The Popular Culture Association has designated a new special topic of Tolkien Studies, which may become a permanent area in the conference if enough interest is shown. Currently, I know of roundtables being proposed on the state of Tolkien Studies and on the Marquette Tolkien Archive, and I’ve also heard of individual papers likely to be proposed on “The Fall of Arthur” and The Hobbit films. Below, you’ll find information for a proposed session on “Authorizing Tolkien: Questions of Control, Adaptation, and Disseminating Tolkien’s Works.” If anyone wants to propose an individual paper, a session, or a roundtable, you can do so through the PCA website. The PCA organizers are interested in any area of Tolkien studies, from any disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective. The CFP for Tolkien Studies and links to the submission database and to general conference information can be found here.
The deadline for submissions is November 1st.
The conference will be held in Chicago, April 16-19, 2014.
A call for papers for one of the proposed sessions follows:
Authorizing Tolkien: Questions of Control, Adaptation, and Dissemination of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works
In 2012, Christopher Tolkien gave an interview to Le Monde, in which he describes himself as turning his head from the recent commercialization of his father’s work: “Il ne me reste qu’une seule solution: tourner la tête.” Although the degree to which adaptations of different works are “faithful” to their originals is a perennial matter for debate, one wonders if the effects of larger-scale commercial adaptations may suggest ways in which Tolkien’s works resonate with current societal concerns. Perhaps societal appetites, interested in their own self-indulgences, have appropriated his works with little concern for what they contain.
Fans and critics alike will have strong opinions about the “validity” of certain adaptations of Tolkien’s works. One might think of the Rankin-Bass animated versions of The Hobbit and Return of the King, Ralph Bakshi’s partially-rotoscoped animated adaptation, a number of video games based on Tolkien’s narratives, fan fiction, etc. While no one can force in what ways Tolkien’s works are reshaped and retold, no one would deny the impulse to judge such works in terms of authenticity—whether they maintain fidelity to the originals. Who, then, defines such fidelity? Is it possible even to authorize Tolkien at all? Does asking such questions reveal artistic merit that might be assigned to other authors of enduring English language works (Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, the dramas of Shakespeare, etc.)?
This session proposes to explore matters of control, adaptation, and dissemination of Tolkien’s works (including those of his son, Christopher), and the implications such matters have for future scholarship in the area. Discussion topics are not limited to, but can include, ideas of authority with respect to Tolkien’s intellectual “property,” (crossing) boundaries in adaptation, expanding (even potentially negative) critiques of Tolkien’s narratives, modes of retelling Tolkien’s stories, etc.
If you’re interested in submitting a proposal for this session, please let Robin Reid and Michael Elam know: