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


CfP: Tolkien at Kzoo 2018


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It seems as if the Tolkien at Kalamazoo sessions just finished up for this year, and here we are already with next year’s calls for papers. You can find all the CFPs and information on how to propose a talk on the International Congress on Medieval Studies website. The conference will take place May 10 – 13, 2018 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, US. Here are the four approved sessions on Tolkien for 2018:

The Tolkien at Kalamazoo group has two sessions.
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso University

Tolkien’s re-envisioning of the medieval lay:  the Lay of Beren and Luthien and the Lay of Aotrou and Itroun.

This will be a session of papers exploring two recent posthumous Tolkien publications by his son Christopher, and how they fit into the production of Tolkien’s legendarium.

Medievalism and environmentalism in Tolkien’s works

This will be a session of papers exploring the influences of environmentalism in Tolkien’s works, both his own beliefs as well as influences from the medieval world.

The deadline for submission of proposals is September 1, 2017 to Dr. Brad Eden at

Contact: Brad Eden
353 Harrison Blvd.
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Phone: 702-732-7885

 “Eald Enta Geweorc”: Tolkien and the Classical Tradition
Sponsored by The Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy, The Hill School.
Organizer John Wm. Houghton

“Finnish,” J. R. R. Tolkien famously commented, “nearly ruined my Honor Mods,” but even a bottom-of-the-barrel Second on the first examination in Litterae Humaniores in 1913 reflects a considerable depth of classical learning by our standards a century later. Despite his academically dangerous attraction to the northern fringes of Europe, Tolkien’s scholarly and literary projects could no more escape the intellectual relics of Greco-Roman civilization than could the Anglo Saxons whose landscape still showed its physical ruins, the ‘old work of giants.’ This session seeks papers which will consider Tolkien the medievalist as receiver and transmitter of the classical heritage.

Contact: John Wm. Houghton
The Hill School
860 Beech St.
Pottstown, PA 19464
Phone: 610-906-9690
Fax: 610-705-1328


Please submit proposals (consisting of a one-page abstract and the Congress Participant Information Form) by September 1st.

Tolkien and the Celtic Tradition
Sponsored by the History Department, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce
Organizer: Judy Ann Ford

Papers may focus on the impact of the Celtic tradition on any aspect of Tolkien’s work, either fictional or scholarly.

Contact: Judy Ann Ford
Email: (preferred); or
Physical Address:
History Department
Texas A&M University–Commerce
PO Box 3011
Commerce, TX 75429; or

Fax: 903-468-3230.

The deadline is September 15, 2017.



Tolkien Society Seminar 2017


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Where do the months fly by? June was busy, as I was preparing my talk for the Tolkien Society Seminar in Leeds while also putting the final touches on our family vacation itinerary in Europe — we were given a very special opportunity this year to travel to France, Italy, and Scotland, with a stop in Leeds for the Seminar. Our schedule meant that I couldn’t stay longer for the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, but maybe next year…. The Tolkien Society Seminar plus Dimitra Fimi’s organization of Tolkien sessions at the IMC certainly make Leeds a desirable destination.

Tolkien Society Seminar 2017 speakers

Tolkien Society Seminar 2017 speakers. L to R, back row: Michaela Hausmann, Szymon Pindur, Brad Eden, Andrew Higgins, Massimiliano Izzo, me!, Kristine Larsen, Irina Metzler. Front row, l to r: Penelope Holdaway, Aurelie Bremont, Dimitra Fimi, Bertrand Bellet.  Image from Tolkien Society Twitter account.

The theme of this year’s Seminar was poetry and songs, and we heard many different approaches, from individual word studies to language invention, to women in Tolkien’s works, and poetry as world-building, to individual poem analyses, to the new publication Aotrou and Itroun. You can find the program here.  I was impressed by how international this one-day conference was; we had speakers and attendees young and old from Germany, Poland, the US, the UK, France, Italy, New Zealand — and Canada, of course.

My talk, “Seers and Singers: Sub-creative Collaborators in Tolkien’s Fiction,” covered some of the ideas that I’ve written about in my article for Verlyn Flieger’s festschrift, A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger (edited by John D. Rateliff and forthcoming from Gabbro Head Press). There’s a lot more in that article that I didn’t have time to fit into my 20-minute talk, including some ideas from Tolkien’s unpublished manuscripts about alliterative poetry and his repeated use of the image of the Cook. For the Seminar, though, I outlined some of the similarities I have found in three of Tolkien’s texts that deal with sub-creation and Elvish dramas:  The Notion Club Papers, Leaf by Niggle, and Smith of Wootton Major. Below is a copy of my abstract for the Seminar talk:

In Tolkien’s creation myth in The Silmarillion, the Great Music sung by the Ainur gives rise to a vision of Arda and, attracted by what they have sung into existence, the Powers descend into the world to achieve its creation. Music and Light are of the essence of this created world, and as time goes on these primordial elements splinter into ever diminishing recapitulations. Music becomes manifest in song, in words, in voices, in the sound of waters flowing. Light illuminates the sky, the earth, the visions of creatures. As Verlyn Flieger points out, “Both words and light are agents of perception” (Splintered Light, p. 44) and both “can be instruments of sub-creation (p. 46). Light and Music become manifest as vision and language, or image and word – either or both acting as the catalyst in the sub-creative process as described by Tolkien.

In this presentation, I will turn to a few stories by Tolkien that are primarily concerned with the sub-creative powers of light and music, image and the word: The Notion Club Papers, Leaf by Niggle, and Smith of Wootton Major. The Notion Club Papers explores the struggles and experiments that its characters have with dream visions and languages as avenues of memory and connections with the past. Leaf by Niggle is the story of a visual artist who paints his way into what may be perceived as a faërian drama, and Smith of Wootton Major represents another sub-creator gifted with vision and music who penetrates deeply into the mysteries of the Perilous Realm.

The seers and singers in these stories represent a typology of sub-creators – a repeated categorization of types – who demonstrate the powers of splintered music and light, word and image. The stories function as meta-commentaries on collaborative sub-creation, exploring the entry into faërian dramas and the nature of what is experienced there.  For example, when the powers of word and image are combined, as in the collaborative pairing of Lowdham and Jeremy in The Notion Club Papers or in their combined presence in Smith, the results are an impressive entry into Faëry. Although each of the stories represents characters who function in different relationships, what becomes evident in each case is that Tolkien does not present a lone heroic poet or artist-figure; instead, some kind of a pairing helps each of his sub-creators. Lowdham and Jeremy, Niggle and Parish, Smith and Alf – in each case the sub-creator relies on another. Throughout, Tolkien also creates the idea of a genealogy of sympathy that enables a tradition to form that will pass on a taste for Faëry and an ability to enter into a faërian drama.

Forthcoming: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger


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I’m very happy to announce that one of my essays will be part of a festschrift for Verlyn Flieger, a renowned Tolkien scholar and someone I admire very much. The book, A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger, is edited by John Rateliff. He’s recently posted the table of contents on his blog, Sacnoth’s Scriptorium, and I’ve copied it below as an image and here as a downloadable pdf. The book should be available by the end of the year in both print and ebook format from a new independent publisher, Gabbro Head Press. I’m looking forward to reading the work of the other contributors!

I plan to post more information about my essay, “Seers and Singers: Tolkien’s Typology of Sub-creators” in the next few days.

A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger




Tolkien sessions in Leeds, 2017


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The Tolkien meetings in Vermont, San Diego (the PCA/ACA), and Kalamazoo are now over and conference season is in full swing. Next stop, Leeds!

The Tolkien Society Seminar is held one day before the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, which also sponsors some Tolkien sessions. So, details about the Seminar first. I’m pleased to say that I’ll be attending for the first time and giving a paper.

Tolkien Society Seminar

July 2nd, The Hilton Leeds City. Read more about booking here.

The program is now on the Tolkien Society website. Registration starts at 9:00, with papers running from around 9:30 to 5:00, with the opportunity for a convivial gathering at a nearby pub afterwards.

The special theme of this year’s Seminar is “poetry and song.”

  • Brad Eden, The scholar as minstrel: Music as a conscious/subconscious theme in Tolkien’s poetry
  • Michaela Hausmann, Lyrics on Lost Lands – Constructing Lost Places through Poetry in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
  • Andrew Higgins, Poetry and Language Invention: The Interconnected Nature of Tolkien’s The Qenya Lexicon and His Early Poetry
  • Penelope Holdaway, Fair and Perilous: The Women of Tolkien’s non-Middle-earth Lays and Legends
  • Bertrand Bellet, Aurelie Bremont, Dimitra Fimi, Tolkien and Breton poetry:  What layers lie behind Tolkien’s lays?
  • Stuart Lee, Tolkien and The Battle of Maldon
  • Kristine Larsen, “Diadem the Fallen Day”: Astronomical and Arboreal Motifs in the Poem “Kortirion Among the Trees”
  • Szymon Pindur,  The magical and reality-transforming function of Tolkien’s songs and verse creations
  • Irina Metzler, Singing the World into Being: The Creative Power of Song in Tolkien’s Legendarium and Real-World Mythology
  • Massimiliano Izzo, In search of the Wandering Fire: otherworldly imagery in The Song of Ælfwine
  • Anna Smol, Seers and Singers: Sub-creative Collaborators in Tolkien’s Fiction.

International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds

The IMC is a huge conference that begins the day after the Tolkien Seminar. I won’t be able to attend this year, though for a happy reason: my family will be in the middle of a European vacation, and Leeds can only be a one-day stop for us. However, if you’re looking for presentations on Tolkien, there are four sessions this year organized by Dr. Dimitra Fimi. The following is an abridged version of the conference program; follow the links for more information on the speakers and for abstracts of the papers.

Session 242: J.R.R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches.
Monday 3 July 14:15-15:45
Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Moderator: Andrew Higgins

  • Yvette Kisor, Tolkien’s Beowulf: Translating Knights
  • Anahit Behrooz, Mappa Mundi to Mappa Middle-Earth: Positioning J.R.R. Tolkien’s Cartography between Medieval and Modern Practices
  • Aurélie Brémont, Tales of the Corrigan: From Folklore to Nationalist Reinvention
  • Victoria Holtz-Wodzak, Treebeard’s Priesthood and the Franciscan Sanctity of Tolkien’s Natural World

Read more information about the speakers in this session and their abstracts here.

Session 342: “New” Tolkien: Expanding the Canon
Monday 3 July 16:30-18:00

Organiser and Moderator: Dimitra Fimi

  • Brad Eden, Mirkwood as Otherness: ‘New’ Tolkien and the Liminal Forest
  • Kristine Larsen, Magic, Matrimony, and the Moon: Medieval Lunar Symbolism in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun and The Fall of Arthur
  • Andrew Higgins, A Secret Vice, the 1930s, and the Growth of Tolkien’s ‘Tree of Tongues’

Read more information about the speakers in this session and their abstracts here.

Session 442: The Road Goes Ever On: The Future of Tolkien Scholarship – A Round Table Discussion
Monday 3 July 19:00-20:00

Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Moderator: Carl L. Phelpstead

Read the abstract here.

Session 1019: Otherness in Tolkien’s Medievalism
Wednesday 5 July 9:00-10:30

Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Moderator: Kristine Larsen

  • Irina Metzler, Disability in Tolkien’s Texts: Medieval ‘Otherness’?
  • Thomas Honegger, Tolkien’s Other Middle Ages
  • Sara Brown, The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’
  • Gaëlle Abaléa, Our World, the Other World, and Those In-Between: Community with and Separation from the Dead in Tolkien’s Work

Read more about the speakers in this session and their abstracts here.