Science Fiction Festival, new Mythgard Course and “things Celtic”

It’s been a busy autumn, with my first public lecture after having a baby, new publications in the pipeline and new, exciting academic ventures.

On 18-19 October I took part in Literature WalesSpace, Time, Machine and Monster festival at the Riverfront Arts Centre, Newport. My talk was on “Tolkien’s Middle-earth: Fantasy and the Reality” and explored the depth and vast detail of the Middle-Earth world. It also examined Tolkien’s attempts to link this imaginary world to reality via ‘mythical’ history and the construction of artefacts supposedly from Middle-Earth. This was the first time I had given a public lecture after nearly a year (what with the last stages of pregnancy and maternity leave, my last such appearance was my keynote for The Politics of Contemporary Fantasy conference at Wurzburg in October 2012!) It was lovely to give a Tolkien lecture again: it was very well-attended, I had very interesting questions and the discussion was lively and informed – great audience! I also enjoyed the session on Arthur Machen (the Welsh writer of ‘weird tales’, admired by H. P. Lovecraft, and recognised by Jorge Luis Borges) presented by Gwilym Games and the brilliant Catherine Fisher.

I am also very excited to be embarking on a new academic adventure: in January, and for the entire Spring semester 2014, I will be joining the Mythgard Institute (a new, online academic institution based in the US) as a Visiting Professor. I will be teaching a brand-new online course on Celtic Myth in Children’s Fantasy which bridges my previous expertise with my current research. I am looking forward to exploring the Irish and Welsh medieval tales and poems that make up the magic of ‘Celtic’ myth, and to teaching some of my favourite contemporary fantasy novels, many of which have won prestigious awards (such as Alan Garner’s The Owl Service; Susan Cooper’s The Grey King; Jenny Nimmo’s The Snow Spider; and Kate Thompson’s The New Policeman). Enrolment is now open!

  • For more information about the Celtic Myth in Children’s Fantasy online course see here
  • Follow this link for more information on how the Mythgard Institute courses work
  • A short video presentation about the course can be accessed below

A much delayed update: Salem Press’ The Fantastic, (re) reading The Hobbit and Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur

It’s been a while since I have had a chance to update the News section (I am on maternity leave, with all the joys and tribulations that this encompasses!) so some most of the announcements here are a few months/weeks old, but still worth reporting. First of all, a new volume of Salem Press’s Critical Insights series appeared late last year, focusing on The Fantastic. The volume looks at the broader category of ‘the fantastic’, rather than strictly fantasy. I contributed a chapter on ‘Tolkien and the Fantasy Tradition’, and this is – to my knowledge – the only book to discuss Tolkien alongside Borges, Kundera, Calvino, Poe, and Hoffmann, among others.


  • You can read an overview of the themes and topics this book covers here
  • A detailed table of contents can be found here
  • You can buy this book via this link

In the months preceding the release of the first Hobbit film, The Tolkienist ran a series of posts entitled 75 reasons why you should read the Hobbit before watching the films. A number of well-known Tolkien scholars contributed their response to this prompt. My contribution focused on the nature and place of The Hobbit in Tolkien’s legendarium, and on the style and tone of this celebrated children’s book.

  • My ‘reasons’ why you should read The Hobbit before watching the films can be read here
  • For the entire series on The Tolkienist see here

Last, but definitely not least, I have enjoyed reading Tolkien’s eagerly-awaited The Fall of Arthur during the last couple of weeks. Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts have known about the existence of this unfinished alliterative poem since Humphrey Carpenter’s Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien (published in 1977). Tolkien’s fascination with the Arthurian legend is apparent from numerous references and creatively re-used motifs in his extended legendarium, but this is the first time scholars and fans have been able to appreciate Tolkien’s retelling of the Arthurian story itself. Christopher Tolkien’s commentary reveals fascinating drafts, in which Tolkien was clearly planning to link this poem to his extended legendarium. In my 2006 Tolkien Studies article (see under Publications), I argued that the 14th-century alliterative Morte Arthure was a better source-candidate for Tolkien’s Arthurian poem than Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (as suggested by H. Carpenter). So, you can imagine my delight after reading Christopher Tolkien’s commentary, confirming my earlier hypothesis!

  • You can read parts of Christopher Tolkien’s ‘Foreword’ to The Fall of Arthur here
  • You can buy the book via this link