The Hobbit

Tolkien at IMC Leeds 2018 – round-up

I am now back from Leeds, after an excellent Tolkien Society Seminar, and an outstanding series of papers and a roundtable discussion on Tolkien at the International Medieval Congress 2018. Here’s a quick overview of all papers presented at the IMC, mostly based on my live-tweeting during the sessions. Just to warn you that my reporting of the papers is uneven at best, and doesn’t always reflect the richness and depth of each individual presentation. The number of tweets I could do was often limited by the fact that I was also chairing/moderating a number of these sessions, so I have done the best I could under the circumstances! At least readers will get a flavour of the scope and range of topics covered. I also should say that all the Tolkien sessions were very well attended, often to the point of having people standing or sitting on the floor! After the midpoint, the IMC very kindly started moving us to bigger rooms!

Session 127
Title: Memory in Tolkien’s Medievalism, I
Session Time: Mon. 02 July – 11.15-12.45

World-Building and Memory in The Name-List to the ‘Fall of Gondolin’
Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton

  • @asthiggins: lists were important in #Tolkien’s early mythology, as in ancient and medieval epics and tales #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • @asthiggins: The Book of Lost Tales records philological debates which contest how origins of names are remembered in his Invented world #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • @asthiggins: Legolas features as an obscure character in the very early writings of #Tolkien, and in the name-list associated with The Fall of Gondolin. Legolas = green-leaf and keen-sight (different meanings in his two invented languages) #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • @asthiggins: the name list to The Fall of Gondolin becomes an archival memory of stories and characters – the first of many paratextual elements that #Tolkien would integrate in his Invented mythology #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds


The Smith, the Weaver and the Librarian: Sub-Creating Memory in Tolkien’s work
Gaëlle Abaléa, Centre d’Etudes Médiévales Anglaises (CEMA), Université Paris IV – Sorbonne

  • Abaléa: the figure of the weaver reoccurs in #Tolkien’s mythology – linked with mythological figures such as the Norse Norns. #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Abaléa: weaving is significant among the Valar, linked with sub-creating the fabric of time in the early versions of the legendarium #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Abaléa: Ungoliant and Shelob as anti-weavers or “dark”-weavers – literally creating darkness and sucking in light and memory #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Abaléa: Aule and Feanor as a prime examples of the figure of the Smith in the legendarium. The incident at the Barrow-Downs also as an example of armour-giving linked to memory. The weapons obtained there seem to carry the memory of past conflicts with them #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Abaléa: The Elves too attached to memory and to preserving the past. But not preserving leads to misremembering – see Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth

Tolkien’s Typological Imagination
Anna Smol, Department of English, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia

  • .@AnnaMSmol#Tolkien would have been familiar with typological interpretations of the Bible. The term has also been applied to the study of myth. #imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AnnaMSmol: Conventional Christian typology: defining of “types” who predict or look forward to “anti-types” and make spiritual links. E.g. Adam as a “type” for Christ. #Tolkien#imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AnnaMSmol#Tolkien’s imagination is typological – 4 Ages in the legendarium – movement towards an end (finite time) #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AnnaMSmol: Sauron and Shelob as a later version of Melkor and Ungoliant. Also Arwen as a re-enactment of Lúthien. In both cases these are separate characters but with typological analogies. #Tolkien#imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AnnaMSmol: Interesting moments when types merge into one: Frodo and Eärendil as two overlapping layers in the cave of Shelob when Sam reminds Frodo to use Galadriel’s phial. #Tolkien#imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AnnaMSmol: Eärendil also acts as a prefigurement: as Eärendil sails to Valinor (without permission) Frodo does too at the end of the #LordoftheRings (with permission) #imc2018@IMC_Leeds#Tolkien
  • .@AnnaMSmol#Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories: each leaf of the tree of tales is a unique embodiment of the pattern. But in On Fairy-Stories there IS an overarching pattern: all fairy stories are typological in a particular Christian way. #imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AnnaMSmol: the typological imagination prefers the proliferation of specific historical examples of “types”, rather than reducing everything into allegory. #Tolkien#imc2018@IMC_Leeds


Session 227
Title: Memory in Tolkien’s Medievalism, II
Session Time: Mon. 02 July – 14.15-15.45

Tolkien Remembering Tolkien: Textual Memory in the 1977 Silmarillion
Gergely Nagy, Independent Scholar, Budapest

  • Nagy: the 1977 Silmarillion as a “textual field” – it was accused of reducing the multiplicity of the variants that #Tolkien created. #s227 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Nagy: the making of the Silmarils – the diction around Feanor’s actions changed subtly throughout the different versions. Christopher Tolkien seems to have been attuned to the sounds of language when choosing between versions. #s227 #imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Nagy: Christopher Tolkien (externally) and Bilbo (internally) as editors – the published Silmarillion is a work of editorial processes #Tolkien #s227 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Nagy: how much is Bilbo imagined to have acted as a unified of textual variants? #Silmarillion #s227 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Nagy proposes the term “secondary philology” for this process in the fictional level – Bilbo as translator/editor/compiler/negotiator of the 1977 Silmarillion. #Tolkien sees history and culture as a series of textual transformations. #s277 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds

Remembering and Forgetting: National Identity Construction in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Sara Brown, Independent Scholar, Conwy

  • .@AranelParmadil#Tolkien is interested in record-keeping and ways of preservation past history, but Middle-earth itself and its nexus of texts draws attention to the insufficiency of memory via written texts #s227 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@AranelParmadil: Tolkien’s recurring “Atlantis” dream: inherited memory as a neat way to solve the problem of the insufficiency of textual memory? #s227 #imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@AranelParmadil: forgetting as equally important in terms of nation-building – Boromir as a case of forgetting negative elements of one’s national history (in contrast to Elrond’s words about Númenor) #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@AranelParmadil: the healing of the Shire with the seeds from Galadriel allows the hobbits to forget the trauma of the recent war – the hobbits positively erase memories of the war (wish fulfilment?) Forgetting allows the regeneration of their “nation”. #s227 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds

Longing to Remember, Dying to Forget: Memory and Monstrosity
Penelope Holdaway, Department of Humanities, Cardiff Metropolitan University

  • Holdaway: is the monstrous located in the physical? Cohen’s 7 theses may offer a broader way to look at the monstrous #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Holdaway: more emphasis on cultural definitions of the monstrous – Túrin’s otherness is a cultural otherness, where does that cross into the monstrous? #s227 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Holdaway: Túrin is monstrous within the Elves but not monstrous enough among the Outlaws – always othered. #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Holdaway: Túrin’s weakness is that he can’t let go of the past – he’s most at peace with Nienor because he has no memory of her as a sister. Is memory a curse? #s227#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Holdaway: Wolverine as a point of comparison with #Tolkien’s Túrin. Wolverine is a mutant with no culture or morality – he fulfils more of Cohen’s theses about the “monstrous”. #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Holdaway: The peaceful part of Wolverine’s past ends when his past life starts to emerge – memory as a curse again? #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Holdaway: the monsters are those with distorted memories – those who remember more, less, or differently to others. #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds

‘Forgot even the stones’: Stone Monuments and Imperfect Cultural and Personal Memories in The Lord of the Rings
Kristine Larsen, Department of Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University

  • Larsen: (forgetting) family history in the #LordoftheRings: the hobbits mistake the Trolls as real, while Aragorn remembers the story of their petrification from Bilbo #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds #Tolkien
  • Larsen: forgetting (“other”) cultural history: the Púkel-men at Dunharrow – the head of the Gondorian king on the way to Mordor. #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Larsen: the symbolism of the stone monument is significant throughout the #LordoftheRings#s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Larsen: for #Tolkien the lack of cultural memory leads to superstition and fear: e.g. the stone of Erech. Also, the Argonath invoke fear and dread to those not in possession of cultural memory (e.g. the hobbits). #s227 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds


Session 311
Title: ‘New’ Tolkien: Expanding the Canon
Session Time: Mon. 02 July – 16.30-18.00

‘I will give you a name’: Sentient Objects in Tolkien’s Fiction
J. Patrick Pazdziora, College of Liberal Arts, Shantou University, China

  • Pazdziora: Kullervo is, in reality, “old” #Tolkien – pre-war, pre-Middle-earth. The paper will focus on animism, esp. Kullervo’s talking sword. #s311 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds #Tolkien
  • Pazdziora: the speaking sword is the most tangible link between Kullervo and Narn-i-chin-Húrin – but it doesn’t occur in the Kalevala. #s311 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds#Tolkien
  • Pazdziora: Tailbiter in Farmer Giles of Ham is also described in anthropomorphic terms and has agency. Bilbo’s Sting seems to also have this sort of agency and a name. #s311 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds #Tolkien
  • Pazdziora: where does that leave us in terms of the agency of the One Ring? The “luxuriant animism” of Kullervo remained as a subtle element in Middle-earth. #s311#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds #Tolkien

Tolkien’s ‘The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun’ and The Lay of Leithian
Yvette Kisor, School of American & International Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey

  • Kisor: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun and The Lay of Leithien were written at the same time and they both contain elements of sexual desire and rapaciousness. #s311#imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Kisor: The encounter of Beren and Lúthien in the Lay is intensely physical, as opposed to the text of the Book of Lost Tales. #s311#imc2018@IMC_Leeds#Tolkien


  • Kisor: the illegitimate desire of Curufin and his brother for Lúthien chimes with the desire of the Corrigan for Aotrou and Aotrou’s greed for a lineage. #s311 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds #Tolkien

Invented Language and Invented Religion: Tolkien’s Innovative Symbolic Systems and New Religious Movements
Nathan Fredrickson, Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Fredrickson: there’s an essentialist humanistic way of thinking in #Tolkien, but also a critical, almost post-modernist emphasis on the constructiveness of things.
  • Fredrickson: linguistic invention has been neglected in fiction-based religions. There is some acknowledgment but not a proper consideration in #Tolkien-inspired religious movements.
  • Fredrickson: neologisms are crucial – as #Tolkien points out, new languages create new worldviews. This is something we need to discuss more in terms of these movements. #s311 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds #Tolkien

The Grammar of Historical Memory in Tolkien’s Legendarium: The Tale of Beren and Lúthien
Christian F. Hempelmann and Robin Anne Reid, Department of Literature & Languages, Texas A&M University, Commerce

  • Reid: project on computational linguistics comparing “Tinuviel”, “Beren and Lúthien”, and “Aragorn and Arwen” in terms of text statistics, archaisms, geographical terminology, and “keyness”. #s311#IMC2018@IMC_Leeds#Tolkien
  • Reid: more onomastic richness (in terms of place and geography) in Beren and Lúthien, rather than Tinuviel. Evidence of the development of #Tolkien’s worldbuilding? #S311#imc2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Reid: shift from dance to song from Tinuviel and Beren and Lúthien – time and doom are words that occur more in Aragorn and Arwen. #s311#IMC2018@IMC_Leeds#Tolkien


Session 749
Title: Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches, I
Session Time: Tue. 03 July – 14.15-15.45

Some Boethian Themes as Tools of Characterization in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
Andrzej Wicher, Zakład Dramatu i Dawnej Literatury Angielskiej, Uniwersytet Łódzki

  • Wicher links Théoden’s lethargy with the amnesia/lethargy that Lady Philosophy can heal in Boethius #s749 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Wicher: Gandalf and Galadriel as two sides of one character, both with androgynous characteristics #s749 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Wicher: views on Boethius as implementing a “neutralised Christianity” – comparison with #Tolkien’s Christian-inspired yet non-overtly-Christian mythology. #s749#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Wicher: Lady Philosophy bridges a number of binaries: male/female, young/old – compare these two descriptions of Lady Philosophy and Galadriel #s749#IMC2018@IMC_Leeds

Eldest: Tom Bombadil and Fintan Mac Bóchra
Kris Swank, Northwest Campus Library, Pima Community College, Arizona

  • .@krisswank: Tom Bombadil has much in common with Fintan Mac Bóchra of the Irish tradition. In an early prose fragment Tom B is “one of the oldest inhabitants of the kingdom” after the Britain had suffered many invasions. #s749 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@krisswank: original answer of Tom B when Bingo (later Frodo) asks him who he is was “I am an aborigine”. #s749 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@krisswank: Tolkien made a note about Fintan in his drafts of The Lost Road. Many parallels between Tom B and the legend of Fintan, esp. being the oldest man in the world. #s749 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@krisswank: Both Fintan and Tom B have experienced deluge: Tom remember the world “before the seas were bent”. Both have otherworldly associations. #s749#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@krisswank: Fintan is called upon to give evidence about the history of the land – he tells the story of a yew tree from seed to great tree. Tom remembers “the first acorn” and the history of the trees in the Old Forest. #s749 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@krisswank: Tom as a guide and teacher for the hobbits, the guardian of historical knowledge – just like Fintan #s749 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds

Hobbits: The Un-Recorded People of Middle-Earth
Aurélie Brémont, Centre d’Études Médiévales Anglaises (CEMA), Université Paris IV – Sorbonne

  • .@LelieFairy: what do hobbits know about the world outside the Shire? In The Hobbit Bilbo knows very little, and so does the reader. In The #LordoftheRings Tolkien world have had two sort of readers: those who knew The Hobbit and those who didn’t. #IMC2018 #s749 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@LelieFairy: in their origin history, on their way to the Shire, hobbits meet Elves and Dúnedain, and learn letters and crafts from them. They promptly forget whatever language they spoke before. #s749 #IMC2018 #Tolkien @IMC_Leeds
  • .@LelieFairy: the hobbits have also forgotten what they knew about the “Guardians”, the people who protected them – the remnants of the Dúnedain. Why were the hobbits under this protection? (long before Bilbo found the Ring) #s749 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • .@LelieFairy: We don’t really know enough about where the hobbits come from – what happened BEFORE they crossed into Eriador. #Tolkien doesn’t tell us. #s749#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • .@LelieFairy: for the War of the Ring #Tolkien needed heroes; by randomly asserting the hobbits’ “tough” core, without explanation, he could really exploit the element of surprise and turn the hobbits into heroes for the needs of The #LordoftheRings#s749#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds

Session 849
Title: Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches, II
Session Time: Tue. 03 July – 16.30-18.00

Longing for Death: Tolkien and Sehnsucht
Anna Vaninskaya, School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures, University of Edinburgh

  • Vaninskaya will focus on the recurrent motif in #Tolkien of the desire to voyage to Elvenhome via the concept of Sehnsucht (Longing) #s849 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Vaninskaya: William Peter’s “imitation” of Schiller interprets the “other” land of desire in a non-Christian context – compare with Tolkien’s Undying Lands. #s848#IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Vaninskaya: The desire implies homesickness – there’s imagery of fragrance and flowers, and flexibility of space and time. The land is across the sea and there are associations with the desire for death. #IMC2018 #s849 @IMC_Leeds #Tolkien
  • Vaninskaya: significant question in #Tolkien’s legendarium: where is the home of Men? Ideas of home and homelessness abound in the legendarium. #s849 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Vaninskaya: Eriol/Ælfwine already express this longing but many more characters from the legendarium suffer from Sehnsucht. #s849 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds #Tolkien
  • Vaninskaya: as the figure of the voyager reoccurs, his old age becomes more central, thus highlighting the impossibility of reaching the Undying Lands. #s849 #IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Vaninskaya: link with #Tolkien’s biography? Many of these voyagers are father figures with sons. #s849 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Vaninskaya: Sea-longing, home-longing, death-longing, merge into one. #s849#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds

Tolkien’s Agrarianism in its Time
Joshua Richards, Faculty of English, Williams Baptist College, Arkansas

  • Richards: can we really accept that the early Middle-earth is the same as the later one? Themes may be the same, but the socio-cultural context is different. Focus on one version of Middle-earth in this paper: the earliest #LordoftheRings drafts. #s849#IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Richards: earlier stages of #LordoftheRings – use of agrarianism by #Tolkien to test its boundaries, especially in the Shire. The hobbits are creatures of an agrarian society, well-ordered and well-farmed. #s849 #imc2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Richards: Bingo (early version of Frodo) contemplates a career as a gardener or carpenter – spiritual resonances. Agrarianism and spiritual links also apparent in Chesterton and Eliot. #s849 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Richards: links between Chesterton and Tolkien – e.g. #Tolkien reading The Ballad of the White Horse. #s849 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Richards: in both Chesterton and #Tolkien: connection of land and literature, against industrialization. The cohesive aspects of society dissolve in industry. #s849 #imc2018@IMC_Leeds

Frodo Surrealist: André Breton and J. R. R. Tolkien on Dreams
Claudio Antonio Testi, Independent Scholar, Modena

  • Testi argues that there are surrealist moments in The #LordoftheRings via dreams. Breton’s manifesto attempted to merge reality and dreams via surrealism. He also talked about dreaming while awake. #s849 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Testi: 1936: International Surrealist Exhibition in London with an abstract and concrete show in Oxford. Tolkien was then working on The Lost Road and soon after The #LordoftheRings#s849 #IMC2018 @IMC_Leeds
  • Testi: Tolkien’s early art had some surrealist overtones. #s849#IMC2018@IMC_Leeds
  • Testi: #Tolkien referenced Surrealism in On Fairy-Stories. There are several types of dreams in Tolkien’s work, all experienced by Frodo, including, notoriously, Faërian Drama.
  • Testi: The Faërian Drama experiences by Frodo in Rivendell has surrealist overtones which can be read via Breton. #s849#IMC2018@IMC_Leeds

A Man of His Time?: Tolkien and the Edwardian Worldview
Brad Eden, Christopher Center for Library & Information Resources, Valparaiso University, Indiana

Session 949
Title: Tolkien in Context(s): A Round Table Discussion
Session Time: Tue. 03 July – 19.00-20.00

Moderator/Chair: Dimitra Fimi


  • Yvette Kisor, School of American & International Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey
  • Kristine Larsen, Department of Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University
  • Irina Metzler, College of Arts & Humanities, Swansea University
  • Gergely Nagy, Independent Scholar, Budapest
  • Sara L. Uckelman, Institute of Medieval & Early Modern Studies, Durham University

Not much chance of live-tweeting for this last session, as I was (actively!) moderating! But the Tolkien @ IMC Leeds sessions ended (as always!) with a meal with the Tolkien scholars, presenters and attendees!

Here’s to Tolkien @ IMC Leeds 2019!



New article on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters in The Conversation

I had a new (festive) article published yesterday on the The Conversation, titled: “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Christmas letters to his children bring echoes of Middle-earth to the North Pole”. In this article I discuss the letters from Father Christmas Tolkien sent to his children, and the creation of an entire parallel Christmas mythology (alongside his Middle-earth legendarium) which appropriated American popular culture about Santa Claus, but also added new characters, details and even invented languages and scripts! Some of the research that went into this piece is also included in my first monograph, Tolkien, Race and Cultural History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

You can read the entire article here.

Tolkien Sessions at IMC Leeds, July 2017

imc_postcard_2017_front_1*Update – June 2017

I am very pleased to announce that all four sessions on J.R.R. Tolkien I proposed for the International Medieval Congress at Leeds 2017 have been accepted! This will be the third consecutive year of papers on J.R.R. Tolkien at IMC Leeds, after a successful series of sessions in 2015 and 2016. Leeds is, indeed, a Tolkien-related location, and it is very fitting that his work will be explored in this prestigious conference. I am looking forward to a series of brilliant sessions and papers from well-established Tolkien scholars, alongside new voices and perspectives!

Here are the sessions titles, abstracts, papers, speakers and times:


Session 242: J. R. R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches

Session Time: Mon. 03 July – 14.15-15.45

Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Moderator: Andrew Higgins

Session Abstract:

This session will address aspects of Tolkien’s medievalism. Yvette Kisor examines the frequent use    of the word ‘knight’ in Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, especially to translate a range of Old English terms. Anahit Behrooz addresses the complexities of orality and frame narratives in the earliest version of Tolkien’s mythology, The Book of Lost Tales. Anahit Behrooz addresses Tolkien’s cartography as a liminal space between medieval mapmaking and modern practices. Aurélie Brémont discusses the transformations of the Corrigan, from Breton folklore to Tolkien’s The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun. Victoria Holtz-Wodzak considers the ways in which medieval Franciscan theology shaped Tolkien’s portrayal of the natural world.

Paper Titles and Speakers:

Tolkien’s Beowulf: Translating Knights (Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College, New Jersey)

Elvish Ears: Medieval Orality in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Book of Lost Tales Mappa Mundi to Mappa Middle-Earth: Positioning J.R.R. Tolkien’s Cartography between Medieval and Modern Practices (Anahit Behrooz, University of Edinburgh)

Tales of the Corrigan: From Folklore to Nationalist Reinvention (Aurélie Brémont, Université Paris IV – Sorbonne)

Treebeard’s Priesthood and the Franciscan Sanctity of Tolkien’s Natural World (Victoria Holtz-Wodzak, Viterbo University)

IMC 2017 Session Link

Session 342: ‘New’ Tolkien: Expanding the Canon

Session Time: Mon. 03 July – 16.30-18.00

Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Moderator: Dimitra Fimi

Session Abstract:

This session will focus on ‘new’ works by J. R. R. Tolkien: creative works published posthumously during the last few years. Participants will examine all or a selection of the following works: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009), The Fall of Arthur (2013), The Story of Kullervo (2015), A Secret Vice (2016) and The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (2016). Verlyn Flieger will examine the complex ways in which Tolkien’s creative adaptation of medieval literature shaped some of his best-known fictional characters. Brad Eden will focus on Tolkien’s use of the liminal forest in terms of setting, language and characterization. Kristine Larsen will concentrate on medieval lunar symbolism in the representation of female characters, and Andrew Higgins will explore the use of the Indo-European model and Tolkien’s expertise in philology in the development of Tolkien’s invented languages.

Paper Titles and Speakers:

Tolkien, Tradition, and the Individual Talent (Verlyn Flieger, University of Maryland)

Mirkwood as Otherness: ‘New’ Tolkien and the Liminal Forest (Brad Eden, Valparaiso University)

Magic, Matrimony, and the Moon: Medieval Lunar Symbolism in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun and The Fall of Arthur (Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University)

A Secret Vice, the 1930’s and the Growth of Tolkien’s ‘Tree of Tongues’ (Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar)

IMC 2017 Session Link

Session 442: The Road Goes Ever On: The Future of Tolkien Scholarship – A Round Table Discussion

Session Time: Mon. 03 July – 19.00-20.00

Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Chair: Carl Phelpstead

Round Table Abstract:

Tolkien’s legendarium has often been approached by scholarship via the lens of medievalism. Scholars have been long interested in Tolkien’s medieval intertexts (e.g. Old and Middle English works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) and such studies have established a clear view of Middle-earth as a world that engages with the heroic code, material culture, philosophical, and theological concepts, as well as fantastical beings, from the literature of the European Middle Ages. However, a more recent trend is to examine Tolkien’s work in terms of its engagement with the cultural moment(s) it was created, spanning six decades of literary and cultural history. Where is Tolkien scholarship heading? Should we move away from ‘Tolkien the medievalist’ and focus more on Tolkien as 20th-century author? And what about recent developments in literary theory? This round table discussion will debate the complexities of such questions and will interrogate scholarly practices and expectations in Tolkien Studies.


Brad Eden (Valparaiso University)

Dimitra Fimi (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Verlyn Flieger (University of Maryland)

Thomas Honegger (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität)

Michael Wodzak (Viterbo University)

IMC 2017 Session Link

Session 1019: Otherness in Tolkien’s Medievalism

Session Time: Wed. 05 July – 09.00-10.30

Organiser: Dimitra Fimi
Moderator:  Kristine Larsen

Session Abstract:

This session explores various aspects of the construction and role of the ‘other’ in J.R.R. Tolkien’s medievalism. Irina Metzler surveys the representation of disability in Tolkien’s mythology and its medieval analogies and constructions. Thomas Honegger focuses on Tolkien’s critique of chivalry in his medieval scholarship but also in his construction of the ‘other’ Middle Ages in his creative work. Sara Brown addresses an important figure of medieval literature and legend, the Dwarf, focusing on the ‘othering’ of female Dwarves by their very absence. Gaëlle Abaléa interrogates the world of the Dead as ‘other’ in Tolkien’s legendarium, examining its boundaries, and its relation to Faerie.

Paper Titles and Speakers:

Disability in Tolkien’s Texts: Medieval ‘Otherness’? (Irina Metzler, Swansea University)

Tolkien’s Other Middle Ages (Thomas Honegger, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität)

The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’ (Sara Brown, Rydal Penrhos School)

Our World, the Other World, and Those In-Between: Community with and Separation from the Dead in Tolkien’s Work (Gaëlle Abaléa, Université Paris IV – Sorbonne)

IMC 2017 Session Link