Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth

Tolkien's World of Middle-earth

Original illustration by Breana Melvin, all rights reserved. Used with permission.


Taught by Dr. Verlyn Flieger

In this course, students will read Tolkien’s two critical essays, Beowulf, and The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings to explore how his world and his myth developed over time.  There are three interim exams, one on the essays and Beowulf, one on The Silmarillion, one on The Hobbit, plus a two-hour final exam on The Lord of the Rings. Each exam builds on the one before it.  All are open book, open notes. The goal is not to test your memory, but to get you to think deeply and critically about the material and the relationships among the works.  You should know more at the end of each exam than you did before you started.

Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth will meet Monday and Thursday (primary lecture and closing session) from 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm (UTC-5)

Course Schedule

Week 1 (January 14-18):
Tolkien and Tragedy
Beowulf: The Monsters & Critics”

Week 2 (January 21-25):
Tolkien’s Beowulf
Scyld Scefing ll. 1-85
Grendel ll. 86-193,632-689, 1761-1768
the dragon ll. 2231-2271, ll. 2510-2845, ll 3076-3182

Week 3 (January 27-February 1):
Tolkien and Faërie
“On Fairy-stories”

FIRST EXAM (February 2)

Week 4 (February 4-8):
Tolkien and Mythology
The Silmarillion: “Ainulindalë,” “Beginning of Days”

Week 5 (February 11-15):
Tolkien and Mythology II
Fëanor, Beren, Túrin    

SECOND EXAM (February 16)

Week 6 (February 18-22):
Tolkien and Children’s Books
The Hobbit: green suns & inner consistency

THIRD EXAM (February 23)

Week 7 (February 25-March 1):
The Masterwork
LotR Preface, the Red Book, the framing concept
Book 1: Frodo & the Ring

Week 8 (March 4-8):
The Masterwork II
Book 2: Caradhras, Moria, Lórien, Amon Hen

Week 9 (March 11-15):
The Masterwork III
Book 3: Boromir, Theoden, Treebeard, Helm’s Deep & Isengard

Week 10 (March 18-22):
The Masterwork IV
Book 4: Gollum

Week 11 (March 25-29):
The Masterwork V
Book 5: Pippin & Denethor, Merry & Eowyn, the Black Gate

Week 12 (April 1-5):
The Masterwork VI
Book 6: Cirith Ungol, Mt. Doom, The Scouring, Grey Havens

FINAL EXAM (April 6)

Required Texts

Many of you probably already have one or more of Tolkien’s works.  If you want to use the ones you have, please do!

* Chickering translation is required – please do not substitute another translation, such as Burton Raffel or Seamus Heaney or the Norton edition