Feb 02, 2023  
2023 January Term Course Catalog 
2023 January Term Course Catalog
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JAN 055 - JRR Tolkien & The Rings

Lower division
Full credit

MTuThF, 9:15 AM - 11:50 AM

This generation of students knows of J.R.R. Tolkien as the inspiration for the film series “The Lord of the Rings” and perhaps even more relevantly as the source for the new Amazon series “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” Both the film and the web series find their source in an unlikely place, the text of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel published in 1954. Yet value can be found in unlikely places. It isn’t for nothing that Amazon spent over 200 million dollars for the rights, and is promising total production costs to run over one billion dollars. People are fascinated by the world the book creates. Even if folks haven’t seen the films, the memes ripped from particular scenes have become part of the lingua franca of social media culture. Where would we be without that image of Sean Bean, playing Boromir, explaining to the council of Elrond the difficulties of walking into Mordor? It has been used as a stand-in to emphasize the difficulty of tasks ever since. But too rarely do we recognize the depth and breadth of the impact that this fusty Oxford Don has had on the English-speaking world.
In this class, we will take the time to explore the thinkers and writers who influenced Tolkien. This includes sources as varied as the Tridentine Latin Mass, linguistic studies, the British role in World War I, ancient myths, and romantic fantasy writers. We will move into a study of his own works including his academic essays, his major works of fiction, but also trying to glean insights from his personal letters and the lectures he delivered as a professor to his students. Finally, we will take time to consider the impact he has had on the landscape of modern fiction, including the wildly popular Game of Thrones series.
The course will be an immersive experience attempting to draw us as close to Tolkien’s ideas as we can, but also attempting to give us a sense of his life and his loves too through reading, discussion, field trips, and guest lectures. Expect to take day-long nature walks, learn how to identify trees, LARP as an Oxford undergraduate, uncover the roots of language, and explore the arcane connection between obscure Catholic rituals and ancient Greek mythology. As Tolkien might say himself: “it is the job that is never started that takes longest to finish.” This January we may not learn everything there is to know about Tolkien, but we will make a start. 


Instructor(s): Colin Redemer
Email:  Cr6@stmarys-ca.edu

Prerequisites & Notes
Prerequisites:  ENG 004/004C
Course Fee:  111

Credits: 1

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