The theses in this collection have been completed as part of Signum University’s Master’s of Language & Literature degree.

Page through the abstracts below by clicking on the squares above the records or check out the work of a specific student by using the author list. Unless otherwise specified, the full text of most theses are available only to active Signum students, faculty and staff through logging in to Signum’s Digital Campus.

Words that You Were Saying: an Adventure through the Words of The Hobbit / Alden, L.F.S. (Laurie Frances Sparrow)

Thesis Director: Dr. Corey Olsen
Second Reader: Dr. John D. Rateliff
Publication Date: April 2015-October 2016
Format: Blog
Language: English

Open Access: Full Text

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Using the format of a web blog, I have taken a digital humanities approach to creating a concordance of The Hobbit. I presented the project as an on-line lecture for consideration for the Master’s degree; since that time the project has been ongoing.

Inspired by the work of Richard Blackwelder, the concordance focuses on the most unusual words of The Hobbit, those words which are less common than the ten thousand most frequently used words in Project Gutenberg.  Tolkien uses 6,000 different words in the 96,000 total words of the work, over 1,500 of which are uncommon by this definition.  Over one-third of my concordance entries include etymologies, notes on word usage, and deeper examination of the work.

To aid in scholarly referencing in a work with myriad editions, this project proposes a paragraph index method of citation, to supercede page references.  I also propose a paragraph index for Chapter 5 of the 1937 edition, and I’ve included a paragraph comparison of the two editions.

Fair use principles have been adhered to in scrupulous detail.  A new method of automated phrase-collection has been developed alongside this project, therefore, and the software developer has made the code freely available in the public domain.

I used a detailed tagging system which has allowed me to digitally examine patterns in the work.  Specifically, I have used Lexos, the lexomics tool developed by LeBlanc, Drout, Kahn, and Kleinman, to examine patterns of archaic words, food words, and sound-play words.  I compared the remarkable pattern of sound-play words in Chapter 5 of the 1951 edition to the 1937 Chapter 5, in which Gollum was a funny little monster and the ring  only a magical gold ring.  Given Tolkien’s stated changes in plot, tone, and mood between those editions of Chapter 5, the differences in word use show us the tools Tolkien used to express the corruption of the Ring and its soul-destroying effects on Gollum.

I came on a boat: Looney and The Sea-Bell, through the eyes of fairy lore / Holdaway, Penelope.

Thesis Director: Dr. Corey Olsen
Second Reader: Dr. Douglas A. Anderson
Publication Date: Fall 2014
Format: PDF
Language: English

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Tolkien wrote his two poems Looney and The Sea-Bell approximately thirty years apart. Although the two poems are superficially very similar, when analyzed using Victorian fairy-lore a very different vision of Faerie may be seen. This is further complicated by Tolkien’s renaming of The Sea-Bell as Frodo’s Dreme which adds a third vision of Faerie. Although each of these fairies is very different from the other, they all point to a central truth about Tolkien’s Faerie.

“Fair as fay-woman and fell-minded”: Tolkien’s Guinever / House-Thomas, Alyssa

Thesis Director: Dr. Verlyn Flieger
Second Reader: Prof. Richard C. West, M.A.
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: PDF
Language: English

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Tolkien’s Fall of Arthur makes a bold and idiosyncratic alteration to the Guinever of Arthurian myth. This comparative study examines dual inspirations for Tolkien’s Guinever: first, disruptive fay-women of Celtic myth and folklore; second, fell-minded Anglo-Saxon and Norse ladies. Some critics have charged that Tolkien gives short shrift to female characters; others defend the exalted status of the women he does portray. Guinever, lofty yet despicable, is a new reference point for studies of Tolkien’s treatment of the feminine, and she affirms current scholarly understanding of Tolkien’s repeated attempts to bring together disparate cultural and aesthetic traditions.

The relationship between heroism and brokenness in modern fantasy literature / Kinney, Dan

Thesis Director: Dr. Sara Brown
Second Reader: Dr. Sanford Schwartz
Publication Date: July 2016
Format: PDF
Language: English

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My thesis examines the connection that heroism and brokenness share in the genre of Modern Fantasy Literature. I compare the protagonists of early fantasy literature (pre-1900) to their modern fantasy literature counterparts and analyze how and why differences exist within the fantasy genre throughout time. I also present the views put forth by modern academics on how fantasy authors use the genre to present universal truths to the reader. By applying the academic work to modern fantasy texts, I pull from these works of fiction a portrait of heroism that is tied sometimes imperceptibly and always completely to the concept of brokenness. I also examine how the truths that are presented in works of modern fantasy literature are not isolated to the characters of that genre, but how they relate to reader as well. Finally, I examine the relationship between the reader, the author, and the characters that live within works of modern fiction.

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The Gothic tradition and The Lord of the Rings / Masters, Aaron

Thesis Director: Dr. Sara Brown
Second Reader: Dr. Douglas A. Anderson
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: PDF
Language: English

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A response to Sue Zlosnik’s article “Gothic Echoes” (2005), this thesis examines the Gothic as genre and literary mode with reference to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Drawing on the work of Julia Kristeva and Susan Sontag amongst others, it makes the case for the importance of style as well as content when defining a work as “Gothic”, and highlights the discordant consequences of reading Tolkien’s work “as a Gothic novel” in the way Zlosnik suggests. Such a case study allows for a clearer definition of the Gothic as a means of signalling stylistic and thematic relationships between literary works.

Who is Lúthien? What is She? / Neville, Katherine.

Thesis Director: Janet Brennan Croft, MLS
Second Reader: Dr. Kristine Larsen
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: PDF
Language: English

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The story of Beren and Lúthien is called by J. R. R. Tolkien “the chief of the stories of the Silmarillion.” And while Lúthien of the published Silmarillion is arguably one of the most powerful characters in that history, her original incarnation, little Tinúviel, was a very different Elfmaiden. My thesis is, in essence, a biography of Lúthien Tinúviel, from her 1917 appearance in The Book of Lost Tales, through 1931, when his final notes on the Lay of Leithian declare “Lúthien became mortal.” This chronological study examines the different elements of Tolkien’s life which bring her character to this crucial point: his other creative writing, his scholarly interests, and events in his personal life. The Lay of Leithian was the first work Tolkien turned to after he finished The Lord of the Rings, and he continued to write on the problem of the differing fate of Men and Elves late into his life (cf. “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth”). A fuller understanding of the leaf which is Lúthien Tinúviel will deepen our understanding of the tree which is Tolkien’s legendarium.

Abolishing Man in Other Worlds: Breaking and Recovering the Chain of Being in C. S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy / Petrucci, Courtney.

Thesis Director: Prof. Brenton Dickieson, MCS
Second Reader: Dr. David Russell Mosley
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: PDF
Language: English

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This thesis aims to investigate why C.S. Lewis brings humans into Outer Space in order to Recover a Christian worldview during a time of war. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy was published throughout the WWII era, and his readers were all too familiar with advances in technological warfare and biological experimentation as part of the Nazi agenda. In order to Recover a Christian worldview during such a tumultuous time, Lewis’s first two installments of the trilogy bring humans into Outer Space in order to reconnect with the Medieval Cosmic Chain of Being. Malacandra and Perelandra depict all beings coexisting in the Great Dance, or the interconnected web of beings that Maleldil creates. In the last installment, Lewis’s N.I.C.E., a pseudo-scientific group whose purpose is to create god-like, immortal humans, reflects such technology and experimentation carried out in some concentration camps during WWII. Lewis’s return to Earth in the last installment of the trilogy calls for readers to acknowledge our broken Chain of Being and Recover our faith in God rather than attempt to become gods ourselves. This thesis explores Lewis’s science fiction through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Recovery lens, providing a connection between Lewis’s own Christian worldview, the potential of human self-abolition, and Recovering the Cosmic Chain of Being for modern humans.

“We’re all stories in the end”: the place of Doctor Who in the fairy tale tradition / Sas, Katherine

Thesis Director: Dr. Gavin Hopps
Second Reader: Dr. Dimitra Fimi
Publication Date: November 2016
Format: PDF
Language: English

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More than one fan of Doctor Who, and even several writers of the show itself, have called the long-running series “a fairy tale.” Previous scholarship, however, has focused merely on the show’s allusions to the established canon of fairy tales or made vague references to its sometimes whimsical tone. This essay proposes instead that Doctor Who’s status as a fairy tale results from its emulation of the traditional structure, ethics, and artistic mood of the genre. Beginning with the historical and literary context of the fairy tales, the essay traces Doctor Who’s adaptation of the form and function of the genre, using its themes, tropes, and techniques to become one of the most beloved and influential examples of the literary fairy tale existing today.

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The political philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien / Smith, Cynthia A.

Thesis Director: Janet Brennan Croft, MLS
Second Reader: Dr. Matthew Dickerson
Publication Date: December 2016
Format: PDF
Language: English

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This paper examines J.R.R. Tolkien’s political philosophy and how it influenced his legendarium. The primary sources used are Tolkien’s Letters and Lord of the Rings; the primary theoretical framework used is new-historicism. It begins with a look at definitions from political philosophy, specifically classical realism and classical idealism/liberalism and how this seems to relate to Tolkein’s own personality. We then see how this translates into Tolkein’s actual political views. We take a historical look and see how these views were likely influenced by events in Tolkien’s life. The Lord of the Rings gives a prime example of how these same views are expressed in Tolkien’s legendarium. We discuss how Tolkien’s political philosophy was heavily influenced by his Catholicism. We discuss Tolkien’s views on power and how this fits into his political philosophy. We take a specific look at Tolkien’s views on war, and see how he was neither a pacifist nor militarist, but his view was far more nuanced and can be better expressed by the old philosophy of just war theory. Finally, we see the role mercy and pity play in Tolkien’s political philosophy.

The Irish Otherworld Voyage of Roverandom / Swank, Kris.

Thesis Director: Dr. Verlyn Flieger
Second Reader: Dr. Dimitra Fimi
Publication Date: September 2014
Format: PDF
Language: English

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Roverandom is the earliest-known fiction that Tolkien wrote for children. Although it originated in September 1925 as an oral tale for his children, the story was not published until 1998, long after Tolkien’s death. Roverandom has generally been underrated as an early and unremarkable children’s story, but it is actually a key work in Tolkien’s corpus, representing his only fully-realized immram, or medieval Irish Otherworld voyage tale. Despite his own occasional disavowals of Celtic influence, scholars have long recognized the critical role of Celtic, and particularly Irish, source material on Tolkien’s works. The immram is especially important, as Tolkien utilized its structure and themes repeatedly throughout his career, although most of his immrama-inspired works were left unfinished. Roverandom, however, represents a complete immram, with a circular journey to and return from the Otherworld, and a corresponding penitential cycle of transgression, exile, instructive episodes, reconciliation and return. Roverandom also includes a number of motifs common to Irish Otherworld voyage tales, such as supernatural aid, magical food, metamorphosis, dualism, and encounters with the monstrous. This unique position in Tolkien’s canon makes Roverandom worthy of further study, especially in conversation with his early unfinished immrama such as The Tale of Eärendel, Ælfwine of England and The Fall of Arthur.

Praxeology and literature: the intersection of action and imagination / Weyant, Curtis A.

Thesis Director: Paul Cantor
Second Reader: Dr. Stephen Cox
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: PDF
Language: English

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