Tolkien Reading Day: the hope of hobbits

Tags

, , , , , , ,

March 25, the downfall of Sauron, is the date chosen by the Tolkien Society to celebrate Tolkien Reading Day.  This year’s theme is “Home and Hearth: the many ways of being a Hobbit.”  Around the world different groups will be holding events celebrating Tolkien’s work — see the Tolkien Society page for reports from some of them — or individuals will simply be reading their favorite passages at home. Check out the #TolkienReadingDay hashtag on Twitter or Instagram to see what people are reading today.

One of the ways of being a hobbit is to love songs, often songs celebrating simple homely pleasures:  “Sing hey! for the bath at close of day,” “Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go,” “Upon the hearth the fire is red,” or songs that are just meant to be fun, such as the “ridiculous song” Frodo sings at the Prancing Pony, “There is an inn,” or that Sam recites as “just a bit of nonsense,” his song about trolls.

There is one song that Sam sings, however, that is much more serious and that shows another side of being a hobbit:  the ability to find hope in the face of overwhelming odds. That song is “In western lands.” I’ve always loved this poem and especially one beautiful image in it.

The song occurs in The Return of the King in “The Tower of Cirith Ungol” chapter. Frodo has been captured by orcs, and Sam is feeling defeated, unable to find him. Suddenly, he starts singing, and gradually his voice rises and the words of the poem come to him “unbidden.” The song calls forth a response from Frodo, allowing Sam to locate him in the Tower.

In the song, the speaker situates himself in the farthest reaches of despair: “Though here at journey’s end I lie/ in darkness buried deep,/ beyond all towers strong and high,/ beyond all mountains steep” — and yet, he can imagine that this is not the entire world. “In western lands, beneath the Sun/ the flowers may rise in Spring…” He imagines a blooming world that “may” be alive, and by the end of the poem, he is certain that there is an eternal world elsewhere that is not affected by his seemingly hopeless situation: “above all shadows rides the Sun/ and Stars for ever dwell….” The final lines express his resolve: “I will not say the Day is done, / nor bid the Stars farewell.”

Elvenking's gate from across the river (detail) by Tolkien

Detail from Tolkien’s “The Elvenking’s gate from across the river,” fig. 50,  The Art of The Hobbit

My favorite lines come in the first stanza: “Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night / and swaying beeches bear / the Elven-stars as jewels white / amid their branching hair.”  Tolkien’s landscapes are usually alive and active; here, the trees and stars, two recurring and significant images for Tolkien, are connected in one image of softly dancing trees whose branches seem to be wearing the jewellery of starlight as if in their hair. By the end of that first stanza, the poet’s gaze is already moving from the flowers rising from the ground up to the stars in the sky, as if getting ready for the ideas that conclude the second stanza. I remember one summer night sitting outside, looking up through tree branches at a few stars, when these lines came immediately to mind as the perfect expression of that sight.

Donald Swann set this poem to music, although I think I prefer the Tolkien Ensemble version of it. You can listen to it here:

The hope of hobbits — little people who did not think they could change the world — is a valuable thought to hold on to.

Kzoo 2018 Tolkien and medievalism sessions

Tags

, ,

Kalamazoo campus swan pondAs is my annual custom, I’m posting a list of sessions on Tolkien and on medievalism to be held at The International Congress on Medieval Studies on May 10 – 13. Conference organizers have announced that the print program has been damaged in a flood, so mailing of copies will be delayed, but the full program is posted online here.

Of course, you should always double check my list against the final program. And don’t forget that in addition to the official ICMS panels, the Tolkien Seminar will take place on Wednesday May 9 with a full day of presentations and entertainment.

Sessions devoted entirely to Tolkien

Thursday 10:00 a.m.
Session 21 SCHNEIDER 1255
Tolkien and the Celtic Tradition
Sponsor: History Dept., Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce
Organizer: Judy Ann Ford, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce
Presider: Judy Ann Ford

  • “Queer” Border, “Hidden Kingdom”: Perceptions of Wales in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Work. Dimitra Fimi, Cardiff Metropolitan Univ.
  • Bran and Brendan, and Eriol and Ælfwine. Kris Swank, Pima Community College
  • The Development of Imagery from “The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun” in The Lord of the Rings. Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College

Thursday 1:30
Session 49 VALLEY 3 STINSON LOUNGE
“Eald Enta Geweorc”: Tolkien and the Classical Tradition
Sponsor: Dept. of Religious Studies and Philosophy, The Hill School
Organizer: John Wm. Houghton, Hill School
Presider: Michael A. Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.

  • The Classical Origins of Tolkien’s Elvish Language Invention. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar
  • “Sing, Muse, the Wrath of Boromir, Denethor’s Son”: The Workings of Thumos and Lofgeornost in J. R. R. Tolkien. Dennis Wilson Wise, Univ. of Arizona
  • Tolkien’s Classical Beowulf. Jane Chance, Rice Univ.

Friday 1:30
Session 264 BERNHARD 209
Medievalism and Environmentalism in Tolkien’s Works
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: John R. Holmes, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville

  • Smaug’s Hoard, Durin’s Bane, and Agricola’s De re metallica: Cautionary Tales against Mining in Tolkien’s Legendarium and the Classical Tradition. Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
  • Tolkien’s Franciscan Environmentalism. Deidre Dawson, Independent Scholar
  • The Franciscan and Dominican Roots of Tolkien’s Environmentalism. Victoria Holtz Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.

Friday 3:30
Session 321 BERNHARD 209
Tolkien’s Re-envisioning of the Medieval Lay: The Lay of Beren and Luthien and the Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: Brad Eden

  • The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, Breton Lays, and Gwerziou. Matthieu Boyd, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ.
  • Tolkien’s Lays: Songs of Love, Faith, and Devotion?  Aurelie Bremont, Centre d’Etudes Medievales Anglaises (CEMA), Univ. de Paris–Sorbonne
  • Matiere de Terre de Milieu: Jean Bodel’s Formula and Tolkien’s Legendarium. John R. Holmes, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville

Saturday 12:00 noon Tolkien at Kalamazoo Business Meeting Bernhard 210

Sessions that include papers on Tolkien

Saturday 1:30
Session 407 FETZER 2020
Studies in Honor of Charles D. Wright I: Old English Poetry
Sponsor: Program in Medieval Studies, Univ. of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
Organizer: Dabney A. Bankert, James Madison Univ.
Presider: Paul Battles, Hanover College

  • The Digressions in the Old English Andreas.  Thomas D. Hill, Cornell Univ.
  • Into the Jaws of Hell: Swallowing and Damnation in Old English Poetry. Jill Hamilton Clements, Univ. of Alabama–Birmingham
  • The Wisdom Tradition and Irish Learning in CCCC 41. Tiffany Beechy, Univ. of Colorado–Boulder
  • “Éala éarendel”: Old English Euphony and Tolkien’s Hidden God. Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Bucknell Univ.

Saturday 3:30
Session 498 BERNHARD 213
Teaching Boethius (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: International Boethius Society
Organizer: Philip Edward Phillips, Middle Tennessee State Univ.
Presider: Philip Edward Phillips

  • Boethius and a Pedagogy of Imagination. Anthony G. Cirilla, Niagara Univ.
  • Boethius and the Biology of Desire. Sarah Powrie, St. Thomas More College
  • Teaching the Consolation of Philosophy in Prison. Brandy N. Brown, Rhodes College
  • The Consolation of Philosophy for Honors Freshmen. Kenneth C. Hawley, Lubbock Christian Univ.
  • Intellectual Relevance of Boethian Studies in the First Quarter of the Twenty-First Century. Noel Harold Kaylor Jr., Troy Univ.
  • Tolkien and Boethius: Chance Meetings and Doomed Heroes. Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ.

Sessions on medievalisms

Session 20 SCHNEIDER 1245
De Musica Vulgari Eloquentia
Sponsor: Musicology at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Anna Kathryn Grau, DePaul Univ.; Cathy Ann Elias, DePaul Univ.; Daniel J. DiCenso, College of the Holy Cross
Presider: Anna Kathryn Grau

  • “Gode is the lay, swete is the note!”: Music as a Liberal Art in Sir Orfeo. Tiffany Schubert, Univ. of Dallas; Matthew Brumit, Univ. of Mary
  • “Gaudete”: A Case of Musical Medievalism in Contemporary England. Jacob Sagrans, Independent Scholar
  • Music and Musicians, Sacred, Profane and Imaginary, in the Luttrell Psalter. Marijim Thoene, Independent Scholar

Session 60 FETZER 2030
Medievalism and the Rediscovery of Medieval Art
Organizer: Thalia Allington-Wood, Univ. College London
Presider: Imogen Tedbury, Courtauld Institute of Art/National Gallery of Art

  • Antiquarian Aesthetics and the Revaluing of Medieval Art in Early Modern Britain. Dustin M. Frazier Wood, Univ. of Roehampton
  • Anonymous Immortality: Chasing Down the Ghosts of Patrons Past. Lynley Anne Herbert, Walters Art Museum
  • Living in the New [New] Middle Ages. Matthew Reeve, Queen’s Univ. Kingston

Session 107 FETZER 2030
Architectural Medievalism
Presider: Elizabeth Emery, Montclair State Univ.

  • Southwark Cathedral’s East End: A Faithful Restoration?. Regina Noto, The Clark Art Institute
  • Between Memory and Phantasy: Re-building Frankfurt Old Town. Esther Laura Heeg, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
  • Tracing Medieval Stones. Kaarel Truu, Estonian Academy of Arts

Session 119 SCHNEIDER 1330
The “Medieval” in Popular Culture
Presider: Audrey Becker, Marygrove College

  • Constructing Demons: The Origins of Normalizing Portrayals of Marginalized Groups as Threats. Karra Shimabukuro, Univ. of New Mexico
  • Dice Rolling for Racism: White Supremacy and Role Playing Games. Donald Burke, Cerro Coso Community College
  • The Cult of the Lady: Arthurian Medievalisms in The Witcher 3 and Total War: Warhammer. Kyle Dase, Univ. of Saskatchewan

Session 123 SCHNEIDER 1350
“Lesser” English Arthuriana
Organizer: Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Kristin Bovaird-Abbo, Univ. of Northern Colorado

  • “Muse on My Mirrour”: Precarious Reflections and Reform in The Awntyrs off Arthure. William Biel, Univ. of Connecticut
  • The Redemption of the Arthurian Queen: How the Depiction of Guinevere as a Nun in British Art and Literature of the Nineteenth Century Complicates our Understanding of British Medievalism and Its Intersection with Discourses of Gender. Ellie Crookes, Macquarie Univ.
  • “She was recouered of that that she was defoylyd”: Recuperating Dame Ragnell’s Lute. Crystal N. Beamer, McMaster Univ.
  • Heroism Both Lesser and Greater: De-Romanticizing Aristocracy in “Sir Percyvell of Gales” Randy Schiff, Univ. at Buffalo

Session 153 BERNHARD 106
Theorizing the Problematic Medievalisms of Dungeons & Dragons and Popular Fantasy Narrative (A Panel Discussion)
Sponsor: Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, California State Univ.–Long Beach
Organizer: Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Stud­ies, California State Univ.–Long Beach
Presider: Ilan Mitchell-Smith

A panel discussion with Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.; Edmond Chang, Ohio Univ.; Robert Rouse, Univ. of British Columbia; and Susan Aronstein, Univ. of Wyo­ming.

Session 269 BERNHARD BROWN & GOLD ROOM
Monstrous Medievalism: Toxic Appropriations of the Middle Ages in Modern Popular Culture and Thought
Sponsor: Monsters: The Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory and Practical Application (MEARCSTAPA)
Organizer: Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, California State Univ.–Long Beach
Presider: Larissa Tracy, Longwood Univ.

  • White Nationalism, Scottish Identity, and the Declaration of Arbroath. Mark P. Bruce, Bethel Univ.
  • The Problem of Loki, Again: Norse Mythology as a Battleground for Separatism or Inclusion. Ali Frauman, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington
  • “Celtic” Crosses and White Supremacism. Maggie M. Williams, William Paterson Univ./Material Collective

Session 312 SCHNEIDER 1355
Contemporary Medieval Poetry II: Forms and Histories
Sponsor: Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, King’s College London
Organizer: Josh Davies, King’s College London; Clare A. Lees, King’s College London
Presider: Josh Davies

  • O Cadoiro: Falling into Medieval Galician-Portuguese Love Lyric. Harriet Cook, King’s College London
  • Unthought Medievalisms and the Survival of Lyric Forms: The Case of the Alba. Marisa Galvez, Stanford Univ.
  • Contemporary British Poetry and the Earliest Medieval Cultures in Britain and Ireland. Clare A. Lees

Session 348 FETZER 1005
Medievalism, Racism, and the Academy (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Fellowship of Medievalists of Color (MOC); International Society for the Study of Medievalism
Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Independent Scholar; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Wan-Chuan Kao, Washington and Lee Univ.

A roundtable discussion with Colleen C. Ho, Univ. of Maryland; Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, California State Univ.–Long Beach; Matthew Vernon, Univ. of California–Davis; Kavita Mudan Finn, Independent Schol­ar; and Pamela J. Clements, Siena College.

Session 357 SCHNEIDER 1120
Towards a Medieval Transgender Studies
Sponsor: Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship (SMFS)
Organizer: M. W. Bychowski, Case Western Reserve Univ.
Presider: Micah Goodrich, Univ. of Connecticut

  • That Detestable, Unmentionable, and Ignominious Vice: Trans Women and Sex Work in Cross-Cultural and Cross-Temporal Perspectives. Alina Boyden, Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Trans Knights, Then and Now. Ced Block, Independent Scholar
  • Radical Pedagogy and New Medievalisms: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and the Medieval Imaginary. Nicholas Hoffman, Ohio State Univ.; Joy Ellison, Ohio State Univ.
  • The Future of Medieval Transgender Studies. M. W. Bychowski

Session 374 SCHNEIDER 1330
Medievalisms and Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls in the Age of #Resistance
Sponsor: International Marguerite Porete Society
Organizer: Robert Stauffer, Dominican College
Presider: Robert Stauffer

  • The Legacy of Marguerite Porete as Symbol of Resistance. Danielle Dubois, Univ. of Manitoba
  • Silence as Resistance in the Life of Marguerite Porete and in The Mirror of Simple Souls. Jonathan Juilfs, Redeemer Univ. College
  • The Pseudo-Mulier in an Age of #Resistance: Dismantling the Organism in The Mirror of Simple Souls. Jessica Zisa, Univ. of California–Santa Barbara

Session 378 SCHNEIDER 1350
National Medievalisms
Presider: Amber Dunai, Texas A&M Univ.–Central Texas

  • The West Remembers (Its Premodern Self). Matthias D. Berger, Univ. Bern
  • Mother Earth, Plough Monday and the Re-invention of the Germanic Farming Community: Wartime Agro-politics and Its (Mis)use of Anglo-Saxon Fertility Rituals. Karel Fraaije, Univ. College London

Session 424 SCHNEIDER 1280
King Arthur 2017 (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: International Society for the Study of Medievalism
Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Independent Scholar; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Ann F. Howey, Brock Univ.

A roundtable discussion with Susan Aronstein, Univ. of Wyoming; Kathleen Kelly, Northeastern Univ.; Martin B. Shichtman, Eastern Michigan Univ.; Christine Neufeld, Eastern Michigan Univ.; Abby Ang, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington; and Ann Martinez, Kent State Univ.–Stark.

Session 462 SCHNEIDER 1120
“Can These Bones Come to Life?” II: Issues of Authority in Reconstructing, Reenacting, and Recreating the Past (and in Medieval Studies)
Sponsor: Societas Johannis Higginsis
Organizer: Kenneth Mondschein, Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies/Anna Maria College
Presider: Karen Cook, Hartt School, Univ. of Hartford

  • Experimental Archaeology as Fieldwork. V. M. Roberts, York Univ.
  • Crowd Sourcing Culture: The Death of Expertise. Michael A. Cramer, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY
  • The Perception of Legitimacy: How Culture Wars Hurt (or Help) the Authority of Academic Medievalism. Kenneth Mondschein

Session 476 SCHNEIDER 1280
The New “Dark Ages”
Sponsor: International Society for the Study of Medievalism
Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Independent Scholar; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Usha Vishnuvajjala

  • Religion, Science, and Conspiracy Theories: The Flat Earth in the Middle Ages and Today. Shiloh Carroll, Tennessee State Univ.
  • Not as Sexy as We Thought: Echoes of the Dark Ages in Modern Sexual Conduct for Women. Amy Burge, Cardiff Univ.
  • Medievalism, Medievalists, and Conditional Reproductive Justice. Rebecca Huffman, Univ. of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  • A Dark Stage for the Dark Ages: Medieval Theatre as Protest (Then and Now). Carol L. Robinson, Kent State Univ.–Trumbull

Session 501 VALLEY 3 ELDRIDGE 309
Medievalism: A Manifesto (A Panel Discussion)
Organizer: Daniel T. Kline, Univ. of Alaska–Anchorage
Presider: Daniel T. Kline

A panel discussion with Michael Evans, Delta College; Alexandra Garner, Univ. of Oregon; Jane Glaubman, Cornell Univ.; Lauryn S. Mayer, Washington & Jefferson College; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.; and with respondent Richard Utz, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Session 507 FETZER 1045
Teaching Medieval Studies with/without Objects and Collections (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Material Collective; TEAMS (Teaching Association for Medieval Studies)
Organizer: B. Joy Ambler, Dwight-Englewood School
Presider: Danielle B. Joyner, Southern Methodist Univ.

  • Architectural Medievalism and Undergraduate Research: Learning about Two Pasts through One Building. Jennifer Borland, Oklahoma State Univ./Material Collective
  • Objects in the Medieval History Classroom. Kelly Gibson, Univ. of Dallas
  • Manuscripts in the Undergraduate Non-Specialist Curriculum: Students Find Their “Inner-Medievalist”. David T. Gura, Hesburgh Library, Univ. of Notre Dame
  • Making Multimodal Miscellanies at a Public, Urban, Minority-Serving Institution. Katharine W. Jager, Univ. of Houston–Downtown
  • The Use, Disuse, and Abuse of Objects: Some Thoughts on Libraries and Pedagogy. Anna Siebach-Larsen, Rossell Hope Robbins Library and Koller-Collins Center for English, Univ. of Rochester

Session 533 FETZER 1045
How to Engage Now: Medieval Studies and Public Discourse in 2018 (A Round­table)
Sponsor: Material Collective
Organizer: Luke Fidler, Univ. of Chicago; Nancy Thompson, Material Col­lective/St. Olaf College
Presider: Luke Fidler

  • Craftivism as Public Medievalism: Re-Constructing Medieval Textile Work. Marian Bleeke, Cleveland State Univ.
  • All the Chaucer That’s Fit to Print. Amy Goodwin, Randolph-Macon College
  • Fuck This Shit: How Can You Not Say Something?. Eileen Joy, Punctum Books
  • Turning Academic Articles into Web and Magazine Articles. Peter Konieczny

Seeing and Studying Tolkien’s Art

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Last week, I posted about a recently published article that I co-authored with my colleague Jeff MacLeod on Tolkien as artist and writer, and I mentioned some of the secondary sources that we used in that essay. Today, I want to supplement the bibliography in our essay with a couple of other resources and an upcoming event for anyone who is interested in seeing and studying Tolkien’s artwork.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

The exhibition that I am very much looking forward to is Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, running from June to October this year. This event brings together manuscripts from the Oxford collection and from the Tolkien Archive in Marquette University in the US and promises to show some of Tolkien’s watercolour illustrations for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, paintings in his Book of Ishness, maps, dust jacket designs, and even some personal artefacts such as boxes of paints and coloured pencils.

While I have been fortunate enough to work with some of Tolkien’s manuscripts, his original drawings are not usually accessible to the regular scholar. This will be a rare opportunity — if not to actually handle — at least to see some of his artwork firsthand. For those who can’t come to Oxford for this exhibition, the Bodleian will be publishing in June what they describe as a “richly illustrated book.”

The Tolkien Art Index

Here’s an extremely useful new resource for the study of Tolkien’s art:  The Tolkien Art Index.  The creation of Erik Mueller-Harder at Vermont Softworks, this database aims to list every published instance of Tolkien’s artwork. Each of the 463 items has a unique accession number and identifies the Marquette or Bodleian manuscript in which it appears. Ample tags allow you to search in various ways. For example, you can find images by medium (“blue pen”); content (“mountains-hills”); location (“Mordor”), and more — you have to sample it yourself to understand the full range of possibilities! All of the published sources are listed with dates, page numbers, and notes. The only thing that is lacking at the moment is permission to include thumbnail images of all of the items. Let’s hope this will be forthcoming, but even without that, The Tolkien Art Index should be an invaluable tool for anyone studying Tolkien’s artwork. If you are attending the Kalamazoo conference this spring, you can hear Erik speak about the Art Index in the 2018 Tolkien Seminar on May 9th.

The Illustrator Mary Fairburn and Tolkien

Jeff and I were pleasantly surprised to see another article on Tolkien and art in the latest volume of Tolkien Studies right next to our essay on Tolkien as an artist and writer. Paul Tankard writes about Tolkien’s correspondence with Mary Fairburn in his essay, “‘Akin to my own Inspiration’: Mary Fairburn and the Art of Middle-earth” (Tolkien Studies, vol. 14, pp. 133 – 154). Fairburn’s illustrations were featured in the 2015 Tolkien Calendar but were not published in Tolkien’s lifetime. Tankard’s essay examines Tolkien’s views on illustration and his opinions of various illustrators. Another essay to add to your bibliography if you’re studying Tolkien’s views on art and illustration!

 

Tolkien as Artist and Writer

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Tolkien Toast 3 Jan 2018Family and friends joined me in the Tolkien Birthday Toast on January 3rd, a global event sponsored by the Tolkien Society. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that your own toast is part of a continuing wave of glasses raised around the world every hour at 9 p.m. local time. This year, I was fortunate to be sitting by a warm fire while the winds blew with hurricane force and the air dropped to bitterly cold temperatures outside. I had another reason to celebrate: close to the end of December, the latest volume of Tolkien Studies arrived in my mailbox, with an article that I co-authored with my colleague Jeff MacLeod: “Visualizing the Word: Tolkien as Artist and Writer.”

I have spoken on this topic at a few conferences over the last few years (for example, at the 2015 New York Tolkien conference). One especially pleasurable part of the research was the opportunity to look at some microfilm and digital images of Tolkien’s drawings in the Marquette University Archive. Archivists and the Tolkien Estate are quite rightly wary of allowing direct access to Tolkien’s original artwork even though every scholar and fan interested in Tolkien’s art would love to handle his pictures; however, I soon realized that when examining digital copies, I could expand the image and see it even more closely than I might have just by eyeing the original. That ability led to some interesting observations, as I hope you’d agree if you have a chance to read our essay.

That research trip contributed one part to the overall argument that Jeff and I are making in this article.  I’ll quote a section from the opening paragraph that summarizes our four main points:

[We begin by citing a number of critics who discuss Tolkien’s artwork, and then continue:]  All of these critics make a strong case for the importance of Tolkien’s “encounters with art and imagery” (Organ 117), but their focus is on the influence of other artists and artistic movements on Tolkien’s art and writing. We propose to turn our attention to Tolkien’s own practice and knowledge of visual art in order to examine how it is an integral part of his writing craft, his creativity, and his ideas. We look at four main ways in which the visual image and the written word merge in Tolkien’s creative work. First, we examine how his visual practice aids in the drafting of his stories. Second, we look at how it influences him on a stylistic level in his descriptive prose choices — our focus is on landscapes in The Lord of the Rings for an analysis of these first two elements. Third, and more generally, we find that Tolkien’s visual imagination and skill combine with writing in inventive ways, as in his alphabets, his calligraphy, and his monogram. Fourth, we explore how Tolkien’s artistic practice influences his theories about fantasy and illustration. We contend that Tolkien’s art and his visual imagination should be considered an essential part of his writing and thinking. (pp. 115-116)

I can’t copy the whole article here, but let me give you a taste of some of our ideas and show you a few of the images we discussed but couldn’t reproduce in our essay.

Tower of Kirith Ungol sketch

Tower of Kirith Ungol sketch, Sauron Defeated, p. 19.

If you flip through the pages of Christopher Tolkien’s volumes of The History of Middle-earth or examine the books on Tolkien’s artwork by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, you’ll see some of Tolkien’s sketches that appear as anything from a squiggle in the middle of a line, to diagrams and maps, to sometimes more developed pictures, such as his Tower of Kirith Ungol (still spelled with a “K” in the earlier manuscript). We discuss the interplay of text and image in the example shown here. (This isn’t the best version of the image that you can find; check out Hammond and Scull’s The Art of The Lord of the Rings for that).

A manuscript sketch like the Tower of Kirith Ungol poses intriguing questions: when did the drawing start taking over the page? Were the words written after the drawing? Did the sketch guide the wording of the passage? Was the sketch revised after the pencilled text was written over in ink?  We examined only this page in detail, but it would be interesting to expand this kind of study to other sketches in Tolkien’s manuscripts that bring us closer to an understanding of his process of composition.

From looking at Tolkien’s process of drafting in this part of The Lord of the Rings, we move on to consider his prose descriptions of landscapes to discuss what we call his “painterly” style. In this, we were influenced by Brian Rosebury’s analysis of Tolkien’s prose, in which he declares that Tolkien describes like a painter. Although Rosebury then qualifies his claim, we agree with the initial assessment. We also ground our analysis on insights from a 1981 article in Mythlore by Miriam Y. Miller on Tolkien’s use of colours. What we found typical of Tolkien’s landscape descriptions is the use of some basic colours modified by qualities of light, along with an artist’s attention to the composition of the image.

Here is an example of that painterly style: Tolkien’s description from the “Fog on the Barrow-downs” chapter, in which he describes the land “in flats and swellings of grey and green and pale earth-colors, until it faded into a featureless and shadowy distance.”  From here, our eye moves to the horizon, where there’s a “guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky”  (FR, I, viii, 147). This impressionistic prose style describes the land entirely in painterly colours, lights, and shapes. A visual analogue (though not meant to be an illustration of the Barrow-downs) can be found in one of Tolkien’s early watercolours, “King’s Norton from Bilberry Hill” (Artist 21, fig. 16).

Tolkien, King's Norton from Bilberry Hill

Tolkien, “King’s Norton from Bilberry Hill.” Artist & Illustrator, fig. 16

This is only one example of many that we could point to in Tolkien’s landscape descriptions that demonstrates the eye and imagination of a visual artist.

A couple of other main points in our essay extend our view of how the verbal and the visual intersect in Tolkien’s creative imagination. His monogram, his invented writing systems, his calligraphy all demonstrate ways in which the visual and verbal cohere to make meaning. And of course, some of his theoretical discussion of subcreation in “On Fairy-stories” is delivered in visual terms. For example, when talking about the recovery afforded by fantasy, Tolkien states, “We should look at green again, and be startled anew (but not blinded) by blue and yellow and red” (OFS p. 67).

Tolkien, King's Letter second version. Art of LotR 187

Tolkien, “The King’s Letter” second version, Art of Lord of the Rings fig. 187

Our concluding paragraph:

Tolkien’s special talent, in so many facets of his creative life, was the ability to combine the written word with the observational skills of a visual artist. Although he is renowned as a philologist and creative writer, his artistic practice and visual imagination, we contend, should be seen as more than just a life-long hobby or a secondary skill. While his artwork is beginning to gain some critical attention on its own, our study suggests that the literature-art connections made by earlier critics such as Brian Rosebury and Miriam Y. Miller can be significantly expanded. Our examination of Tolkien’s composition process, his descriptive prose style, his monogram and other forms of calligraphy, and his theories about fairy-stories and illustration demonstrate the interplay of the visual with the verbal throughout his work. We believe that Tolkien’s artistic vision and skill should be acknowledged as an integral and crucial part of understanding his imagination, writing, and ideas. (pp. 127-28)

Selected references

Full details for our article:

Jeffrey J. MacLeod and Anna Smol. “Visualizing the Word: Tolkien as Artist and Writer.” Tolkien Studies, vol. 14, 2017, pp. 115-131. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/tks.2017.0009.

Tolkien Studies is an annual publication that can be purchased from West Virginia University Press. If your library has a subscription to Project Muse, you can get a copy that way. If you don’t have the means to get a copy of the article, please let me know.

Our bibliography contains a number of resources on Tolkien’s art and prose style. The ones that I’ve mentioned in this post are:

Hammond, Wayne G. and Christina Scull. The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2015.

_________.  J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator. London: HarperCollins; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Miller, Miriam Y. “The Green Sun: A Study of Color in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” Mythlore 7.4 (Winter 1981): 3 – 11.

Organ, Michael. “Tolkien’s Japonisme: Prints, Dragons, and a Great Wave.” Tolkien Studies 10 (2013): 105-22.

Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. 2nd ed. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien On Fairy-stories. Extended edition, ed. Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson. London: HarperCollins, 2008.

_______________. Sauron Defeated. The History of Middle-earth, vol. 9. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 1992.

Acknowledgements

It’s hard to trace the development of this article. Some of it was inspired by a discussion in The Reading Room discussion boards on TheOneRing.net many years ago. Many discussions with Jeff over the years, himself an accomplished artist, took us in this direction. We are both grateful to our university for providing us with research grants and sabbatical leaves and to the Tolkien Estate for allowing us access to some of Tolkien’s papers. I am especially indebted to archivist William Fliss at Marquette University for listening to my theories and allowing me a glimpse of the real thing!

I’ll post more on other resources for studying Tolkien’s art later this week.

 

Four CFPs in Tolkien Studies

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

My inbox is full of calls for papers in Tolkien Studies!

This list is organized by deadline dates, one for every month from January to April. You’ll find calls for papers for three conferences and one volume of essays.

The 15th Annual Tolkien in Vermont conference

April 7, 2018
University of Vermont, US

CFP deadline: January 31, 2018
https://www.facebook.com/tolkienvt/

The theme is Language and Etymologies, with keynote speaker Andrew Higgins, co-editor of A Secret Vice.  Papers will be considered on the theme and any other topics.

 

“Something has gone crack”: New Perspectives on J.R.R. Tolkien in the Great War

Co-edited collection of essays by Janet Brennan Croft and Annika Röttinger to be published by Walking Tree Press.

CFP deadline: February 28, 2018
Read more: Something has gone crack [pdf]

 

The Past, Present, and Future of Tolkien Scholarship

[Update: April 2018.  This conference has been cancelled.]

November 1-4, 2018
Valparaiso University, Indiana US
CFP deadline: March 26, 2018
http://www.valpo.edu/tolkien/

Information from organizer Brad Eden:
This conference will be a reflection on all levels of Tolkien scholarship, with Tolkien scholars leading the discussion and the opportunity to present on your current research in this area, along with ideas and thoughts about the future of Tolkien scholarship, its challenges, and its opportunities.

The conference will feature plenary speakers Douglas A. Anderson, Verlyn Flieger, Robin Reid, Dimitra Fimi, Andrew Higgins, and Brad Eden. Johan de Meij has been commissioned to compose and conduct a new symphony titled Symphony #5 Return to Middle-earth.  More information on donating to help pay for this commission, as well as information on levels of donation in order to be listed in the premiere program are available on the website.

 

Tolkien Society Seminar

July 1, 2018
Leeds Hilton, UK
CFP deadline: April 6, 2018
https://www.tolkiensociety.org/events/seminar-2018/

The theme is: Tolkien the Pagan? Reading Middle-earth through a Spiritual Lens. This title has already sparked complaints, misunderstandings, and, sadly, insults on the Tolkien Society Facebook page, <*sigh*> thus proving the necessity and wisdom of the Society’s statement: “Considering the nature of the conference’s topic, delegates are encouraged to exercise restraint and be mindful of the individual beliefs of their fellow conference-goers.”  I don’t know the Tolkien Society organizers, but I’m fairly certain they are not trying to suggest that Tolkien was not a Christian, which a number of commentators seem to believe.

Perhaps the title of the Seminar is slightly misleading, but I would suggest that the intent of the Seminar’s scope is better understood by looking at the Tolkien Society webpage, which lists some possible, legitimate topics that should provide productive examinations of Tolkien’s fictional characters and the reception of his work among non-Christians:

  • Characters’ faith and devotion within Tolkien’s narratives
  • Non-Christian readings of Tolkien’s fiction
  • Neo-pagan movements based on Tolkien’s mythology
  • Invented religions in fantasy fiction

After all, it’s impossible to pretend that only Christians (or believers in the “one true religion” as a couple of Facebook commentators suggest) are the only ones who read and appreciate Tolkien around the globe.

 

2018 Tolkien sessions in Leeds

Tags

, ,

This week, I received word from the International Medieval Congress in Leeds that my proposal has been accepted for one of the Tolkien sessions organized by Dr. Dimitra Fimi. My paper, “Tolkien’s Typological Imagination,” will be part of the first session on Memory in Tolkien’s Medievalism on July 2nd.  We were only allowed a 100-word proposal, a difficult exercise in condensing ideas, and this is the best I could do:

In The Lord of the Rings, Sam suddenly recognizes that Frodo’s possession of Galadriel’s star-glass connects them to Eärendil’s history: “Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still!”  Here, Tolkien dramatizes the link between “the memory of the past and the foreshadowing of the future that resides in all things” (Notion Club 178). Eärendil is the type of a sacrificing hero, reenacted by Frodo later in the course of linear time. I propose to discuss such examples of Tolkien’s typological imagination and how it shapes concepts of memory and history in his work.

Below are the titles and times of all the Tolkien panels. For full details listing all the speakers, see Dimitra Fimi’s blog.

  • Memory in Tolkien’s Medievalism I. July 2, 11:15 – 12:45
  • Memory in Tolkien’s Medievalism II. July 2, 14:15-15:45
  • “New” Tolkien: Expanding the Canon. July 2, 16:30 – 18:00
  • Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches, I. July 3, 14:15-15:45
  • Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches, II. July 3, 16:30 – 18:00
  • Tolkien in Context(s): a Round Table Discussion. July 3, 19:00 – 20:00

With the one-day Tolkien Society Seminar that usually precedes this conference, there should be plenty of talks on Tolkien to enjoy at the beginning of July in Leeds. I’ll post full details after the official IMC program comes out in a few months.

 

 

New Books on Tolkien

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Today's stack of marking awaits

Today’s stack of marking awaits

The busyness of the start of term in September gradually turns into the marking marathon that is October and November, and the silence of my blog in those months is testimony to how the hours of my days and evenings have been taken up with course preparations and grading, grading, grading. I was just reading a post by another professor who has calculated how many words she writes in student feedback — read it here or take my word for it — it’s a lot! My situation is similar. Although I love teaching, I do get restless after a while when I have to spend time away from my research. A few more weeks of marking will take care of this term, but in the meantime the best that I can do is to track a few new books on Tolkien so that I can look forward to reading them and eventually getting back to my research.

Tolkien and Alterity, edited by C. Vaccaro and Y. Kisor

Right now, Palgrave Macmillan is having a 50% off sale until November 27th. Their books are expensive, so this is a good time to grab one if you can. I’m particularly interested in Tolkien and Alterity, edited by Chris Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor. According to the publisher’s blurb, the book “examines racialized, gender, and queer dynamics in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and other works by Tolkien to arrive at an understanding of how alterity functions in those texts.”

The volume opens with two bibliographical essays, one on “Queer Tolkien” by Yvette Kisor and one on “Race in Tolkien Studies” by Robin Reid. Both of these should be extremely valuable for anyone doing research in these areas. I haven’t read the book yet, but just taking a look at the table of contents and the nine other essays by well-known Tolkien scholars tells me I need to read this volume! Here is the table of contents from the Palgrave site:

  • Queer Tolkien: A Bibliographical Essay on Tolkien and Alterity. Yvette Kisor

  • Race in Tolkien Studies: A Bibliographic Essay. Robin Anne Reid

  • Revising Lobelia. Amy Amendt-Raduege

  • Medieval Organicism or Modern Feminist Science? Bombadil, Elves, and Mother Nature. Kristine Larsen

  • Cinema, Sexuality, Mechanical Reproduction. Valerie Rohy

  • Saruman’s Sodomitic Resonances: Alain de Lille’s De Planctu Naturae and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Vaccaro

  • Cruising Faery: Queer Desire in Giles, Niggle, and Smith. Stephen Yandell

  • Language and Alterity in Tolkien and Lévinas. Deidre Dawson

  • The Orcs and the Others: Familiarity as Estrangement in The Lord of the Rings. Verlyn Flieger

  • Silmarils and Obsession: The Undoing of Fëanor. Melissa Ruth Arul

  • The Other as Kolbítr: Tolkien’s Faramir and Éowyn as Alfred and Æthelflæd. John Holmes

Palgrave has a list of other valuable Tolkien books; check out all their offerings here.


J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, 2nd ed.Another essential collection for Tolkien researchers is Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull’s J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. First published in 2006, this three-volume set has been extensively updated and added to in a second edition forthcoming from HarperCollins.  Hammond and Scull explain the changes in the second edition in their blog posts here and here. My local bookseller tells me that the set should be available in December. No discounts on these very expensive volumes, but I’m expecting them to appear under our Christmas tree all wrapped up.


There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale Verlyn FliegerHere’s a new book coming in December that I definitely will be buying, a new collection of Verlyn Flieger’s essays on Tolkien, to be published by Kent State UP: “There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale”: Essays on Tolkien’s Middle-earth. This would complement an earlier collection of Professor Flieger’s essays in Green Suns and Faerie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s much easier to consult the work of one of the foremost Tolkien scholars of our day in one or two volumes rather than tracking down decades of essays in various sources. In addition, the publisher’s site states that some of the essays have been slightly revised to update them or eliminate repetition.


J.R.R. Tolkien: Romanticist and Poet by J. EilmannFinally, here’s a book from Walking Tree Press just published a couple of months ago: Julian Eilmann’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Romanticist and Poet. Eilmann has previously edited a volume of essays on Tolkien’s poetry which I found very useful, and now this is his monograph that views Tolkien in the light of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Romanticism. I’m very interested in Tolkien’s poetry, but my research focus is mainly on Tolkien’s debt to Old English alliterative verse. This book promises to take me beyond my current interests to give me a different perspective on Tolkien’s work.


I’m looking forward to our December break and a month of intense reading. Obviously, this post is about books that I haven’t yet seen (and no, no one has asked or paid me to promote their books!). For proper book reviews, you should check out the open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Tolkien Research, which includes a book review section. If you have access to a library database or subscription to the journal Tolkien Studies, you can also read book reviews and the “Year’s Work in Tolkien Studies” there. The peer-reviewed journal Mythlore, devoted to the Inklings and mythopoeic literature, also includes book reviews. This journal is available through library or individual subscriptions, but a recent welcome development is that past articles and reviews are also available online, though with an embargo on the most recently published work.

Happy reading and research, everyone! Let me know in the comments about any other new books you’re interested in reading.

 

Tolkien Seminar 2018 in Kalamazoo

Tags

, ,

Brad Eden has organized another one-day Tolkien Seminar on May 9th, the day preceding the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This event takes place in addition to the Tolkien sessions that will be part of the Congress. The Seminar will be held in downtown Kalamazoo at the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo (345 W. Michigan Ave.), two blocks from the Radisson Downtown. Here is the list of presenters; look for a final schedule closer to May.

  • “Eomer gets poetic: Tolkien’s alliterative versecraft.” Luke Baugher, East Tennessee State University.
  • “‘The Cloud of Unseeing'”: myths transformed and pseudo-scientific interpretations of the Book of Genesis.” Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University
  • “Personal reflections and observations on the library of Michael H.R. Tolkien (1920-84).” Brad Eden, Valparaiso University
  • “Who is Mr. Bliss, and more importantly, what kind of concertina is he playing?: Filling a minor lacuna in Tolkien Studies.” Michael Wodzak, Viterbo University
  • “Tolkien’s meteorite.” John D. Rateliff, Independent scholar
  • “One Ring to Rule Them All: the ring motif in classical antiquity and the Middle Ages.” Sandra Hartl, Independent scholar
  • “Tolkien on ‘holiday.'” Andrew Higgins, Independent scholar
  • “‘The glistening of dew drops’: Tolkien, Hopkins, and inscape.” Vickie Holtz-Wodzak, Viterbo University
  • “The Tolkien Art Index.” Erik Mueller-Harder, Independent scholar
  • “‘Like yet unlike’: the uncanny and sodomitic in Tolkien’s Saruman.” Chris Vaccaro, University of Vermont
  • Performance of Maidens of Middle-earth VIII: Women of the Edain. Eileen Moore, composer, pianist, and soloist.

CFP: Queer Tolkien Studies at PCA 2018

Tags

,

This call for papers comes from Robin Reid, organizer of the Tolkien Studies area at the PCA/ACA national conference.

CFP: Queer Tolkien Studies
Paper Session(s) and Roundtable

For  PCA/ACA 2018 National Conference
J.W. Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, Indianapolis, IN, US
March 28-31, 2018

http://pcaaca.org/national-conference/

Deadline for Submission: SEPTEMBER 28, 2017

These sessions will be co-sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Studies and the Tolkien Studies areas:

Bruce E. Drushel, Ph.D.
Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Studies
Department of Media, Journalism, & Film
Miami University
Oxford OH  45056
drushebe@miamioh.edu

Robin Anne Reid, Ph.D.
Tolkien Studies
Department of Literature and Languages
A&M University-Commerce
Commerce, TX 75429
Robin.Reid@tamuc.edu

We wish to organize at least one paper session and one roundtable for the conference. PCA allows presenters to participate in one paper session and in one roundtable.

Submit a title and 100-word abstract with a working bibliography, a mailing address, institutional affiliation, and e-mail address to both area chairs by September 28, 2017. Please indicate clearly whether your proposal is for the paper session, or for the roundtable. If you wish to participate in both, you must submit two different proposals.

Presentations may focus on any aspect of textual production, audience reception, or textual coding that challenge established categories of gender and sexuality including but not limited to:

  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans* or queer readings of Tolkien’s or Jackson’s texts;
  • Readings that focus on non-normative but not clearly marked expressions of gender and sexuality in Tolkien’s or Jackson’s texts;
  • Transformative or derivative works that queer Tolkien’s or Jackson’s texts;
  • Intersectional queer readings of Tolkien’s or Jackson’s texts;
  • Queer Theories/Theorists and Tolkien studies (including historical and biographical aspects as well as fiction and scholarship).

Plans for a Queer Tolkien Studies anthology (co-edited by Robin Anne Reid, Christopher Vaccaro, and Stephen Yandell) will be discussed at the PCA sessions.

 

CFP: 1-Day Tolkien Seminar K’zoo 2018

Tags

, ,

This message comes from Brad Eden, organizer of the Tolkien at Kalamazoo sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. In addition to the Congress sessions, Brad is once again organizing a one-day Tolkien seminar on the Wednesday before the Congress starts. His call for papers follows; Brad writes:

****

I have tentatively arranged with the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo (345 W. Michigan Ave., two blocks from the Radisson Downtown) to hold a one-day Tolkien Seminar similar to the one we held in the WMU Library last year on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 from 12 noon to 7 p.m. prior to the IMC Congress. This is a call for papers for this seminar; technology will be available for Powerpoint. In addition, instead of holding a Tolkien Unbound this year, the culmination of this seminar will be Eileen Moore’s song cycle performance of Maidens of Middle-earth VIII: Women of the Edain.

Please send you paper proposals to me no later than Monday, October 16. If you have any questions, let me know. Thanks. Brad

Brad.Eden@valpo.edu

****