Teaching Tolkien’s Works: new book and journal

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Approaches to Teaching Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings & Other Works Approaches to Teaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Other Works is a volume of essays published by the MLA (Modern Language Association) in their Approaches to Teaching World Literature series. The book, to be released tomorrow, August 1st, is edited by Leslie Donovan, and contains essays on teaching Tolkien’s works in various programs and course levels. I’m planning to post the Table of Contents as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

I have an essay in the book, “Teaching Tolkien in the First-Year Literature Survey Course,” which is based on my experience in teaching a section of English 1171 in my department here at Mount Saint Vincent University. In this course, I teach Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring in the context of other works in the English literary tradition. (For an upper-level course dealing with more of Tolkien’s works, you can check out my English 4475: Tolkien and Myth-making webpage).

Associated with the release of this book is a new digital journal for Tolkien teachers:  Waymeet for Tolkien Teachers: a digital journal for teaching J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and life in post-secondary schools. The journal is starting to gather materials under links for Syllabi, Class Materials, Online Resources, Articles, Publications, and a discussion Forum. In the journal you can find the syllabus for my 2014 version of English 1171, “Introduction to Literature: Reading Historically.” The journal also contains my research paper assignment from that class, simply titled “100-level research paper” under the Class Materials > Formal Assignments link.

Take a look at the rich resources already being posted on Waymeet: materials on teaching Tolkien’s works in courses on medieval and modern studies, myth, war, children’s literature, science. I think that this journal and the MLA book will become a valuable source of inspiration, tips, techniques, and materials for anyone teaching Tolkien’s works in universities and colleges. I’m definitely looking forward to browsing through the materials before my next round of teaching Tolkien.

You can pre-order the Approaches to Teaching book from Amazon in the US, Canada, or the UK or from the MLA bookstore.

A Look Back at The New York Tolkien Conference

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New York Tolkien Conference banner. Image by Luke Spooner

banner image by Luke Spooner

When I heard that a Tolkien conference was going to be held in New York City last month, of course I paid attention, as I find any reason to visit New York a welcome one. When I investigated further and saw the list of presenters — Janet Brennan Croft, Kristine Larsen, Nicholas Birns, Laura Lee Smith, Chris Vaccaro, Dawn Walls-Thumma, and others who kept getting added to the roster —  I was convinced I had to go. The conference gave me a great opportunity to talk about my research on Tolkien’s art, and I was also pleased to be invited to participate in the Women in Middle-earth roundtable (more on my sessions below). Plus, as with most conferences, it was a chance to catch up with friends and meet new people.

Organized by Anthony Burdge and Jessica Burke, the conference featured Janet Brennan Croft as the Scholar Guest of Honour. Janet’s keynote, “Barrel-Rides and She-Elves: Audience and ‘Anticipation’ in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy,” started off the day’s proceedings. Janet pointed out the challenges that Jackson faced in making The Hobbit, which is supposed to be a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but was made after what is supposed to be its sequel. Following me? If not, you can always look up a version of Janet’s talk, complete with diagrams illustrating the internal and composition chronologies of versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, here.

Janet Brennan Croft

Janet Brennan Croft, Scholar Guest of Honour. photo K. Larsen

Janet used Tolkien’s criticisms of Zimmerman’s screenplay as a way of discussing some of Jackson’s issues in trying to make The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a seamless sequence, including problems of tone, audience, plot structure, and characterization.

After the plenary, it was time to disperse to various sessions. The conference call for papers had elicited so many presentations for this one-day event that the speakers had to be divided into four or five concurrent sessions for every timeslot. I found myself wishing that I could be in two or three places at any one time throughout the day. Luckily, two of the sessions were taped and posted online, so if you were in another room or just stayed at home, you can still listen to Dawn Walls-Thumma talking about “The Loremasters of Feanor: Historical Bias in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Transformative Works.” This link will take you to a page that also includes the text of her talk and the slides that she showed. The other taped session was “History and Technique: Sourcing the Arms, Armor, and Fighting Techniques of Middle-earth” featuring Rebecca Glass and Kat Fanning (if you follow the link, you’ll have to scroll down the page to their video).

Kristine Larsen in the Women in Middle-earth panel. photo C. Vaccaro

Kristine Larsen in the Women in Middle-earth panel. photo C. Vaccaro

Chris Vaccaro NY Tolkien Conference 2015

Chris Vaccaro talking about Beowulf. photo K. Larsen

I attended two regular sessions other than my own. First up was Kristine Larsen‘s paper, “‘While the World Lasted’: End Times in Tolkien’s Works.” Kristine talked about Tolkien’s references to the end of the world, mainly in The History of Middle-earth, The Fall of Arthur, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, and commented on the prevalence of this theme in his work in the 1930s. Chris Vaccaro‘s presentation on “Affection Between Men in Tolkien’s Beowulf” took a look at the way in which a phrase from Beowulf, “dyrne longath,” has been rendered by many different translators, with interpretations varying widely: do the words refer to deep feelings? secret longings? affection? Chris looked at departure scenes in Beowulf and in Tolkien’s work in the light of this phrase.

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien

It was certainly a day packed with ideas and events. I was part of the Women in Middle-earth roundtable discussion along with Janet Brennan Croft, Jessica Burke, Rebecca Glass, and Kristine Larsen. We had a free-ranging discussion about various characters, our first-time reactions as readers and/or movie-goers, and critics’ views of women in Tolkien’s works. One of my points (based on a lecture I had heard recently) echoed the concerns that Janet and her co-editor, Leslie Donovan, express in their recently published anthology, Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien  — that any literary critic who wants to talk about women in Tolkien’s life and work should be informed about previous and current research on the topic. That doesn’t mean that they have to agree with other critics’ opinions, but they shouldn’t just repeat cliches or make statements as if they are the first to look into the question without investigating further. I recommend this book for its combination of older essays and new research for anyone interested in the topic of women.

I was scheduled to give my paper in the last regular session, and thankfully even near the end of a very full day some people showed up and offered interesting comments and questions. My presentation, “‘If you’re a vivid visualizer’: Words and Images in Tolkien’s Sub-creative Process,” extends some of the research that my colleague Jeff MacLeod and I have been doing on Tolkien’s artwork and his visual imagination and style. (We have one essay published, “A Single Leaf: Tolkien’s Visual Art and Fantasy,” and another one on Tolkien’s painterly style that has just been submitted to a journal). My basic question for this presentation was: what can a manuscript sketch such as the Tower of Kirith Ungol (still spelled with a “K” at this point) tell us about Tolkien’s process of composition? How do words and images interact in Tolkien’s drafting of the story?

Tower of Kirith Ungol sketch

Tower of Kirith Ungol sketch

You can find this image in Hammond and Scull’s book, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, and in The History of Middle-earth, the Sauron Defeated volume. I’ve also been fortunate enough to look at a digital scan of the manuscript at the Marquette University Tolkien archive. In my presentation, I talked about the placement of the sketch on the page, the sequence of pencil and pen drafting, and the effect on the wording of Tolkien’s draft of the story at this point.

Here I am talking about Tolkien's painterly style

Here I am talking about Tolkien’s painterly style (though it looks like I’m demonstrating the height of Durin’s folk)

To set up the ideas for this manuscript examination, I showed examples of Tolkien’s artwork and talked about how he is a “vivid visualizer.” This opening quotation in my presentation title comes from “The Notion Club Papers,” an unfinished story that you can find in Sauron Defeated. In this time-travel story, Tolkien describes characters with different talents: some are vivid visualizers, others have a predilection for words and languages. Sometimes in the story those two abilities working together enhance the characters’ understanding. I talked about how a sketch like the Tower of Kirith Ungol shows this close interplay of words and images in Tolkien’s creative process.

To round off our busy day, we had one closing plenary session. A copy of the 2005 Ring Goes Ever On conference proceedings * was given to Baruch College librarian Chris Tuthill as a gift from the Tolkien Society’s Tolkien to the World program. Then we sat back and listened to the Minstrel Guest of Honour, John diBartolo and The Lonely Mountain Band, who provided some lively music to close out the fellowship of the day. You can sample their music from the links on the conference blog. By the end of it all, Anthony and Jessica’s question about whether they should make this a regular event was met with an enthusiastic yes.

at the New York Tolkien Conference, Baruch College

New York Tolkien Conference, Baruch College

You can read abstracts of all the presentations here. For accounts of different paths through the program from mine, you can read Myla Malinalda’s description of the sessions that she attended on Middle-earth News or Dawn Walls-Thumma’s report for the Signum Eagle newsletter,The New York Tolkien Conference: Friends and Fellowship. And if you’re interested in knowing about future meetings, you should subscribe to the conference blog, follow @herenistarion on Twitter, or join the Facebook group.

Although the conference was only a one-day event, I did extend my stay in New York by a few days. Accompanied by my daughter, we took full advantage of the city: we visited museums (the Frick, the Guggenheim, a few galleries in the Met); we went boating in Central Park and walked on the High Line; we saw a play, Skylight; a musical, An American in Paris; a performance by the Alvin Ailey dance company; and we took advantage of free Shakespeare in the Park tickets to see The Tempest. Add to that a day of Tolkien fellowship — well, that’s not bad for a four-day trip.


*Among the many essays in the 2005 Ring Goes Ever On volumes donated to Baruch College you can find an essay by Kristine Larsen, “‘A Little Earth of His Own’: Tolkien’s Lunar Creation Myths” and one by me: “Male Friendship in The Lord of the Rings: Medievalism, the First World War, and Contemporary Rewritings,” which you can read here.

Please feel free to comment on your own experiences at the conference or to provide links to any other accounts of the event that you know of. Or just tell us your thoughts!

Ahhh, Oxford!

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OxfordI love Oxford. I have no idea what it’s like to be a student there or a member of faculty. I don’t know what it’s like to be a resident (expensive, I’m guessing, if I’m to believe Kirstie and Phil*). But as a visiting academic / tourist, I love it. This is where I can walk through medieval streets to the Bodleian Library, where over the years I have been privileged to read Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, Elizabeth Elstob‘s notebook and books, and Tolkien’s unpublished drafts and lectures. This is where I can stroll by the house in which Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings or order a beer in the Eagle and Child pub, which was a regular meeting place for Tolkien and his friends. The parks, the river, the colleges — they all make for a lovely sojourn in which the daily duties of the regular academic term can be traded for the pleasures of concentrated research.

I finally returned to Oxford, after more years than I could believe, for a week in June. Academic attire in OxfordUnfortunately, I could not schedule my research trip to take advantage of Peter Jackson’s visit to Oxford, which I missed by a couple of weeks. Oh well. I had plenty of other things to enjoy, such as the Bodleian Library’s Marks of Genius exhibit. Here, you can see Shakespeare’s First Folio, the Magna Carta, Blake’s Songs of Innocence, Mary Shelley’s journal, fragments of Sappho’s poetry, and so much more. But of course, a main attraction for me was Tolkien’s dust-jacket design for The Hobbit, complete with marginal notes to the publisher. It’s fantastic to be able to see some of Tolkien’s original artwork, as his pictures are under extra restricted access in the archive.

Stairs to the reading room, Weston Library

Stairs to the reading room, Weston Library

The Marks of Genius exhibit, which runs to September 20, is displayed in the newly renovated Weston Library, formerly known as the New Bodleian. This building has now been partially opened up to the public, with a wide-open entrance off Broad Street leading into a spacious entrance hall, shop, and cafe. Even better, the modern manuscripts reading room, where the Tolkien manuscripts are consulted, is just around the corner and up the stairs (you need a reader’s pass to get into this part of the library though **). I’ve written about the experience of working in the old reading room; I was not disappointed by the new one, which is a large space, with full-length windows between bookshelves all down one wall, and beautifully restored elements from the original 1930s building: a stunning carved wood ceiling, massive chandeliers at either end of the room, broad tables with a mix of re-upholstered old chairs and the newly designed Bodleian chairs. I was told that even some of the wastepaper containers were refurbished wood. Another welcome addition is the Headley Tea Room for staff and readers — when hours of squinting at Tolkien’s handwriting was taking its toll, I could pop down to the Tea Room for a stiff Americano to wake me up and fuel a few more hours of manuscript transcription.

on the way to the Library

On the way to the Library

What I was mainly reading during this visit were Tolkien’s lectures and notes on Old English poetry and versification. I’m interested in Tolkien’s verse drama, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, which he wrote very carefully in alliterative meter. It’s fascinating to follow the evolution of this play from its earliest drafts, when Tolkien was playing with the Battle of Maldon story initially by writing in iambic meter, then switching to alliterative verse. I’ve given conference presentations on this play a few times already, pointing out how scrupulous yet creative Tolkien was in his use of the meter and how he used his retelling of the story to work out some scholarly and poetic ideas of his. It’s now way past the time when I should have produced a final written version of my ideas, and I hope I’ll be able to report soon that an article will be forthcoming.

Oxford, looking to the Radcliffe Camera

Looking towards the Radcliffe Camera (part of the Bodleian Library)

While in Oxford, I was also thinking a lot about Tolkien’s unfinished story, “The Notion Club Papers,” partly because I was looking ahead to my talk at the New York Tolkien Conference, where I was going directly from Oxford and where I was going to talk about the story. Whenever I can, I like to stay at a bed & breakfast at 100 Banbury Road, not only because it’s a nice B&B just around the corner from Tolkien’s former home on Northmoor Road, but also because Tolkien mentions that address in “The Notion Club Papers.” (I’m still puzzling out why that particular address).

This is an unusual story for Tolkien because it’s set in twentieth-century Oxford and features a group of men who meet regularly to read and discuss their work, much like the Inklings did. Even so, it features strange visions, new languages, time travel, lots of talk about dreams and myths, bits of Old English. It’s fun to stand in the same place as the characters and look at the same landmarks, such as the Radcliffe Camera. Most of my photos of Oxford were taken on sunny days, but one particular day that threatened rain seemed the perfect moment to envision the storms and “great wind” about to sweep over Oxford in “The Notion Club Papers.”

Most of the time, though, the weather was fine, and after a satisfying day at the library, it was a pleasure to take leisurely paths back to my hotel through University Parks or around Christ Church Meadow. The week, of course, went by far too quickly.

Oxford, punting on the river.

*Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer are the hosts of the TV show Location, Location, Location. Yes, I am a fan of real estate shows, and especially this one, which lets me peek into British homes. [back]

**If you’re interested in doing scholarly research in the Bodleian, you should look at the Library’s information page about getting a reader’s card. To work with Tolkien’s manuscripts, you’ll also need permission from the Tolkien Estate lawyer; the Library staff can advise you on this matter. [back]

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,
SanctuaryPoet.net; 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

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