This week offers quite a range of talks by Tolkien scholars, and all online of course, so even if we can’t meet in person, we can attend sessions that would normally be out of reach.
The Tolkien at Vermont conference is back this year with a one-day event on the theme of Tolkien and the Classics. The keynote speaker is the Very Rev. John Houghton, who will be giving a talk on “Tolkien’s calques of classicisms: Who Knew Elvish Latin, what did the Rohirrim read, and why was Bilbo cheeky?”
Other papers at the conference trace Tolkien’s connections to Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, and more. The conference takes place on Saturday, April 10, from 8:30 – 6:00 EST, free on Zoom. Check out the full schedule and how to request the Zoom link on the Tolkienists.org website.
Also on Saturday, April 10, the Tolkien Society AGM will feature Professor Verlyn Flieger as the annual guest speaker, talking about “Waiting for Earendel.” Members of the Society will get a Zoom link, but the general public will be able to watch on Facebook and YouTube. Go to the Tolkien Society announcement for more details.
From the classics to modern literature: earlier this week, Signum University sponsored an author chat with Dr. Holly Ordway, author of the recently published Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth beyond the Middle Ages. Dr. Ordway discusses the importance of acknowledging Tolkien’s interest in contemporary literature. You can find this Signum Symposium on YouTube.
I usually post full details of various conference programs closer to the time of the events, but for now, I’ll just post session titles for an overview of the upcoming Tolkien conference season this spring and summer. Details may change over the next few months, so always follow the links to the official programs for final details.
Tolkien at Vermont: April 4
April 4, 2020 University of Vermont, Burlington, VT Organizer: Dr. Chris Vaccaro
[May 12 edit: conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
Special theme: Tolkien and Classical Antiquities
The Tolkien in Vermont website describes the conference as “an annual weekend of academic papers, fireside readings, and bonhomie, bringing together seasoned academics, students, independent scholars, and the general public…” — very true, in my experience.
The program hasn’t been posted yet, but this 17th annual event at the University of Vermont has announced its keynote speaker, John Wm. Houghton, well known to Tolkien scholars for his various publications and editorial work. Go to the website for more details.
Tolkien at Popular Culture Association: April 15 – 18
April 15 – 18, 2020 Philadelphia, US Organizer: Dr. Robin Anne Reid
[May 12 edit: conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
May 7 – 10, 2020 Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
[May 12 edit: conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
For more details about these sessions, you can check the sneak preview of the Congress program. Registration opens in February.
Thursday, May 7. 10 a.m. Medieval World-Building: Tolkien, His Precursors and Legacies Sponsor: Fantasy Research Hub, School of Critical Studies, Univ. of Glasgow Organizer: Dimitra Fimi, Fantasy Research Hub, School of Critical Studies, Univ. of Glasgow; Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow Presider: Kristine A. Swank
Friday, May 8. 1:30 p.m. Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption (A Panel Discussion) Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society Organizer: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar Presider: Carrie Pagels, Independent Scholar
Saturday, May 9. 10 a.m. Tolkien and Se Wyrm Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Saturday, May 9. 1:30 p.m. Tolkien’s Paratexts, Appendices, Annals, and Marginalia (A Roundtable) Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
Saturday, May 9. 3:30 p.m. Tolkien’s Chaucer Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo Organizer: Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Presider: Christopher Vaccaro
Sunday, May 10. 8:30 a.m. Tolkien and Manuscript Studies Organizer: William Fliss, Marquette Univ. Presider: William Fliss
For more details about these sessions, go to the sneak preview of Congress sessions. The final program will be posted on the ICMS site.
The special theme of the 2020 Congress is “Borders,” which explains why there are three sessions on Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism. Registration opens on February 10th.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Deirdre Dawson, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Monday 6 July (11:15-12:45)
New Sources and Approaches to Tolkien’s Medievalism – A Round Table Discussion Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser and Moderator: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Tuesday 7 July (19:00-20:00)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism I Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (9:00-10:30)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism II Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Moderator/Chair: Sara Brown, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (11:15-12:45)
Borders in Tolkien’s Medievalism III Sponsor: School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow Organiser and Moderator/Chair: Dr. Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar Session Day/Time: Thursday 9 July (14:15-15:45)
And looking ahead to the summer:
Mythcon: July 31-August 3
July 31 – August 3, 2020 Mythopoeic Society – Mythcon 51 Albuquerque, New Mexico
[May 12 edit: conference postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19]
Theme: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien
Registration is now open but the call for papers and program haven’t appeared yet.
Oxonmoot: September 3 – 6
The Tolkien Society – Oxonmoot September 3 – 6 St. Anne’s College, Oxford
[June 6 edit: Oxonmoot will be held online. Oxonmoot Online will take place September 18-20. Check the Tolkien Society website for more details as they become available.]
Registration is now open but a program will come later. The call for papers will open February 9th.
I’d be happy to hear about any conferences I’ve missed in the comments.
April is a good month for Tolkien conferences in the U.S.
In a few days, the 16th annual Tolkien in Vermont conference will take place at the University of Vermont in Burlington. This year’s theme is Tolkien and Horror, and the keynote speaker is Dr. Yvette Kisor from Ramapo College, who will be talking about “The horror of the unnarrated: Implications for Tolkien’s reader.”
This is always a small and friendly conference, and this year there’s an extra treat for participants – a private, advance screening of the Tolkien biopic directed by Dome Karukoski.
In addition to Dr. Kisor’s keynote address and the after-movie discussions, there will be sessions on:
Nature, Madness, and Humor
The Perils of Faerie
UVM Undergraduate Voices
Horror of Words
Horrors of Modernity
On the Borders of Horror
You can find the full schedule of speakers and titles for Friday, April 5 to Saturday, April 6 here.
A couple of weeks later, the Popular Culture Association conference will be held in Washington, DC from April 17 to April 20. In contrast to the Vermont meeting, this is a massive event with many different subject areas. The Tolkien sessions, though, organized by Dr. Robin Reid, take place Thursday, April 18 to Friday, April 19 and focus on the following topics:
Adaptations of Tolkien’s Legendarium
Enchantment, Healing, and Despair in The Lord of the Rings
This call for papers comes from Chris Vaccaro, one of the organizers of the annual Tolkien at UVM Conference in Burlington, Vermont.
14th Annual Tolkien at University of Vermont Conference Saturday April 8th, 8:30am-5:30 p.m.
Theme: Romances in Middle-earth
Organizers of the Tolkien at UVM Conference are now accepting abstracts for the 2017 conference until the February 1st deadline.
We welcome papers on every topic but will give priority to those addressing the theme. Tolkien wrote that he had the romances of William Morris in mind when writing The Lord of the Rings. We also know he was inspired by the Arthurian romances of England, Wales, and France. Tolkien’s own interlacing narrative style is very much derived from this medieval genre (while also anticipating the Post-modern). Additionally, Tolkien wrote of numerous romances of great intensity and poignancy within his narrative framework. Papers might consider these within the context of miscegenation, gender fluidity, or the homo-erotic, or they might explore other areas of interest.
Please submit abstracts by the February 1st deadline to Christopher Vaccaro at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tolkien in Vermont conference will take place this coming weekend. This is a small, friendly conference that brings together every year a group of faculty, independent scholars, and students. This year’s theme is Tolkien and Popular Culture.
If you look at the program below, you’ll see a couple of pretty long titles! This is all in the spirit of fun — Kris Larsen has been devising longer and longer titles every year, and when the keynote speaker Robin Reid saw Kristine’s title, she decided to go one better with her own lengthy title. In reaction, I’ve decided to stick to one-word titles!
April 8-9, 2016
University of Vermont
—Yvette Kisor (Ramapo College) “Queer Tolkien: State of the Field”
—Anna Smol (Mount Saint Vincent University) “Sister-sons” read the abstract here [pdf]
—Chris Vaccaro (University of Vermont) “Saruman’s Sexual Otherness”
Session 2: 10:00 – 11:45. Undergraduate Voices
—Christopher Kelm (U. of Vermont) “Magic and Sorcery: Good and Evil in Tolkien’s Middle-earth”
—Kit Loomis (U. of Vermont) “Not Dead, Legally: Necromancy, the Vyne Ring Curse, and Oath Limitations”
—Liam McAuliffe (U. of Vermont) “Lost in the Lens Flare: Tolkien’s Many Shades of Evil”
—Ryan Quinn (U. of Vermont) “Iarwen Ben-Adar: The Ancient Evil of Arda”
Lunch break 11:45-1:00
Session 3: 1:00-2:30
Keynote: Robin Reid (Texas A&M University – Commerce)
Tolkien and popular culture: Being the Chronicle of Quests from Fandom to Academia and Back Again as the Island of Anglophone Literary Studies in the United States underwent Transformations During the 1970s to 2000s of the Fourth Age of the World Due to Progressive Movements of the Twentieth Century Challenging Oppressive Hierarchies Relating to Gender, Race, and Sexual Identification (Though not so much Class because “America” and Its Weird Obsession with Bootstraps) as Cultural Studies Swept like a Wave Over the Ivory Towers (Keep in Mind It’s a Simile not an Allegory). Plus Tattoos.
Session 4: 2:30 – 4:00
—Kristine Larsen (University of Connecticut) “Kind People!!!: The Adventures of Svetlana Snape Down the Hobbit Hole; Being a (Semi) Serious and Scholarly Dissertation on The Thread ™ That Ate the Tolkien Society Facebook Page (And Judged it to Strangely Taste Like Bacon); In Which the Author Endeavors to Answer Two Great Primordial Questions, Namely (1) What Do Palindromes, Trebuchets, Quantum Physics and Hello Kitty Have to Do With the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien (Clearly a Rhetorical Question Given That the Obvious Answer is – Very Little), and (2) What Exactly is a Pant of Thong Ale? (The Answer to Which Promises to Shed Great Light on the Gestalt of the Tolkien Fandom)”
—Andrew Peterson (Independent Scholar) “Hobbit Forming: How the Animated Versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King by Rankin / Bass introduced Middle-earth to a Generation of Wanderers”
—James Williamson (University of Vermont) “Tolkien and Popular Publishing: the Creation of the Fantasy Genre”
Session 5: 4:00 – 5:30
—Gerry Blair (Independent Scholar) “Tolkien Fandom and Pop Culture: The Polite and the Vulgar”
—Leonard Neidorf (Harvard University) “Creation from Literary Criticism in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur”
Here are some Tolkien conferences coming up in the spring and summer — prime conference season! I can’t claim to list every event that’s going on, so if you’d like to add something to the list, please let me know in the comments section. If you want to know about Tolkien-related events around the world, not necessarily just conferences, I’d suggest the public Facebook group International Tolkien Fellowship List of Events. Also, Troels Forchammer’s monthly Tolkien Transactions usually catches more items than I’m aware of. But here are the conferences that I do know about:
Popular Culture Association (PCA)
March 22 -25, 2016
The preliminary program, organized by Robin Reid, can be viewed here. The speakers include Martin Barker presenting on the World Hobbit Project; an academic editors’ roundtable discussion with Leslie Donovan, Janet Croft, Brad Eden, Janice Bogstad, and Martin Barker; and numerous other papers on adaptation, translation, reception, and more. The nice thing about the online PCA program is that you can dig down into each session and read the abstracts of all the papers. There are eight sessions in the Tolkien Studies area, another successful year for this new subject area at the PCA national conference.
13th Annual Tolkien in Vermont conference
April 8 – 9, 2016
This year’s theme is “Tolkien and Popular Culture,” with keynote speaker Robin Reid. A program will be available on the Tolkien in Vermont website. This small conference, organized by Chris Vaccaro, is always a friendly mix of faculty, students, and independent scholars.
Tolkien’s Philosophy of Language
13th Seminar of the Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft (DTF)
The Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Walking Tree Publishers
May 6 – 8, 2016
International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Michigan
May 12 – 15, 2016
I’ve already posted a schedule of sessions on Tolkien and medievalism as they appeared in the preliminary program. There are seven sessions dealing with Tolkien, mostly organized by Brad Eden and a few others. This year, one of the plenary speakers will be Jane Chance talking about “How we read J.R.R. Tolkien reading Grendel’s mother.” The ICMS is a huge conference, usually drawing around 3,000 participants in sessions on all aspects of the Middle Ages and medievalism.
Tolkien Among Scholars: 7th Unquendor Lustrum Conference 2016
Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society and the Dutch Tolkien Society Unquendor.
June 18, 2016
The keynote speakers for this international conference will be Thomas M. Honegger and Paul Smith. The program will be posted on the conference website.
Tolkien Society Seminar 2016
July 3, 2016
The theme of this year’s seminar is “Life, Death, and Immortality,” and if you’re interested in giving a paper, there’s still time: March 25 is the deadline for submissions. You can find the Call for Papers and more information here. The Seminar takes place the day before the International Medieval Congress begins at Leeds University, where you’ll find more Tolkien sessions (see below).
International Medieval Congress
July 4 – 7, 2016
Dimitra Fimi has organized two sessions on Tolkien for this conference. Like Kalamazoo, the Leeds conference draws thousands of medievalists every year. The program will be posted on the conference website.
New York Tolkien Conference
Baruch College, New York City
July 16, 2016
This conference, organized by Jessica Burke and Anthony Burdge, is back again after last year’s successful inaugural event. The special theme for this year’s conference is “The Inklings and Science,” with guests of honour Kristine Larsen and Jared Lobdell. The call for papers has not yet been posted, but keep checking the conference site for information as it becomes available.
San Antonio, Texas
August 5 – 8, 2016
Conference organizer Chris Vaccaro has sent out the call for papers for the 13th Annual Tolkien in Vermont conference. This is a small, friendly event with a featured speaker and papers by professors, independent scholars, and students. This year’s theme is Tolkien and popular culture, with keynote speaker Dr. Robin Reid.
Tolkien and Popular Culture
University of Vermont
April 8-9, 2016
Abstracts should be sent by January 15th to Chris Vaccaro at email@example.com.
The 12th Annual Tolkien at University of Vermont conference is just days away. The conference is free and open to the public. It starts with a Friday night Fireside reading at which participants can get up and read their favorite passages, and continues on Saturday with a day of conference presentations. On Sunday afternoon, the University Tolkien Club organizes a “Springle-Ring Shire Festival” with all kinds of fun activities.
This year’s conference theme is Medieval Verse Narratives, and the keynote speaker is Dr. Michael D.C. Drout, who will be speaking about “Scholarship as Art, Art as Scholarship: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf.”
The other presentations are:
Gerry Blair (Independent Scholar). “J.R.R. Tolkien, Performance Artist and Modern Medievalist.”
Jamie Williamson (University of Vermont). “Verses and Prose: Medieval Narrative, Nineteenth Century Medievalism, and Tolkien.”
Andrew Liptak (Independent Scholar/Norwich University). “Modern Fantasy’s Roots in Medieval Verse.”
Kristine Larsen (Central Connecticut State University). “Guinevere, Grimhild, and the Corrigan: Witches and Bitches in Tolkien’s Medieval Narrative Verse, or, Good Girls Don’t Use Magic (Except if You’re Galadriel, but Elf Magic is Diff erent, and Who Ever Said Galadriel was a Good Girl?)”
Andrew C. Peterson (Harvard). “A Brief Exploration of Tolkien’s Alliterative Verse and Echoes of The Fall of Arthur Heard in Middle-earth”
Christopher Vaccaro (University of Vermont). “’Dyrne langað’: Secret Longing in Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings.”
Anna Smol (Mount Saint Vincent University). “Poetic Time-Travel in The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son”
Cheryl Hunter (Independent Scholar). “Beowulf and Thorin as Ancestral Heroes: Their Choices, and the Dragons They Face.”
It’s time to start organizing my travel to various conferences this spring and summer. I wish I could attend all of these meetings, but I’ll be fortunate enough to go to a couple of them at least. My list focuses on North American conferences because I know those best, but please let me know in the comments if there are others. I hope my list will demonstrate the healthy state of academic Tolkien Studies and maybe entice you to go to one of these events — if you’re not already booking your tickets. And while there will be plenty of professional scholars at these conferences, most of these events draw a lively mix of academics, independent scholars, writers, artists, fans of all kinds.
The first meeting will be held in a few weeks – not exactly springtime where I live, but still it does kick off the conference season:
This is the second annual Popular Culture and the Deep Past event sponsored by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Ohio State U. According to the event website: “this will be a full-fledged conference, itself nested in a broader ‘carnival’ of popular and traditional cultural events and activities.” Sounds like there will be something for everyone.
This is a massive conference that draws scholars from a huge variety of fields. The newly established Tolkien Studies area, organized by Robin Reid, is sponsoring eight sessions plus a business meeting for a second year in a row. The final program should be posted soon on the website.
This year’s theme is medieval narrative verse, with Michael Drout as the keynote speaker. According to the conference organizer, Chris Vaccaro, a program will be posted soon on the website. This is usually a small and friendly conference attended by faculty, students, and the general public, with an open mic night on Friday followed by a day of presentations on Saturday.
This annual conference draws thousands of medievalists every year, but it also includes anyone interested in the scholarly study of Tolkien (not always the same as a medievalist). The Tolkien at Kalamazoo group sponsors as many sessions as are allowed by the Congress organizers, and other sponsoring groups have sessions on Tolkien or on medievalisms as well. You can search through the conference program for what interests you.
The special theme is the Arthurian Mythos. I expect that more details about the program will appear on the website soon. This conference is usually a nice combination of serious academic papers and fun social events, readings, and more.
I realize on looking over this list that it is heavily skewed towards Tolkien as a medievalist. If there are any other conferences you feel people should know about, please feel free to add them in the comments. It would also be interesting to know about other Tolkien conferences beyond North America and the UK.
Update Feb. 12: Thanks to Marcel Aubron Bülles here is another conference program:
This coming spring and summer will see a number of Tolkien conference sessions in the US: you might have to pace yourself carefully! I’m focusing on American conferences, since those are the ones I know best — let me know if there are others I’ve missed. I would also love to hear about upcoming Tolkien conference sessions outside of the United States.
In April, two conferences will occur almost back-to-back. If I can scrounge up enough time and money, I would love to be able to go from one directly to the other.
Tolkien in Vermont: April 11-13, 2014
First is the 11th annual Tolkien in Vermont conference to be held April 11 – 13 at the University of Vermont. The theme of the 2014 conference is “Bombadil and other Middle-earth Mysteries” though papers on any topic will be considered. Keynote speaker Kristine Larsen is well known for her research on science in Tolkien’s works, and she has been a frequent contributor to this conference. The Vermont conference has always been an intimate gathering with a lot of student participation. It provides a great opportunity to get to know people and, besides enjoying a full day of presentations, to have some fun in the Friday night readings or the Sunday morning Springle-ring that the university Tolkien Club typically organizes. The call for papers can be found on the conference website, which is in the process of adding the list of papers given in past years: http://tolkienvt.org/. Deadline for proposals: January 18, 2014.
Tolkien sessions at PCA/ACA: April 16-19, 2014
From the Vermont conference, you can head down the road to Chicago for the annual Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association conference, to be held April 16-19. This year, Tolkien Studies has been added as a new area on a trial basis. If sufficient interest is shown, Tolkien Studies will become a permanent field in the conference program.
“Tolkien at Kalamazoo” is an informal group that has sponsored up to eight sessions annually at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. For 2014, Congress organizers decided to cut back every sponsoring group to a maximum of four sessions, much to the dismay of many participants including the Tolkien group, which has organized very well attended sessions every year. Nonetheless, there will be Tolkien sessions in 2014 on The Fall of Arthur, on Tolkien’s medieval sources, on Tolkien and science, and a “Tolkien Unbound” evening of entertainment. The conference program will be announced in February on the Congress website: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/
Mythcon 45: August 8-11, 2014
The call for papers has just been posted on the Mythopoeic Society website: http://www.mythsoc.org/mythcon/mythcon-45/papers/. Deadline for submissions is April 15, 2014. The theme of Mythcon 45 is “Where Fantasy Fits,” and proposals can address the work of the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis, Williams) or any other aspects of the conference theme. Richard C. West will be the scholar guest of honour and Ursula Vernon, the author guest of honour. The conference will take place at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.