too long to be a postscript! Hope you enjoyed the Talks on Tolkien series.

International Tolkien Reading Day: Theme of Friendship


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Today, March 25 (the date of Sauron’s downfall) is Tolkien Reading Day, which originated with the Tolkien Society and finds readers around the world. The Tolkien Society has chosen “friendship” as the theme for 2015.

I hope you will read some Tolkien today. The theme of friendship can be explored in many ways in Tolkien, but if you’re interested in reading more about Tolkien’s handling of male friendships, you can take a look at a couple of articles I’ve written about the subject. The first is titled “ ‘Oh…Oh…Frodo!’: Readings of Male Intimacy in The Lord of the Rings” which was published in the scholarly journal Modern Fiction Studies in 2004. If you have a library subscription to Project Muse you can get it that way, but it’s also available on my Research webpage, or as a pdf download from the link above.

Another essay on the theme is the paper I delivered at the Tolkien 2005 conference in Birmingham, which was published in the Proceedings, The Ring Goes Ever On. A slightly expanded and revised version of that paper is available from my university’s digital repository (the Mount e-Commons) here: “Male Friendship in The Lord of the Rings: Medievalism, The First World War, and Contemporary Rewritings”.

Both of these articles place Tolkien’s representation of friendship in the context of World War I writers and include a look at contemporary fan fiction as an extension of some aspects of that.

A more recent piece has been published in a book edited by Christopher Vaccaro titled The Body in Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on Middle-earth Corporeality (McFarland, 2013). My essay, “Frodo’s Body: Liminality and the Experience of War” focuses on the psychological and physical state of Frodo, once again in the context of war writing, but it also includes a look at the role of his friend Sam. The link above will take you to the pre-publication version of the essay.

Happy Reading Day!

Tolkien Studies at PCA 2015


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Popular Culture Association logoThe Popular Culture Association national conference is just around the corner. After a successful trial run of Tolkien Studies as a special area last year, the organizers have included Tolkien Studies as a regular topic in the annual program. This year features another packed program, once again organized by Robin Reid.

The conference will be held in New Orleans from April 1 – 4. The Tolkien sessions are all on Friday, April 3, with a business meeting on April 4.  If you’re interested, you can join the Facebook group, “Tolkien Studies at Popular Culture/American Culture Association” and/or read my summary of a couple of roundtables last year here and here. And please note that the list of panels below is subject to change — if you plan to go, always check the official program to make sure you have accurate and updated information.  As you can see, the Tolkien Studies sessions occupy a whole day, but if you’re around for the rest of the conference, there’s a huge range of other sessions on popular culture to take in.

Tolkien Studies I: Literary Studies 1
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Room: Studio 7

Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University
“Ore-ganisms”: The Myth and Meaning of ‘Living Rock’ in Middle-earth

Victoria L. Holtz Wodzak, Viterbo University
Tolkien’s Gimpy Heroes: Trench Fever, Missing Limbs, and the Crippling Long-Term Effects of Injury

Margaret Sinex, Western Illinois University
“Nay, not Níniel”: The Wounded Psyche in the Prose Tradition of The Children of Húrin

Tolkien Studies II: Literary Studies 2
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 9:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Room: Studio 7

Megan Whobrey, University of Central Oklahoma
Middle-earth’s Eddaic Hierarchy of Music

John Rosegrant, private practice
The Man-Maiden and the Spider with Horns: Galadriel, Shelob, and the Dyamics of Loss and Gender

Rich Cooper, Texas A&M
From Folk Tale to Fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien, Madame D’Aulnoy, and the Evolution of a Literary Form

Janet Croft, Rutgers University
The Name of the Ring: Or, There and Back Again

Tolkien Studies III: Film and Literary Studies
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room: Studio 7

Steven Kelly, Kansas State University
Forget the Gold: Unpacking Conservative Ideology in Peter Jackson’s Film Adaptations of The Hobbit

Peter Grybauskas, University of Maryland
The Devil’s Due: Sporting Enemies in the Legendarium

David Bratman, Mythopoeic Society
Smith of Wootton Major and Genre Fantasy”

Michael Wodzak, Viterbo University
Utumno Born and Utumno Bred, Strong in t’Arm and Thick in t’Ead:Who are Tom, Bert and Bill Huggins?

Tolkien Studies IV: Film Studies
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Room: Studio 7

Alicia Fox-Lenz, Independent Scholar
The Union between The Two Towers and the Twin Towers: Contemporary Audience Reception and the influence of war on The Lord of the Rings

Jennifer Spirko, Blount County Public Library
Extraordinary Orcs: Distorted Bodies in the films of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Janice Bogstad, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Lineage, Family, and the Absent Mother: Comparing Tolkien’s The Hobbit to the Jackson/Walsh/Boyens Cinematic Renderings

Robin Reid, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Conflicting Audience Receptions of Tauriel in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

Tolkien Studies V: Cultural Studies
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Room: Studio 7

Phillip Fitzsimmons, Southwestern Oklahoma State University
The palantíri Stones in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as Sauron’s Social Media: How to Avoid Getting Poked by the Dark Lord

Devena Holmes, Kent State University
Narration and Description: A Marxist Analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Helen Young, University of Sydney
Playing in the Shadow of Middle-earth

Tolkien Studies VI: New Approaches to Tolkien Studies
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 4:45 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
Room: Studio 7

Brad Eden, Valparaiso University
Preliminary thoughts on the library of Michael H.R. Tolkien

Quinn Gervel, University of Manchester/Ashbury University
Tolkien in Context

Jerem Painter and Michael Elam, Regent University
Orwell and Tolkien: Language and Survelliance in Middle-earth and Oceana

Michael Elam, Regent University
Storming the Ivory Tower: Tolkien’s Graduate-Program Possibilities

Tolkien Studies VII:  Roundtable
Friday, April 3, 2015 – 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Room: Studio 7
“In a hole in the ground there lived a fangirl”: The Complications of Tolkien, Fandom, and The Hobbit
Cait Coker Texas A&M; Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University; Robin Reid, Texas A&M, Commerce

Tolkien Studies VIII:  Viewing of Desolation of Smaug extended edition
Friday, April 3, 2015.  8:15 p.m.
Room: Studio 7

Tolkien Studies IX: Business meeting
Saturday, April 4, 2015.  9:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Room:  Galerie I

Talks on Tolkien: John D. Rateliff, the Hobbit manuscripts, and Tolkien archives


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One of the most exciting parts of scholarly research, in my opinion, is having the opportunity to read an original manuscript. This week’s “Talk on Tolkien” features the work of Dr. John D. Rateliff, who is an expert in Tolkien’s Hobbit manuscripts. Dr. Rateliff has studied Tolkien’s drafts and revisions of The Hobbit and these versions, along with Rateliff’s commentaries and notes, have been published in the two-volume History of The Hobbit. Recently, Dr. Rateliff announced that a shorter one-volume edition is forthcoming as well, a Brief History of the Hobbit. You can follow Dr. Rateliff’s work on his blog, Sacnoth’s Scriptorium, and on his website.

Although the video below is not a recording of a complete talk, it allows us to listen in on the question period after a presentation that Dr. Rateliff gave in 2012 at Marquette University, the home of The Hobbit manuscripts. You can hear all kinds of intriguing details in the video about Tolkien’s habits of revision, surprises in the manuscripts, different versions of The Hobbit, and more.

Dr. Rateliff talks about how Tolkien would often write on scraps of paper, including exam papers. Tolkien tells the story of how the first line of The Hobbit came to him one day as he was marking exams. Rateliff’s History of The Hobbit notes that this page does not survive, but here is Tolkien himself describing the moment in this brief clip:

I’ve found that people are sometimes surprised that all of Tolkien’s papers aren’t at Oxford where he was a professor for most of his life. But in fact, manuscripts of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Mr. Bliss, and Farmer Giles of Ham are all in the US at Marquette University (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) in the J.R.R. Tolkien Collection  How did they get there, you might well ask? Listen to the Marquette archivist, William Fliss, explain:

I’ve spent a number of happy hours in the Tolkien archives at Marquette, although my experience is a mere glimpse compared to the years that Dr. Rateliff studied there. I’ve felt quite privileged being able to work in the bright and peaceful reading room of the archive, aided by the very helpful staff and surrounded by stacks of grey boxes filled with treasures.

Marquette Archives reading room

Marquette Archives reading room

For anyone wondering about what’s in the J.R.R.Tolkien Collection, you can check out their descriptive inventory of holdings. Aside from Tolkien’s manuscripts, the Collection is especially rich in periodical literature dealing with Tolkien. If you are interested in popular culture, the reception of Tolkien’s works, the history of fandom and zines, screen treatments and adaptations, take a look at this list of sources in the Collection’s periodical literature. I reported on a roundtable discussing various scholars’ experiences (including my own) with the archives at the Popular Culture Association last year.

The other major archive holding Tolkien materials, as might be expected, is at Oxford in the modern manuscripts collection. Here you can find some manuscript drafts of Tolkien’s work, such as The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, as well as lectures, notebooks, translations, letters. Anyone with a chance to visit Oxford should definitely take an opportunity to tour the old and wonderful Bodleian Library, including the Duke Humphrey’s reading room (better known as the library in the Harry Potter movies).

But Tolkien’s papers are actually held in what was called the New Bodleian across the street from the old library. Scholars used to work in a fairly cramped reading room. You would check your bags at the door and after showing your reader’s pass proceed down a rather dark corridor into a long, crowded room at the end of the hall. Rows of tables seemed to be squeezed into the space between bookshelves, files, microfilm readers, and librarians’ desks. I think I remember windows, but if I recall correctly, they were rather high up on the wall and did not provide a view. But who cared when you were sitting there and handed a Tolkien manuscript to read! I spent many an hour in that room squinting at Tolkien’s scrawl and then typing at a furious pace to transcribe as much of what I was reading as possible before closing time.

That library has undergone an extensive renovation and has just recently opened to scholars and now to the public, renamed as the Weston Library. From the look of some videos and news reports the rooms are light and spacious — and apparently you can even buy a cup of coffee there! I can’t wait to go back — I hope very soon. The following video presents the mind-boggling massive extent of the Bodleian’s operations and includes a look at the new Weston building:

Anyone have any experiences or memories of archival work they’d like to share? Has anyone visited these or any other archives holding Tolkien materials?

Talks on Tolkien: Dimitra Fimi on Folklore and “Sellic Spell”


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My weekly “Talks on Tolkien” series continues with a video presentation by Dimitra Fimi. Dr. Fimi was part of the Beowulf Launch Party organized by the Tolkien Society and Middle-earth Network last spring, when Tolkien’s Beowulf and other related texts were first published. Dr. Fimi’s talk is a little different from my previous video selections in that she is not reading a paper to a live audience at a conference. The Launch Party was an online event featuring several commentators throughout the day who were giving their first impressions of the Beowulf publication. If you’re interested, the other recordings from that day are also worth a look.

One reason I chose this talk was to highlight the fact that the publication of Tolkien’s Beowulf includes more than just his translation of and commentary on the poem — intriguing as that is to Old English and Tolkien scholars. Dr. Fimi’s presentation focuses on one of the texts included with Tolkien’s Beowulf translation: a folktale called “Sellic Spell” (which can be translated as “wondrous tale”) that Tolkien wrote in both modern English and in Old English. The other text that’s included in the volume is a poem, or two versions of a poem, titled “The Lay of Beowulf” which is written in rhyming stanzaic form, very different from the original Old English alliterative meter.

The publication of these texts has given us not only Tolkien’s translation of the Old English poem Beowulf (an interesting research topic in its own right), but also adaptations of the Beowulf story in different genres — ripe material for analysis! Further, I believe that Tolkien’s rendition of  “Sellic Spell” in Old English warrants study of his ability to think and write in Old English. In the following video, Fimi outlines another approach to the story through the lens of folklore research.

Dimitra Fimi is the author of Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits, published in 2008, which won the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies and was shortlisted for the Folklore Society’s Katharine Briggs Award. She is a Lecturer in English at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Recently, she filmed two short videos for a BBC iWonder guide on Why do the Elves in The Hobbit sound Welsh? You can find out more about her videos and interviews on her website’s Media page, or follow her blog or her Twitter account: @Dr_Dimitra_Fimi.

To read “Sellic Spell” or “The Lay of Beowulf” you’ll have to buy Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary. But if you’re interested in the original poem itself, you can listen to a few lines of it on Michael Drout’s Anglo-Saxon Aloud website. The poem exists in a single manuscript called Cotton Vitellius A. XV, held in the British Library. You can find information about the manuscript in the British Library’s Online Gallery, and you can also leaf through the digitised manuscript (go to f.132r to see the beginning of Beowulf).

Adaptations of Beowulf have proliferated since the late nineteenth century in books for children and adults, and more recently as films. Some of you may know the 2005 Beowulf and Grendel movie, or more likely, the 2007 Robert Zemeckis version featuring Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s Mother. I especially enjoy the 1998 animated version made for TV featuring Derek Jacobi and Joseph Fiennes, which you can view below. It’s just one among many examples of Beowulf adaptations — and now we have more of Tolkien’s work that can be examined as part of this rich store of material.

If you have any favorite Beowulf adaptations, or if you want to say something about “Sellic Spell,” let us know in the comments!

Talks on Tolkien: John Garth and Tolkien’s Great War


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This week’s “Talk on Tolkien” features the historical, biographical, and literary research of John Garth, who continues to dig into Tolkien’s early years, the beginnings of his mythology, and his experiences in the First World War. Garth’s book, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, published in 2003, won the Mythopoeic Award for Inklings Scholarship and has been translated into five languages so far. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the experiences of Tolkien and his friends in the war and for tracing the early stages of Tolkien’s writings.

Recently, Garth has published more new research in his booklet Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford Undergraduate Created Middle-earth, which presents a vivid picture of Tolkien’s friendships and activities while a student at Oxford. You can find more of Garth’s research in other publications, but one good place for keeping up with his work is his blog, which features reviews and news of his ongoing research.

Although I don’t have a video recording of a complete talk by John Garth, the following presents some intriguing highlights from his presentation at the Tolkien Society‘s Oxonmoot in September 2014. In this video, Garth talks about Tolkien’s early writings, “The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star” and his “Story of Kullervo.” Some additional details can be found in Garth’s blog post, “Middle-earth turns 100.”

If you want to hear a complete talk by John Garth, and you are lucky enough to be within reach, he will be speaking at the Hudson Library and Historical Society in Hudson, Ohio on March 3 and at Sam Houston State University in Texas on March 25.

In the video clip above, John Garth sets Tolkien’s early writings against a backdrop of war. You can also hear him speaking more about this subject in the following documentary, “Tolkien’s Great War,” (Elliander Pictures), which provides an excellent account of Tolkien’s early life, his friendships at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, the way in which he and his friends faced the Great War, as well as some observations about how Tolkien’s war experiences influenced his writing. This beautifully filmed documentary provides a glimpse into the kind of research that informs John Garth’s various publications.

Tolkien’s Great War by Elliander Pictures <> on Vimeo.

You can find John Garth on Facebook:; on Twitter: @JohnGarthWriter; or, as I mentioned above, on his website: or blog:


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