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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1236: Tolkien's Work and Academic Networks at the University of Leeds

Wednesday 5 July 2023, 14.15-15.45

Sponsor:Centre for Fantasy & the Fantastic, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow
Organiser:Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton
Moderator/Chair:Sara Brown, Independent Scholar, Conwy
Paper 1236-aJ. R. R. Tolkien's Intensive Work on Middle English Language and Literature during His Six Years at Leeds
(Language: English)
Andoni Cossio, Facultad de Letras Universidad del Pais Vasco - Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1236-b'An industrious little devil': Tolkien's Development of the Elvish Languages at Leeds, 1920-1925
(Language: English)
Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1236-cLeeds and the Medieval Foundation of J. R. R. Tolkien's 'Father Christmas' Letters
(Language: English)
Kristine Larsen, Department of Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism

J. R. R. Tolkien established his academic career at the University of Leeds, joining as a Reader in 1920, aged 28. By the time he left Leeds in 1925 he has established the University as a UK leader in Old Icelandic language and literature and developed a network of fellow academics and colleagues. Papers in this session will explore the work and networks developed while he was here at the University of Leeds.

Paper -a:
Although J. R. R. Tolkien is better-known, especially among general readers and literary critics, as a scholar of Old English, his contribution to Middle English (ME) studies (and perhaps knowledge of the discipline) was in fact greater. It is remarkable that during his years at the University of Leeds (1920-1925) Tolkien produced some important ME philological works such as: A Middle English Vocabulary (1922), 'The Devil's Coach-Horses' (1925), 'Some Contributions to Middle-English Lexicography' (1925), the edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925), and the unfinished 'Clarendon Chaucer' (mostly written from 1922 to 1928). Tolkien's involvement in several projects while in Oxford surely provided a solid foundation, but the fresh academic network of like-minded medievalists and new teaching duties at Leeds must have contributed as well. This paper will attempt to explain why Leeds proved to be such a fertile ground for Tolkien's intensive work on ME from 1920 to 1925.

Paper -b:
J.R.R. Tolkien once called his fellow University of Leeds Colleague E.V. Gordon 'An Industrious Little Devil' (Anderson (2009)) but the same term can certainly be applied to Tolkien and the work he did on his Elvish language invention while a Reader here at the University of Leeds. In this paper I will explore this phase in Tolkien's development of the Elvish languages which by this time was inextricably linked to his the world-building of his legendarium. It was during his time in Leeds that Tolkien would write the first official grammar of his Qenya language and also start to reconceive his earliest language for the Noldoli Elves Gnomish into a new conception Noldorin. I will explore how Tolkien's time as a Reader here in Leeds contributed to the growth of the Elvish languages in step with the development of his growing mythology.

Paper -c:
Upon joining the Leeds faculty in 1920, J.R.R. Tolkien began crafting yearly 'Father Christmas' letters for his children. While these creative and detailed letters (and their relevant original artwork) have become posthumously available to a wide audience, little scholarship has been done on their medieval roots, in particular the pre-telescopic, medieval geocentric cosmology they represent. This paper highlights Tolkien's artful and expert use of the appearance of the Nordic sky in these letters (including constellations, eclipses, aurora, and the long winter nights) and connects it with real-world literature such as the Eddas, Kalevala, and various Chronicles.