ENGL479D - J.R.R. Tolkien: Middle Earth and Beyond

This course will introduce Tolkien’s best-known texts, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but will go (per the course title) “beyond” these familiar seas in three ways. We will look at aspects of Tolkien’s source material, themes, and writing style that even veteran readers of the texts will find new and challenging. Secondly, in his posthumously published works, we will explore the mythology of Tolkien’s world beyond (yet foundational to) the geographical boundaries of Middle Earth. Finally, we will go beyond the world of the hobbits and wizards by studying some of Tolkien’s lesser-known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooten Major, The Fall of Arthur, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, and his seminal essay on Beowulf. The course will be lecture style with discussion, reading quizzes, a final exam, and two papers (a close reading analysis and a research paper).

Offering this course in the Fall 2014 semester will complement the UMD Tolkien conference Oct 10-11 being hosted by the Honors College in honor of the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Lord of the Rings (1954). Students taking the course will have the opportunity to attend and participate not only in the conference itself but in several weekly activities leading up to it starting in early September: guest speakers, a live dramatization of a play Tolkien wrote based on the Anglo-Saxon Battle of Maldon, a display of Tolkien-themed art, and an all-day viewing of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films. These activities will add to what students can gain from the course and will expose them to another facet “beyond” the texts themselves: the wider scholarly conversation on Tolkien represented by the conference presentations.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.