The city of Leeds will host a variety of Tolkien presentations this summer, from July 4th to the 9th, at both the Tolkien Society Seminar and the International Medieval Congress.
The Tolkien Society Seminar has just issued its call for papers, with the theme for this annual meeting being “Adapting Tolkien.” This year, the Society is extending the Seminar to an extra half day, so the full-day program will take place on Saturday, July 4, from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. and the following morning, Sunday, July 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. As the Tolkien Society page states, this is “a short conference of both researcher-led and non-academic presentations.” Suggested topics include the following (although papers do not have to be limited to these):
Adapting Tolkien’s works to stage and screen
Other adaptations: games, merchandise and Hobbit-hole hotels
The deadline for paper proposals in April 5; to submit, follow the link on the Tolkien Society Seminar page, which is where you can find more details about registration and location.
The Seminar is held just before the International Medieval Congress opens on the following Monday, where a number of Tolkien sessions will be held during the conference week. See this post by Andrew Higgins, one of the co-organizers of those sessions, for titles, dates, and times of Tolkien papers at IMC 2020.
Or you can check out the session details below from the program which has just been published online and mailed out to participants; these PDFs include session abstracts, which will give you a little more information about what the speakers intend to talk about:
I usually post full details of various conference programs closer to the time of the events, but for now, I’ll just post session titles for an overview of the upcoming Tolkien conference season this spring and summer. Details may change over the next few months, so always follow the links to the official programs for final details.
Tolkien at Vermont: April 4
April 4, 2020 University of Vermont, Burlington, VT Organizer: Dr. Chris Vaccaro
Special theme: Tolkien and Classical Antiquities
The Tolkien in Vermont website describes the conference as “an annual weekend of academic papers, fireside readings, and bonhomie, bringing together seasoned academics, students, independent scholars, and the general public…” — very true, in my experience.
The program hasn’t been posted yet, but this 17th annual event at the University of Vermont has announced its keynote speaker, John Wm. Houghton, well known to Tolkien scholars for his various publications and editorial work. Go to the website for more details.
Tolkien at Popular Culture Association: April 15 – 18
April 15 – 18, 2020 Philadelphia, US Organizer: Dr. Robin Anne Reid
May 7 – 10, 2020 Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
For more details about these sessions, you can check the sneak preview of the Congress program. Registration opens in February.
Thursday, May 7. 10 a.m. Medieval World-Building: Tolkien, His Precursors and Legacies Sponsor: Fantasy Research Hub, School of Critical Studies, Univ. of Glasgow Organizer: Dimitra Fimi, Fantasy Research Hub, School of Critical Studies, Univ. of Glasgow; Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow Presider: Kristine A. Swank
Friday, May 8. 1:30 p.m. Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption (A Panel Discussion) Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society Organizer: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar Presider: Carrie Pagels, Independent Scholar
Saturday, May 9. 10 a.m. Tolkien and Se Wyrm Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Saturday, May 9. 1:30 p.m. Tolkien’s Paratexts, Appendices, Annals, and Marginalia (A Roundtable) Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
Saturday, May 9. 3:30 p.m. Tolkien’s Chaucer Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Christopher Vaccaro
Sunday, May 10. 8:30 a.m. Tolkien and Manuscript Studies Organizer: William Fliss, Marquette Univ. Presider: William Fliss
For more details about these sessions, go to the sneak preview of Congress sessions. The final program will be posted on the ICMS site.
The special theme of the 2020 Congress is “Borders,” which explains why there are three sessions on Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism. Registration opens on February 10th.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Deirdre Dawson, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Monday 6 July (11:15-12:45)
New Sources and Approaches to Tolkien’s Medievalism – A Round Table Discussion Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser and Moderator: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Tuesday 7 July (19:00-20:00)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism I Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (9:00-10:30)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism II Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Sara Brown, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (11:15-12:45)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism III Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser and Moderator/Chair: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (14:15-15:45)
And looking ahead to the summer:
Mythcon: July 31-August 3
July 31 – August 3, 2020 Mythopoeic Society – Mythcon 51 Albuquerque, New Mexico
Theme: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien
Registration is now open but the call for papers and program haven’t appeared yet.
Oxonmoot: September 3 – 6
The Tolkien Society – Oxonmoot September 3 – 6 St. Anne’s College, Oxford
Registration is now open but a program will come later. The call for papers will open February 9th.
I’d be happy to hear about any conferences I’ve missed in the comments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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).
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. 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.
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.
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
If you’re in the vicinity of Leeds, you can attend a number of Tolkien papers over the next few days. On Sunday July 3, the Tolkien Society Seminar will take place in the Hilton Leeds City. This one-day series of presentations focuses on the theme of Life, Death, and Immortality. You can read the full program here.
The Tolkien Society has cleverly scheduled the seminar a day before the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, which runs from July 4 to 7, so anyone who is around can attend the IMC sessions on Tolkien. You can explore the full IMC program here. I’ve copied below the information on the sessions on Tolkien, organized by Dimitra Fimi. Let me know if I’ve missed any others!
Oganiser: Dimitra Fimi; Chair: Chris Vaccaro
Monday 4 July 2016: 16.30-18.00
Abstract: This session will address the complexities of Tolkien’s modern Middle Ages. Andrew Higgins will explore Tolkien’s appropriation of Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon perceptions of the Finns in his legendarium. Aurélie Brémont will examine parallels between Tolkien’s and T.H. White’s medievalisms. Sara Brown will revisit Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings via the practice, philosophy, and symbolism of alchemy.
‘Those who cling in queer corners to the forgotten tongues and manners of an elder day’: J. R. R. Tolkien, Finns, and Elves
Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, London
J. R. R. Tolkien and T. H. White: Modern Brits and Old Wizards
Aurélie Brémont, Centre d’Études Médiévales Anglaises (CEMA), Université Paris IV – Sorbonne
Stirring the Alembic: Alchemical Resonances in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Sara Brown, Department of English, Rydal Penrhos School, Conwy
and one more session (updated on July 2, thanks to Kris Swank):
Monday 4 July 2016: 19.00-20.00
Organiser and Chair Dimitra Fimi
Abstract This round table discussion will focus on works by J. R. R. Tolkien published during the last 12 months. Participants will comment on The Story of Kullervo, edited by Verlyn Flieger, a creative retelling of a tragic episode from the Finnish Kalevala; and A Secret Vice, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, an extended edition of Tolkien’s essay on invented languages together with new material on philology, contemporary language theories, and language as art.
Participants include Brad Eden (Valparaiso University), Kristine Larsen (Central Connecticut State University), and Goering Nelson (University of Oxford
I wish I could be there, but at least I’m hoping that we’ll see some blog posts and tweets to give us an idea of what was discussed (I’m looking at you, Dimitra, Andrew, Sara, and Aurelie!).