Tolkien is world-famous for his fiction. In his highly distinguished professional career, meanwhile, he was a philologist, and furthermore a comparative philologist, following in the footsteps of Jacob Grimm, whose innovations in comparative philology (vergleichende Philologie) must count as the Darwinian revolution of the humanities in the 19th century. Nor is it an accident that while Tolkien’s “Middle-earth” sequence was one of the great popular successes of the 20th and 21stcenturies, the fairytales of the brothers Grimm were one of the great popular successes of the preceding century. The philology and the fantasy go together. They deserve to be studied together.
This course aims to use the life and works of Tolkien as a gateway to provide an introduction to the discipline of comparative philology, and to highlight the many links between this field and his creative writings. The course will offer an introductory (and necessarily selective) overview of several of the old Germanic languages and their literatures, such as Gothic, Old and Middle English, and Old Norse, and cover select topics in Germanic comparative grammar (e.g. Grimm’s Law). Attention will also be given to other related matters, such as Celtic philology and Tolkien’s invented languages.
Students are not expected to have prior familiarity with any language other than modern English. Coursework involves readings, philological exercises, and study of short, glossed excerpts from ancient texts. The overall aim is to provide a basic familiarity with the methods and subject matter of philology and to make the ancient languages and texts that provide the field’s raw data appear less unfamiliar, as well as to examine the strong influence of philology on Tolkien’s works.
Philology Through Tolkien (Fall 2013)
Materials were provided for students in the live course, only.
The Gothic literary tradition began in the mid-eighteenth century in Europe and lives on in various forms across the globe through contemporary fiction, poetry, art, music, film, and television. Mad scientists, blasted heaths, abandoned ruins, elusive ghosts, charming vampires, and even little green men people its stories. With ingredients such as a highly developed sense of atmosphere, extreme emotions including fear and awe, and emphases on the mysterious and the paranormal, Gothic works tend to express anxieties about social, political, religious, and economic issues of the time, as well as rejection of prevailing modes of thought and behavior. This course will investigate the fascinating and subversive Gothic imagination (from the haunted castles of Horace Walpole to the threatening aliens of H.P. Lovecraft, from Dracula to Coraline), identify the historical conditions that have inspired it, consider how it has developed across time and place and medium, and explore how it has left its indelible imprint on the modern genres of science fiction and fantasy.
The Gothic Tradition (Spring 2014)
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
The Italian, or The Confession of the Black Penitents by Ann Radcliffe
The Portable Edgar Allan Poe
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Two Early Vampire Tales: John Polidori’s The Vampyre & J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
Millennium Season One
Doctor Who Season 3
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
El Orfanato (The Orphanage) directed by J.A. Bayona