New winter series: Talks on Tolkien

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In my corner of the world, cold winds are lashing up rainstorms and snowfalls for the start of the new year: good days to stay cozy at home, to read, think, and write. To accompany any reading or re-reading of Tolkien in this winter season, I thought that it would be fun to highlight every weekend a podcast or video featuring a different Tolkien scholar: a “Talks on Tolkien” series. Some of the videos and podcasts will be recent; others buried a little further in the files of the web, but all, I hope, thought-provoking and informative.

Because I’m posting the first selection late in this weekend, I’ll keep it short, a twenty-minute video by a foremost Tolkien scholar, Verlyn Flieger, who is one of my favorite critics. In this talk, “Imaginary Creatures — Real Experience,” Professor Flieger, I believe, gets to the core of The Lord of the Rings and argues that it is not the simplistic good vs. evil story many people think it is.

Recently, an opposing opinion has been expressed by the writer Michael Moorcock in an interview on Dr. Karl Siegfried’s Norse Mythology Blog. In Part Two of that interview, Moorcock says that “it’s the simplification, rejection of the world’s complexity, that discomforts me with Tolkien.” Take a look at Moorcock’s argument; listen to Flieger’s in the video. Let me know what you think!

(In case you can’t see the video on your device, try this link: http://youtu.be/q87vHzNFadU)

Coming up in the next few weeks: talks by Tom Shippey, Michael Drout, Dimitra Fimi, John Garth, Janet Brennan Croft, Corey Olsen, Elizabeth Solopova, Stuart Lee, and more. Check back every Friday or Saturday for the next installment of “Talks on Tolkien.”  And please note: my intention is to curate a series of already-available resources online; I’m not planning on producing any new talks on Tolkien, though I do hope I can suggest some interesting contexts for my selections.

You can find out more about Verlyn Flieger’s work on her website, mythus.com.

Comments / discussions are welcome!

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Tolkien in Vermont 2015

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Tolkien in Vermont conferenceTolkien in Vermont is a conference that is now heading into its twelfth year. A call for papers has been posted recently by the organizer, Chris Vaccaro, who promises that details about the conference will appear soon on the Tolkien in Vermont website. The CFP is copied below, or you can find it here.

I’ve always found this conference to be a small and friendly gathering where you can meet and mingle with all of the participants — students, fans, independent scholars, faculty alike. This year’s keynote speaker, in keeping with the conference theme of medieval verse narratives, is Michael Drout.

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Call for papers:

April 10-11
Tolkien in Vermont conference
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT

The theme for this year is Medieval Verse Narratives. Papers on every subject will be considered; however, the following subjects will be prioritized: Beowulf, The Fall of Arthur, Sigurd and Gudrun, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Pearl, and Sir Orfeo.

Please submit an abstract or (preferably) a complete paper by Sunday, February 1st. Decisions will follow swiftly thereafter. Papers should be ten pages in length.

We are very excited to announce that Michael Drout (Professor, Wheaton College) will be this year’s keynote speaker!

contact email:  cvaccaro@uvm.edu

Jackson’s Lost Opportunity: The Death of Sister-Sons

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Thorin Fili Kili banner

Thorin, Fili, Kili banner. TheOneRing.net

I enjoy many things about Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films – the material realization of various Middle-earth cultures, the creation of the best movie dragon I’ve ever seen, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, to name only a few – but of course Jackson is not making the films specifically for me, a medievalist with a love of Tolkien’s work. As such, I had hoped that Jackson would have given us a resonant scene focusing on an uncle and his nephews — Thorin, Fili, and Kili — making their heroic last stand in battle together. There is a long tradition of the special relationship between “sister-sons” and their uncles in medieval literature that Tolkien refers to in The Hobbit. Working out that relationship to its traditional end would have inserted Jackson’s scene more firmly in a body of stories about these deeply embedded emotional relationships that are a part of western Europe’s cultural history.[1]

Now wait a minute, you might be saying to yourself. Jackson [2] clearly indicates a strong relationship between Thorin and his nephews, and their death scenes in The Battle of the Five Armies are somewhat connected and set apart from others. Yes, but not exactly in the traditional way I’m talking about.

In The Hobbit, Tolkien simply reports, “Of the twelve companions of Thorin, ten remained. Fili and Kili had fallen defending him with shield and body, for he was their mother’s elder brother.” (“The Return Journey,” The Hobbit 268).[3] Yes, they defend each other because they’re family, but more specifically because Fili and Kili are Thorin’s “sister-sons” (sweostor sunu in Old English).

Fili, Kili

Fili, Kili. Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Image 235

Uncle-nephew relationships, and sometimes even more precisely maternal uncle-nephew relationships (therefore, “sister-sons”), are frequently represented as a special bond in medieval literature. In Beowulf, the poet alludes to the story of Sigemund, êam (maternal uncle) to Fitela (line 881), and how they fought together in times of need. In line 115 of the Old English poem “The Battle of Maldon,” Wulfmær, one of the fallen warriors, is identified as the lord’s swuster sunu. Tolkien recognizes the appropriateness of Wulfmær’s place near his uncle in the verse drama “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son,” which is based on “The Battle of Maldon.”  In this play, two men are searching after the battle for the body of their lord when one of them finds Wulfmær:

This head we know!
Wulfmær it is. I’ll wager aught
not far did he fall from friend and master.

His companion answers:

His sister-son! The songs tell us,
ever near shall be at need nephew to uncle.  (“Homecoming” 127)

Other uncle-nephew relationships can be found in Charlemagne and Roland, Hrothgar and Hrothulf, Arthur and Gawain. The relationship isn’t always positive; in some stories, Mordred is Arthur’s sister-son, which makes his treachery even worse. Théoden and Éomer or Turgon and Maeglin provide some other examples in Tolkien’s work. Verlyn Flieger explains how we can even see the Bilbo-Frodo relationship in this light. [4]

So what does Jackson do with the uncle-nephew bond? In The Battle of the Five Armies, Thorin welcomes Fili and Kili to the kingdom of Erebor, addressing them as his “sister’s sons.” In Jackson’s movies the young dwarves Fili and Kili refer to Thorin as their uncle, and in The Desolation of Smaug Thorin tells Fili that one day he will be king.[5] In The Battle of the Five Armies, when Thorin finally bursts out of the mountain gate to join the battle, the two warriors running closest to him on either side are Fili and Kili. In their last fight, Thorin calls Dwalin, Fili, and Kili to go with him in an attempt to take down Azog. Gandalf comments that Thorin is taking his best fighters with him. In Old English they would be called his heorð-geneatas, his “hearth-companions,” a small group of noble, well-trained fighters who are closest to their lord, and it is reasonable to think that the young and courageous nephews would be among them. Fili and Kili, then, are appropriately represented as sister-sons in most of Jackson’s Hobbit.

But the uncle-nephew bond dissipates in their final scenes. While Tolkien recognizes in “The Homecoming” that “ever near shall be at need nephew to uncle,” in The Battle of the Five Armies the nephews end up nowhere near their uncle in a time of need. Instead, Thorin sends Fili and Kili away to hunt for Azog, and then the two nephews split up in separate searches as well. Fili is killed in the sight of both of his kinsmen (we don’t see him fighting heroically to the end; he’s just skewered and then thrown over a cliff) but both Thorin and Kili are too far away to do anything about that attack. Uncle and nephew cannot stand and defend each other. The killing of Fili enrages Kili, who runs off in a passionate Orc-killing spree, but his end is complicated by the arrival of Tauriel.

Now, I have to make clear that I do not object in principle to the creation of new characters like Tauriel. But her involvement in Kili’s last fight obscures the uncle-nephew bond that defines Thorin and his sister-sons. Instead of Thorin, Fili, and Kili fighting side-by-side until they are cut down, we get a different trio: Kili-Tauriel-Legolas defending each other. Kili’s last look is not to his uncle but to Tauriel; his uncle is too far away to be part of the scene. The special bond of an uncle with his nephews who “had fallen defending him with shield and body,” is nowhere to be seen.

Peter Jackson knows how to film emotional battle scenes, as he demonstrated in The Return of the King: sweeping music, slow motion, the melee of battle, the depiction of personal anguish.

Return of the King battle scenes

from Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library. Return of the King. Aragorn, Image 1808; Eowyn with Theoden, Image 1811; Eomer with Eowyn, Image 1846

Had Jackson completed the Hobbit story with a heroic last stand of uncle and nephews fighting side-by-side on the battlefield, their tale would have participated in a long tradition of sister-son stories and allowed us to feel the emotional impact of that relationship in a visceral way.

Thorin, Kili

Thorin, Kili. Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library. The Hobbit: trailers. Image 326.

Too bad the opportunity was lost so close to the end of the movie.

Endnotes

[1] These uncle-nephew relationships are important in other cultures beyond the European, but I am only familiar with the northern European literary uncle-nephew motif. It is likely that the practice of fostering high-born children – having a son educated in his uncle’s home, for example – contributed to the motif in medieval literature.

[2] I use “Jackson” throughout as shorthand. Although he was the director of the Hobbit movies, he was not the only writer. The full writing team consists of Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Guillermo del Toro, who gets a writing credit for his involvement with the project in its earlier stages.

[3] Tolkien inserted this line about Fili and Kili dying in defense of their uncle late in the process of composition. According to John Rateliff: “The idea that the two most likeable of all Bilbo’s companions should also die in the battle…first appears in the continuation of the typescript that eventually (autumn 1936) replaced the Third Phase manuscript” (684, n. 11). Rateliff also points out that Thorin was originally Fili and Kili’s great-uncle, but Tolkien later moved him one generation closer. (See, for example, Rateliff  444 – 445, note 11). In Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings, in the section on “Durin’s Folk,” Thorin appears in the genealogy as Fili and Kili’s uncle (1418).

[4] Verlyn Flieger discusses the Bilbo-Frodo kinship in the light of the uncle-nephew motif in her essay, “Frodo and Aragorn: The Concept of the Hero.” The essay has been reprinted in a couple of places, including Flieger’s collected essays in Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien. Kent State University Press, 2012 and in the 2004 volume, Understanding the Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism, edited by Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs, published by Houghton Mifflin and partly available as a Google e-book.

[5] Rateliff comments on the line of succession in Tolkien’s conception of the Dwarves’ patriarchal line of kings which excludes the maternal nephews (704). In the early Middle Ages, young relatives in the maternal line might succeed a ruler; it is interesting that in this detail Jackson is closer to early medieval practice than the book.

Works Cited

Flieger, Verlyn. “Frodo and Aragorn: The Concept of the Hero.” Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien. Kent State University Press, 2012. 141-58. Print. Also available in Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism. Ed. Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 122-45. Print and Google e-book.

Jackson, Peter, dir. The Battle of the Five Armies. New Line Cinema, 2014. Film.

____. The Desolation of Smaug.  New Line Cinema, 2013. Film.

Klaeber’s Beowulf. Ed. R.D. Fulk, Robert E. Bjork, and John D. Niles. 4th ed. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2009. Print.

Rateliff, John D.  The History of the Hobbit. 2 Vols. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

The Battle of Maldon: Hypertext Edition.” Old English Literature: A Hypertext Course Pack. English Faculty, Oxford. 2009. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library. 2 Oct. 2014. Screenshots. 14 Jan. 2015.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Hobbit: Trailers.” Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library. Jul – Nov 2014. Screenshots. 14 Jan. 2015.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library. n.d. Screenshots. 14 Jan. 2015.

Thorin, Fili and Kili Banner in Super High-Resolution.” TheOneRing.net. 22 Nov. 2014. JPEG. 14 Jan. 2015.

Tolkien, J.R.R. “Durin’s Folk.” Appendix A.iii. Return of the King, being the third part of The Lord of the Rings. London: HarperCollins, 2007. 1406-19. Print.

_____. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. London: HarperCollins, 1999. Print.

_____.  “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son.” Tree and Leaf, including the poem Mythopoeia. London: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.

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MLA citation of this post:  Smol, Anna. “Jackson’s Lost Opportunity: The Death of Sister-Sons.” A Single Leaf.  16 Jan 2015. Web.  [insert date of access here without brackets].

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What did you think of these final scenes in the film? Any other examples of sister-sons that you want to discuss or add?  Please feel free to comment!

An imagined dystopian LotR film

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Today I have a post that combines my interests in both Tolkien and pedagogy.

In one of my English courses, Studies in Medievalism: Tolkien and Myth-making, I ask students to read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and some of the medieval literature that influenced him. We also consider later adaptations of Tolkien’s fiction in various media. As part of this cultural study of contemporary fandom and myth-making, students have the option of producing their own adaptation of Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories, accompanied by a researched analysis that relates their project to critical discussions of adaptation, fandom, medievalism, and Tolkien’s fiction.

In the January 2014 semester, my student Shelby MacGregor produced a series of photographs illustrating scenes from an imagined dystopian Lord of the Rings movie, set sometime in the near future. The analysis that she wrote to accompany these pictures discussed Tolkien’s representation of nature and technology compared to Peter Jackson’s film versions and considered some of the problems of adaptation.

Below, you will find some of Shelby’s photographs along with her descriptions. (All photos copyright Shelby MacGregor).

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Photos and Descriptions by Shelby MacGregor

This project aimed to present scenes in a post-modern adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It was heavily inspired by Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the trilogy, and also by the science fiction films of Ridley Scott.

Frodo, who must install a virus in the Super Computer

Frodo, who must install a virus in the Super Computer

View larger version of Frodo (2 Mb)

Moving the story to somewhere in our future instead of somewhere in our past would require different weapons and technologies from the original. The Ring became a computer chip, and instead of throwing the Ring into a volcano, it became a virus that would be installed into the Super Computer that was controlling industry and therefore destroying the world.

Mordor. By Shelby MacGregor

Mordor

View larger version of Mordor (3 Mb)

Frodo and Sam play a large role in this imagined film, as they are charged with installing the virus in the Super Computer. They are dressed in more natural clothes to connect to the natural lifestyles of the people in the Shire and to contrast the natural world with industry in a visual and striking way. Mordor appears as a power plant, with Frodo daunted by the size and destruction found in the modern world.

The Black Gate is closed

The Black Gate is closed.

View larger version of The Black Gate (5 Mb)

Each character is styled differently to reflect the regions of Tolkien’s Middle-earth that they come from. Lady Eowyn is the closest to Jackson’s representation of her. It is assumed that the people of Rohan accept less technology than the rest of Middle-earth, preferring to tend to their horses.

Eowyn by Shelby MacGregor

Eowyn

View larger version of Eowyn (4 Mb)

Boromir and Aragorn are in modern dress but use medieval weaponry, not because they resist technology but because it has become a symbol of the enemy.

Boromir's Death by Shelby MacGregor

Boromir’s Death

View larger version of Boromir’s Death (4 Mb)

This project allowed me to work with adaptation theory, photography, editing, and costume design, as I made or styled every item that the characters are wearing. I was aiming to make film scenes come to life that are instantly recognizable as The Lord of the Rings, while also staying away from simply remaking Jackson’s film scenes. It was an interesting and challenging project, and I am glad that I got the opportunity to try something creative.

– Shelby MacGregor

Happy New Year

women weaving

Ms Fr 12420. From Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus

Where have the months gone? I was surprised to find that I last posted as long ago as October, but I suppose that teaching, grading, a research trip, and the supervision of several independent study and thesis students account for how I spent my time well enough. This semester, I’m fortunate to have a sabbatical leave, with the goal of writing up various strands of my research in order to weave them all together into a coherent whole. I’m hoping that this research, along with my usual posts about Tolkien, medievalism, and teaching, will provide more reading material in the coming months. We’ll see how it goes.

Tolkien Studies at Popular Culture Association 2015 meeting

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After a successful trial run last April at the Popular Culture / American Culture Association conference, a regular Tolkien Studies stream has been approved for the annual conference. The organizer of the Tolkien Studies area, Robin Reid, has issued a general call for papers for the 2015 conference to be held in New Orleans, April 1-4, 2015:

“We welcome proposals on any area of Tolkien Studies (the Legendarium, adaptations, reader reception and fan studies, media and marketing) from any disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective. Sessions are scheduled in 1½ hour slots, typically with four papers or speakers per standard session.”

Proposals have to be submitted through the conference website by November 1st at http://ncp.pcaaca.org.

The full call for papers and contact details can be found here: PCA 2015 CFP [pdf]

To follow the progress of the conference planning, you can always join the Tolkien Studies at PCA Facebook group.

 

 

Atlantic Mediaeval Association 2014 meeting

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The 7th annual meeting of AMA (the Atlantic Mediaeval Association) will take place at the University of Prince Edward Island on Saturday, October 4th. The program follows; all sessions are in the Main building, Room 213.

8:45-10:00: Plenary lecture
Judith E. Dietz, “The History and Significance of the Salzinnes Antiphonal”

10:15-12:15: Session I: Shifting Place and Time
Raiswell, (Univ. of PEI), “Gerald of Wales Goes to Extremes: Monsters, Rhetoric and the Construction of Space”
John R. Black (Moravian College), “Forging Landscapes: Hagiography and the Environment”
Jennifer MacDonald (Acadia), “Military Travel in the Late Saxon Period”
Janine Rogers (Mount Allison University), “Rethinking Medievalism in Victorian Natural History Museums”

12:15-1:15: Lunch

1:15-3:15: Session II: “Writing Men, Women and Children”
Stephanie Morley, (St. Mary’s) “How Born and How Fed: Havelok the Dane and Narratives of Childhood”
James Noble (UNB, St John), “Weeping and Roaring as Generic Strategies in The Book of Margery Kempe”
Cory James Rushton (St. Francis Xavier University) “The Shameful Beauty Contest: Tristram and Isolde at Castle Pleure.”
Kevin Whetter (Acadia), “Memorial Self-Fashioning in Malory’s Morte Darthur”

3:30-5:00: Session III: “Definitions and Rules”
Regan Eby (Boston College), “Friends of Friends: Foundations of Priories and Aristocratic Sociability in Eleventh-Century Brittany”
Michael Fournier, (Dalhousie University) “Eriugena’s Liberal Arts”
Donna Trembinski, (St. Francis Xavier University) “Okay, Okay, we’ll go to the doctor”: On Seeing Doctors and Perfect Obedience in the Thought of Francis of Assisi.”

5:00: Business Meeting

About AMA:  “The Atlantic Mediæval Association is a small but vibrant community dedicated to fostering scholarly conversations and connections amongst mediævalists living and working in the North Atlantic region, particularly Atlantic Canada and New England. The annual Atlantic Mediæval Association conference encourages proposals in any relevant discipline, including history, theology, philosophy, literature in all vernacular languages and Latin, and the reception and use of the Middle Ages in later cultures.” (From the AMA website)

 

Think like a Professor! — or, how to defeat syllabus boredom

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"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.com

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham http://www.phdcomics.com

It’s the beginning of the semester for most university professors. Do you dread having to stand in front of your students reading from your course outline? Do you feel it’s a futile gesture, knowing that many of them will forget or ignore the information in the syllabus? In order to defeat the boredom of the syllabus run-through, I’ve devised an exercise called “Think Like a Professor!” that I’ve been using with my first-year classes for several years now. It gets students reading, analyzing, and applying information from the very first day of the course while giving you insight into their attitudes and values. It enables students to become more aware of how their actions are perceived by faculty and to understand the reasons for various course policies. And it should model for students the kind of collaborative and respectful interactions that you are aiming for in your course.

My discussion of this exercise was published in the 2010 Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase Proceedings. I reprint the first 3 paragraphs here; if you want to read the rest of the essay, follow this link and scroll to page 55 in the pdf.

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Anna Smol, “Think Like a Professor!: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Course Policies.” Atlantic Universities Teaching Showcase Proceedings 2010. Vol. XIV. Ed. Shannon Murray. 55-59.

It’s the first day of class, and we all know the drill. The course outlines, with requirements, expectations, and policies detailing how your course will be run, must be handed out. You need to get your students to read what must look to them like the fine print of a long contract – one of several outlines they’ll be collecting in the first couple of days. Especially for first-year students just out of high school, course outlines may present a confusing array of do’s and don’ts: all assignments must use APA, or was that MLA? No late papers will be accepted, but sometimes late papers will have points deducted. You must have a note for absences, but some profs don’t take attendance. You have to write all the assignments to pass, but didn’t someone say that you could do extra assignments for additional credit?

For the course instructor, the necessity of going over the course outline can deflate the liveliest of introductory classes. You may find yourself standing in front of the class on the first day, plodding through each requirement and every policy statement, declaiming against errors and misdemeanours while your students’ eyes glaze over. Or, you can hand out the course outlines and tell your students to read through them on their own – in theory, not an unreasonable expectation; in practice, one that seldom works.

To enliven these introductory classes – both for my sake and my students’ – I present an exercise that pulls students out of their passive role as receptacles of course information, puts them in my place, and asks them to apply my course policies in various scenarios – in other words, to “Think Like a Professor!” Their task is to imagine that they are the professor of our course and have written the course outline, including all of its policies, expectations, and requirements, and that they will now be faced with various situations, all based on actual events, in which they will have to apply the rules of the course. The exercise serves many purposes: to introduce students to each other; to start developing constructive, collaborative discussions among students; to encourage them to read a text closely; to direct them to a knowledge of the rules and regulations of the course, and to gain some understanding of academic life. The benefits of the assignment are reciprocal: as the instructor, you gain insight into some of the beliefs and practices of your students. Sometimes, you may realize that you have to explain issues or revise requirements that you thought were clear and complete; at other times, your students can advise you on ways to deal with difficult problems. You may be asking your students to “think like a professor,” but this exercise also gives you access to
thinking like a student.

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To read  more about this exercise and the issues that it raises, please follow this link and scroll to page 55.

If you have any other suggestions for overcoming syllabus boredom, please add them to the comments!

Beyond the research essay: women’s lit & archival research in an undergraduate course

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Anna Smol:

I’m planning to post — at irregular intervals — some of the ideas I’ve had about university teaching and to showcase some of the projects that my students have done. I’ve been teaching undergraduate courses for a long time, and I think that one of my main goals from the very beginning has been to convince students that the intellectual life is worth living, and that it can be lived both within the classroom and beyond its walls. I’m not after some sort of practical demonstration that the study of English literature is “relevant” — that old buzzword– although I think it does have many practical applications. What I’m after is the demonstration that thinking about literature is part of what thoughtful people do even if they aren’t English professors, and they do it because it helps to explain our world, to connect us with the past, and to introduce us to different lives and cultures.

I usually try to build in certain features into my assignments:
–the assignment has to be read by or exhibited to or performed for an audience other that just myself, preferably even beyond the students in the class;
–students should be challenged to think about how to communicate their subject in new and creative ways, often using a variety of skills and talents. The conventional research paper is still a staple of my course requirements, but it’s not the only way that my students practice their writing and research skills.

My first piece in this series is a description of a second-year undergraduate project in a women’s literature course, which was originally posted on the Mount Saint Vincent University English Department blog.

Originally posted on MSVU English Department Blog:

Terms of Engagement: Teaching & Learning in the English Department by Anna Smol

Peterson Protest Buttons postersIf you’ve walked along the fifth floor of Seton or through the tunnel linking Evaristus and Rosaria, you might have noticed a series of posters called “Pieces of Activist History: Betty Peterson Protest Buttons.” Produced by students in English 2242 (Themes in Women’s Writing), these posters are the result of a collaborative process in which students in this Winter 2014 course learned something about a remarkable Nova Scotian activist while practising their research and communication skills.

Frankly, I did not know what to expect when I assigned this group project. The theme of our course was “protest and polemics” and some of the reading material, such as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, focused our attention on Second Wave feminism. I knew that the Mount Library had received a donation of protest buttons from Betty Peterson, a well-known activist who has been involved in feminist, peace, civil…

View original 1,336 more words

Talking about medievalisms

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While my focus here is often on Tolkien, I’ve collected some calls for papers on medievalism generally (although I do include below one conference on Tolkien specifically). The proliferation of conferences and sessions on medievalism – that is, “the reception of the Middle Ages in postmedieval times” — is a healthy indicator of the academic acceptance of medievalism studies, something that earlier scholars such as Leslie Workman, founder of Studies in Medievalism and the International Conference on Medievalism had to fight for at times in the 1970s and 80s. Today medievalism continues to be an evolving multidisciplinary study open to many different approaches. If you follow the links and read the calls for papers, you’ll get a good sense of how diverse and far-ranging topics in medievalism studies can be — and you’ll see that there’s plenty of talking about medievalisms these days.

The Middle Ages in the Modern World (MAMO). June 29-July 2, 2015 at the University of Lincoln, UK.  Individual paper proposals should be submitted by September 15, 2014 and panel proposals by August 31, 2014. This is the second conference in a planned series of biennial meetings. According to the MAMO Facebook page, plans are in the works to hold a 2017 conference in Manchester and a 2019 meeting in Rome. You can follow conference news on Twitter:  @TheMAMOConf.

Medievalisms on the Move. 29th International Conference on Medievalism. October 24-25, 2014 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, US. The conference aims  “to investigate the manifold transformations that happen when recreations, reinventions, and redefinitions of the ‘medieval’ move from one cultural space and time to another.” The deadline for proposals has passed, but if you’re interested in attending, a program should be posted soon.

I listed the following two sessions in my previous post on K’zoo 2015 Tolkien and medievalism sessions, but the CFPs for both of these give further details if you follow the links:

Studies in Medievalism: Kalamazoo 2015 Call for Papers. May 14-17, 2015. International Conference on Medieval Studies. Kalamazoo, Michigan, US. Further details on the three sessions sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Medievalism:  Metaphysical Medievalisms, Political Medievalisms, and Critical Mediations.  Proposals should be sent before September 15, 2014.

MEMO: Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization: Kalamazoo 2015 Call for Papers. May 14-17, 2015. International Conference on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, US. Further details on two sessions: Playing Medieval: A Festive Video Game Workshop and Poster Session and on a paper session, The Neomedieval Image. Proposals should be sent by September 15, 2014.

And finally, here is the most recent call for papers I’ve received for an event at The Ohio State University’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, focusing on Tolkien. Of course, almost any conference on Tolkien qualifies as a study in medievalism since a sense of medieval languages, genres, histories pervades his work. And any conference on medievalisms, such as the ones listed above, could potentially include work on Tolkien too.

There and Back Again: Tolkien in 2015 at The Ohio State University February 20-21, 2015.  Second annual conference on Popular Culture and the Deep Past, with a focus on Tolkien and especially The Hobbit for 2015. This will be an academic conference that is “nested in a broader ‘carnival’ of popular and traditional cultural events and activities.” Proposals for both academic and non-academic presentations are requested by October 1, 2014.

 

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