Mythmoot III: Ever On… took place at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum, Maryland on Saturday and Sunday, January 10 and 11, 2015. The program included group sessions with Corey Olsen and special guests discussing Tolkien topics, including the third Hobbit film and an overview of the whole Hobbit film trilogy; paper presentations by conference participants covering a wide range of topics in speculative fiction; an expanded marketplace; a private reception and banquet on Saturday night; and a hospitality suite for relaxing, gaming, and chatting.

Call for Papers

Mythmoot III sought proposals for 15-20 minute papers on Tolkien and other speculative fiction and media. First-time presenters were especially encouraged to submit proposals. All proposals relating to speculative fiction were considered; themes of particular interest included:

      • Tolkien in the 21st century– how Tolkien’s works are being engaged with by new generations of fans
      • Out of this World – Traditional and new angles on fantasy and science fiction
      • A Game of Games– analysis of fantasy/sci fi gaming from pen-and-paper to MMORPGs

Page through the proceedings below by clicking on the squares above the cover or check out the work of a specific presenter by using the presenter list. Happy reading!

Syntax and statecraft: a spreadsheet for Aragorn / Alden, L.F.S. (Laurie Frances Sparrow)

Format: PDF
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

Abstract:

Aragorn adapts his style of speech to his audience and to his role in each moment. A close analysis of his syntax and morphology in The Lord of the Rings helps us appreciate his skill as one who unites diverse people, inspires warriors into battle, and accrues personal loyalty. We will examine contractions, word order, and diction and particularly changes in these over time and across conversation partners.

Physics and “the Ainulindalë”: the greatest creation story ever told / Basial, Michael.

Format: PDF
Number of pages: 7
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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Religious and spiritual traditions claim contact with the divine, with scriptural documentation. Scriptural authorship claims range from “divinely inspired” through “translation of divine communication” to “directly crafted by the divine”. Because the harmonics of a vibrating string inevitably contain the tones of the major chord, music is an inherent property of the universe. Musical instruments that are 40,000 years old imply that music is also an inherent property of being human. Yet no religious tradition prominently declares that the Creator built music into the fabric of the universe and humanity, an omission that casts doubt on all scriptural authorship claims. Tolkien’s universe is created through the music of the Ainur, then given a physical form that recapitulates the music. Tolkien’s works are the first to acknowledge the relationship between music, the universe, humanity, and the Creator, making them the first scriptures with a possibility of actually being divinely inspired.

Discerning worldbuilding design patterns in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien / Brierly, N. Trevor.

Format: PDF
Number of pages: 18
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

Abstract:

A “design pattern” is a formalized description of a common problem in a field of endeavor which is accompanied by a recommendation towards a solution. The term “design pattern” was introduced in the architecture classic “A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction”, published in 1977 by Christopher Alexander and others. Alexander and his colleagues were interested in discovering and codifying architectural elements that result in a building, neighborhood or town being “alive”. They developed a system (a “design pattern language”) of design patterns which described ways of designing buildings and urban areas to make them pleasant and “soulful” places to live in. Other fields of endeavor have developed design pattern languages. Software engineering has developed a pattern language over the past 35 years which describes recommended approaches to solving common problems while designing computing software. There is growing interest in discovering and identifying design patterns in other fields of creative endeavor besides architecture and software design. In particular, the art of worldbuilding, of designing new secondary worlds, could benefit from the discovery and identification of best practices and the formulation of design patterns and a pattern language. Such a pattern language would be useful guidance to authors, game designers, enthusiasts worldbuilding as another “secret vice”?) and others who are involved in the design of secondary worlds that need to be believable and have the illusion of depth. Design patterns are discovered or identified by a combination of the observation of successful solutions in the “real world”, as well as introspection and experimentation. Examining the work of successful creators of secondary worlds may uncover design patterns applicable to worldbuilding. This paper will examine worldbuilding best practices in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, one of the most successful worldbuilders of all time, and see how they can be formulated into design patterns and contribute towards a pattern language for the creation of secondary worlds.

Harry Potter and the surprising venue of literary critique / Butler, Michelle Markey.

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Language: English

Presenter Bio

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Currently unavailable.

A secret vice: the desire to understand J.R.R. Tolkien’s Quenya, or Out of the frying-pan into the fire: creating a realistic language as a basis for fiction / Cardoza, Cheryl.

Format: PDF
Number of pages: 14
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

Abstract:

My first focus is on my efforts to understand Quenya and why I feel driven to do so as an author. I will discuss the need for a linguistic and mythic core for any kind of fantasy tale. The depth and realism of this core is what makes the tale enduring. I will then turn to the problems inherent in creating a realistic linguistic and mythic core by examining the evolution of verbs in Quenya. I explain that I have chosen verbs for the center of my analysis because I feel that verbs, the action words of the language, are the most alive and most central to language creation. This analysis aims to analyze the shifts Tolkien underwent as he aimed to create a language that evolved naturally over time among the people Tolkien imagined speaking it. The analysis of verb forms and the evolution of Tolkien’s thoughts about Quenya will lead to a discussion of how someone writing today might go about creating a realistic linguistic and mythic core for his/her own work, taking Tolkien’s path as a model and a warning. I will end with a brief discussion of my own efforts to create an Elvish language for the novel I am working on.

What is the relationship between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle or: Wagner and Tolkien – copy or comment? / Fisher, Timothy.

Format: PDF
Number of pages: 47
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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I intend to indicate briefly some of the pitfalls of Tolkien and Wagner commentary.  Then I will present first the circumstantial contextual evidence for their relationship to be followed by evidence internal to the works from The Lord of the Rings (and other Tolkien works) and Der Ring des Nibelungen (and other Wagner works).

The union between The Two Towers and the Twin Towers: contemporary audience reception and the influence of war on The Lord of the Rings / Fox-Lenz, Alicia.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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The Lord of the Rings is a fundamentally war-derived work of literature, although vastly different from other literature written during the the World Wars. Within the repeating history of Britain and Tolkien’s family during the Wars, one sees similarities to his legendarium’s cyclical narrative. Although famously disliking “conscious and intentional allegory” (Letters, 145) and stating directly “I do not think that either war … had any influence upon [the plot].” (Letters, 303) this is likely Tolkien’s “biological legend” (Fimi, 196) instead of reality. Birthed in war, Tolkien’s works touch on a need for hope in the face of sacrifice for populations undergoing tragedy such as America after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. I study the effect of the World Wars on Tolkien’s life and legendarium, as well as closely follow the audience reception of his novel, The Lord of the Rings pre- and post-9/11 in the United States.

Shifting landscapes: meaning and place in fictional realms / Graham, Rebecca.

Format: PDF
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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Fantasy in all of its incarnations, whether it is found in ancient mythologies or oral traditions, remains a part of the human experience that is given little credence or respect in day-to-day academic interactions. Yet, as time goes by, the genre of fantasy becomes more a part of the human landscape. Not only is it one of the fastest growing literary genres, it remains a force with which to be reckoned in both film and television. However, this popularization of the genre may have served to dilute its literary impact. Many people escape into fantasy as a way to find meaning in a life that is not constrained by reality. Without the constraints of reality, they are able to fill a void they feel exists. Why is it important to reconcile this discrepancy? By exploring the fictional landscapes of several key fantasy authors, it is possible to do just that, looking not only at the literal landscape, but the cultural one as well. Readers and viewers alike, by looking through the lens of a geographer, can further this discussion using both non-representational theory as first suggested by Nigel Thrift or super-organic theory that was outlined by anthropologists Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowe. The first novel of any series sets for the reader the landscape they will be exploring. Using landscape theory to explore the worlds of three prominent fantasy authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, Brian Jacques and Robert Jordan, this can be done. What this new discourse will do is create a causal link between the reality we live in and the one to which man escapes.

“I got the power”: unifying diverse populations for the greater good / Gunn, Alex.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 6
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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This paper will explore the aspects of leadership embodied in the character of Gandalf and argue that he is the epitome of a great leader needed by society and the only character in The Lord of the Rings who could form an alliance to face Sauron. Gandalf is a symbol of what we need in our world today and what our leaders should aim to emulate; he unites, guides and leads, but he shows no ambition to rule. Repeatedly, Gandalf demonstrates his impartiality and selflessness, which results in citizens from different races, who distrust each other, coming together. Part of what gives him the ability to lead and unite is that he does not crave power; he is diplomatic but not political. In a world that privileges individual or elitist social power, Gandalf still stands as a literary beacon of the characteristics needed to lead diverse groups of people in tumultuous times. For this reason, The Lord of the Rings is just as significant and relatable today as it was when it was originally published in 1937.

The child hero’s journey in children’s literature / Heit, Alexis.

Format: PDF
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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The child hero of children’s fantasy literature follows a model based on the child protagonist becoming a hero. This exploration of the process of the child hero’s development, distinguishing the child hero found in children’s fantasy literature from the child protagonist in other children’s literature. This research pursues the opportunity for such comparative criticism through the analysis of the structural features of fantasy for children by focusing on the nature of the child hero. Particular importance placed on the process by which the child hero of children’s fantasy develops through actions and experiences. My research aim is to present and define a map of this process, based on the analysis of a wide range of children’s fantasy texts.

A new consideration of gender in the works of Tolkien with consideration of literary and mythological analogs / Hensler, Kevin.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 17
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

Abstract:

This paper considers the role gender and gender roles play in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and the characters and societies he has created within his legendarium. Particular attention is given to those characters who seem to defy gender-norm expectations of their own fictional culture, e.g. Eowyn. Great attention is also given to the role gender plays for beings that have no biological sex, i.e. the Valar and Maiar. Apparently all of these entities choose to manifest themselves as gendered beings and none ever seem to change their manifested gender. Via exploration of these, and related topics, this paper aims to better understand how Tolkien thought about gender, and to assess his thoughts on the subject.

Irish gaelic: applied language workshop / Hester, Molly.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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Here’s your chance! Irish Gaelic is a vibrant, beautiful language with a rich history and some great nerd street cred. This workshop will cover 1) a brief history of the language, 2) a few anecdotes about what a current Irish speaker encounters in modern Ireland, and 3) a fun, intensive, practical introduction to having your first conversation in Irish Gaelic. The emphasis of the workshop is language learning: nailing down the first few phrases so that attendees will be able to practice together and engage in short conversations with each other. The workshop will include take-away resources to find out more about pursuing this language, either in classes (in-person on online) as well as self-instruction. The workshop is aimed towards immersive learning through humor and in-group activities. Bring your sense of humor and your bragging  rights: you’re going to learn some Irish!

How to handle the hallows: editing a 100-year-old play for the 21st century / Higgins, Sørina.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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On June 8th, 2012, I held in my hands a 100-year-old manuscript. No one else had touched it since it was deposited in the archives of the Marian E. Wade center at Wheaton College, Illinois, in 1973. It was The Chapel of the Thorn: A Dramatic Poem—a two-act play by Charles Williams, the oddest Inkling. This little drama is among the earliest of Williams’s works, yet deals with the topic that would fill his writings all the way through his writings: How to handle a sacred relic, or, more metaphorically, how to respond to spiritual realities. In this way, The Chapel of the Thorn is “out of this world” (dealing with the supernatural). It is also a locus of traditional, Christian approaches to fantasy, and more specifically to matters on the edge of Arthurian legend: the Crown of Thorns in this play is a kind of metonym for the Holy Grail, which is in its turn a synecdoche for all objects and actions of Christ’s passion, and characters’ responses to these physical items are revelatory of their eternal salvific or damnatory condition. I intend to describe how I came upon this MS, the process of transcribing it, the story of finding and working with a publisher, the content of the play, its contents and quality, and its ongoing relevance for our times—and thus to take a topic that is out of this world and use it to argue for a reading of the Inklings in the 21st century.

Gollum’s blighted repentance and what Bilbo saw / Hillman, Tom.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 12
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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In “a fleeting moment” upon the Stairs at Cirith Ungol, as Frodo and Sam slept, Gollum returned from Shelob’s Lair, looked upon his two companions and nearly repented of his plan to betray them. Sam, however, awakes unexpectedly, sees Gollum as “pawing” at Frodo rather than “caressing” him, and harshly rebukes him despite his soft answer. Stung by Sam’s pitiless distrust, Gollum withdraws into his evil self, and his last chance for redemption is gone “beyond recall.” (TT 4.viii.714). This paper will examine this scene, which Tolkien called “the most tragic moment of the Tale” (Letters, letter 246, p. 330), from two linked perspectives.

You died: life lessons from fantasy gaming / Hunt, Rebekah.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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The objective of this paper is to defend fantasy gaming as a creative, enriching, and deeply significant experience and to demonstrate (supported by historical, psychological, and sociological research, as well as my own experience playing these games and training as a Magic: The Gathering tournament judge) the immense value of fantasy games as teachers of some of life’s most important lessons, as well as the potential of gaming itself to influence the future of the real world in tremendously positive ways. I will use examples from many of my own favorites, as well as some of the most praised and maligned fantasy games of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“Live in the lie for a while”: closure in Angel: after the Fall / Johnson, Thomas.

Format: PDF
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioPresentation Summary

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In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud argues that comics is “a medium where the audience is a willing and conscious collaborator” in the process of “closure” (65), wherein the “human imagination takes two separate images and transforms them into a single idea” (66). This presentation will examine how issue seven of the Angel: After the Fall miniseries, written by Brian Lynch and with art by Nick Runge and colors by John Rauch, is a prime example of this phenomenon. Furthermore, this presentation will argue that the reader, by participating in the kind of closure that the medium of comics affords, affirms the principle of existential authenticity that is paramount to Angel in all its incarnations.

A computational analysis of topic and tone in Tolkien and Rowling / Kale, Dave.

Format: PDF
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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One exciting trend in humanities research is the use of computational methods from natural language processing. Such tools offer new ways to explore texts, discover patterns, and derive insights. One such tool is topic modeling, which assumes a probabilistic model from which a document collection is “generated.” In this framework, a “topic” is a probability distribution over words from a fixed vocabulary, and differences in topic manifest as different patterns in word co-occurrence. In this paper, I will give a brief overview of topic models and present results from applying them in two case studies: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In each, we see an evolution in theme and tone. I will investigate whether topic models can detect these evolutions and compare my findings to traditional analyses. Finally, I will offer commentary on the potential and limitations of modern computational tools for enriching humanities research.

The Valkyrie reflex in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire / Larsen, Kristine.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 8
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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One of the often-discussed highlights of George R.R. Martin’s ongoing saga A Song of Ice and Fire has been its large number of strong female characters. From Arya Stark to Daenerys Targaryen, Brienne to Ygritte, these women play pivotal roles in shaping the history of Westeros and the other continents of the known world. One of the enduring (and curious) feminine archetypes found in Northern European/Germanic literature is that of the valkyrie. In her review of the valkyrie tradition, Helen Damico traces the roots of the famed female warrior (most widely known in modern culture through Wagner’s Ring cycle) through numerous Indo-European cultures. In Old Norse literature there also appears a valkyrie tradition (apparently more recent in origin) in which the female warriors are “benevolent guardians” who identified heroes and pledged their undying support to them. In her seminal work, “The Valkyrie Reflex in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” Leslie Donovan identifies a number of characteristics which are both associated with the valkyrie tradition and which she applies to an analysis of female characters in Tolkien’s trilogy. These traits define a rubric against which various female characters in the Martinverse will be measured.

“Joy beyond the walls of the world”: on the presence of sorrow in eucatastrophe / MacDougall, Micaela.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 9
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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In “On Fairy-stories,” Tolkien writes that eucatastrophe denies not that sorrow and failure exist, but that sorrow and failure have the final word. In Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians, Alison Milbank explores the paradoxical mixing of joy and sorrow in the end of The Lord of the Rings, calling eucatastrophe “an anagogical anticipation of the Last Judgement.” This paper will consider what Tolkien calls the necessity of sorrow and failure to eucatastrophe in light of Milbank’s understanding of eucatastrophe as pointing to the Christian apocalypse, using Tolkien’s own writings as examples of eucatastrophic fairy stories. If a fairy story is to ring true, it cannot say that our present world contains perfect joy. Rather, the joy of its eucatastrophe must indeed be from “beyond the walls of the world,” both our own world and the world of the fairy story, pointing outside the story to the most ultimate triumph.

Why Bother Defending the Shire? / McAleer, Graham.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 11
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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Here are two contrasting images of the city. The first is from David Hume, the second Tolkien. Hume argues that civilisation relies on the intimate relationship between commerce and refinement in the arts and sciences. These combine in the city. Middle-earth has its share of magnificent cities but, interestingly, in LOTR they are mostly marked by decay. Osgiliath is in ruins, Dwarrowdelf a tomb, Rivendell is emptying, and the White City sparsely populated. Tolkien does not celebrate cities like David Hume. He is far more sympathetic to Vincent McNabb’s assessment: the “unceasing Nazareth cry is: `Come back, not to Ur, Memphis or Jerusalem, but to Nazareth, lest you prepare another Golgotha.’”1 The commercial city erases peoples’ “differences and inequalities” and literally makes the human anew on the model of a routinised machine.2 LOTR expresses Tolkien’s dislike of mechanization.

Tolkien and phenomenology – on the concepts of recovery and epoché / Olofsson, Tobias.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 9
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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This paper seeks to analyse the intersections between J.R.R. Tolkien’s concept of recovery and the phenomenological concept of epoché. Recovery, Tolkien wrote, is the process of seeing things afresh after having encountered them in uncommon settings. This concept is, I argue, closely related to the phenomenological concept of epoché, or the placing within brackets all pre-knowledge and pre-judice that hinder a direct viewing of the empirical data. Placing these two concepts side by side to analyse them should enable us to gain further understanding of the highly complex concept of epoché as well of Tolkien’s concept of recovery.

Heroism, humanity, and the Celtic mythology in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles / Orazi, Kelly R.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 15
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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The concept of heroism in children’s fantasy literature can generally be thought of as rather simple. More often than not, the protagonist is set up as the “Chosen One” that will recognize and defeat the rising evil in the magical world. This heroic archetype certainly seems to concentrate on the personal journey of the protagonist. However, some of the best writers of children’s fantasy never have their protagonist truly journey alone. This paper will look at the concept of heroism in one of fantasy’s greatest and often overlooked children’s series, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. In Taran’s progression from “Assistant Pig Keeper” to “Hero” Alexander does not simply borrow from Celtic mythology, but interacts with it to explore themes of heroism and humanity. And while the original mythology almost always depicts heroism as a personal and exclusive act, this paper will explore how the Prydain Chronicles interacts with mythological themes of glory, honor, courage and magic to illustrate heroism as a communal and cooperative act that is beneficial to not just one person, but all mankind.

Foundation and Dune or, Hari Seldon and the golden path / Ottenstein, Neil A. and Menzies, Phillip.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 12
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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This paper compares and contrasts the psychohistory of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy with the prescience of Paul Atreides in Dune. How do the predictions of psychohistory in Foundation which attempts to lessen the fall of the Galactic Empire compare with the various futures that Paul Atreides sees when his prescience first hits him and he attempts to avoid the future where fanatic legions are following the banner of the Atreides burning and pillaging across the universe? We’ll look at the examples in both Dune and the Foundation trilogy.

So how do you pronounce “Thrain” anyway? / Powell, Ed.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 7
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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Sparked by a question about how Thorin’s father’s name is pronounced, The Tolkien Professor discussed the issue in a July 6, 2014 podcast episode. I wanted to go further and delve both into the possible rationales for pronouncing “Thrain” in multiple ways and how the Mythgard community did indeed pronounce the name themselves. This paper discusses the pronunciation issue from a first principles perspective, based on the evidence culled from the relevant texts, including The Hobbit, The History of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The History of Middle-earth, and basic linguistic analysis. I then present the results of a poll of Tolkien enthusiasts promoted through social media.

The lament of Eorl the Young and ubi sunt: reading beyond the text / Putnam, Fred.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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The “Lament of Eorl the Young”, chanted by Aragorn as the three companions approach Meduseld for the first time (as described in The Two Towers), is closely and commonly linked to the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer, as an example of the poetic genre called “ubi sunt” after the title of a famous thirteenth-century poem entitled “Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?” (“Where are they who have gone before us?”). What human question/problem/issue does this genre address, and what does it say about this question (Hildebidle n.d.). The further question is: What might Eorl the Young’s chanting this ubi sunt when he came down from the Northand imply about the origins of the Rohirrim?

Sub-creative world building: an artist’s approach to resurrection / Raimundo, Jennifer.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 16
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

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This paper first addresses the importance of sub-creative authorship and the hope of creativity which that calling provides. Second, it contends for meaning in the world built by the author, expanding on the opportunity this space creates for life and truth to be spoken and for growth to occur. The paper then dwells on the surprisingly sub-creative role played by ‘mere consumers’ who participate in a sub-created world, suggesting there is hope for meaning to indeed be meaningful while preserving the integrity of both author and reader. Finally, Sub-creative World Building ends on a note of resurrections as it explores how players and places can be drawn into a secondary world which creates a primary world of community, a community that gives the breath of life to all sub-creators, present or future. For artists, even in the twenty-first century, are not futile. They can bring the dead to life.

Real horrorshow: the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the use of Nadsat in A Clockwork Orange / Rollins, Amber.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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One of the most striking features of Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange is the use of Nadsat, a distinctive linguistic style used primary by its teenaged characters and the novel’s main protagonist, Alex. However, few studies have gone into its fascinating sociolinguistic implications. In this paper, I intend to use the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity to analyze Nadsat. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in a nutshell, posits that language not only expresses worldview but also influences it. In this paper, I will explore how the use of Nadsat reveals insights into Alex’s unique worldview, as well as how Nadsat itself influences Alex’s perspective and behavior.

Legacy of the downfallen West: Numenór as a case study of manifest destiny and imperialism / Rosen, Yosef.

Format: PDF
Language: English

Presenter Bio

Abstract:

Currently unavailable.

Across the hills and into the blue: the magical and the mundane in Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist / Sas, Katherine.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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In Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist, the wise old servant Hempie admits to her shocked master, Nathaniel Chanticleer, that, contrary to fashionable Luddite opinion, she doesn’t much mind living next door to the wild and dangerous fairies: “They’re mischievous creatures, I daresay, and best left alone. But though we can’t always pick and choose our neighbours, neighbourliness is a virtue all the same. For my part, I’d never have chosen the Fairies for my neighbours–but they were chosen for me. And we must just make the best of them.” In Lud-in-the-Mist, Mirrlees presents a world where the boundaries between the magical and the mundane are more fluid and the two places coexist uncomfortably, representing (seemingly) opposed values and ethics: Law and Delusion. In setting up these two ideologically opposed but geographically close places, Mirrlees evokes the traditional notion that the fairies and fairyland were always lurking nearby and just underneath the mundane world. This paper proposes to examine the ways in which Mirrlees works in this tradition: examining, contrasting, and ultimately reconciling the magical with the mundane. Comparisons and contrast will be made to other works which invoke these motifs, both ones which anticipate Mirrlees (ex. traditional British and Celtic folk beliefs, tales, and ballads), those which were roughly contemporary (ex. Tolkien’s hobbit books and Smith of Wooton Major, Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter), and those which follow her in both time and influence (Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Gaiman’s Stardust).

The road goes ever on and on: the epic reasons why Tolkien appeals to new generations / Schwenk, Jim.

Format: PDF
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

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Tolkien’s works may not rise to the literary definition of an epic, but they have many characteristics of the world’s great epics. As people continue to seek self-identity and their place in the world, it is no surprise that they would turn to stories that help them do just that as most epics did. I find at least four common characteristics of epics in the pages of Tolkien’s mythology:

1. Eternal principles to celebrate.
2. Powerful heroes to emulate.
3. Identity of a people to cultivate.
4. Cosmic struggles in which to participate.

By developing these in the lives of his characters, Tolkien encapsulates the common quest of the world’s inhabitants and invites us to make that quest our own. We see ourselves and our stories in Tolkien’s stories. We resonate with his stories because in them, we see ourselves – our desires, needs, hopes, disappointments and dreams. Through his “epic,” we live our own.

Tolkien and Mormons / Smith, Cynthia Ann.

Format: PDF
Number of Pages: 9
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

Abstract:

Currently there are many Mormon authors, and many of those authors write speculative fiction. This is a pertinent topic since one article five years ago came up with over fifty authors who have ties to Utah. Granted not all of them are Mormon and not all of them write speculative fiction, but a large number do. Why is this? Interestingly, there are some commonalities with Tolkien, specifically with the Ainulindalë and Mormon belief with regards to creation. Mormon belief also ties in very well with Tolkien’s own theories on sub-creation. This paper will first give justification for looking at Tolkien through a Mormon lens by considering Cary Nelson’s article “Always Already Cultural Studies: Two Conferences and a Manifesto.” I argue that if race, class, and gender are valid ways to look at literary works, which is what Nelson argues, then religion is just as valid. I also touch on the necessity of considering Tolkien’s legendarium as a whole as Dimitria Fimi argues in Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits. It then will go through some of the commonalities, and differences, in the creation myth. Specifically, I look at some of the observations made by Ronan H. G. and Jessica Hooley on their respective blogs. After this, it will discuss ways in which Tolkien’s theories on sub-creation resonate with Mormon thought, particularly in light of Bruce G. Charleton’s observations on his blog. Finally, I point to areas where further research would be useful.

Tolkien’s widows: part I / Smith, Laura Lee.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

Abstract:

In a sense, Tolkien’s childhood was dominated by widows. His own mother was widowed early, and when she passed on, the boys boarded with another widow. Meanwhile, in the background loomed the shadow of Queen Victoria in permanent mourning and seclusion. Although Tolkien’s fiction largely focuses on the perspective of male characters, Tolkien nonetheless brings four distinctive fictional widows to life with a few deft strokes. This presentation will focus on Melian and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, who have significant character arcs that are completely independent of their husbands and do not appear to draw significantly on conventional portrayals of widows in literature. Indeed, although Lobelia’s part is small, one scholar has suggested that Lobelia is “one of the most under-rated female characters in The Lord of the Rings” (Hughes 252).

Tolkien’s preference for an early medieval Catholic sensibility in The Lord of the Rings and The Simarillion / Steed, Robert.

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Number of Pages: 10
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull Text

Abstract:

J.R.R. Tolkien at one point wrote in response to a query from a correspondent that The Lord of the Rings is a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” This statement is fairly well-known, though not without a bit of controversy surrounding its import. I will examine what Tolkien meant by this statement, as the term “Catholicism” is an umbrella that covers a wide diversity of historical forms, some of which Tolkien seems to have favored over others. At the heart of the argument is the claim that Tolkien’s preferred form(s) of Catholicism were those of the early medieval period, before a strongly defined papacy and the associated teaching magisterium of the Church had overshadowed other more localized forms of religiosity, practice, and authority in the “official” Church. As a corollary to this, I argue, using textual evidence from The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion as well as secondary sources, that Tolkien concealed a subtle theme within the narrative arc of his stories indicating that he was to some degree opposed to the Ultra-Montanism which had come to characterize the Church especially since the First Vatican Council of 1870, when the doctrines of papal infallibility and of papal supremacy were officially promulgated. This theme can most clearly be seen in the characters of Saruman and Gandalf, where Saruman operates in the style of an “Ultramontanist pope” who exceeds his rightful authority and Gandalf operates in the manner of a “Conciliar pope” who acts in a collegial and supportive way rather than as an ultimate Authority.

The voyage of the Dawn Treader & the voyage of Roverandom / Swank, Kris.

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Number of Pages: 5
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioExtracts

Abstract:

C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader has been called as a modern-day immram, heir to the spiritual seavoyage tales of medieval Ireland. The most famous example of this genre is the legend of Brendan, the 6th century Irish saint who sailed across the sea, encountered marvelous islands and fabulous creatures, and completed a quest to find the fabled Land of Promise of the Saints. In the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, the voyages of Ælfwine, Eärendel, Frodo and Brendan himself are also recognized as immrama.What has not, as yet, been acknowledged is that Tolkien’s children story, Roverandom, is also an immram. Largely underrated as merely a juvenile adventure story, critics have paid Roverandom little scholarly attention. But a close reading reveals that, in both form and content, Roverandom shares numerous characteristics with the medieval immrama as well as Lewis’ Dawn Treader.

In the mood for doom / Therway, Mike.

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Number of Pages: 8
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioSlides

Abstract:

A survey of Tolkien’s paradoxical use of the word “doom” in The Lord of the Rings. Does doom mean “judgment”? Does doom mean “fate”? Does doom mean both at once? Doom is a really important Tolkien word. We’ll look at the raw “doom” data (a tally of every time Tolkien uses the word in the LOTR), then we’ll dive into specific examples of how Tolkien uses the word to mean predestined fate and/or free will.

Sacramentum Midgard: Frodo as sacrament to Middle-earth / Wagner, Constance G. J.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

Abstract:

Drawing on the meditations of Jesuit scholar Karl Rahnerin his defining work Sacramentum Mundi (i.e., Sacrament to the World), this paper explores the ways that “the best Hobbit in the Shire,” Frodo Baggins, becomes a channel for the divinely given grace needed to accomplish the Quest. Through his willingness to bear the Ring despite the danger, Frodo demonstrates both his inherent nobility and his free will, as no one, Rahnerstates, is ever forced to accept the challenges sent by Providence.

Thus, in taking on the burdens of the Ring, Frodo becomes as a clear light that guides others (be they Hobbits, Men, or Elves) to become their own best selves. This light, herein discussed as the different types of grace identified by Rahner, is examined and illustrated with moments drawn from Frodo’s physical –and spiritual –journey along the roads of Middle-earth.

Messianic figures in science fiction: a comparative study of Thomas Jerome Newton (The Man Who Fell to Earth) and Severian the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun) / Walker, Kevin.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

Abstract:

Messianic figures occur frequently in science fiction. In this paper, I contrast two such messiahs. First, Thomas Jerome Newton, from Walter Tevis’ “Man Who Fell to Earth.” Newton, an alien, comes to Earth on a mission to save the people of his dying world, Anthea. Second, Severian the Torturer, from Gene Wolfe’s “Book of the New Sun.” Severian lives in a distant future where the sun is dying. It can be restored, but only by a messianic and prophesied figure: “The Conciliator.” To accomplish this, the Conciliator must travel to an alien world and prove mankind’s worth to the satisfaction of alien overlords. Thomas Jerome Newton begins optimistic to the point of arrogance, and fails in his mission as he is corrupted by life on Earth and succumbs to hedonism and despair. Severian, by contrast, begins corrupted by his upbringing among Guild of Torturers, but succeeds in fulfilling the role of Conciliator.

Transformative works as a means to develop critical perspectives in the Tolkien fan community / Walls-Thumma, Dawn M.

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Number of Pages: 10
Language: English

Abstract & Presenter BioFull TextPresentation Handout

Abstract:

Transformative works, popularly known as fan fiction, based on Tolkien’s books have existed since the publication of The Lord of the Rings. The Internet has given rise to a community of fan fiction writers that use transformative fiction as a means to extend their knowledge of Tolkien’s fictional universe and engage critically with the texts on matters that also receive attention as part of more traditional Tolkien studies scholarship. This paper explores the history, demographics, virtual geography, and function of Internet Tolkien fan fiction communities and considers how the culture of Tolkien fandom differs from that of fandom in general.

“We have nothing else to give”: kindness and cruelty in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness / Weyant, Curtis.

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Language: English

Abstract & Presenter Bio

Abstract:

Scholars such as Ellen Peel and David J. Lake have noted the contrasting symbols in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. However, little attention has been given to how the activities of the characters contrast. This paper expands the study of dualistic metaphors in Le Guin’s story to include character behavior, particularly acts of cruelty and kindness, which reinforce each other throughout the novel, as with Tibe’s propaganda to incite fear and the banishment of Estraven, whose three days’ grace twists Karhidish hospitality customs. As cruelty increases through institutionalization—primarily through Tibe’s militarization efforts and the development a prison culture—kindness becomes more important on a personal level. Ultimately, the mass cruelty of of institutionalization is counterbalanced, to some degree, through acceptance of “The Other”—the most empathetic and personal form of kindness there is.