Tolkien Studies for Advanced Readers: A Less Traveled Road

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J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote that the popular attraction to The Lord of the Rings was “due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist.” This class is for those who wish to journey through the mist with other like-minded student-scholars to examine those wonders that make the city of J.R.R. Tolkien's writings shine brightly for so many modern readers. Although recent attention has focused largely on Tolkien's most popular works, this course will examine the terrain of his less-familiar fiction, his work in medieval scholarship, his visual artwork, and some sources that influenced his thought. We will not be reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but prior knowledge of these works will provide the foundation for much of our analysis. Therefore, this is not a course for beginners new to the works of Tolkien or for those who have seen only Peter Jackson’s movie versions. Rather, this course allows students already highly familiar with the written texts of Tolkien’s Middle-earth to explore his other works in an academic context and to better understand the immensity of this writer’s impact on contemporary popular culture and the genre of imaginative fiction.

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