I’m pleased as the week closes to offer a rich set of opportunities to dive meaningfully into Tolkien’s imaginative worlds. There are three upcoming Signum University Thesis Theatres on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s Legendarium (all times Eastern):
- Tomorrow, Saturday, May 21st, 11am: Emily Austin, “The Road Gives Ever On: Following the Road Motif in The Lord of the Rings”
- Thursday, May 26th, 3pm: Miriam Davidson, “The Sword Not for its Sharpness: Nonviolent countercurrents in Tolkien’s Epic of War”
- Wednesday, June 1st, 12noon: Jacob R. Schreiner, “The Logos of Faith: Sub-Creation through Speech-Acts in Tolkien’s Legendarium”
A literary motif, a social question, and a study in the power of words–a great set of projects from three students whom I am proud to say I know. Indeed, I have been the supervisor of two of these projects–Miriam’s and Jacob’s–and Emily has been a guest writer for A Pilgrim in Narnia (see here), and I have used her artistic work in my teaching and writing (see here).
Our Signum University master’s students have the opportunity to write a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. These Thesis Theatres are their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, tease out some of the implications of their work, and answer questions from the audience. I love these free events and have attached some of the others that I have hosted.
It is a free event and all are welcome to attend.
Before the Thesis Theatre details, just a brief couple of notes about Calls for Submissions for essay collections. As I noted earlier, Sørina Higgins and I have conspired to propose an anthology on ecocriticism, environmental concern, and creation care within speculative fiction. In particular, we have some space open for proposals about contemporary writing, especially writers of colour and indigenous imaginative works. Check out our call for: “Gardeners of the Galaxies: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care for This One.”
And I would like to note that An Unexpected Journal is featuring a Special Issue on “Shakespeare and Cultural Apologetics,” edited by Drs Joe Ricke and Sarah Waters. I have been fortunate enough to be an expected contributor to An Unexpected Journal, and Sarah and Joe are friends of mind and poetically minded literary critics whom I admire. You can find the full Call here with a Jul 20th deadline–on the list following Calls for Submissions on Special Issues on “Dragons” and “Joy” (which are still open too by the way).
Now, to the details about the three upcoming Signum University Thesis Theatres on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s Legendarium, including links for signing up for the free live Zoom event.
Date: Saturday, May 21st, 2022
Time: 11am Eastern
Free Registration Link: https://signumuniversity.org/event/thesis-theater-emily-austin-the-road-gives-ever-on-following-the-road-motif-in-the-lord-of-the-rings/
Host: Dr. Sara Brown
Abstract: The Lord of the Rings makes prominent use of “The Road” as a multifaceted symbolic image, but roads also play a more subtly powerful role in the text as a tool of narrative description. Tolkien’s stylistic treatment of roads and paths builds on his longstanding interest in the concept, visible in many earlier writings. In The Lord of the Rings, attention to the characters’ roads as they journey is a recurring motif that becomes particularly central for Frodo and Sam on the way to Mount Doom. This paper uses close reading and digital text analysis to identify four principal ways this narrative attention to roads can manifest, and examines how they undergird and enrich the concept’s thematic significance.
Bio: From an early age, Emily Austin has loved both reading and the visual arts, and pursued ways to combine these interests. Her favorite authors, particularly J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen, shaped both her literary tastes and her artistic imagination, and they continue to provide both academic interest and inspiration for art projects. Born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii, Emily now lives in Indiana with her husband Ryan and runs a business creating art, illustration, and graphic design. Besides reading and painting, Emily also loves travel, photography, and sewing.
Miriam Davidson, “The Sword Not for its Sharpness: Nonviolent countercurrents in Tolkien’s Epic of War”
Date: Thursday, May 26th
Time: 3pm Eastern
Free Registration Link: click here
Host: Dr. Brenton Dickieson
Abstract: The Lord of the Rings highlights Tolkien’s use of characters and narrative to accentuate the courage and honor earned by those who sacrifice themselves in combat. His plot demands, and often justifies, violent action. The people of Middle-earth will not stand by as Sauron works to enslave and kill the free folk. Still, there is a clear and consistent emphasis on the cost and devastation these violent engagements bring. Tolkien’s narrative strongly warns against the lust for power and the will to dominate others while elevating the importance of grace, forgiveness, and not striking without the gravest of need. War victors should be magnanimous, offering reconciliation and forgiveness to the defeated rather than destruction, slavery, or crippling reparations. Discovering the tensions at play between the honor of war and its human devastation, this thesis explores the countercurrents of nonviolence in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. These countercurrents ultimately demonstrate that Tolkien’s representation of war and nonviolence is impacted by his literary mode, educational background, personal beliefs, and exposure to war.
Bio: Miriam Davidson has been practicing as a forensic psychiatric nurse practitioner in the Department of Corrections for the past 15 years. She has a deep-rooted love for fantasy literature and pursued a MA degree to expand and strengthen her reading and writing skills. With the help of her husband and dogs, she spends her free time restoring a 200-year-old lighthouse in Downeast, Maine.
Date: Wednesday, June 1st
Time: 12pm noon Eastern
Free Registration Link: click here
Host: Dr. Brenton Dickieson
Abstract: J.R.R. Tolkien’s theory of sub-creation has long been studied within his legendarium, and how humanity, being created by God, has the desire to imitate the Creator through sub-creation. However, what is the connection between God’s command for the universe to Be and humanity’s ability to sub-create? This thesis examines logos as “word” and “reason” in creation and its relationship to sub-creation through the investigative lens of speech-act theory. According to J.L. Austin and other speech-act theorists, when one speaks, it is not merely to say words, but by the act of speech, one performs, which produces consequential effects by the speaker. In The Silmarillion, Ilúvatar’s original speech-act brought all of creation into being and allowed the Ainur to sub-create within Arda according to the logical reason and design of the universe and by the word, “Eä!” The same is true in Middle-earth. Frodo and Sam harness the power of the logos in their speech-acts, and in prayer as a speech-act, by having faith, they can sub-create through language and bring about physical changes within their world.
Bio: Jacob R. Schreiner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Sam Houston State University. His first conference presentation was at TexMoot in 2019 where he presented his paper “God of War and the Norse Oral Storyteller,” and later that year presented at Mythmoot VI on “’What a worm’s made for!’: The Cure to Conquering Dragons in C.S. Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress and Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader.’” At Mythmoot VII, Jacob presented his paper, “A Light for Hobbit Feet: Moral Choices that Defy Darkness in Children’s Fantasy.” His research interests include fantasy, especially the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, speech-act theory, and Germanic philology. Jacob currently runs a blog called The Tolkienian where he analyzes the works of Tolkien, fantasy, and science fiction.