If you ever wanted to know how Tolkien came up with his amazing stories, or wanted to delve deeper into them, you might be interested in this. This fall, Corey Olsen, Ph.D., aka The Tolkien Professor(@Tolkienprof) will be leading an online course in a study of the myths that J.R.R. Tolkien drew on for his Middle Earth saga. This course can be taken for credit, or if you’re not looking for a degree, don’t have the time for research and writing papers, can be audited. Guest lecturers will include Thomas Shippey, Ph.D., Verlyn Flieger, Ph.D., and Michael Drout, Ph.D. You can see this is not just a bunch of fans gathering to chat about the books. From the course description:
In this course, we will study Tolkien’s longest stories in the context of the earlier epic tradition, the “great tales” that he so admired. In our readings of these early poems, however, we will not merely be looking at them as Tolkien’s “sources,”an approach that can easily lead us to oversimplify both Tolkien’s work and the older poems themselves. Instead, we will study these old works on their own terms, examining each story’s themes, characters, and narrative voice, while also exploring some of Tolkein’s own interests in these works as a scholar. We will read Tolkien’s own works with similar care, observing both the similarities and the differences between Tolkien’s stories and those earlier great works in the tradition of which they are a part.
It’s a full semester long, beginning August 29 and ending December 16.
If all that’s too much for you, you can still immerse yourself in Tolkien’s world through Professor Olsen’s own site, The Tolkien Professor, which contains many podcasts that are also available through iTunes.