Tolkien & Tradition

LITC5301_Tolkien-in-Tradition

START:
August 29, 2016
DURATION:
12 Weeks
ID:
LITC 5301
CREDIT:
3

Flex Course

Audit Options

Discussion Audit seats available

How does “The Story of Kullervo” relate to Kalevala? How does Sigurd and Gudrún relate to The Volsung Saga? How does The Fall of Arthur relate to the medieval Arthur legends?

Tolkien once said his immediate response to reading any medieval story was to want to write one like it.  He did.  Three times. “The Story of Kullervo” came from the Finnish KalevalaSigurd and Gudrún was his take on the Icelandic Eddas; and The Fall of Arthur was inspired by the Middle English Alliterative Morte Arthure and the Stanzaic Morte Arthure.  We’ll read each of these works in the context of its particular literary tradition to explore how Tolkien fits/alters/extends/compresses traditional material to make it his own. The course divides naturally into three segments each devoted to a mythic story and Tolkien’s treatment of it.  You will learn to evaluate Tolkien’s works both individually and comparatively, judging them in the context of each other as well as of their sources as read in class.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Background

  • The folklore movement, myth, language, romanticism, nationalism.
  • Lönnrot, Proto-Kalevala 1834, Old Kalevala 1835, Kalevala 1849. Folklore or fakelore?

Week 2: The Orphan — Tolkien and Kalevala

  • Tolkien and myth.  Language & languages. Kalevala essays pp. 246-277  “I would that we had more of it left”
  • Kalevala essays continued

Week 3: Tolkien and Kalevala

  • Runos 31–33 — Kalervo’s Offspring and Ilmarinen’s Wife
  • Runos 34–36 — Kullervo and his Family

Week 4: Tolkien and Kalevala

  • “The Story of Kullervo” pp. 214-227
  • “The Story of Kullervo” pp. 227-245

Take-Home Exam

Week 5 (September 23 – 26): The Hero — Tolkien and the Volsungs

  • Norse worldview. Sources: Snorri Edda, Codex Regius, Völsungasaga
  • Tolkien and the North from Andrew Lang to Beowulf to the Kolbítar

Week 6: Sigurd

  • Sturluson, Gylfaginning pp. 7-19, Bellows Mythological Poems Voluspø
  • Sturluson, Gylfaginning pp. 99-104, Bellows Heroic Poems Gripispo, Reginsmol, Fafnismol

Week 7: Sigurd

  • Tolkien, Legend  Volsungakvitha pp. 59-126
  • Legend Volsungakvitha pp. 127-180

Week 8: Gudrún

  • Bellows, Atlakvitha
  • Legend  Gudrúnarkvitha

Take-Home Exam

Week 9: The King – Tolkien and Arthur

  • Arthurian tradition from Geoffrey to Malory to Tennyson
  • Tolkien, the Waldman letter, The Notion Club Papers

Week 10: Tolkien and Arthur

  • Benson, Alliterative Morte
  • Benson, Stanzaic Morte

Week 11: Tolkien and Arthur

  • Tolkien, The Fall of Arthur Cantos 1 – 5
  • “The Unwritten Poem”

Week 12: Tolkien and Arthur

Wrap-up and class discussion

Final Take-Home Exam

Required Texts

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Tolkien & Tradition Offerings
Semester Preceptor(s)
Fall 2016 Dr. Erin Aust
Fall 2013 Liam Daley
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