Tolkien's Words and Worlds

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An academic conference to mark the 50th anniversary of Tolkien’s death


Date: 2nd - 3rd September 2023

Venue: Corpus Christi College, Auditorium (+ exhibitions at Exeter (sold out) and Merton College)

Confirmed speakers: Oronzo Cilli, Michaël Devaux, John Garth, Yoko Hemmi, Simon Horobin, Grace Khuri, Catherine McIlwaine, Giuseppe Pezzini, Lukasz Neubauer, Holly Ordway, Michael Ward, Hamish Williams.


The aim of the conference is to exhibit and reflect on the range of different approaches, methodologies, and backgrounds with which Tolkien has been studied in the past 50 years, which reflects the complexity of his personality, the richness of his creative work and the breadth of his reception. In an (academic) world ever more divided into different political and social bubbles, Tolkien had provided an exceptional meeting place, for very different people united by a common interest. Just as in the ancestral music of the Ainur, the conference aims to be a polyphonic event, in which different scholarly endeavours can come together in a moment of shared reflection and celebration.

An integral part of the event will be two special Tolkien exhibitions at Exeter and Merton Colleges, and private tours will be given to conference attendees at dedicated times (see below).


FINAL Programme:

2nd September

9.30-10.00 Welcome and introduction

10.00-10.45 Session 1

John Garth (Author and Journalist)

“An Entirely Vain and False Approach”: Literary Biography and why Tolkien was Wrong about It

10.45-11.15 Coffee

11.15-12.45 Session 2

Michael Ward (University of Oxford)

Tolkien’s Faith in Fact and Fiction

Hamish Williams (University of Groningen)

Classical Ideas in Tolkien

Lukasz Neubauer (University of Koszalin)

Beowulf, Maldon and All That: A Tangled Web of Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon Scholarship and Fiction

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.30 Visit to exhibitions (at Exeter and Merton College)

15.30-16.30 Session 3

Grace Khuri (Oriel College, University of Oxford)

Kipling’s Medievalism and Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales: Historicizing Myth and Mythologizing History in the Early 20th Century

Holly Ordway (Word on Fire Institute/Houston Christian University)

Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Past Perspectives, Present Insights, Future Study

16.30-17.00 Coffee

17.00-17.45 Session 4

Yoko Hemmi (Keio University)

Tolkien, “British” identity, and the Celtic studies


19.00 Conference dinner

3rd September

9.15-10.45 Session 5

Michaël Devaux (Université de Caen Normandie)

Tolkien's Textual Variants and the Authorial Status

Simon Horobin (Magdalen College, University of Oxford)

‘Never Trust a Philologist’: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Place of Philology in English Studies

Giuseppe Pezzini (Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford)

‘Not about Anything but Itself’: Tolkien’s Language Invention and Literary Theory

10.45-11.00 Conclusions

11.00-11.30 Coffee

11.30-13.00 Visit to exhibition (at Merton College)