Place is one of the defining features of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium; Middle-earth is arguably its most constant and central character. How and why did he build what he called a secondary world, and in what ways did our primary world help to shape its landscape, geography and cultures? How does his work relate to contemporary understanding of the cultural landscape, to ideas of nationhood, and to environmental issues?
John Garth, influential Tolkien biographer and scholar, will act as your guide in this deep dive into the themes he researched for his latest book, The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth.
The course will divide into three major sections. First we will consider Tolkien’s imaginative relationship with England or Britain, and with cultures beyond. In several further sessions we will cover varieties of natural landscape in his works. Finally we will devote a number of classes to the interactions of peoples and places, ranging from archaeology to industry and war.
Threading through the course will be reading and discussion of background topics including cultural landscape theory, Tolkien’s theory of the secondary world, and biographical criticism. Garth will also give guidance on research methods in criticism.
Through a focus on modern literature’s premier world-builder, the course offers an enhanced understanding of the importance of place to literature, to literary creativity, and to the human condition.
This course includes two live 90-minute lectures per week with one 60-minute discussion session as assigned.
Week 1 – Introduction
Week 2 – England to the Shire
Week 3 – Four Winds
Week 4 – The Land of Lúthien
Week 5 – The Shore and the Sea
Week 6 – Roots of the Mountains
Week 7 – Rivers, Lakes and Waterlands
Week 8 – Tree-Woven Lands
Week 9 – Ancient Imprints
Week 10 – Watch and Ward
Week 11 – Places of War
Week 12 – Craft and Industry
The Amazon links are provided for convenience only, and we encourage students to purchase texts wherever they wish. Preferred editions are not below where relevant.
- The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien by John Garth
- Works by J.R.R. Tolkien
- One of the following biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ed. Humphrey Carpenter
- Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth (2011 edition recommended)
- A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien, Ed. Stuart Lee
- Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth by Catherine McIlwaine
- The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (revised and expanded edition) by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
- By J.R.R. Tolkien
- “The Cottage of Lost Play”, included in The Book of Lost Tales Part 1 (The History of Middle-earth Volume 1)
- “The Lost Road”, included in The Lost Road and Other Writings (The History of Middle-earth Volume 5)
- “The Notion Club Papers”, included in Sauron Defeated (The History of Middle-earth Volume 9)
Further suggested reading will be provided by the instructor in the final syllabus.
This course has been offered in the following semesters.
|Dr. Sara Brown & Erin Aust
Image provided by Tobias M. Eckrich. Used by permission of The German Tolkien Society.