The regular International Medieval Congress in Leeds is cancelled, but it’s being replaced by a pared-down virtual IMC, or vIMC. While many presentations have been withdrawn, there is still a healthy program of sessions from Monday to Friday, July 6 – 10 being offered online. Please note that registration is free but closes this Friday, June 26.
Although it’s still a draft program that may change, currently two Tolkien sessions remain, with a truly international roster of speakers. And of course, the times listed are in British time, so you’ll have to calculate the equivalent in your own time zone.
Monday 6 July from 14:15-15:45:
BORDERS IN TOLKIEN’S MEDIEVALISM, I Organiser: Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton Moderator: Kristine Larsen, Geological Sciences Department, Central Connecticut State University
The Liminality of Tolkien’s Non-Human Species Andrzej Wicher, Zakład Dramatu i Dawnej Literatury Angielskiej, Uniwersytet Łódzki
Warrior Maidens, Mounds, and Ancestral Swords in Lord of the Rings and in the Old Norse Hervarar Saga Jan A. Kozák, Institutt for lingvistiske, litterære og estetiske studier, Universitetet i Bergen
Foraging for Sources: Sir Orfeo as the Origin of Medieval Romance Topoi Present in Mirkwood Andoni Cossio, Facultad de Letras, Universidad del Pais Vasco – Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Vitoria-Gasteiz
Monday 6 July 16:30-18:00:
BORDERS IN TOLKIEN’S MEDIEVALISM, II Organiser: Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton Moderator: Alaric Hall, Institute for Medieval Studies / School of English, University of Leeds
The Walls of the World and the Voyage of the Evening Star: The Complex Borders of Tolkien’s Medieval Geocentric Cosmology Kristine Larsen, Geological Sciences Department, Central Connecticut State University
The Limits of Subcreation Lars Konzack, Institut for Kommunikation, Københavns Universitet
A Preliminary History of Deadly Splinters Victoria Holtz Wodzak, School of Humanities, Viterbo University, Wisconsin
Registration will give you access to lots of other sessions on diverse medieval topics. And make sure to check out the book fair, which will have discounts from a number of publishers, as well as the other markets and presentations that will soon be confirmed. As registration is free, this is a great time to experience the conference for those who wouldn’t normally be able to attend, and it’s at least some consolation for those who were originally planning to go.
I was going to write to celebrate Tolkien Reading Day (March 25) as I usually do, with a post on “Leaf by Niggle,” one of the texts recommended by the Tolkien Society for this year’s theme of Nature vs. Industry. However, as we were approaching Tolkien Reading Day, COVID-19 cases started to pop up in Canada, with the result that my university closed on-campus classes on March 13th, and by the 19th they had entirely locked down the campus. So within a matter of days, we had to shift our last three and half weeks of classes and three weeks of exams into virtual operations.
Those weeks were chaotic and stressful, and a Tolkien Reading Day post was abandoned. Students were moving home, sometimes to far-distant time zones; others were taking care of children who were out of school or daycare; some were dealing with the sick and worst of all, with the death of family or friends. Some had no Internet access, or nothing more than a cell phone with limited data to try to connect to their online classes. Most lost their jobs. We missed seeing our students in person, especially our graduating students who would be leaving without an in-person good-bye celebration.
As faculty, we had to rethink how to teach course concepts online and quickly learn new technologies within a matter of days, while triaging student problems. Many faculty had additional challenges at home with childcare or having to share one home computer. Relatively speaking, though, my position has been a privileged one indeed. I have a home and the companionship of my husband while in lockdown (and we each have our own laptops to work on); I can work from home in a safe job with a continuing salary. My adult children, while never far from our minds, are managing (for now) to get by independently. And yet —
And yet, it has been an unsettling and anxious time, filled with uncertainty. Among other concerns, the research and writing that I would normally be immersed in at this time have been relegated to irregular jabs at getting going. My ambitious research project recedes further and further into the distance.
Niggle was a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he had many other things to do. Most of these things he thought were a nuisance; but he did them fairly well, when he could not get out of them: which (in his opinion) was far too often.”
(“Leaf by Niggle,” page 93)
I won’t push an allegorical equivalence with Niggle much farther, although as the banner on top of this blog reveals, I do enjoy and identify with parts of that story, and I would dearly love to learn the secret of his time management lessons without having to go to the same “workhouse.” However, as my attention shifted to our new pandemic living conditions, I was brought back to an important element of Tolkien’s story, the value of art.
I think he was a silly little man,” said Councillor Tompkins. “Worthless, in fact; no use to Society at all.” “Oh, I don’t know,” said Atkins, who was nobody of importance, just a schoolmaster. “I am not so sure: it depends on what you mean by use.” “No practical or economic use,” said Tompkins. “I dare say he could have been made into a serviceable cog of some sort, if you schoolmasters knew your business.”
(“Leaf by Niggle,” page 116)
In the midst of this pandemic anxiety, chaos, and for some, even boredom, how often have people turned to the arts? Movies; tv shows; livestreams of theatre, opera, dance, concerts; Zoom choirs and songs and YouTube parodies; online communities sharing readings; political graffiti or a child’s sidewalk chalk drawings, books and storytelling — the arts have provided us with comfort, distraction, entertainment, enlightenment, information, and calls to action. The fact that most of the artists producing these arts are now out of jobs while society eats up their work should lead us to consider the “use” of art in our Tompkins-led world. How do we use art? How do we use artists?
“It depends on what you mean by use” says the schoolteacher, who is considered “nobody of importance,” and who pushes back (albeit feebly) against Tompkins, who criticizes the teacher for not factory-producing people as “serviceable cog[s]” for some larger economic machine.
It is shocking how often that view is expressed in our Primary World, even in my own world of the university. We have witnessed in numerous places professors being considered simply as “content providers” to students who are imagined as empty buckets – fill them all with the same information, and we’re done; they are “educated”; then churn them out the assembly line into a job. Putting our “content” into online format is easy, as one Tompkins-administrator told a group of students in my university a mere five days after the decision to move classes online, assuring them in her usual perky, uninformed style that everything was fine — “Of course your professors have everything all set online by now!” — completely oblivious to the careful thought that needs to go into teaching effectively in a digital world.
How often have students taking an Arts degree, either to learn to produce and/or to analyze the arts, been asked, “what use is that?” Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m glad when our B.A. students can get – and they do get – good jobs, despite popular misconceptions that Arts graduates don’t do as well as, say, Business students. But even within my university, a Business professor recently wrote in a university-wide document, citing reports by a national bank, that one of the main goals of higher education was “to produce business leaders of the future.” Tompkins is everywhere.
Thankfully, many of my colleagues countered that they believe, instead, that the aim of a university education is to encourage the development of socially responsible global citizens. Yes, we need scientists and social scientists to help solve our problems, but we also need artists and people educated in the humanities to help analyze our world and communicate some truths. Arts courses aim to give students a broad, multifaceted understanding of the world they live in and how it came to be that way. And these courses, at least where I teach, try to do that by having teachers engaging with individual students, exchanging ideas with them, developing their understanding and our own understanding as teachers as we analyze the world together beyond our doors, using novels, poetry, speeches, essays, plays, films, dance, music – the stuff of the arts, that illuminate the world for us.
And let me emphasize together. Good teachers are always learning along with their students. We don’t just dump our “content” onto a webpage and call that “teaching.” And I, like many other teachers, have to continually remind myself that I have to keep learning, to look beyond the comfort and security of my home office to read, watch, and listen to what is going on in our society, and to question continually how it affects what we do and what we teach.
And right now, with protests against systemic racism around the world, in the midst of a global pandemic, our society, while in dire need of many things, also could use the transformative power of the arts – the analysis, commentary, expression, solace, and communication that artists and those educated in the arts can provide.
So yes, “It depends on what you mean by use.”
Work Cited “Leaf by Niggle.” Tree and Leaf, including Mythopoeia. HarperCollins, 2001, pp. 93-118.
I have a lot of learning to do in the next few months. Here are some resources that I’ve been using as starting points for my particular areas of interest:
“Race in Tolkien Studies: A Bibliographic Essay” by Robin Anne Reid. In Tolkien and Alterity, edited by Christopher Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 33-74.
This is the third post showcasing the work of some of my students in my Tolkien and medievalism class this year. You can find Part 1 and Part 2 at these links. As I’ve explained in previous posts, I give my students the option of creating an adaptation in any medium of Tolkien’s work or of a medieval text and then writing an analysis of what they have done.
Today’s feature is by Rebecca Foster, whose video, “Misty Mountains,” appears here with her permission. Rebecca takes as her inspiration the song “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold” in The Hobbit. She wanted to represent how the song takes Bilbo into his imagination, which she illustrates with her watercolours to accompany the poem. Her essay discussed Tolkien’s ideas on imagination, the relation between Primary and Secondary worlds, and included research on Tolkien’s artwork — perhaps you’ll detect his influence!
“Misty Mountains.” Copyright Rebecca Foster. Posted with permission.
Anna Smol, “Adaptation as Analysis: Creative Work in an English Classroom.” Fandom as Classroom Practice: A Teaching Guide, edited by Katherine Anderson Howell, U of Iowa P, 2018, pp. 17 – 31 and 147-50.
We don’t often think of Tolkien as a playwright. Fantasy novelist — of course. Poet, scholar, artist – yes. But we shouldn’t forget that Tolkien also wrote one published play, “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son” – let’s call it “The Homecoming” for short – which was produced by BBC Radio and has been read or performed at various times.
Tolkien wrote other plays, though we don’t have the manuscripts any more, to my knowledge. As a young man, he wrote plays as holiday entertainments when spending time with his Incledon relatives; he probably wrote a farce, Cherry Farm, in 1911 and in the following year, The Bloodhound, the Chef, and the Suffragette (also playing one of the parts). He performed in plays while at school: in 1910 acting as the Inspector in Aristophanes’ play The Birds – in Greek! and also in Greek the following year, taking the role of Hermes in Aristophanes’ Peace. Near the end of 1911, his performance as Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals was praised as “excellent in every way” (Scull and Hammond, Reader’s Guide 313-17).
And of course, all of his debating experience, often in humourous speeches, during his years at King Edward’s and then at Oxford would require a sense of the dramatic in taking up a persona and a position in argument (See the Scull and Hammond Chronology for reports of these debates). John Garth surveys these and other of Tolkien’s early comedic and parodic compositions, pointing out:
By thus limbering up in his early exercises as a writer, he was later able to apply the same skills—more finely tuned, of course—to the most serious topics and with the utmost gravity.”
Even later in life, Tolkien had a flair for the dramatic. Picture him at the Oxford Summer Diversions in 1938 reciting from memory Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale. John Bowers, in his recently published book Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer, imagines the scene:
On the merrymaking occasion in summer 1938, Tolkien strode upon the stage costumed as Chaucer in a green robe, a turban, and fake whiskers parted in the middle like the forked beard shown in early portraits like Ellesmere’s.”
The performance received good reviews in the Oxford Mail, and in the following year, Tolkien returned to perform Chaucer’s Reeve’s Tale, this time producing a shortened and bowdlerized version of the tale for his performance (Bowers 208-211). The poet John Masefield, one of the organizers of the event, described Tolkien’s dramatic abilities:
Professor Tolkien knows more about Chaucer than any living man and sometimes tells the Tales superbly, inimitably, just as though he were Chaucer returned.”
(quoted in Bowers 209)
Above: Geoffrey Chaucer portrait and Tolkien in the 1940s (as close as I could get to the actual date of his performance). You’ll have to imagine Tolkien’s Chaucer costume! Tolkien image from The Guardian, 22 March 2014.
Tolkien’s recitations of Chaucer aren’t the only performances that his audiences remember. His biographer Humphrey Carpenter reports how he used to start his lectures declaiming the opening lines of Beowulf in Old English (137-38). Although students complained that during lectures he mumbled and was hard to follow, these moments of dramatic performance left striking impressions.
In other words, Tolkien had experience in writing and performing dramatic pieces, and I think that he put those skills to good use in “The Homecoming.”
So why don’t we usually think of Tolkien as a playwright? I can think of several reasons. For one, we only have one publication of his in this genre, easily overlooked in the volume of fiction, poetry, letters, and essays that he wrote.
I also think that there’s a tendency to view “The Homecoming” as alliterative poetry for two voices – more like a poetic dialogue not meant for performance on a stage. I would disagree based on the manuscript evidence, but my reasons will have to wait for another time.
Maybe another reason is that “The Homecoming,” inspired by the Old English poem “The Battle of Maldon,” first appeared in a scholarly journal, Essays and Studies, in 1953. Medievalists have been interested mainly in the short essay titled “Ofermod” that Tolkien appended to the play, which deals with “The Battle of Maldon,” and compares it to two other medieval texts, Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. But medieval scholars have not, in general, examined the play as a play.
Finally, we might not think of Tolkien as a playwright because of the negative comments that he made about drama in various letters and in his appendix to “On Fairy-Stories.” In that essay, for example, he claims that drama cannot adequately represent a fantasy world, but whether we agree or not, we should note that “The Homecoming” is different from Tolkien’s other writing. It’s not part of his Middle-earth Secondary World but is based on the aftermath of a battle that took place in 991 according to early English historical chronicles. “The Homecoming” is a work of historical fiction as well as being a play.
The play is now most readily available in the volume Tree and Leaf, tucked in after “On Fairy-Stories,” “Mythopoeia,” and “Leaf by Niggle.”
Tolkien certainly had definite ideas about how the play should be performed on BBC Radio, as his letters tell us, though he was dissatisfied with the BBC production that aired in 1954, with a rebroadcast in 1955. He recorded his own version at home in his study, distinguishing between the two characters’ voices and adding in his own sound effects. A copy of that recording was given out at the Tolkien Centenary Conference in 1992 (Scull & Hammond, Reader’s Guide 547). But you don’t need a copy of that tape to experience Tolkien’s voice dramatizations. Just listen to his reading of the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter from The Hobbit. He does a pretty good job of performing the roles of Bilbo and especially Gollum.
Above: listen to Tolkien’s voicing of Gollum in his reading of “Riddles in the Dark”
It must be pretty clear that I find Tolkien’s play very interesting; in fact, it’s the topic of my current research. I’ve written about “The Homecoming” as a World War One work in my recently published essay, “Bodies in War: Medieval and Modern Tensions in ‘The Homecoming’” in the collection “Something Has Gone Crack”: New Perspectives on J.R.R. Tolkien in the Great War. There, my thesis can be summarized in this way:
Like Tolkien’s better-known works of fiction, HBBS addresses issues of war and heroism that are relevant to a modern writer who is transforming his past experiences into fiction, and as is not uncommon with Tolkien, doing so through the lens of medieval literature.”
What currently interests me in “The Homecoming” is the skilful handling of alliterative metre in the play. Yes, this is a play in alliterative verses, which may sound old-fashioned and stilted, but Tolkien’s knowledge of and handling of alliterative verses is, I think, a tour de force in his creation of different styles in a demanding medium. If you’re able to attend the International Medieval Congress in Leeds , you can hear me talking about “Tolkien’s Alliterative Styles in The Homecoming” on Monday, July 6, 11:15, session 104. Look for an article as well, coming soon, I hope!
I’d love to know in the comments if you’ve read “The Homecoming” and what you think of it. Have you ever heard or seen it performed?
Bowers, John M. Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer. Oxford UP, 2019.
Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Garth, John. “’The road from adaptation to invention’: How Tolkien Came to the Brink of Middle-earth in 1914.” Tolkien Studies, vol. 11, 2014, pp. 1-44.
Scull, Christina and Wayne Hammond. J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide.Reader’s Guide and Chronology. Revised and Expanded Edition. HarperCollins, 2017.
Smol, Anna. “Bodies in War: Medieval and Modern Tensions in ‘The Homecoming’.” “Something Has Gone Crack”: New Perspectives on J.R.R. Tolkien in the Great War, edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Annika Röttinger, Walking Tree Publishers, 2019, pp. 263-83.
Tolkien, J.R.R. “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son.” Tree and Leaf, HarperCollins, 2001, pp. 121-150.
As always, if you are an independent scholar (i.e. you do not have an institutional affiliation) and do not have access to some of these resources, please send me an email and I will try to provide private research copies if possible.
The city of Leeds will host a variety of Tolkien presentations this summer, from July 4th to the 9th, at both the Tolkien Society Seminar and the International Medieval Congress.
The Tolkien Society Seminar has just issued its call for papers, with the theme for this annual meeting being “Adapting Tolkien.” This year, the Society is extending the Seminar to an extra half day, so the full-day program will take place on Saturday, July 4, from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. and the following morning, Sunday, July 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. As the Tolkien Society page states, this is “a short conference of both researcher-led and non-academic presentations.” Suggested topics include the following (although papers do not have to be limited to these):
Adapting Tolkien’s works to stage and screen
Other adaptations: games, merchandise and Hobbit-hole hotels
The deadline for paper proposals in April 5; to submit, follow the link on the Tolkien Society Seminar page, which is where you can find more details about registration and location.
[May 12 edit: The Seminar will be presented online. Check for posts closer to the date with more details.]
The Seminar is held just before the International Medieval Congress opens on the following Monday, where a number of Tolkien sessions will be held during the conference week. See this post by Andrew Higgins, one of the co-organizers of those sessions, for titles, dates, and times of Tolkien papers at IMC 2020.
[edit May 12: IMC cancelled due to COVID-19. A pared-down version of the conference will go online. Please check later for posts with more details.]
Or you can check out the session details below from the program which has just been published online and mailed out to participants; these PDFs include session abstracts, which will give you a little more information about what the speakers intend to talk about:
As usual, students in my Studies in Medievalism course have created wonderful projects to demonstrate their engagement with our texts and to experience first-hand the process of adaptation, a main theme in our seminar.
I’ve written about this type of assignment before in my essay “Adaptation as Analysis: Creative Work in an English Classroom” that is in Katherine Anderson Howell’s volume, Fandom as Classroom Practice: A Teaching Guide (U of Iowa Press, 2018). One of the student projects illustrated and discussed in that essay can be seen here and a review of another year in the course is posted here.
In today’s post I’d like to share, with his permission, Dillon Hughson’s adaptation project, a modernized version of the Old Icelandic poem “Hárbarðsljóð” or “Harbard’s Song” that appears in the Poetic Edda. This is a “flyting” poem — a contest of insults between two people, in this case Thor and Harbard, a ferryman who is usually identified as Odin in disguise. As do all the students in my course, Dillon had to write an analysis of the source text and explain how he adapted it. He researched the elements of a flyting and then tried to reproduce those features by placing Thor and Odin in a modern comedic context.
Enjoy his video! And watch for more student projects posted here in the weeks ahead.
With the permission of Dillon Hughson. Written and directed by Dillon Hughson. Thor: Matthew Hughson. Odin: Brennan Hughson.Copyright Dillon Hughson.
I usually post full details of various conference programs closer to the time of the events, but for now, I’ll just post session titles for an overview of the upcoming Tolkien conference season this spring and summer. Details may change over the next few months, so always follow the links to the official programs for final details.
Tolkien at Vermont: April 4
April 4, 2020 University of Vermont, Burlington, VT Organizer: Dr. Chris Vaccaro
[May 12 edit: conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
Special theme: Tolkien and Classical Antiquities
The Tolkien in Vermont website describes the conference as “an annual weekend of academic papers, fireside readings, and bonhomie, bringing together seasoned academics, students, independent scholars, and the general public…” — very true, in my experience.
The program hasn’t been posted yet, but this 17th annual event at the University of Vermont has announced its keynote speaker, John Wm. Houghton, well known to Tolkien scholars for his various publications and editorial work. Go to the website for more details.
Tolkien at Popular Culture Association: April 15 – 18
April 15 – 18, 2020 Philadelphia, US Organizer: Dr. Robin Anne Reid
[May 12 edit: conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
May 7 – 10, 2020 Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
[May 12 edit: conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
For more details about these sessions, you can check the sneak preview of the Congress program. Registration opens in February.
Thursday, May 7. 10 a.m. Medieval World-Building: Tolkien, His Precursors and Legacies Sponsor: Fantasy Research Hub, School of Critical Studies, Univ. of Glasgow Organizer: Dimitra Fimi, Fantasy Research Hub, School of Critical Studies, Univ. of Glasgow; Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow Presider: Kristine A. Swank
Friday, May 8. 1:30 p.m. Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption (A Panel Discussion) Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society Organizer: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar Presider: Carrie Pagels, Independent Scholar
Saturday, May 9. 10 a.m. Tolkien and Se Wyrm Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Saturday, May 9. 1:30 p.m. Tolkien’s Paratexts, Appendices, Annals, and Marginalia (A Roundtable) Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
Saturday, May 9. 3:30 p.m. Tolkien’s Chaucer Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Christopher Vaccaro
Sunday, May 10. 8:30 a.m. Tolkien and Manuscript Studies Organizer: William Fliss, Marquette Univ. Presider: William Fliss
For more details about these sessions, go to the sneak preview of Congress sessions. The final program will be posted on the ICMS site.
The special theme of the 2020 Congress is “Borders,” which explains why there are three sessions on Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism. Registration opens on February 10th.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Deirdre Dawson, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Monday 6 July (11:15-12:45)
New Sources and Approaches to Tolkien’s Medievalism – A Round Table Discussion Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser and Moderator: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Tuesday 7 July (19:00-20:00)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism I Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (9:00-10:30)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism II Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Sara Brown, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (11:15-12:45)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism III Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser and Moderator/Chair: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (14:15-15:45)
And looking ahead to the summer:
Mythcon: July 31-August 3
July 31 – August 3, 2020 Mythopoeic Society – Mythcon 51 Albuquerque, New Mexico
[May 12 edit: conference postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19]
Theme: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien
Registration is now open but the call for papers and program haven’t appeared yet.
Oxonmoot: September 3 – 6
The Tolkien Society – Oxonmoot September 3 – 6 St. Anne’s College, Oxford
[June 6 edit: Oxonmoot will be held online. Oxonmoot Online will take place September 18-20. Check the Tolkien Society website for more details as they become available.]
Registration is now open but a program will come later. The call for papers will open February 9th.
I’d be happy to hear about any conferences I’ve missed in the comments.
You can find the submission guidelines here. Different sponsoring groups have different deadlines. For example, the Tolkien at Kalamazoo group would like proposals by September 1st (tomorrow!) while the final deadline for ICMS proposals generally is September 15th — though no one is advised to wait that long. You can search the complete call for papers for the Congress here.
Tolkien at Kalamazoo is sponsoring 3 sessions:
Tolkien’s Paratexts: Appendices, Annals, and Marginalia (Roundtable) Following the medieval manuscript tradition, Tolkien’s literary fiction includes charts, maps, annals and other paratextual elements, many found in the Appendices. These elements deserve further critical study. Taking his father’s lead, Christopher Tolkien has been meticulously editing J.R.R. Tolkien’s manuscripts, supplying commentary and emendations concerning the many cruxes within the notes and typescripts. As medievalists, we will bring this often ignored back matter and marginalia to the foreground.
Tolkien and Se Wyrm Tolkien admits to being influenced by the dragons of Beowulf and the Volsungasaga. In those medieval epic texts, the dragon is monstrous but somewhat uncanny and familiar to human kind; distinctions are blurred. Something similar happens in Tolkien’s fictions, presenting exciting new considerations on the subject of monstrosity. Papers could explore the interdisciplinary relationships between the dragons of medieval legend and those of Middle-earth.
Tolkien’s Chaucer With the upcoming publication of Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer (edited by John M. Bowers, Oxford University Press, 2019) readers of Tolkien have the opportunity to explore how Tolkien read Chaucer as well as how that reading influenced his fiction. This paper session might explore fourteenth-century ideas of romance, neoplatonism, self in relation to society, constructions of gender, etc., as they related to Tolkien’s texts.
Proposals for the above sessions should be sent to:
Dr. Christopher Vaccaro Email: email@example.com
You can also send Chris a proposal for the Tolkien Symposium which takes place on the Wednesday before the start of the conference. While the official CFP will come out later with a January deadline, the Symposium usually has an open theme and you can propose a paper now.
University of Glasgow, Fantasy Research Hub
Medieval World-Building: Tolkien, his Precursors and Legacies The recent volume Sub-creating Arda: World-building in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works, its Precursors, and Legacies (2019), edited by D. Fimi and T. Honegger, examines the importance of invented story-worlds as spaces for primary-world social commentary, or as means for visualizing times and places not accessible to the reader. Tolkien was one of the foremost proponents of literary world-building, what he called “sub-creation,” and his Middle-earth has had unrivaled influence on subsequent world-building efforts. Yet, Tolkien’s own sub-creations were born from medieval story-worlds such as Beowulf,Kalevala, Volsungasaga, and others. This paper session examines the emergent, interdisciplinary research field of world-building through Tolkien’s Middle-earth, its medieval precursors, and/or its modern legacies. Papers might be on such topics as mythopoeia, design, systems of magic, geology, geography, cartography, cosmology, ecology, sociology, demographics, cultural anthropology, materiality, religion, philosophy, language—literally anything that goes into world-building—in conjunction with the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, or his medieval/medievalist precursors, or his worldbuilding legacy in literature or other fields. Papers on interdisciplinary topics are welcome.
Please send your proposals with “Tolkien World-Building” in the subject line to: Dimitra Fimi (Dimitra.Fimi@glasgow.ac.uk) AND Kris Swank (KSwank@pima.edu).
Marquette University Archives
Tolkien and Manuscript Studies J.R.R. Tolkien the scholar studied and taught medieval manuscripts. In imitation of these, Tolkien the author incorporated fictional manuscripts into his tales. He produced an enormous quantity of his own manuscripts in the course of crafting his Legendarium, which his son Christopher and others have closely examined. In his influential essay “The Great Chain of Reading: (Inter-)textual Relations and the Technique of Mythopoesis in the Túrin Story” (2002), Gergely Nagy explains that Tolkien’s mode of narrative development was akin to that of the medieval European tradition, writing, redacting, and expanding of numerous versions.
This session proposal invites papers on the role of manuscripts (as mise-en-page and mise-en-scène) in the life and works of Tolkien.
Contact: William Fliss Phone: (414) 288-5906 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tales After Tolkien Society
Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien Inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption (A Panel Discussion)
Legacies of Tolkien’s Whiteness in Contemporary Medievalisms (A Roundtable)
Contact: Geoffrey B. Elliott PO Box 292970 Kerrville, TX 78028 email: email@example.com
IMC Leeds July 6-9, 2020
The deadline for Tolkien proposals is September 6.
Sessions 1-3: Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism – paper sessions These sessions will directly address the overall theme of the conference (“Borders”). Papers in these sessions can explore all aspects of borders in Tolkien’s works in its broadest sense. These can be explorations of geographical, conceptual, political and linguistic borders in Tolkien’s work as well as the role and impact of borders on the peoples and cultures of Tolkien’s world-building and in his other creative and academic explorations.
Sessions 4-5: Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches – paper sessions These sessions can accommodate wider topics and new approaches to Tolkien’s medievalism, ranging from source studies and theoretical readings, to comparative studies (including Tolkien’s legacy).
Session 6 – New Sources and Approaches to Tolkien’s Medievalism This roundtable discussion provides a forum to explore new sources and approaches to Tolkien’s work. This can explore new academic work drawn from the most recent published editions of Tolkien’s work including The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (ed. Verlyn Flieger, 2017), The Tale of Beren and Lúthien (ed. Christopher Tolkien, 2017), The Fall of Gondolin (ed. Christopher Tolkien, 2018) as well as new academic works such as Tolkien’s Library – An Annotated Checklist (Cilli, forthcoming August 2019) and Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer (OUP: Bowers, forthcoming September 2019).
If you are interested in participating:
Please submit a paper/round table contribution title and abstract to Dr. Dimitra Fimi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Andrew Higgins (email@example.com) by 6th September
Length of abstracts: 100 words. (Papers will be 15-20 minutes long while roundtable contributions will be 10-12 minutes long). With your abstract, please include name and details of contributor (affiliation, address, and preferred e-mail address).
A note on how Kalamazoo and Leeds organizers select papers differently: for the ICMS in Kalamazoo, the session topics are first approved by the Congress organizers and then the session sponsors select presenters to fill the sessions. At Leeds, the session sponsors select presenters and send in the full session proposal to the Congress organizers to await approval. Sometimes, sessions are not approved.
On the day before the Congress begins (Sunday 5 July), the Tolkien Society sponsors a Tolkien Seminar, a full day of presentations. The call for papers will be available later this year.
It’s going to be a busy week coming up in Kalamazoo Michigan for Tolkien scholars. The Tolkien at Kalamazoo group, led by Chris Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor, is planning what has now become an annual symposium one day ahead of the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University. The Symposium, to be held off campus on Wednesday, May 8th, features a day of papers, some music, and a free screening in the evening of the new Tolkien biopic.
Following the Tolkien Symposium, the Medieval Congress kicks into high
gear starting on Thursday, May 9th, with several Tolkien sessions organized by
Tolkien at Kalamazoo and other departments or groups.
I used to compile this schedule to keep track of all the papers I wanted
to hear. I’m not going to Kalamazoo this year, but it’s still intriguing to see
what topics people are working on. Take a look if you’re curious, or plan your
schedule if you’re going!
Tolkien at Kalamazoo Symposium
Wednesday, May 8th Kazoo Books [2413 Parkview Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008]
12:00 – 1:00 Reconstructing the library of Michael H.R. Tolkien (1920-84) Brad Eden
– 1:30 Queer Hobbits: Language for the Strange,
the Odd, and the Peculiar in Tolkien‘s The
Lord of the Rings Yvette Kisor
– 2:00 Who maketh Morwinyon, and Menelmacar,
and Remmirath, and the inner parts of the south (where the stars are strange): Tolkien’s Astronomical Choices and
the Books of Job and Amos Kristine Larsen
Tolkien’s Early Para-Texts; A
Lit and Lang Exploration of The Heraldic Devices of Tol-Etherin
2:30 – 3:00 BREAK / Maidens of Middle-earth IX (music) Eileen Moore
– 3:30 The Grisaille Havens, Verdaille Dragon,
and Brunaille Lands: Brushwork in Tolkien’s Watercolors
–4:15 Marquette’s Tolkien Manuscripts in a Digital
Bill Fliss and John Rateliff
“Dreamlike it was, and yet no dream:”
Faramir’s Vision of the Passing of Boromir
Vickie Holtz Wodzak
A SELECT SCREENING OF TOLKIEN (FOX SEARCHLIGHT, 2019) 6:00 pm (Seating at 5:30!) AMC, 10 Portage Street. FREE
[EDIT May 5]: If you would like to attend the movie screening, you have to give your name to the organizer Chris Vaccaro before 5:30 that evening. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Congress on Medieval Studies, Thursday, May 9 – Sunday, May 12
Thursday 10:00 a.m. Session 17 FETZER 2016 Misappropriations of Tolkien’s medievalism (a roundtable) Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Richard West, Univ. of Wisconsin–Madiso
A roundtable discussion with Leigh Smith, East Stroudsburg Univ.; Robin Anne Reid, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce; Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.; Anna Czarnowus, Univ. of Silesia; Stephen Yandell, Xavier Univ.
Thursday 1:30 p.m. Session 64 FETZER 2016 Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Deidre Dawson, Independent Scholar
Sun-Soot: Ragnarok and the Servants of Sauron Larry J. Swain, Bemidji State Univ. Medievalist, Modernist, and Postmodernist Readings of Tolkien’s constructions of Race Robin Anne Reid, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce Jihad / Crusade or Race War? The News from the Battle of Helm’s Deep Michael A. Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.
Thursday 3:30 p.m. Session 112 FETZER 2016 Tolkien and Temporality: Medieval Constructions of Time Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Brad Eden, Independent Scholar
Of Niggle and Ringwraiths: Tolkien on Time and Eternity as the Deepest Stratum of His Work Robert Dobie, La Salle Univ. Tolkien’s Anglo-Saxon Women: A Journey into the Medieval through the Modernity of Middle-Earth Annie Brust, Kent State Univ./Kenston High School The Eschatological Catholic: J. R. R. Tolkien and a Multi-Modal Temporality Stephen Yandell, Xavier Univ.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. Session 350 FETZER 2016 Medieval Song, Verse, and Versification in Tolkien’s Works Organizer: Annie Brust, Kent State Univ. Presider: Annie Brust
Noldorin and Sindarin Verse in the Lord of the Rings Eileen Marie Moore, Cleveland State Univ. Boethian Philosophy and Splintered Music: Decay through Time in Tolkien’s Legendarium Brad Eden, Independent Scholar Tolkien, the Beowulf-Poet, and the Phenomenology of Song and Identity Paul Fortunato, Univ. of Houston-Downtown
Saturday 12:00 noon Tolkien at Kalamazoo Business Meeting Bernhard 211
Saturday 1:30 p.m. Session 397 BERNHARD BROWN & GOLD ROOM The Medieval Roots of Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin Organizer: William Fliss, Marquette Univ. Presider: William Fliss
Four Brethren Heroes of the Gondolindrim: Egalmoth, Ecthelion, Glorfindel, and Legolas: A Mythic and Linguistic Exploration Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar “Ic eom sæliden”: Medieval Romance Motifs in Tolkien’s Fall of Gondolin John R. Holmes, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville From the Deeds of the Youth to the Arrival of a King Anne Reaves, Marian Univ.
Saturday 3:30 p.m. Session 449 BERNHARD BROWN & GOLD ROOM Tolkien’s Legendarium and Medieval Cosmology Sponsor: History Dept., Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce Organizer: Judy Ann Ford, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce Presider: Judy Ann Ford
“It Lies Behind the Stars”: Situating Tolkien’s Work within the Aesthetics of Medieval Cosmology“ Connie Tate, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce Cynewulf, Copernicus, and Conjunctions: The Problem of Cytherean Motions in Tolkine’s Medieval Cosmology” Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ. Binding Faerie with the Chains of Time: Tolkien’s Failure to Finish The Silmarillion John D. Rateliff, Independent Scholar
Sunday 8:30 a.m. Session 509 FETZER 2016 The Legacy of Tolkien’s Medievalism in Contemporary Works Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society Organizer: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar Presider: Geoffrey B. Elliott
Caines Cynne in Azeroth: Tolkien’s Medievalism in the Warcraft Series Benjamin C. Parker, Northern Illinois Univ. The Two Eyes of the Dragon: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Beowulf as an Introduction to English Literature in Academic Enviroments Isabella Aparecida Leite Nogueira, Univ. Federal de Juiz de Fora; Mariana Mello Alves de Souza, Univ. Federal de Juiz de Fora Diluting Divinity: Connecting Genesis to Diablo by Way of Numenor Rachel Cooper, Univ. of Saskatchewan
The two largest medieval conferences — in Kalamazoo and in Leeds — have upcoming deadlines for paper proposals. There are plenty of sessions for those involved in Tolkien studies. The International Conference on Medieval Studies has pre-approved sessions looking for participants. The International Medieval Congress in Leeds works differently; the organizer, Dr. Dimitra Fimi, has to submit abstracts for each proposed session and wait for approval.
New Voices and New Topics in Tolkien Scholarship (a roundtable)
The IMC takes place July 1-4, 2019 at the University of Leeds.
Deadline: September 1: ICMS in Kalamazoo
There are a number of options for Tolkien scholars in Kalamazoo. Dr. Chris Vaccaro and Dr. Yvette Kisor have volunteered to take over the organization of the Tolkien at Kalamazoo group, previously led by Dr. Brad Eden for several years. In addition to the three approved sessions sponsored by Tolkien at Kalamazoo, there are several other independent sessions, as well as a couple of sessions sponsored by the Tales After Tolkien Society.
Tolkien at Kalamazoo sponsored sessions: abstracts to Chris Vaccaro <email@example.com> or Yvette Kisor <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race: Paper session.
The question of Tolkien’s engagement in and use of medieval constructions of race represents a timely question, perhaps unfortunately so. Whether we consider the hierarchical structure of the created races of Middle-earth, the linguistic and cultural similarities between Dwarves and Jews, or his granting of eastern or African features to specific races such as the Easterlings or the Haradrim, we find Tolkien working with medieval constructions of race, such as the notion of the Saracen. This paper session invites considerations of Tolkien and medieval constructions of race.
Tolkien and Temporality: Medieval Constructions of Time: Paper session.
Given the presence of both immortal Elves and mortal Men in Middle-earth, time is experienced and represented in multiple ways. The timeline of history is expressed as consecutive ages tracing the emerging and residual dominance of two peoples, Elves and Men. This timeline of Arda moves from a creation to a final end, and in this teleological conception, medieval notions of time and history, particularly Christian notions, can be seen. This paper session encourages explorations of how medieval constructions of time enter Tolkien’s legendarium.
Misappropriation of Tolkien’s Medievalism: Roundtable/panel session
Many white supremacists love Tolkien. An uncomfortable statement, and certainly not the whole truth, but the reality is that self-identified white nationalists have embraced and appropriated aspects of Tolkien’s medievalism since the late 1930s. In many cases, these are misunderstood aspects, and such individuals are embracing a Middle Ages that never existed, but in the created world of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, it is more complicated. It is often the medieval-derived aspects of Tolkien’s creation that are most appealing to such groups and individuals. This roundtable invites participants to consider the misappropriation of Tolkien’s medievalism, from how and why it happens, to what aspects of Tolkien’s work seem to attract this and why, and finally how to respond to it.
More Tolkien sessions:
4. The Medieval Roots of Tolkien’s Fall of Gondolin. Organized by Bill Fliss, Marquette University. Proposals to William.Fliss@marquette.edu
The upcoming publication of Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin (August 2018) makes available what Tolkien called “the first real story of this imagined world” (Letter 163), the story of the fall of a great hidden Elven kingdom that occupied Tolkien throughout his life. It forms the basis for much of his early legendarium of Middle-earth and incorporates many aspects of medieval themes and topics. This paper session invites considerations of the medieval roots of Tolkien’s tale.
5. Tolkien’s Legendarium and Medieval Cosmology. Organizer: Judy Ford, Texas A&M Commerce. Abstracts to Judy.Ford@tamuc.edu
6. Medieval Song, Verse and Versification in Tolkien’s Works. Organizer: Annie Brust. Abstracts to email@example.com