The Great Tales: Tolkien & the Epic

Tolkien and the Epic

In this course, students will study Tolkien's longest epics in the context of "The Great Tales" that Tolkien admired. Taking the works in their own context, as well as studying Tolkien's scholarly interest in these works and their overall contribution to the tradition will be the focus of this course.

August 29, 2011
15 Weeks
LITA 5301


Dr. Corey Olsen – suit and tie
Corey Olsen
University President; Board Member: President; Lecturer
Faith Acker

In this course, students will study Tolkien’s longest stories in the context of the earlier epic tradition, the “great tales” that Tolkien admired. In our readings of these early poems, however, we will not merely be looking to them as Tolkien’s “sources,” an approach that can easily lead us to oversimplify both Tolkien’s work and the older poems themselves. Instead, students will study these old works on their own terms, examining each story’s themes, characters, and narrative voice, while also exploring some of Tolkien’s own interests in these works as a scholar. Students will read Tolkien’s works with similar care, observing both the similarities and the differences between Tolkien’s stories and those earlier great works in the tradition of which they are a part.

 “Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still!  It’s going on.  Don’t the great tales never end?”
– Sam Gamgee

Special Guest Lecturers:

Course Schedule


Week 1

Beowulf and Fantasy [Shippey]

Week 2

Beowulf and History [Shippey]

Week 3

Building a National Mythology: Lonnrot, Grimm, Tolkien [Olsen]

Week 4

The Kalevala Runes 1-25 [Olsen]

Week 5

The Kalevala Runes 25-50 [Flieger]

Week 6

The Children of Hurin, Chapters 1-8 [Flieger]

Week 7

The Children of Hurin, Chapters 9-18 [Olsen]

Week 8

The Volsungasaga

Week 9

Sigurd and Gudrun

Week 10

Sigurd and Gudrun, continued

Week 11

The Lay of Leithian I-IX

Week 12

The Lay of Leithian X-end

Week 13

Selections from The Fellowship of the Ring

Week 14

Selections from The Two Towers

Week 15

Selections from The Return of the King

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Great Tales Offerings
Fall 2011Dr. Faith Acker, Dr. Liam Daley