Tolkien on the web

— a blog by Robin Anne Reid

Sunday, June 4, Tolkien and Diversity Presentations (report)

4 July 2021 | Robin Anne Reid

This post is my report on the second day of presentations for Tolkien and Diversity which was (from the reports I’ve seen) attended by 592 people from 48 countries, a record that was made possible the virtual (and free!) format! …

I would like to highlight the scarcity of presentations drawing on critical race approaches and the extent to which the majority of presenters were white. Tolkien studies and Tolkien fandom are not safe spaces for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We must do better. The challenge going forward will be how the Tolkien Society — and every other Tolkien organization — builds on this effort especially given that the backlash has already begun. 

Second: the short descriptions I give for each cannot begin to convey the scope, theoretical strength, depth of analysis, and beauty of expression of the presentations. Moreover, the dialogue and connections between presentations created a stronger sense of coherence than many organized sessions” — I suspect that we owe thanks to Will who selected and organized the sixteen papers into a two-day event.

I am more familiar with the theory and methods in some presentations than others which is why some summaries are longer than other and which also means I may err in my summary. To the presenters: if you see any way in which I misrepresented your ideas or arguments, please feel free to send me a correction (robinareid AT fastmail DOT com).

Third: one thing I noticed in a lot of the attacks on the Tolkien Society and the presentations is how they copied and pasted the titles but never mentioned the names of the authors. 

I am including both in my report not only because of academic standards (the first thing one acknowledges is the writer/​author), but also because, as I read through piece after piece mocking the titles and the unnamed authors, I began to see the rhetoric as dehumanizing, as attempting to wipe out any awareness of the human beings who love Tolkien, who spend hours reading, writing, and thinking about Tolkien, and who have to much to share and teach us about their readings of Tolkien.…

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Saturday, June 3, Tolkien and Diversity Presentations (report)

3 July 2021 | Robin Anne Reid

First: I’ve been presenting on Tolkien, organizing conference sessions (for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, at Tolkien at Kalamazoo Symposium, and for the Tolkien Studies Area of the Popular Culture Conference) since 2004. I have also attended Tolkien-themed conferences created and run at their universities by Christopher T. Vaccaro and Bradford Lee Eden. I have done two bibliographic essays in which I review all the scholarship on a specific topic (female characters for one, race and Tolkien for the other).…

I have never seen a stronger group of presenters than I have for this two-day seminar – sixteen presentations all of the highest quality. I have Theories about why that is that I may post about later!

This Seminar is likely to prove a major historical moment for what one commenter on The OneR​ing​.net called the diversity” wing of Tolkien scholarship: …

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Response to Backlash against Tolkien and Diversity Summer Seminar

2 July 2021 | Robin Anne Reid

… As many of you know, the Tolkien Society has committed to becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization. And, as the inevitable result, they are facing racist, misogynistic and homo- and transphobic backlash. They announced their program of speakers on their website and linked to it from their Facebook group. As far as I know, anybody can join/​follow the Tolkien Society’s Facebook group without being a member of the organization. 

Many of the comments have been deleted, and I blocked some that were not which means they cannot see/​respond here in my space which I strive to make as safe as possible. I would like to thank the Society and the admins for their support and hard work on this event.…

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Catholicism, Tolkien, and Diversity

1 July 2021 | Robin Anne Reid

… I have prepared this handout to address a number of claims that have been made to denigrate or dismiss presentations that are scheduled for the Tolkien Society’s Summer Seminar, Tolkien and Diversity. I am one of those speakers. I am not linking to the outraged mobs because I have no desire to give them any more attention than they’ve received.

Instead, I list evidence that can be used to rebut an assumption about the relationship between Tolkien’s religion and his legendarium that I have found to be common in Tolkien scholarship and fandom. 

The evidence consists of excerpts that come from Tolkien’s Letters (edited and selected by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien) that Verlyn Flieger analyzes in her ground-breaking essay, But What Did He Really Mean?” (Tolkien Studies, 2014); along with some of Verlyn’s analysis of the letters; and excerpts from a letter by Father Robert Murray, S. J., that is archived at Marquette University and reprinted, with permission, in Tolkien Studies, 16, 2019, pp. 133 – 139), introduced by Richard C. West.

The excerpts all complicate the assumption that Tolkien’s religious beliefs must be taken into account in reading and interpreting his work.…

This particular handout is being created because, in the current backlash against Tolkien and Diversity, too many people were claiming that Tolkien was Catholic, his work was Catholic, and there could be no discussion or interpretation that went against Catholicism without ever defining what Catholic” means, or assuming that there is a single/​universal/​unchanging and conservative stance which happens to be theirs and which they assign to Tolkien as his intentionality.…

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Tolkien Studies Area: The tenth anniversary!

11 June 2021 | Robin Anne Reid

Sometime in 2013, in frustration with what was happening at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, I wrote to the Vice President in charge of the Areas at the Popular Culture Association and asked if the PCA would be interested in my forming a Tolkien Studies Area.

The process for establishing a new subject area is fairly simple. The VP oversees a special session for a year or two, working with the person who is proposing to start and lead the area, and if there is sufficient interest during those years, a new area is formed. Subject areas” at the PCA are the equivalent of sponsoring sessions at Kalamazoo: the content specialist who leads the area is responsible for advertising the conference, reviewing and accepting proposals, organizing the sessions, and generally serving as the primary communication link between the PCA and the presenters.…

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Authoritative information may be found here.

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