• Northern Michigan University
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Student Announcements

Jun 24 2014
Organization: English
Contact: Lori Rintala (lrintala@nmu.edu)

LB 295H: Tolkien's Middle Earth

There are open seats in LB 295H: Special Topics in Liberal Studies: Humanities - Tolkien's Middle Earth course. Two sections are offered this fall which meet on Monday and Wednesday 11-12:40 or 3-4:40 with Professor Peter Goodrich.

Below is a description taken from the syllabus.

NMU Undergraduate Bulletin course description: "Study of a particular topic in the area of the humanities." Credits may be applied to Liberal Studies, Division II: Foundations of Humanities, or to electives for an English major or minor.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a veteran of World War One and his vocation was a professor of philology (the combined study of linguistics and literature) at the universities of Leeds and Oxford, where he became one of the world’s foremost experts in Old and Middle English. His avocation was a writer of fantasy fiction and poetry. He considered the latter his most important achievement, but it was grounded in the former. Many people have dismissed Tolkien’s fiction as simplistic, escapist, sexist, and devoid of serious intellectual content, yet poll after readers’ poll pronounces him the major author of the twentieth century. In the course of the semester we will examine why those accusations have been leveled, in what respects they are or are not accurate, and to what extent his achievement merits its present popularity.

Along the way, you will acquire the basic tools of literary and semiotic analysis: an understanding of character, setting, plot, theme, metaphor, allegory, and symbol. You will also be introduced to the serious issues and important literary models underlying Tolkien’s "legendarium." Lectures and discussions will tackle these concepts and Tolkien’s literary and scholarly sources in order to study a number of significant themes in the humanities and in his works. They include:

• Role of language in signifying and constructing reality; the contrasting natures of physical and imagined or invented realities

• Theories of fantasy and the fantastic

• Varieties of divinity and spiritual life

• Nature of good and evil and the presence of suffering and loss in the world

• Motivations of war and imperialism, and of charity

• Qualities of courage and heroism

• Appreciation and stewardship of the natural world

• Differences of culture, race, and gender, and how they are constructed, especially through language

• Sources and patterns of myth-making and artistic invention

• Differences between spoken, written, and visual narrative

• Pervasiveness and intellectual content of popular culture.

To enliven the proceedings and encourage participation, we will use frequent group discussion of questions arising out of the lectures, occasional film clips of scenes under discussion, and occasional guest lectures (for instance, on the linguistic principles involved in Tolkien’s creation of artificial languages). All in all, if you assume this course will just retell the stories and screen the movies, you’ll be surprised.

Required Texts by J.R.R. Tolkien:

The Hobbit
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King
The Silmarillion, 2nd Edition
The Children of Hurin
Unfinished Tales
The Tolkien Reader

Please contact the English department for more information.