International Medieval Congress

IMC 2022: Borders

29th annual International Medieval Congress

№ 1033: Borders between life and death in Tolkien’s legendarium

6 July 2022 10:00 utc — view in local time

Papers in this session related to the thematic strand of the conference papers will explore themes around metaphysical borders and liminal spaces between life and death in Tolkien’s works and their influences.


№ 1: Beyond the circles of the world

Amy Amendt-Raduege, Instructor, Western Washington University

From its beginning, Tolkien’s legendarium concerns itself with crossing borders. Even the border between life and death is permeable, as characters pass from life to death and back again. Moreover, the earliest stories contain full descriptions of the Land of the Dead for both Elves and Men. But after the earliest drafts, Tolkien moves the afterlife of Men beyond the Circles of the World, and despite medieval precedent and his own imaginative capabilities, he never crosses that border again. This paper explores some of the underlying possibilities for that choice.

№ 2: Undead or undying: Limits of immortality in Tolkien’s work

Gaëlle Abaléa, independent scholar

Tolkien’s legendarium is peopled by mortal and immortal creatures, their diverging fate being at the heart of heroic deeds, tensions and tragedies as the professor attempted to lie down his own belief on death. At first glance the limits between those two groups are clearcut: some will die and some will linger. However, as the tale unfolds and new sources of inspirations add up, this border becomes blurry especially if love interferes. Characters will defy the laws of their own kind, cross borders and in so doing change history and even reshape worlds. But will they all succeed?

№ 3: Memories of borders: On the borders of memory: Beleriand as elegiac landscape

Cami D. Agan, Professor of Language and Literature, Oklahoma Christian University

The IMC theme of borders coincides with an ongoing concern of my work: the ways in which Beleriand, both as actual landscape and as a lost memory, functions as the elegiac repository for Tolkien’s legendarium. For the Crossing Borders in Middle-Earth’ panel at Leeds, I seek to examine the ways vital narratives — the Great Tales and others — repeatedly establish and traverse borders/​boundaries in Beleriand, particularly in the wake of the Noldor’s arrival. Simultaneously, the narratives also register a sense of loss as Morgoth ultimately renders the borders porous and indefensible. Lastly, the very notion of Beleriand’ — a landscape that disappears from the inhabitable lands of Arda during the War of Wrath — haunts the borders of memory, personal, cultural, and poetic, and thus remains ever textually present (and elegized) in maps, names, and tales.

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date recorded 📅2022-01-24
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