Tolkien as Artist and Writer


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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.


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 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


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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

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

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

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


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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


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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


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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



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

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

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

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


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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


An exercise for active reading of the syllabus


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"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham


It’s syllabus-writing season! Here’s an exercise I devised several years ago that I’m still using to promote students’ active thinking about course policies — and faculty understanding of how students perceive course requirements and regulations. The article explaining my exercise was published in the Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase Proceedings 2010, pages 55-59.

The abstract follows, and a link to the full article is given below.

“Think Like A Professor!: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Course Policies”

The “Think Like a Professor!” exercise is designed to enliven introductory classes while presenting course policies and regulations to students. The exercise pulls students out of their passive role as receptacles of course information, puts them in the instructor’s place, and asks them to apply the instructor’s course policies in various scenarios based on real incidents. The exercise accomplishes several goals, including establishing appropriate modes of interaction among students, asking students to read and extract information, requiring students to apply, analyze, and synthesize facts and ideas, giving students insight into how their actions are perceived by faculty and others, and giving faculty feedback on their regulations and a view of student attitudes and values. Students are encouraged to see that course policies and regulations have a purpose that is applicable to both students and instructors.

Think Like a Professor! Student & Faculty Perceptions of Course Policies [pdf]

CFP: Tolkien in Leeds 2018


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This call for papers comes from Dr. Dimitra Fimi, the organizer of the Tolkien sessions at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, which will be held July 2-5, 2018.

IMC Leeds 2018 – Call for Papers on J.R.R. Tolkien

I am seeking abstracts for sessions on J.R.R. Tolkien for the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 2-5 July 2018, under the following themes:

‘New’ Tolkien: Expanding the Canon – paper session
This session will focus on recent works by J.R.R. Tolkien, posthumously published and authorized by the Tolkien Estate. Many of these volumes include Tolkien’s translations or creative retellings of medieval material. Papers can focus on (but are not restricted to) The Fall of Arthur (ed. Christopher Tolkien, 2013), Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (ed. Christopher Tolkien, 2014), The Story of Kullervo (ed. Verlyn Flieger, 2015), A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (ed. Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, 2016), The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (ed. Verlyn Flieger, forthcoming, 2017) and The Tale of Beren and Lúthien (ed. Christopher Tolkien, 2017).

Memory in Tolkien’s Medievalism – paper session
J.R.R. Tolkien’s “secondary world” unfolds in an immense depth of time. This sense of depth is inherent in The Lord of the Rings and is apparent in scenes such as the Council of Elrond, during which Elrond himself reminisces about events that took place thousands of years previously. What is more, it is not a literary device: Tolkien spent most of his lifetime inventing an extended mythology that detailed the history of his imaginary world over millennia, including a cosmogonic myth and a great number of interrelated legends and tales. This session will explore time in Tolkien’s legendarium with an emphasis on memory. Papers can focus on topics such as the value, nature, means, or trauma of remembering and/or forgetting the past in Middle-earth, the role of memory in shaping the future, memorials and monuments, the fictitious transmission of the legendarium (via texts or orally), and remembering and forgetting as part of Tolkien’s “secondary world infrastructures” (Wolf, 2012) such as timelines, genealogies, languages, cultures, etc. (This is not an exclusive list.)

Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches – paper session
This session will accommodate wider topics and new approaches to Tolkien’s medievalism, ranging from source studies and theoretical readings, to comparative studies (including Tolkien’s legacy).

Tolkien in Context(s) – round table discussion
This round table discussion provides a forum to explore different approaches to Tolkien’s work via various frameworks and contexts, from Tolkien’s medieval scholarship and his social/historical/intellectual milieu, to worldbuilding, the wider history of fantasy literature, and including Tolkien in an academic curriculum (the list is not exclusive).

If you are interested, please submit a paper/round table contribution title and abstract to Dr Dimitra Fimi ( by 31st August 2017.

  • Length of abstracts: 100 words
  • (Papers will be 15-20 minutes long while round table contributions will be 10-12 minutes long)
  • With your abstract, please include name and details of contributor (affiliation, address, and preferred e-mail address).

Dr Dimitra Fimi
Cardiff Metropolitan University

And another call: Tolkien at PCA/ACA 2018


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Organizer Robin Reid has sent out a call for papers for the Tolkien Studies area at the 2018 Popular Culture Association conference, to be held March 28-31 in Indianapolis, IN, US.

Below is a copy of the CFP, also available for download here:  PCA 2018 CFP [pdf]

MARCH 28-31, 2018


Presenting at PCA/ACA:

For information on the Tolkien Studies area, please contact:

Robin Anne Reid
Department of Literature and Languages
A&M University-Commerce
Commerce, TX 75429

Or check the Tolkien Studies at Popular Culture Public Group on Facebook.

The Tolkien Studies Area welcomes proposals for papers or sessions in any area of Tolkien Studies (the Legendarium, adaptations, reader reception and fan studies, source studies, cultural studies, tourism studies, literary studies, medieval and medievalist studies, media and marketing) from any disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective. Sessions are scheduled in 1½ hour slots, typically with four papers or speakers per paper session. Roundtables may have five-seven speakers. Currently proposed sessions we are especially interested in filling are:  Queer Tolkien Studies and The Future of Tolkien Studies.

To submit your paper or panel proposal, go to and follow the instructions for creating an account and making your submission. ALL submissions must be made through the conference submission site.

For individual papers, please submit a title and 100-word abstract with a working bibliography. For roundtables or complete paper sessions, please submit titles and abstracts for all papers, along with a paragraph describing the central theme and the names of chairs, participants, and respondents (if any).  For each participant, please provide a mailing address, institutional affiliation, and e-mail address.

Key Dates:

 Jul 1. Database Opens for Submissions
Oct 1. Registration Opens
Oct 1. Deadline for Paper Proposals
Oct 15. All Sessions Entered into the Database by Area Chairs
Nov 15. Early Bird Registration Rate Ends
Dec 1. Preliminary Program Available
Dec 15. “Drop Dead” Date:  Participants Not Registered Removed from Program
Jan 1, 2018. Final Program to Publisher