Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.
An enchanted world: We tune into the underlying themes of Tolkien’s myth of the Music of Creation and shed light on the symbolism of the Silmarils. We consider the use and abuse of creativity in Middle-earth, and we discover the difference between magic and enchantment there. We look at what Tolkien meant by mythopoeia, sub-creation, eucatastrophe and true myth.
Mortality and immortality: We size up the divine Valar and their attendant spirits, as well as the Ents and the Eagles. We explore the diverse natures and fates of Elves, Dwarves and Men. Straying beyond The Silmarillion, we look at Hobbits too; and we set out to discover who Tom Bombadil really is…
Myth to history: We survey the flat world as Tolkien originally devised it and take a close look at his myth of how it was made round – the Downfall of Númenor. We examine the curriculum vitae of the Dark Lord Sauron; 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.
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. In the afternoon we take a guided tour of Exeter College, Oxford, where Tolkien first devised his world.
Good and evil: We look at the importance of heroism and hope; love and fellowship; despair and disenchantment. We take the measure of Dragons, Orcs, Trolls and Balrogs; tangle with the Great Spiders; and ride out with the Ringwraiths. Finally we ask: who is the greatest hero of The Silmarillion?
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.