Guest Speakers

New York Tolkien Conference 2019
Guest Speakers
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are presenting & taking part in 

Megan B. Abrahamson is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Missouri – Columbia, studying late medieval romance literature and its intersections with modern fanfiction. Arriving at medieval studies through her love of Tolkien, Megan has taught Tolkien at the University of Missouri and the University of New Mexico, focusing on the medievalism of his works. She has published in Mythlore and is the editor of Mythprint, the quarterly newsletter of the Mythopoeic Society, where she is also a member of the governing board.

Nicholas Birns first read The Lord of the Rings in the early months of 1975, finishing very near to the memorable day of March 25. He has published on Tolkien in Tolkien Studies, Mythlore, and The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He is also the author of Understanding Anthony Powell (University of South Carolina Press, 2004), Theory After Theory (Broadview, 2010) Barbarian Memory (Palgrave, 2013), and a forthcoming book about contemporary Australian Literature  (Sydney University Press, 2015),  as well as many other books and journal articles. including contributions to Exemplaria, Science-Fiction Studies, Leviathan, Victorians Institute Journal, and Extrapolation. He currently leaches at the College of New Rochelle. He is the editor  of Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/NZ Literature, and a past secretary-treasurer of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

David Bratman is co-editor of the journal Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review and former editor of the Mythopoeic Society’s bulletin Mythprint.  Having first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in long-ago pre-Silmarillion days at the age of 11, he’s since been the author of articles on numerous aspects of Tolkien, from the first-published Tale of Years for the First Age to the bio-bibliographical appendices on the Inklings for Diana Pavlac Glyer’s award-winning The Company They Keep.  David is a retired librarian who lives in California with his wife and cats, and he currently works as a classical music critic, an interest he’s managed to combine with his love for Tolkien.


Janet Brennan Croft is Liaison to the School of Communication and Information and Librarian for Disability Services and Copyright at Rutgers University Libraries.  She is the author of War in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien (Praeger, 2004; winner, Mythopoeic Society Award for Inklings Studies). She has also written on the Peter Jackson films, J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold, and other authors, and is editor or co-editor of five collections of literary essays.  She edits the refereed scholarly journal Mythlore, and her current project is the co-edited collection Orphan Black: Sestras, Scorpions, and Sinister Science (McFarland, 2018).


John Di Bartolo is a “wandering minstrel”, writer, and multimedia designer who has played a founding role in many of the exciting endeavors and concepts that have grown out of the fertile ‘chance-meeting’ grounds of fantasy & related scholarly communities; including but not limited to Legendarium News & Media , Middle-earth Network and the Mythgard Institute. John’s wanderings include the nationally touring Celtic fusion bands; Fathom, King Keltic, and the Tolkien-inspired folk fantasy project: Lonely Mountain Band. John’s various musical projects have garnered hundreds of thousands of downloads, and views through iTunes, and other digital outlets, including dozens of viral videos on YouTube. Fans of his music have even gone to the lengths of converting John’s music into a format that can be played within the virtual game world of Lord of the Rings Online; where as founder of the LOTRO kinship Lonely Mountain Band, John won “Best Gaming Guild” in the 2013 Dragon Slayer Awards by and has been featured on multiple international news outlets including the BBC. From tabletop role playing games and backyard adventures of the imagination to historical and fantasy reading, bible scholarship, and music composition; the spiritual has ever been tied to imagination for this minstrel. John has made it part of his life’s goal to keep the road well traversed that leads to the “cottage of lost play.” John is currently recording and producing the fourth Lonely Mountain Band album. The music of the Lonely Mountain Band can be heard without charge at

Leslie Donovan is a full professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico. Her earlier training as a medievalist, specializing in Old English literature, led to her scholarship in Tolkien studies. publications include works on J.R.R. Tolkien, Old English women saints, Beowulf, and Honors pedagogy. During the last 25, she has taught undergraduate courses on Tolkien at all levels and in more than 10 different formats.

Donovan is most well-known in Tolkien studies circles as the editor of Approaches to Teaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Other Works, co-editor of Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, along with some articles and numerous conference presentations on mythology and women in Tolkien’s works. Donovan is also a member of the Mythopoeic Society’s Board of Stewards and the editor of the Mythopoeic Press.


David Emerson Tolkien Scholar, Author/Contributor to Mythlore , Musician, with the Rivendell Group of The Mythopoeic Society

Jason Fisher is the editor of Tolkien and the Study of His Sources (McFarland, 2011), which won the 2014 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies. With Salwa Khoddam and Mark R. Hall, he co-edited C.S. Lewis and the Inklings: Faith, Imagination, and Modern Technology and C.S. Lewis and the Inklings: Discovering Hidden Truth (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012 and 2015). Fisher’s work has appeared in Tolkien StudiesMythloreBeyond BreeThe Journal of Inklings StudiesSehnsucht, and other journals, books, and encyclopedias. He can be reached through his occasional blog, “Lingwë – Musings of a Fish”


Judy Ann Ford is a medieval historian whose interests include popular religion, hagiography, and sermons. She is professor at Texas A&M University–Commerce. With Robin Reid, she codirected two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institutes for School Teachers on J. R. R. Tolkien.

Peter Grybauskas is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Maryland. He teaches Tolkien courses on campus and abroad in the UK. He is currently at work on a monograph, and his essays on Tolkien have appeared in Mythlore, Tolkien Studies, and several edited collections in English and Italian. He is on occasion known to indulge in a secret gaming vice.

Yvette Kisor is Professor of Literature at Ramapo College of New Jersey where she teaches medieval literature as well as courses on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Her essays on medieval literature, particularly Anglo-Saxon, include publications in Anglo-Saxon England, The Chaucer Review, and ANQ. Her essays on Tolkien have appeared in Tolkien Studies and Mythlore, as well as various edited collections. She is co-editor with Christopher Vaccaro of Tolkien and Alterity; she is co-author with Michael D.C. Drout of Beowulf Unlocked: New Evidence from Lexomic Analysis.

Kristine Larsen “The Tolkienian Astronomer,” Professor of Astronomy, Faculty Coordinator of the Copernican Planetarium at Central Connecticut State University. Dr. Larsen is a prolific Tolkien scholar and her research focus is on the intersections between science and society, including science and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. She is the author of Stephen Hawking: A Biography and Cosmology 101, and co-editor (with Anthony Burdge and Jessica Burke) of The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Whoand The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman. Her work on Tolkien has appeared in Tolkien Studies,Mallorn,Amon Hen,Silver Leaves,Lembas Extra,The Classroom Astronomer,Mercury, and a number of book-length collections of essays.

Dr. Jared Lobdell turned 21 the day C. S. Lewis turned 60 and was a long-time correspondent and friend of Professor Tolkien and his son Christopher. Dr. Lobdell had already read The Lord of the Ringswhen it first came out in 1954/5 because “Numinor” was mentioned in That Hideous Strength. Lobdell was a member of the University of Wisconsin Tolkien Society, to whom Dick West turned over the papers from Jan Finder’s First and Second Conferences on Middle Earth for publication. These papers were published, with Professor Tolkien’s “Notes on the Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings,”in 1975 as A Tolkien Compass. Lobdell published England and Always: Tolkien’s Lord of the Ringsin 1981 (reprinted with an additional chapter as The World of the Rings in 2004). His Rise of Tolkienian Fantasy came out in 2005. He contributed more than twenty pieces to the J R R Tolkien Encyclopedia(2006) and an essay to Paul Kerry’s two-volume collection onTolkien’s Religionin 2009. Recently Dr. Lobdell has been working on studies of “the other Inklings” — notably those who came to the Inklings from “The Cave.” His essay on Nevill Coghill and C.S. Lewis appears in the 2015 collection Forgotten Leaves: Essays from a Smial publishedby Myth Ink Books. Dr. Lobdell’s short fiction chapbook Seeking the Lord, was also published by Myth Ink Books.

He holds his B.A. from Yale, where he studied under Cleanth Brooks, a 1932-33 member of “The Cave,” his M.B.A. and M.S. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he was a 1968 member of the University of Wisconsin Tolkien Society, with Dick West and Debbie Webster Rogers, and his Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon. He lives in Elizabethtown PA with his wife Janie (who is fond of Hobbits) and he works at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency

Kaleena Ma works in the optical retail field. When she is not obsessing about how to fix
people’s glasses and vision, she daydreams about hobbits and Tolkien’s majestic and
imaginative world. She was first introduced into Tolkien’s world seventeen years ago when
Peter Jackson came out with his brilliant movies. Since then she has not only read all of
Tolkien’s works more than one time each, but also really loves books about Tolkien, like the
Letters of JRR Tolkien, Tolkien and the Great War, and Humphrey Carpenter’s biography. She wishes to retire one day in New Zealand where the hobbit holes are. This is Kaleena’s fourth time at a Tolkien Conference and second time presenting.

Ryder Miller is an eco-critic, critic, poet, writer, and journalist. He is a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey

Robin Anne Reid, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Her teaching areas are creative writing, critical theory, and marginalized literatures. Recent Tolkien publications are an essay on female bodies and femininities in The Lord of the Rings in The Body in Tolkien’s Legendarium, edited by Christopher Vaccaro, a bibliographic essay on the history of scholarship on female characters in Tolkien’s work in Perilous and Fair, edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie Donovan, and a bibliographic essay on race and Tolkien studies in Tolkien and Alterity, edited by Christopher Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor. Besides her work on Tolkien and feminist science fiction, she has also published on fan productions and fan activism in online media fandom

Chris Tuthill Baruch College Librarian, Author, Tolkien Scholar and Co-Chair of NY Tolkien Conference

Christopher Vaccaro is a Senior Lecturer in English Language and Literature, in gender and sexuality studies, and in medieval studies at the University of Vermont, where he has worked since 1999. He has published two books, The Body in Tolkien’s Legendarium and Tolkien and Alterity, and essays in The Journal of Tolkien Research and in Mythlore.

Peter Walker enjoys a varied career as a singer of early and classical music. He recently appeared in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London with Clarion Society Choir, was a guest artist with Kuhmo Kamarimusiikki in Kuhmo, Finland, and was a soloist with the Handel + Haydn Society in Boston’s Symphony Hall, conducted by Sir Harry Christophers. Peter performs with Three Notch’d Road, Early Music New York, Blue Heron, Pomerium, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Concert Series, Texas Early Music Project, Staunton Music Festival, Gotham Early Music, Academy of Sacred Drama, and Skylark Ensemble. Peter is a member of the choir of St. Luke in the Fields in New York City, is a founding member of the medieval ensembles Marginalia and Twa Corbies, has lectured on early music at Vassar College and the University of Virginia, and won the Overseas Class in the Lowland and
Border Pipers’ Society Competition in 2016. He holds degrees from Vassar College and McGill University, where he studied with Drew Minter and Sanford Sylvan.

Internationally acclaimed composer, pianist, and recording artist David Alpher has enjoyed an active musical career for almost four decades. He co-founded, and for its first 10 years co-directed, the Rockport Chamber Music Festival (RCMF) in Massachusetts, now well into its third decade. At Rockport’s 20th-anniversary celebration, David received a special citation for “enriching the cultural life of New England.” In 2005, he founded The Chamber Arts Festival of Marbletown, where he serves as Artistic Director.
David has had a highly successful career as a pianist, collaborating with such distinguished artists as Marilyn Horne, Dawn Upshaw, Harolyn Blackwell, and Christopheren Nomura. An extended collaboration with Thomas Hampson, Jay Ungar, and Molly Mason produced the perennially popular 1992 CD, American Dreamer: Songs of Stephen Foster (Angel), as well as a series of concerts and broadcasts at venues such as Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, and Town Hall..
A graduate with of Indiana University School of Music and New York University, David maintains a professional association with Vassar College.



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