Tolkien: Scholar, Critic, Writer (TRU3025)

StaffProfessor Nick Groom - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module enables you to:

  • Develop skills of critical analysis in historical and cultural contexts focused on a single author and his influence
  • Have an opportunity to pursue your own research interests
  • Review a book, film, or critical work associated with Tolkien, presenting an opportunity to write a critical assignment pitched at a particular readership

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate and understanding of the informed appreciation of specific works of scholarship, translation, criticism, and fiction by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of Anglo-Saxonism, Medievalism, the Gothic, Modernism, and war literature
  • 3. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of the relation between twentieth-century literature and the important historical, intellectual, and technological developments of the time
  • 4. Demonstrate understanding of the adaptation of specific literary works into film and other media of mass culture
  • 5. Demonstrate understanding of the significance of place and the environment in literary works

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context and to contemporary culture
  • 7. Interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 8. Demonstrate an understanding and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 10. Demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 11. Demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction: quiz, planning, close-reading
  • Anglo-Saxon: JRR Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf and his critical essay ‘The Monsters and the Critics’ (in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays); The Battle of Maldon and ‘The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son’ (in Tree and Leaf)
  • Mediaeval Faërie: ‘Farmer Giles of Ham’, ‘Smith of Wootton Major’ ‘On Fairy-Stories’(in Tales from the Perilous Realm) (also selected poems from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil)
  • The Hobbit
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Beren and Lúthien
  • Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings
  • Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit
  • Other film, visual, and audio adaptations

Sample classes and tutor presentations:

  • Introduction: Tolkien Quiz
  • Tolkien as Scholar: Anglo-Saxon and Mediaeval Studies, and Etymology
  • Faërie
  • The Legendarium
  • Debate on The Hobbit
  • Debate on The Lord of the Rings: cultural, intellectual, race and historical contexts
  • The Silmarillion and the Gothic
  • Tolkien in Cornwall
  • Cinematic adaptations

Possible topics for student presentations

  • ‘The Monsters and the Critics’ or ‘The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son’
  • ‘Farmer Giles of Ham’ or ‘Smith of Wootton Major’
  • ‘Of Beren and Lúthien’ or the Legendarium
  • The Hobbit: children’s literature or The Hobbit: monstrosity
  • The Lord of the Rings: sources or LotR: shadows of history or LotR: Englishness
  • LotR: ecology or LotR: just war or LotR: gender
  • Race
  • The Silmarillion: death and immortality or Númenor
  • Debates on film

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1111 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study267Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation10 minutes1-9Oral and peer assessment
Group presentation/debate10 minutes 1-9Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1251500 words1-3, 5-8, 10, 11Coversheet written and oral
Review of book, film, or critical work251500 words1-8, 10, 11Coversheet written and oral
Essay 2503000 words1-8, 10, 11Coversheet written and oral

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 11-3, 5-8, 10, 11Referral/Deferral period
Book ReviewBook Review1-8, 10, 11Referral/Deferral period
Essay 2Essay 21-8, 10, 11Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative basic reading list:

You should be able to get these very cheaply from Amazon second-hand, Abebooks, or eBay. Don’t order as a ‘print on demand’ or facsimile – these are expensive and unreliable

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Beowulf, together with Sellic Spell (HarperCollins, 2014)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (HarperCollins, 2009)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (HarperCollins, 1999)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road and Other Writings (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (HarperCollins, 2006)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (HarperCollins, 1992)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Tales from the Perilous Realm: Farmer Giles of Ham (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Smith of Wootton Major (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales (HarperCollins, 2001)

Other Primary Reading:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales I ( HarperCollins, 2008 )
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales II ( HarperCollins, 2008 )
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin (HarperCollins, 2008)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the Shadow: The History of LotR, Part One (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Treason of Isengard: The History of LotR, Part Two (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The War of the Ring: The History of LotR, Part Three (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Sauron Defeated: The History of LotR, Part Four (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (HarperCollins, 2009)

More expensive, but useful:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages , ed. Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins (HarperCollins, 2016)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Annotated Hobbit, ed. Douglas Anderson (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle-Earth , 12 vols in 3 (HarperCollins, 2002)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (HarperCollins, 1999)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, with E.V. Gordon and Norman Davis, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo (HarperCollins, 2006)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Smith of Wootton Major , ed. Verlyn Flieger (HarperCollins, 2005)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien on Fairy-Stories , ed.Verlyn Flieger and Douglas Anderson (HarperCollins, 2014)
  • Kirill Yeskov, The Last Ringbearer (1999) [free pdf on ELE]

Recommended Critical Reading

  • Atherton, Mark, There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit (Tauris, 2012)
  • Carpenter, Humphrey, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (Allen & Unwin, 1977)
  • Chance, Jane (ed.), Tolkien the Medievalist (Routledge, 2002)
  • Chance, Jane (ed.), Tolkien and the Invention of Myth (Kentucky University Press, 2004)
  • Croft, Janet Brennan, Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (Mythopoeic Press, 2005)
  • Curry, Patrick, Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
  • Eaglestone, Robert (ed.), Reading The Lord of the Rings : New Essays on Tolkien’s Trilogy (Continuum, 2005)
  • Drout, Michael, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’s Medieval Scholarship and its Significance’, Tolkien Studies vol. 4 (2007), 113-176
  • Fimi, Dimitra, Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
  • Flieger, Verlyn, A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Road to ‘Faerie’ (Kent State University Press, 1997)
  • Flieger, Verlyn and Douglas Anderson, Tolkien on Fairy-Stories (HarperCollins, 2008)
  • Flieger, Verlyn, and Carl Hostetter, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle Earth (Greenwood Press, 2000)
  • Garth, John, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-Earth (HarperCollins, 2004)
  • Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (OUP, 2006)
  • Gray, William, Fantasy, Myth and the Measure of Truth: Tales of Pullman, Lewis, Tolkien, Macdonald and Hoffmann (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
  • Hammond, Wayne and Christina Scull, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (HarperCollins, 2006)
  • Kane, Douglas Charles, Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion (Lehigh UP, 2009)
  • Lee, Stuart D. (ed.), A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014)
  • Lönnrot, Elias (ed.), The Kalevala, or The Land of Heroes (Oxford World’s Classics, 1999)
  • Magnusson, Eirikr and William Morris, Volsunga Saga: The Story of the Volsungs and Nibelungs (Bastian Books, 2008)
  • Margolis, Harriet, Sean Cubitt, Barry King, and Thierry Jutel (eds), Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings (Manchester University Press, 2012)
  • Morton, Timothy, ‘Environmentalism’ in Nicholas Roe, Romanticism: An Oxford Guide (OUP, 2005), 696-707
  • Reynolds, Patricia and Glen GoodKnight (eds), Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992 (Tolkien Society, 1995)
  • Roseberry, Brian, Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  • Shippey, T.A., The Road to Middle-Earth (HarperCollins, 2005)
  • Shippey, T.A., Roots and Branches (Walking Tree, 2007)
  • Shippey, T.A., Tolkien: Author of the Century (HarperCollins, 2000)
  • ‘Turgon’ [David E. Smith] (ed.), The Tolkien Fan’s Medieval Reader (Cold Spring Press Fantasy, 2004)
  • Whittingham, Elizabeth, The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology (McFarland, 2007)

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Primary Films

  • The Lord of the Rings , dir. Ralph Bakshi (1978)
  • The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring , dir. Peter Jackson (2001)
  • The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers , dir. Peter Jackson (2002)
  • The Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King , dir. Peter Jackson (2003)
  • The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey , dir. Peter Jackson (2012)
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug , dir. Peter Jackson (2013)
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies , dir. Peter Jackson (2014)

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