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.

Widsith, D&D, Fanworks, and Films: Another Year in ENGL 4475


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ENGL 4475: the year in review

I’ve filed away my course notes and given out the final grades. ENGL 4475: Tolkien & Myth-making is officially over for the 2016-17 academic year. The project proposals, annotated bibliographies, abstracts, research papers, and exams are all done now. What’s left is my delight at the many ways my students found to explore Tolkien’s fiction in relation to adaptation, medievalism, and fandom.

ENGL 4475 gift of lembas

Gift of lembas by a student from ENGL 4475

Our last class of the year is a celebration of the work students have done. We set up in a party room with snacks and drinks and read excerpts from each other’s essays. After all, it’s more interesting if you’re writing for your peers and not just for your teacher. My students then present their research projects to the rest of the seminar. I give them a range of general options for these projects, from studying Tolkien’s adaptations of texts such as Beowulf to producing their own adaptations based on Tolkien’s fiction. Because this is a senior-level English course, all of the projects require a written researched analysis of the texts and, if relevant, of the students’ process of adaptation or their participation in fandom.

On presentation day, the class had assembled around the seminar table but for one student, who at the last moment made quite an entrance in full costume, much to our delight. Gavin Rollins’ project was about cosplay, but he didn’t just write about it; he arrived as a living example of his research. (He also brought us some delicious lembas).

ENGL 4475 cosplay Gavin Rollins

Part of Gavin Rollins’ cosplay project

Gavin’s paper dealt with the immersive, communal experience of cosplay and the intertextuality of Tolkien’s fiction and Jackson’s films.

A couple of other students were thinking along the same lines when they conducted their study of Dungeons and Dragons gaming. Andrew Potter used his and his friends’ experiences to investigate the question, can a D&D adventure feel like a “faerian drama“?  Andrew’s answer is maybe, and certainly more likely than the experience of playing a video game or watching a film.

Luke Hammond and his D&D research team

Luke Hammond (centre) and his D&D research team

Luke Hammond created his own D&D-style adventure based on Tolkien’s Mines of Moria episode and experimented with his friends in a campaign lasting several hours to see how Tolkien’s place descriptions worked (they worked well) and what kind of choices would be made by players who didn’t know the books or the movies. (Turns out the Frodo-character put on the Ring every chance he could get!). Luke’s analysis also considered how the role-playing genre could fulfill Tolkien’s ideas expressed in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” about fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation.

D&D dice from

Image from

It would take too long to summarize every student’s project, but at least I can give you a taste of the variety we enjoyed. Courtney Francis wrote about Legolas/Gimli fanfiction; Megan Bruce about surveillance in The Lord of the Rings, including her poem about Galadriel’s mirror as a surveillance tool. Nicole Martina tackled Tolkien’s descriptive landscapes and his artistic style. And Allyson Roussy adapted the Old English poem “Widsith,” in which a widely-travelled poet recounts all the great rulers and places he has been, thus recording legends and histories in his verse. Allyson transposed the style of “Widsith” to the history of Middle-earth, beginning with Silmarillion tales and ending with The Lord of the Rings. Her speaker is Gandalf, someone who has travelled widely and seen a great deal in Middle-earth. Although she does not attempt to write consistently in alliterative verse, she typically captures the four-beat style of her Old English model. Here is a passage spoken by Gandalf:

…I acted as guide in the war against Sauron.
I counselled men and elves and exiles,
sought those who desired to aid our cause,
who strengthened the armies of Middle-earth.
I was with Aragorn, of the House of Isildur,
Beren’s mirror, with Barahir’s ring,
last heir to the throne of Gondor and Arnor,
A true leader with patience and humility,
The hands of a healer and the hands of a king….

Film adaptations of Tolkien’s work also provided fertile ground for analysis. Kimia Nejat studied Jackson’s film representations of Frodo and Sam. Samantha VanNorden, starting with the premise that Middle-earth is a character in The Lord of the Rings, analyzed Jackson’s representations of certain landscapes. And Alexandra Rudderham examined Tolkien’s representation of Galadriel along with the film adaptations by Ralph Bakshi and Peter Jackson. Tolkien’s handling of gender and women has long been a topic of debate, and Alex further asked, have filmmakers captured all of Galadriel’s qualities as a beautiful, perilous, powerful queen? Compare for yourself; first, Bakshi’s animated 1978 version:

and then Peter Jackson’s 2001 Fellowship of the Ring:

Fan Studies in the Classroom

I’ve had an opportunity to write about the kind of work I ask my students to do in this course. My essay “Adaptation as Analysis: Creative Work in an English Classroom” is forthcoming in the book Fan Studies in the Classroom, edited by Katherine Howell, to be published by the University of Iowa Press. In this essay I discuss the theory behind my ENGL 4475 assignments, the practical details of how they’re done, and why I think the assignments  encourage intertextual engagement, creativity, and textual analyses. I’ll post more when the book is published. In the meantime, some of my former students’ assignments can be seen on the ENGL 4475: Studies in Medievalism – Tolkien & Myth-making course page.

Selected Bibliography

This is not meant to be a complete bibliography by any means, but I thought that a few readers might like to sample some of the sources, especially those dealing with fandom and adaptation, that my students have read as part of their research. I’ve culled one or two sources from each essay in case anyone wants to look further into some of the topics my students have written about.

Abrahamson, M.B.  “J.R.R. Tolkien, Fanfiction, and the Freedom of the Reader.” Mythlore, vol. 32, no. 1, 2013, pp. 53- 72.

Allington, Daniel. “‘How Come Most People Don’t See It?’: Slashing The Lord of the Rings.” Social Semiotics, vol. 17, no. 1, Mar. 2007, pp. 43–62.

Amendt-Raduege, Amy. “Dream Visions in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien Studies, vol. 3, 2006, pp. 45-55.

Barker, Martin. “Envisaging ‘Visualisation’: Some challenges from the international Lord of the Rings audience project.” Film-Philosophy, vol. 10, no. 3, 2006, pp. 1-25.

Battis, Jes. “Gazing upon Sauron: Hobbits, Elves, and the Queering of the Postcolonial optic.” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 50, 2004, pp. 908-26.

Clark, George. “J.R.R. Tolkien and the True Hero.” J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth, Greenwood Press, 2000, pp. 39–52.

Cohen, Cynthia M. “The Unique Representation of Trees in The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien Studies, vol. 6, 2009, pp. 91-125.

Croft, Janet Brennan and Leslie Donovan, editors. Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Mythopoeic Press, 2015.

Enright, Nancy. “Tolkien’s Females and the Defining of Power.” Renascence, vol. 59, Issue 2, 2007, 93-108.

Ewalt, David M. Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner, 2013.

Gygax, Gary. “The Influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on the D&D and AD&D Games.” Dragon, vol. 95. March 1985. pp. 12-13.

Hammond, Wayne G. and Christina Scull.  J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator. HarperCollins, 2004.

Haydock, Nickolas. The Imaginary Middle Ages: Movie Medievalism. McFarland, 2008.

Hellekson, Karen and Kristina Busse, editors. Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays. McFarland, 2006.

Hutcheon, L. with S. O’Flynn. A Theory of Adaptation, 2nd ed, Routledge, London and New York.

Jenkins, Henry. “About: Aca/Fan Defined.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a Literary Context. Bridgend, Seren, 2005.

Rahman, Osmud, Liu Wing-Sun, and Brittany Hei-Man Cheung.  “’Cosplay’: Imaginative Self and Performing Identity.”  Fashion Theory-The Journal Of Dress Body & Culture, vol. 16, no. 3, Sep 2012, pp. 317-342.

Rateliff, John. “Tolkien Moot 2008 MerpCon IV John D. Rateliff  solo speech History of the Hobbit author.” YouTube, 28 Jun 2012.

Reid, Robin Anne. “Thrusts in the Dark: Slashers’ Queer Practices.” Extrapolation, vol. 50, no. 3, 2009, pp. 463–483.

_________.  “Tree and flower, leaf and grass: The Grammar of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings.”  Fantasy Fiction into Film.  Edited by Stratyner, Leslie and James R. Keller.  McFarland, 2007.

Russell, Gary.  The Lord of the Rings: Art of the Fellowship of the Ring.  HarperCollins, 2002.

Shank, Nathan. “Productive Violence and Poststructural Play in the Dungeons and Dragons Narrative.” Journal of Popular Culture, vol 48, no.1, 2015.

Smol, Anna. “Oh…Oh…Frodo!’: Readings of Male Intimacy in The Lord of the Rings..” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 50, no. 4, 2004, pp. 949–979.

Two Calls for Papers in Fan Studies


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These calls for papers in fan studies have recently come my way.

The first is for a special issue of the Journal of Tolkien Research, The editors, Kristine Larsen and Robin Reid, have put out a call for proposals “for fan studies scholarship on any aspect of fan production, creation, or activities relating to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium and/or Peter Jackson’s live-action film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.” Read more in the Call for Papers: Tolkien Jackson fan studies [pdf].

The other call is for a special issue of the Journal of Fandom Studies on disability, pedagogy, and identity in fan studies classrooms. The guest editor, Katherine Howell, summarizes the aims of this special issue: “to investigate the intersection of disability studies and fan studies. We welcome all explorations of this intersection, but are especially excited about discussions of how the pedagogy we employ, as well as the texts we teach and identities we embody, impact our students and our teaching.” For more details, see the  Call for Papers: Disability Pedagogy and Identity. [pdf]


Tolkien Studies at PCA/ACA 2017


Popular Culture Association logo

It’s springtime, and that means that Tolkien conference season is picking up momentum. If you can’t attend the Tolkien in Vermont conference this weekend, then maybe California is closer or more convenient. The annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference will be held April 12-15 this year in San Diego, with the Tolkien Studies area organized once again by its founder, Robin Reid. The Tolkien sessions are scheduled for April 13-14.

There’s a public Facebook group where you can keep up with announcements or contact others in the Tolkien Studies area. More conference information is available on the PCA/ACA site. I’ve copied the list of Tolkien sessions from the PCA/ACA Tolkien Studies conference schedule page.

Thursday, April 13, 2017 – 8:00am to 9:30am (Torrey Pines 3)
Session chair: Victoria L Holtz Wodzak


  • The Real Business of Bilbo; the Dreams of Conan: Sword and Sorcery, Epic Fantasy, and the Rhetoric of the Ordinary. Jason Ray Carney
  • Strange Bedfellows: Tolkien and Eddison. Peter Grybauskas
  • There Was a Merry Band of Men, A Gardener, an Invalid, and the Lords Who Loved Them So: The Portrayal of Soldier-Servant Relationships and Their Reflections of War. Alicia Fox-Lenz
  • Tolkien Underground: Reimagining World War I Bunkers and Tunnels. Victoria L Holtz Wodzak


Thursday, April 13, 2017 – 9:45am to 11:15am (Torrey Pines 3)
Session chair: Brad Eden


  • The Dreamflower: Lothlorien in Middle-Earth Space-Time.  Brian Walter
  • Tolkien and Pre-Vatican II Catholicism 101. Michael Wodzak
  • The ‘Third Spring’: a neglected thread of Tolkien scholarship. Brad Eden


Thursday, April 13, 2017 – 11:30am to 1:00pm (Torrey Pines 3)
Session chair: Kristine Larsen

Presenters: Kristine Larsen, Brad Eden, Stephen Yandell, Robin Anne Reid


Friday, April 14, 2017 – 8:00am to 9:30am (Torrey Pines 3)
Session chair: Mikhail Skoptsov


  • Making or Creating: Fans Transforming Orcs. Robin Anne Reid
  • Deconstructing Durin’s Day: Science in the Service of Fan-Scholars. Kristine Larsen
  • Lord of the Rings and Fans panel. Maggie Parke
  • The Hobbit Variations: Publication, Adaptation, and Fan Revision. Mikhail Skoptsov

Friday, April 14, 2017 – 9:45am to 11:15am (Torrey Pines 3)
Session chair: Janice Bogstad


  • The Sacred Nature of Enchantment and Loss: Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit as an Ecotheology of Transformation. Kellianne H Matthews
  • Wood and Water, Stock and Stone: Rediscovering English Landscapes through Walking. Christopher Cameron
  • Visually Monstrous: Jackson’s Iconic Revisualizations of Hobbit Heroes and Villains. Janice Bogstad


Friday, April 14, 2017 – 11:30am to 1:00pm (Torrey Pines 3)
Session chair: Sarah Coates


  • Whispers of a Tenth Walker: Lord of the Rings Fanfiction and Feminine / Feminist Interventions in Middle-Earth. Eva Wijman
  • Bagginshield: An Exploration of Portrayals of Romantic Relationships between Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield in Fanfiction. Sarah Coates


The PCA conference is a huge event. If you’re interested in popular culture, you’re sure to find sessions of interest, even outside the Tolkien Studies area — browse the conference webpages to find out more.

Tolkien in Vermont 2017: Romance in Middle-earth



Tolkien in Vermont conferenceThe program for the 14th annual Tolkien in Vermont conference has been posted. This year’s theme is Romance in Middle-earth, and the keynote speaker is Corey Olsen. There’s a modest registration fee, except for University of Vermont students and high-school students, who get in free. This is a small and friendly conference where everyone — whether professor, student,  fan, or independent scholar —  gets a chance to talk to each other and listen to each other’s presentations.
Check out the Tolkien in Vermont website for this year’s and previous years’ programs. You can also join the Facebook event page. This year’s program information is copied below.

Registration fee: $25; $15 for students. UVM students and high-school students are free.

Friday, April 7th, 2017
Lafayette Hall L207: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Friday evening Tolkien fireside readings 2017
Organized and hosted by The Tolkien Club of UVM

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Lafayette Hall L207: 8:00 – 5:00 p.m.

8:00 – 8:30: Continental breakfast with coffee & tea

8:30 – 9:00: Session #1

Freawaru and Tolkien’s Beowulf
Dr. Christoper T. Vaccaro • Senior Lecturer • University of Vermont

The broken sword, a meme: Beowulf, Arthur, and Elendil
Zachary Dilbeck • Columbus State Community College

9:30 – 10:45: Session #2

The tale of Turin, a hapless helpless boy with a doom for failed romance
Gerry Blair • independent scholar

Ill-met by moonlight: Aredhel and Eöl as the upside down of Beren and Lúthien
Katherine Neville • Signum University

“Thus wrote Pengolodh”: Historical bias, its evidence, and its implications in The Silmarillion
Dawn M. Walls-Thumma • Coventry Village School

10:45 – 12:00: Session #3

Realistic or fantastic narratives in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
Peter Kao • National Chung Cheng University

“I have loved you, and that love shall not fail”: Tolkien’s philological explorations of friendship, love, and romance in The Lord of the Rings
Dr. Marc Zender • Assistant Professor • Tulane University

“And with him was Elrond Half-Elven”: The high king and his herald (still a better love story than Twilight)
Dr. Kristine Larsen • Professor of Physics and Astronomy • Central Connecticut State University

12:00 – 12:45: Keynote

• The turning point in Tolkien’s career
Dr. Corey Olsen • Signum University

12:45 – 1:45: Lunch

1:45 – 3:00: Session #4

Dispelling misogyny in Tolkien’s women — through reflection of Medieval lyric and personal relationships
Annie Brust • Kent State University

Sounds in the dark: Assimilation and continuity in The Hobbit: An unexpected journey
Jeffrey Bullins • SUNY Plattsburgh

Weberian “vocation” in The Lord of the Rings
Paul Fortunato • University of Houston-Downtown

3:00: Coffee and tea

3:00 – 4:30: Session #5

“Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars” — Tolkien’s exploration of courtly relationships through the Lady Galadriel
Andrew Peterson • Harvard University

Romance and romance
James Williamson • Senior Lecturer • University of Vermont

The evolution of the animal to magical beast in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
Heather Dail • Instructor • University of South Alabama

Tolkien Reading Day: 2 poems to memorize


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March 25th is a significant date in Tolkien’s secondary world, the downfall of Sauron. Since 2003, the Tolkien Society has celebrated by naming March 25  Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. You can check out the Tolkien Society website to see what various individuals, groups, libraries, and museums around the world are planning for this day, or look for #TolkienReadingDay on Twitter, Instagram, or any number of other sites such as Facebook.

In honour of Tolkien Reading Day, I’d like to present two of my favourite poems from The Lord of the Rings to try to convince you that these are great poems to memorize: “Upon the hearth the fire is red” and “In western lands.”

Walking in Nova Scotia. copyright Anna Smol

Some of you may be wondering why you would want to memorize a poem when you can have it at your fingertips in a book or online. A number of reasons come to mind, but I think that the best one was summarized a few years ago in a New Yorker article, “Why We Should Memorize” by Brad Leithauser:

…you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen.

A good example of a poem that you can know in both your brain and your body is the walking poem “Upon the hearth the fire is red” (in “Three is Company” in The Fellowship of the Ring ) — especially if you recite it while walking!

I find that the 4-beat lines make the perfect rhythm for a walk. Look at the first few lines, where I’ve put the stressed syllables in caps:



Still ROUND the CORner WE may MEET


that NONE have SEEN but WE aLONE

If you lift and advance your foot on the unstressed syllable and place it down on the ground on the stressed syllable, you’ll feel the rhythm. Stand up and try it! The poem can adapt to your pace. Say it faster for a brisk walk; slow it down if you’re tired or would like to take in the scenery.

If we’re being technical, not all of the lines fit as neatly into this stress pattern. For example,

beNEATH the ROOF there is a BED

If you want to exaggerate the stress pattern and keep it consistent, you’d put more stress on “IS”  than it typically would hold. But if it feels right, go ahead. (Geoffrey Russom, in his article “Tolkien’s Versecraft,” identifies this replacement of a weak syllable where a strongly stressed one should be as fairly common practice in English poems. Read his article if you want to know about “pyrrhic substitution”).

Walking in Nova Scotia copyright Anna SmolNow, to walk and recite while looking about you, you’ll need to memorize the poem. I always find that writing out the poem by hand — not typing it — is the best way to start connecting the words to the body and the mind. Then it will require repetition. Saying the lines aloud helps. Let the rhymes remind you of what comes next. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you’ve made it your own. I admit that when I was memorizing this poem, I could be seen walking around town with a little card in my hand that contained the written poem, a memory aid for my repetitions until I could recite it confidently without props.

If you’re reading the poem aloud, you’ll notice that some lines are shorter than the opening lines in each stanza. For example, “Let them pass! Let then pass!” I find this just makes me pick up the pace a bit and fuels my energy.

It also helps to think about the structure of the poem when trying to remember what comes next. We start at home — “Upon the hearth the fire is red, / Beneath the roof there is a bed” (lines 1-2) but then we leave this comfortable place pretty quickly on a walking trip in the first stanza, heading out into the world. In the middle stanza, we realize that there are other paths that could be taken some day — “Still round the corner there may wait / A new road or a secret gate” (lines 11-12), and in the final stanza we return home to food and a good night’s sleep, “Fire and lamp, and meat and bread, / And then to bed! And then to bed!” (lines 29-30).

Elvenking's gate from across the river (detail) by Tolkien

Elvenking’s gate from across the river (detail) by Tolkien

Another reason to memorize a poem would be to have some beautiful words or images ready at hand to describe what you’re seeing or doing, or just because something reminds you of a line.  For me, “In western lands” (in “The Tower of Cirith Ungol” chapter in Return of the King) contains this beautiful image:

Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair. (lines 5-8)

[the second and fourth lines above should be indented; my program is not co-operating]

I love the way the branches of the trees are seen as strands of hair — reinforced by the image of the trees as “swaying” — and the stars that you can see through the branches become the jewels in their hair. I remember sitting out in the backyard one summer evening and looking up to see exactly what Tolkien is describing in this passage, a beautiful sight that needed his words to complete the scene.

Of course, there’s more to this poem than just one striking image. This is a poem about hope; it goes from normal life to despair and then finds a reason for going on. Sam sings this song as he despairs of finding Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and it leads to his discovery of his friend.

I like the movement of the poem. It starts by having us look down to the earth, “beneath the Sun” to see a world starting to grow and bloom. Then we look up through the trees to the stars. In the second stanza, we’re buried deep and far from all this loveliness — “Though here at journey’s end I lie / in darkness buried deep” (lines 9-10). But even so, we know that “above all shadows rides the Sun/ and Stars for ever dwell” (lines 13-14).  The poem ends with an affirmation that no matter how deeply buried in darkness we might be, we can find hope: “I will not say the Day is done, / nor bid the Stars farewell” (lines 15-16).

You can spend a lot of time contemplating a good poem, and there is much to say about this one that won’t fit into a blog post. If you’d like some good ideas to spur your thinking, you can try a couple of essays in the book, Tolkien’s Poetry, edited by Julian Eilmann and Allan Turner (Walking Tree Publishers, 2013).  In that book, Petra Zimmermann’s essay explores the development of “In western lands” through several drafts and discusses Sam’s creative process. And Lynn Forest-Hill’s essay looks at the connection of earthly and spiritual imagery in the poem.

If you have your own favourite poems for memorizing, let me know in the comments!


Works Cited

“Upon the hearth” can be found in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and “In western lands” is in The Return of the King.

Tolkien’s artwork, “Elvenking’s gate from across the river,” can be found in The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, HarperCollins, 2011, fig. 50, p. 79.

The other photos are copyright Anna Smol. They were taken in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Secondary sources:

Forest-Hill, Lynn. “Poetic Form and Spiritual Function: Praise, Invocation and Prayer in The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien’s Poetry, edited by Julian Eilmann and Allan Turner. Walking Tree Publishers, 2013, pp. 91-116.

Leithauser, Brad. “Why We Should Memorize” The New Yorker  25 Jan. 2013.

Russom, Geoffrey. “Tolkien’s Versecraft in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth, edited by George Clark and Daniel Timmons. Greenwood Press, 2000, pp. 53-69.

Zimmermann, Petra. “‘The glimmer of limitless extensions in time and space’: The Function of Poems in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien’s Poetry, edited by Julian Eilmann and Allan Turner. Walking Tree Publishers, 2013, pp. 59-89.