Dublin, Wurzburg and Hobbit Day

In the last few weeks I took part in two brilliant conferences in Ireland and Germany. Tolkien: The Forest and the City was held at the School of English at Trinity College Dublin, on 21st-22nd September 2012. I presented a paper alongside an impressive array of Tolkien scholars including Tom Shippey, Michael Drout and Thomas Honegger. My paper was entitled: “‘Wildman of the Woods’: Inscribing Tragedy on the Landscape of Middle-earth in The Children of Hurin” and explored ideas of the city vs. the wilderness in Turin’s movements on the map of Beleriand and the way his tragic story re-enacts Oedipus’ similar route and fate.

Between 5th and 7th October I was in Wurzburg, Germany to give a keynote lecture for The Politics of Contemporary Fantasy conference held at the University of Wurzburg. My lecture was on “Revisiting Race in Tolkien’s Legendarium: Constructing Cultures and Ideologies in an Imaginary World”, in which I explored Tolkien’s hierarchical secondary world and the materiality of his invented cultures. Most of the conference papers focused on contemporary fantasy and there were some excellent discussions and debates that developed during sessions. I also enjoyed the second keynote lecture by Farah Mendlesohn on “Post-Colonialism, Post-Second-World-War Fantasy and the Construction of Childhood”. There was a report on the conference on German radio (Deutschlandfunk: “Der Zauber magischer Welten”) for which I gave a short interview. You can hear to this short programme (in German – my contribution is dubbed, but you can hear me in the background!) via this link.

Meanwhile, on Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthday (22nd of September) I contributed a reading of a short extract from The Hobbit for Middle-earth Network’s Hobbit Day 2012. I chose the second part of Chapter 3 (‘A Short Rest’) which includes a description of Elrond and the discovery of the moon-letters on Thorin’s map. My reading was broadcast online as part of a series of readings by a number of Tolkien scholars, artists and fans, including Colin Duriez, Ted Nasmith, Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger and many others.

Return of the Ring and Tolkien Library Interview

This August I took part in the Tolkien Society’s major event since 2005, The Return of the Ring (16-20 August), a celebration of Tolkien on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. This was a five-day event that interweaved academic lectures and papers, fan activities and presentations, an art exhibition and book stalls, and prestigious keynote addresses. The Guest of Honour this time was Brian Sibley, best known for his BBC Radio 4’s acclaimed adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Other plenary addresses included speakers such as Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson, Michael Tolkien, who talked about the influence of his grandfather’s essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’ on his own creative work.

I was honoured to be one of the special guests, alongside many other scholars, artists and performers. My talk focused on “Elves, Goblins and Other ‘Fairy’ Things in The Hobbit: Tolkien’s Victorian and Edwardian Inspiration” (see here for an abstract) which expanded my research on fairies in Tolkien’s early work (published in my book) to the period of The Hobbit. I was also very excited to take part in an event that run parallel with the main sessions of Return of the Ring: a Postgraduate Symposium in which younger scholars, who are currently studying Tolkien at MA and PhD level, were given the opportunity to present their research and share ideas. Alongside Martin Barker (University of Aberystwyth), Mark Atherton (Oxford University), and Corey Olsen (Washington College) I led a number of those postgraduate sessions, and was very impressed with the standard of papers and research presented. It was also very rewarding to see some of my own former Tolkien online students presenting at this conference, including Sara Brown, Sandra Hall, Andrew Higgins, Sonja Virta and Elise McKenna. In addition, I was involved with organising four discussion panels on Tolkien and Education focusing on “Tolkien in International Higher Education” (which I chaired), “Tolkien and Literary Tourism”, “Tolkien Research” and “Lifelong Learning Tolkien: Face-to-face and Online” (in which I took part as a speaker). I also signed copies of my book and was one of the judges who selected the scholar who gave the Christine Davidson Memorial lecture and received the accompanying bursary (we had a wonderful lecture by Benjamin Barootes!) Overall, Return of the Ring was a great event – it was lovely to see so many colleagues and friends and talk Tolkien continuously for five days!

In early September, the Tolkien Library published an interview with me on teaching and researching Tolkien, in which I repeated an announcement I initially made at Return of the Ring: that my Tolkien online course will run this autumn term (starting on 19th September) for the last time for some time, as I am intending to take a break from teaching online for a year or so. So here’s your last chance to enrol for a little while!


Cardiff Met Student Led Teaching Fellowship

My University (Cardiff Metropolitan University) launched a series of Student-led teaching fellowships this year, giving students the opportunity to recognise and reward good teaching practice. The students were asked to nominate lecturers for the following award categories: Best Feedback, Innovative Teaching, Most Inspiring, Most Organized Module, and Best Preparation for Work.

I was very honoured and humbled to receive the Fellowship for Most Inspiring lecturer. The Fellowship was awarded during this year’s Graduation ceremony. I was so proud to see my students graduate (the first generation since I moved to Cardiff Met to have taught from freshers all the way to Year 3) and I was very moved to step up on the stage and receive this award during their big day! Many congratulations to all and best of luck with all of your future ventures!

  • You can read more about Cardiff Met’s Student-led teaching fellowships, including interviews with the award winners, here
  • I am looking forward to a busy few months to come! Forthcoming conference appearances include: