Program Update #5:
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Music in Middle-earth
Elsewhere in this conference we will hear music inspired by Tolkien’s works. But what is the music that inspired Tolkien? Music plays a major role in his legendarium, from the Ainur singing the world into existence in The Silmarillion to the many songs in The Lord of the Rings. What kinds of music was Tolkien imagining when he wrote this? What music that he liked himself might he have wanted to accompany the dramatizations of his stories running in readers’ brains? Here we’ll explore, with recorded illustrations, some answers to these questions.
Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!: Secular Readings of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium
This project considers the question of how fans of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are atheists, agnostics, or animists, that is, readers who do not, to varying degrees, profess belief in the Christian God or in any other religion’s Supreme Being, make meaning of his work in their lives. Using a mixed methodology approach, I will administer an online free-form survey asking for minimal demographic information and answers to open-ended questions allowing respondents to describe their experiences with religion, if any; their personal history of belief; their reading history and interpretations of Tolkien’s work, and their responses to the tendency in popular and academic thought to assume that Tolkien’s Christian beliefs must shape reader’s interpretation of his work.
Panelists include: Kristine Larsen, Yvette Kisor, Robin Reid and Judy Ford
For He Would Take No Wife: The Unmarried Male In The Lord Of The Rings
This paper will concern the unmarried male in The Lord Of The Rings. There are two basic types of unmarried males in Tolkien: those who save themselves for an aesthetic/moral mission like Bilbo and Frodo, and those who seem wrapped up in their identity as warriors, such as Boromir and, emphatically, Eärnur who on that premise do not participate in heterosexual acts. One type of unmarried male is self-sacrificing and gives uo, the other is self-aggrandizing and holds everything in. This contrast has the potential to lead to a typology of queer male characters in Tolkien’s world.
A roundtable discussion with presenters Chris Vaccaro, Robin Reid, Yvette Kisor, Nicholas Birns.
Based on the forthcoming collection edited by Robin Reid, Chris Vaccaro and Stephen Yandell concerning a wide range of topics related to queerness in Tolkien/Middle-earth Studies.
Topics include but are not limited to: Otherness, the uncanny, the marginalized and oppressed, liminality, the stranger/outsider, monstrous neighbor, genderqueer, homo-
eroticism, homo-amory, homosocial continuum, female queerness, female masculinity, queer fandom, queer publics/counter publics, transgender queerness, queer gaze, queer
fandoms, film theory, medievalisms, applying theories by Ahmed, Butler, Doty,
Halberstam, Lévinas, Pugh, Zizek, etc.
Tolkien and Science (Not final title, just a placeholder)
Scientists frequently debunk misconceptions about scientific topics such as black holes or dinosaurs. However, there are also common misconceptions about the scientific understanding and opinions of literary giants such as Tolkien. In particular, many people have the erroneous opinion that Tolkien was anti-science. While he clearly embraced what we would today call environmentalist viewpoints, Tolkien also appreciated the study of the natural environment for its own sake, as embodied in the Elves and Tom Bombadil. This paper will discuss Tolkien’s viewpoints of science as reflected in both his letters and the legendarium, with an eye to differentiating between his appreciation for science (as an endeavor) and technology (as an instrument of power).
Tolkien Inspired Art
In his paper on Art, Christopher Tuthill first explores the contextual importance of visual art in Tolkien’s myth-making. However, after a brief but cogent description of Tolkien thoughts on the role of the visual arts, Tuthill switches his focus to an interesting look at how different modern artists who visualize Tolkien’s work—John Howe, the late Jeff Murray and Ted Nasmith—depict key scenes from Tolkien’s legendarium.
Did Middle Earth Have An Anti-Nuclear Message?
As a book concerning adventure and war in Middle-earth, it has been argued that there is an there is an anti-nuclear message in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This might explain why the book was so successful with the counter-culture. Come to this presentation to listen, agree or disagree
Big in Japan: Tolkienian Faerie in the Dark Souls Games
This paper explores the ways in which Tolkien’s theories of fantasy, sub-creation, and world-making take new form and find a new audience in the dark fantasy landscapes and gameplay of the hit RPG series, Dark Souls. Led by auteur game designer Miyazaki, Japanese studio From Software’s brand of fantasy—beginning with the cult-hit Demon’s Souls and on through three Dark Souls games— has become a phenomenon, routinely cited as a turning-point in modern game design. But its triumph is more renaissance than revolution, pushing the genre forward by hearkening back to principles which owe much to Tolkien’s work. My examination of the series draws on Tolkien’s legendarium as well as his theories of Faerie (as propounded in “On Fairy-stories” and in the “Smith of Wootton Major” essay), considering the ways in which they inform the game’s bewildering and enchanting approach to world-building and storytelling. It is my hope that inquiries of this sort might help us better understand Tolkien’s lasting influence on game design principles and cast new light on the source material as well.
The Road Goes Ever On
Peter Walker and David Alpher
J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary works, most notably the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, have inspired countless readers, filmmakers, and artists. Composer Donald Swann set a series of Tolkien’s poems in his song cycle The Road Goes Ever On. Tolkien heard all but the final song during a visit with Swann, and in fact suggested the tune used in Namárië (Farewell), as an improvement on the setting Swann originally composed. Bass-baritone Peter Walker and pianist David Alpher present a recital of English art song built around The Road Goes Ever On and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel. Both song cycles explore the actual and metaphorical experience of the traveler, in both the bucolic world of the English pastoral school, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.