J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium has been a source of inspiration to illustrators for many decades. Visual interpretations of Tolkien’s texts are as rich and varied as the landscapes and cultures which inhabit his sub-creation. From the delicate neo-medievalisms of Pauline Baynes, the bold simplicity of Cor Blok and the narrative figuration of Alan Lee and Angus McBride, to the grimdark visions of Ian Miller, the mosaic-like borrowings of Sergei Iukhimov and the colorful, diverse depictions of contemporary fanart, Tolkien illustration continues to reinvent itself and push cultural and creative boundaries.
This course aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the study of Tolkien illustration, its visual, contextual, and critical analyses. Over the twelve weeks we will be taking a global view of the artform, exploring its history, style, subject matter, and symbolism through the examination of individual case studies, key illustrated Tolkien editions, and multi-artist collections. Using established art historical paradigms, we will learn how technical, socio-political, and cultural factors have affected tradition and aesthetic choices in Tolkien illustration. To properly reflect illustration’s communicative function, we will be prioritising its interrelationship with Tolkien’s texts and seeking to develop an awareness of how these two elements work together to create, refine, and alter meaning. Ultimately, students will be equipped with the tools necessary to analyse Tolkien illustration from various theoretical angles and have experience of using visual material to further their understanding and/or questioning of the author’s work.
This course includes two 90-minute lectures per week with Visiting Lecturer Joel Merriner (24 lectures total).
Week 1: What is Illustration?
Week 2: The Image as Evidence
Week 3: Artistic Vision: Form
Week 4: ‘things that are’: Iconography
Week 5: ‘things that yet may be’: Semiotics
Week 6: Comrades, gamers, stoners: A Question of Context
Week 7: Reception and Adaptation
Week 8: Images of Power? Magic, sensation and Pathosformel
Week 9: Diverse Visions: Decolonising the Imaginary
Week 10: Éowyn Must Die: Slaying Stereotypes
Week 11: The Mirror and the Gaze: Psychoanalysis
Week 12: Tolkien Illustration: A ‘Fourth Age’?
The links are provided for convenience but students are encouraged to purchase required texts wherever they wish. For the Tolkien texts, no particular editions are required.
The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology – edited by Donald Preziosi
Art History: A Critical Introduction to its Methods – Michael Hatt and Charlotte Klonk
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien
Farmer Giles of Ham – J.R.R. Tolkien
This course has been offered in the following semesters.
|Joel Merriner & Chris Vaccaro
Course artwork credit: Joel Merriner. Used with permission. All rights reserved.