Talks on Tolkien: Dawn Walls-Thumma on transformative works

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.

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