Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.
The Tree and Its Soil
We look at how Middle-earth sprang out of Tolkien’s Oxford studies in English philology and the war that engulfed his generation. We explore his chief sources in real-world mythologies – Northern, Celtic, Classical and others. We ask why he thought an Elvish mythology could also be a mythology for England.
An Enchanted World
We tune into the underlying themes of Tolkien’s myth of the Music of Creation, examine his ideas of fate and free will, and shed light on the symbolism of the Silmarils. We look at what Tolkien meant by mythopoeia, sub-creation, eucatastrophe and true myth.
Mortality and Immortality
We contemplate the One, then size up the powers of the Valar and their attendant spirits. Soaring with Eagles and striding with Ents, we seek to see the divinity in nature. And straying beyond The Silmarillion, we set out to discover who Tom Bombadil really is…
Creativity and Courage
We examine Tolkien’s key ideas about creativity through origin stories from Dwarves to Silmarils. We deal in destruction with Dragons, Orcs, Trolls and Balrogs. With Spiders and Riders we tangle in despair and disenchantment. Against all this, we enquire, where do Tolkien’s heroes find endurance, hope and courage? In the afternoon we take a guided tour of Exeter College, Oxford, where Tolkien first devised his world.
Myth, History and Mortality
Finally we ask, what do immortals have to do with us mortals? We take a close look at Tolkien’s myth about the temptation to seize endless life – the Downfall of Númenor – and examine the curriculum vitae of the Dark Lord Sauron. We round up the ideas behind the Rings of Power; and find out what this has to do with Tolkien’s well-known preference for applicability over allegory.
Destination: Exeter College, Oxford
Excursion Rating: Easy - up to an hour's walk on even ground or less than half an hour's walk on rough ground.