Tolkien's World of Middle-earth

The Balrog, by Ted Nasmith

January 16, 2017
12 Weeks
LITA 5306


Dr. Sara Brown
Board Member: Elected Faculty Member; Preceptor

How did Tolkien’s imagination evolve over time? What did Tolkien think about fairy tales, and how did he show this in his scholarly work and in his fiction?

In this course, students will read Tolkien’s two critical essays, Beowulf, The SilmarillionThe Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings to explore how his world and his myth developed over time.  There are three interim exams, one on the essays and Beowulf, one on The Silmarillion, one on The Hobbit, plus a two-hour final exam on The Lord of the Rings. Each exam builds on the one before it.  All are open book, open notes. The goal is not to test your memory, but to get you to think deeply and critically about the material and the relationships among the works.  You should know more at the end of each exam than you did before you started.

Course Schedule

Week 1 – Tolkien and Tragedy

Beowulf: The Monsters & Critics”

Week 2 – Tolkien’s Beowulf 

  • Scyld Scefing ll. 1-85
  • Grendel ll. 86-193,632-689, 1761-1768
  • the dragon ll. 2231-2271, ll. 2510-2845, ll 3076-3182

Week 3 – Tolkien and Faërie

“On Fairy-stories”

First Exam

Week 4 – Tolkien and Mythology

The Silmarillion: “Ainulindalë,” “Beginning of Days”

Week 5 – Tolkien and Mythology II

Fëanor, Beren, Túrin    

Second Exam

Week 6 – Tolkien and Children’s Books

The Hobbit: green suns & inner consistency

Third Exam

Week 7 – The Masterwork

  • LotR Preface, the Red Book, the framing concept
  • Book 1: Frodo & the Ring

Week 8 – The Masterwork II

Book 2: Caradhras, Moria, Lórien, Amon Hen

Week 9 – The Masterwork III

Book 3: Boromir, Theoden, Treebeard, Helm’s Deep & Isengard

Week 10 – The Masterwork IV

Book 4: Gollum

Week 11 – The Masterwork V

Book 5: Pippin & Denethor, Merry & Eowyn, the Black Gate

Week 12 – The Masterwork VI

Book 6: Cirith Ungol, Mt. Doom, The Scouring, Grey Havens

Final Exam

Required Texts

Many of you probably already have one or more of Tolkien’s works.  If you want to use the ones you have, please do!

* Chickering translation is required – please do not substitute another translation, such as Burton Raffel or Seamus Heaney or the Norton edition

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth Offerings
Semester Preceptor(s)
Spring 2013  Dr. Sara Brown, Liam Daley