The Tolkien Birthday Toast–A Reflection on Reflection

For a few years now, I have followed the tradition of the Tolkien Birthday Toast that I was first introduced to through the Tolkien Society.

You can visit the Tolkien Society’s page explaining the toast for more information or for the basic procedures.

Today I wanted to take a moment to laud the simple traditions that fandom inspires. It is easy to look at something like the Tolkien Birthday Toast from the outside and assume it is nothing more than an exercise performed by a group of over-enthusiastic nerds.

I think there is something a bit more, though.

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At this point, the toast is a shared, communal tradition that lends itself to something that our everyday lives increasingly push out: reflection.

I call it a communal experience because, whether one celebrates it alone or in the company of others, there is an understanding that this act is something shared. Different fans and groups of fans across the world will do this same act, and participating in something that large gives a sense of unity and belonging.

It is more than that, though. This sense of community is nice, but what is the community about? Why does it matter?

Having the toast focus on the author rather than a specific text or event makes this activity a very special kind of reflection. It is a moment to pause and appreciate the achievements of an author and the life he lived. Tolkien was not a writer by trade, he was an academic. While many people were drawn to him because of his creative endeavors, those are only part of Tolkien’s influence. The toast allows people with varying degrees and experiences with Tolkien and his work to participate, and this is important!

This is the point that intersects the most with my interests as a researcher into the reception of Tolkien’s writings: The Toast invariably calls participants to reflect on the ways that Tolkien’s writings have produced meaning in their lives.

Often, participants will share stories of how they first read Tolkien or how Tolkien changed the way they saw the world. These stories are the kind of reflection that are increasingly pushed aside in a fast-paced culture.

A tradition that practices taking a moment and recalling these stories of connection and inspiration is well worth participating in! So tonight, at 9pm, consider raising a glass to The Professor!

Baymoot Approaches

As many of you already know, I have been responsible for organizing Baymoot for Signum University this year.

The event takes place at Mills College in Oakland, California on Saturday, August 18, 2018. The theme is “breaking boundaries and crossing borders.” It is a one-day literature symposium. It is $40 to attend, and a light breakfast and lunch are provided.

I am very excited about the schedule we have been able to pull together, including our plenary speaker: Corey Olsen, a.k.a The Tolkien Professor!

The Baymoot organizational team has already been an invaluable help in making sure the event runs smoothly!

I just wanted to post here that there is only one week left to register for the event, where you can meet me and the other excellent speakers and share your ideas with other Tolkien and speculative fiction fans!

For more information about the event, and to register, see the Signum page for the event!

Kalamazoo Report (2018)

I have recently returned from the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, where I attended several wonderful paper presentations and had the opportunity to network and promote my PhD Research!

Highlights:

There were so many great papers and resources shared that I do not have enough time or space to recount them all, so here are a few that are easier to share quickly:

Tolkien fellowship at dinner

I was fortunate enough to have great company each evening at dinner. Here is a picture of one such gathering:

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Pictured (left to right): Kris Swank, Diedre Dawson, me, John Rateliff, Andrew Higgins, Jane Chance, Yoko Hemmi, and my PhD chair Dimitra Fimi. Photo taken by Douglas Anderson.

Tolkien Art Index

Erik Mueller-Harder shared this phenomenal resource that he has been working diligently to compile. It is a standardized list of Tolkien’s images. The usefulness and descriptiveness of the index makes it practical and influential. It should become the standard reference for Tolkien’s images.

Find the index here: http://tai.vermontsoftworks.com/

Tales After Tolkien Society

I was elected a Vice-President of the society, an honor that I hope to live up to!

Many Meeting

I had several meaningful interactions and can’t wait to get to work on some of the ideas I brought home from the conference! The encouragement and insight of scholars whose work I admire is truly one of the greatest assets of a conference like this. I hope everyone made it home safe!

 

 

 

 

2018 Summer Activities, Presentations, and Workshops

May 9-13

Paper for the Tolkien Symposium: “Eomer Gets Poetic: Tolkien’s Alliterative Versecraft” and attending International Congress on Medieval Studies

June 21-24

Paper for MythMoot V: “Tolkien’s Young Readers”

July 20-23

Workshop for Mythcon: “Young Readers’ Receptions of Tolkien: An Interactive Session with Survey and Interview”

August 18

Organizing BayMoot, a one-day symposium on speculative fiction in Oakland, CA.