Recorded January and February, 2008 ~
Best known for his Lord of the Rings series, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was also a highly regarded poet and scholar. In the 2008 History Lecture Series, Professor Robin Chapman Stacey will illuminate the fluency and fascination with language, mythology and religion that permeates Tolkien's work. Join us for an exploration of JRR Tolkien beyond Middle Earth - the man, the myths, and the meaning.
Audio CD #1 & #2 ~ "He Had Been Inside Language" ~ Tolkien's mother instilled in him a love for languages that would shape his entire life. As a youth, he spent hours inventing the "nonsense languages" that formed the basis for his later fiction. As an adult, he became a professor of medieval languages and literatures at Oxford University. Join us as we probe the connection between language and creativity and examine the nineteenth-century debates over language, folklore and myth that were the intellectual foundations for Tolkien's greatest works.
Audio CD #3 & #4 ~ "A Mythology for England" ~ The work closest to Tolkien's heart was not the material for which he is best known today. "The Silmarillion", a powerful compendium of myth and story begun in his student days and left unfinished at his death, was Tolkien's attempt to provide for England a majestic body of national mythology comparable to that of Finland, Greece or Scandinavia. This is Tolkien's creation story, his most trenchant examination of the spiritual and moral dilemmas of his era-and the necessary backdrop to The Lord of the Rings.
Audio CD #5 & #6 ~ "The War to End All Wars" ~ Tolkien was a specialist in the heroic literatures of medieval Europe and a particular expert on Beowulf, considered by most to be the greatest of Old English heroic poems. However, his personal experience in the trenches of World War I left him with a profound sense of the horrors of war. This lecture explores Tolkien's views on heroism and war: his passionate conviction that evil must be resisted, his hatred for the futility and waste inevitably attendant in human conflict, and his immense respect for the heroism of individual sacrifice.
Audio CD #7 & #8 ~ "A Fundamentally Religious Work" ~ The Lord of the Rings contains no references to organized worship or prayer and promotes no specific religion by name. The spiritual questions it raises, however, are precisely those with which the great theologians also struggled-the origins and limitations of evil, the conflict between divine predestination and human free will, and the unanticipated gift of God's grace. This lecture considers the religious aspects of Tolkien's work and includes a look at his relationship with other prominent Oxford Christians, such as C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.
Audio CD #9 & #10 ~ "Allegory and Farewell" ~ This lecture takes up the question of how Tolkien's work has been interpreted and received over the years, from accusations of racism and sexism to Peter Jackson's recent film adaptations. The last word, however, is given to Tolkien himself. Join us as we examine the stories and poems of his later years and watch him reflect on how he chose to spend his life, and on the frequently tortured relationship between creator and creation.