Tolkien Conference Season, May-July 2021

Conference season is upon us again, and just like last year’s sessions, the meetings I’m interested in are being held online.  While nothing can replace sitting on a university patio in the summer sun drinking mead with new and old conference friends, we’ll have to make do with virtual reality.  As I’ve said before, the one advantage is that we can listen to many more papers and “attend” many more conferences than we typically would have done, especially for those who do not have travel funding to go far afield to specialist meetings.

I think that in a fit of overcompensating for last year’s pandemic lockdown and research slowdown, I have offered to give three conference papers and one roundtable discussion this spring and summer.  In order to make sure I remember where I want to be and when, I’ve compiled a list of conference sessions on Tolkien that I’m either involved in or just interested in attending from May to July. 

Kalamazoo campus swan pond

Tolkien Symposium, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Coming up are the sessions which are usually held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which begin with the one-day Tolkien Symposium, sponsored by the Tolkien at Kalamazoo group. These sessions will be held on May 8 from 10:30 a.m. EDT to 5:00 p.m. EDT, with 9 papers, rounding up the day with a musical performance.  To see the full schedule, go to The Symposium is free; email Dr. Christopher Vaccaro for the link [].

My paper is scheduled on May 8. Did you know that Tolkien published a play? And that it is his only piece of historical fiction? My talk is on “Tolkien the Playwright” and deals with his verse drama, “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son.”

International Congress on Medieval Studies, University of Western Michigan

There are a number of sessions on Tolkien and medievalism at this conference, to be held May 10 – 15. Registration is required and so is the payment of a fee, scaled to your income. Each session includes two or more papers; below are the session topics and dates and times.  For details about the presenters and their paper titles, go to the site  or search the program and register at the ICMS site.

Monday, May 10, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Tolkien and Manuscript Studies

Monday, May 10, 5:00 p.m. EDT
Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-Inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption (A Panel Discussion)

Tuesday, May 11, 9:00 a.m EDT
Christopher Tolkien, Medievalist (a roundtable)

Tuesday, May 11, 3 p.m. EDT
Tolkien’s Chaucer

Thursday, May 13, 11:00 a.m. EDT
Tolkien and Se Wyrm

Thursday, May 13, 3 p.m. EDT
Tolkien’s Medicinal Medieval World: Illness and Healing in Middle-earth

Friday, May 14, 1 p.m. EDT
Medieval World-Building: Tolkien, His Precursors and Legacies

Saturday, May 15, 11:00 a.m. EDT
Tolkien’s Paratexts, Appendices, Annals, and Marginalia (a roundtable)

Popular Culture Association

From June 2 – 4, we have the PCA (Popular Culture Association) conference.  Conference registration for non-presenters will open on May 1st here.  The Tolkien Studies Area is organized by Robin Reid.

Tolkien Studies I:  Environmental Ethics and Leadership Theory in Tolkien’s Legendarium
Wednesday, June 2, 11:00 a.m. – 12:20  EDT

  • Amber Lehning. Elf-Songs and Orc-Talk: Environmental Ethics in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, from Beowulf to Peter Jackson
  • Michael Joseph Urick. Theories of Leadership in Middle-earth
  • James Eric Siburt.  Rendering Visible an Understanding of Power in Leadership in Tolkien’s Creation Mythology: Ainulindalë and Akallabêth

Tolkien Studies II:  Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Tolkien’s Legendarium
Wednesday, June 2, 12:30-1:50 p.m. EDT

  • Meaghan Scott.  The Nimrodel and Silverlode: Lothlórien as a Secondary World
  • Rebecca Power, Tolkien’s Penchant for Alliteration: Using XML to Analyze The Lay of Leithian
  • Anna Smol,  Tolkien’s New Old English Genre: “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth”
  • Kristine Larsen, “I am no man”: Game of Thrones’ Lyanne Mormont as Borrowed Tolkienian Canonicity

On June 2, I’ll be talking about what critic Chris Jones calls “New Old English” poetry and how Tolkien’s “Homecoming” and other poems can be viewed as part of an alliterative verse history of the twentieth century.

Tolkien Studies III:  A Roundtable on Tolkien Reception Studies
Wednesday, June 2, 2:00 – 3:20 p.m. EDT
Presenters: Maria Alberto, Cordeliah G. Logsdon, Dawn Walls-Thumma, Cait Coker, Robin Anne Reid

Tolkien Studies IV:  Race and Racisms in Tolkien’s Secondary and Our Primary Worlds
Thursday, June 3, 3:30-4:50 p.m. EDT

  • Robert Tally.  More Dangerous and Less Wise: Racial Hierarchies and Cultural Difference in Tolkien’s World
  • Alastair Whyte.  Scales of malice: The banal evil of Middle-earth’s tyrant-history
  • Craig N. Franson. Where Shadows Lie”: Middle-earth and Neo-fascist Metapolitics
  • Robin Anne Reid.  Race in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings And in Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor

Tolkien Studies V:  Tolkien’s Fandoms
Thursday, June 3, 5:00-6:20 p.m. EDT

  • M. Lee Alexander. “Heroes of the North”: Tolkien and Finnish Fandom
  • Dawn Walls-Thumma. The Pillar and the Vastness: A Longitudinal View of the Tolkien Fanfiction Fandom
  • Cordeliah G. Logsdon. “What care I for the hands of a king?“: Tolkien, Fanfiction, and Narratives of the Self
  • Maria Alberto.  Mathom Economies? Fan Gift Culture and A Tolkien Fic Exchange Event 

Tolkien Studies VI:  A Roundtable on the Future of Tolkien Studies
Friday, June 4, 11:00-12:20 EDT
Presenters:  Craig N Franson, Rebecca Power, James Eric Siburt, Amber Lehning, Anna Smol, Kristine Larsen

On June 4, I’ll be taking part in this roundtable to discuss the study of Tolkien and 20th and 21st century poetry.

Tolkien Studies VII:  The Council of Tolkien Studies
Friday, June 4, 12:30-1:50 p.m. EDT
Presenter: Robin Reid.

Tolkien Society

Tolkien Society Summer Seminar

Looking ahead to July, we have the weekend Tolkien Seminar sponsored by the Tolkien Society, which always takes place just before the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. This year, the Tolkien Society has expanded its Seminar series to include three seminars; one has already taken place last February, and the Summer Seminar is scheduled for July 3-4. The theme of the Summer Seminar is Tolkien and Diversity. The call for papers has just passed, so we still have to wait to see the schedule, but the place to keep up to date is on the Summer Seminar page. These talks will be free for all.

International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds

The IMC at Leeds will be online this year again. Registration is required, with a deadline of May 10, and the full program is available here. The organizer of the Tolkien sessions, to be held July 8-9, is Dr. Andrew Higgins, and you can find details and updates about the Tolkien papers on his blog, Dr. Wotan’s Musings.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches
Thursday, July 8. 14:15-15:45 BST

  • Jan A. Kozak. Borders on the Otherworld: Warrior Maidens, Mounds, and Ancestral Swords in The Lord of the Rings and in the Old Norse Hervar Saga
  • Brian Egede-Pedersen. Flocking to the Serpent Banner – Decolonising The Lord of the Ring‘s Workshop’s Table-Top War Game
  • Joel Merriner. The Raven and the Map: Decoding Gyözö Vida’s A Gyürük Ura
  • Anna Smol. Tolkien’s Alliterative Styles in “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son”

My talk on July 8 will analyze Tolkien’s expert composition of alliterative verse in various styles, from colloquial and informal to highly stylized verse, following the Sievers scheme of alliterative patterns.

Tolkien and Diversity: A Round Table Discussion
Thursday, July 8. 19:00-20:30 BST
Participants: Deidre Dawson, Sultana Raza, Christopher Vaccaro    

Medieval Climates, Cosmologies and EcoSystems in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (I)
Friday, July 9. 14:15-15:45 BST

  • Andrzej Wicher. The Importance of Geographical Directions in the construction of Tolkien’s Middle-earth
  • Aurelie Bremont. King Elessar in Middle-earth: Strawberry Fields Forever?
  • Kristine Larsen. “Carry on My Wayward Sonne (and Moon)”: Common Cosmological Quirks in the Norse Fimbul-Winter and Tolkien’s Early Legendarium
  • Gaëlle Abalea. Political Climate in the “The Fall of Numenor”

Medieval Climates, Cosmologies and EcoSystems in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (II)
Friday, July 9. 16:30-18:00 BST

  • Helen Lawson. The Myth of the Mother – Retracing the Roots of Motherhood in Tolkien’s Decaying Middle-earth
  • Sara Brown. Situating Middle-earth: Reconsidering Tolkien’s Relationship with the Landscape
  • Andrew Higgins. Language Invention, Climate and Landscapes in Tolkien’s Gnomish Lexicon
  • Sultana Raza. How Alan Lee’s Landscapes Outline the Climate of Plot and Tolkien’s Mind-scapes

There will also be a Tolkien Sessions business meeting at some point during the conference week.

Kalamazoo spring 2014

Trying to work out time zones in your area? This has become an important question with these online sessions around the world. I have found this Time Zone Converter to be very handy when trying to figure out what time of day a virtual paper in another country will be given, and you can find lots of other guides and converters online.

Tolkien conference sessions don’t end with the IMC at Leeds in early July. There is more to come later this summer and fall — such as Mythcon and Oxonmoot. Stay tuned for more details later this summer, and feel free to point out in the comments other conferences this May – July season that you’re interested in.

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