Archive for the ‘Woode-walkers Events’ Category

Unexpected being the key word, in this case.

If you’ve been following this blog with any regularity, you know that Wood-walkers just put on a symposium on the subject of The Hobbit.  While the presentations there did tie in with the new Peter Jackson three-part epic of the same name, quite a few of them (and in turn, quite a few of us) were more focused on the original text as a part of Tolkein’s work. Don’t get me wrong- we did talk about some of the later versions of The Hobbit, and the keynote address about different illustration styles used across the globe was absolutely fascinating – but these were usually in context of how the variations were more or less faithful to the original. There was a good bit of good-natured trash-talk about the animated version, for instance, which seemed to be widely considered… well silly. Unfaithful to the original, certainly, and at least a little nonsensical in how it had changed the story.  We weren’t all clear on how Tolkein’s slim children’s book would translate into three movies of at least two hours, not yet, but surely it couldn’t be worse than that Rankin and Bass tomfoolery.

So it was with the symposium in mind that I went to the pre-screening of The Hobbit, with a copy of the book in my bag and, if not exactly high expectations, then at least expectations of something good. What I got instead was confusing. (Here There Be Spoilers.) (more…)

Read Full Post »

Here are the individual presentations and papers that will be delivered at the Woode-walkers Symposium commemorating the 75th anniversary of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. For more information on the event, please see the Hobbit Symposium Tab at the top of this blog.

  • 9:00 am—Roundtable: Teaching the Inklings in High School and College

Session Moderator: Matthew Miller, St. Louis University

Charles Hussung, St. Louis University High School: “Teaching Charles Williams in High School”

Paul D. Nygard, St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley: “Teaching Tolkien at St. Louis Community College”

Paul L. Fortunato, University of Houston- Downtown: “The Hobbit as Religious Literature: Teaching College Students about Bilbo’s Quest”

Justin T. Noetzel, St. Louis University: “The Bird and Baby Blog: Community and Collaboration while Studying the Inklings”

Matthew R. Bardowell, St. Louis University: “Of Scribblers and Inklings: Teaching Tolkien in a Writers Community”


  • 10:45 am—Session I: The Hobbit and Tolkien’s Life and Scholarship

Session Moderator: Ashley Nolan, St. Louis University

Nora Alfaiz, George Washington University: “‘We Are Your Friends, Frodo’: Relationships and the Relation between Tolkien’s Life and Works”

Paul Acker, St. Louis University: “Tolkien, Old Norse and Philology: Dwarf Names in The Hobbit

Anthony Cirilla, St. Louis University: “‘Not the Hobbit you once Were’: The Prosimetric Structure of Tolkien’s Hobbit”

Priya Sirohi, St. Louis University: “Tolkien and The Hobbit as Juvenile Literature”


  • 1:15 pm—Session II: The Hobbit among Tolkien’s Greater Mythology

Session Moderator: Beth Kempton, St. Louis University

Chelsea A. McGuire, St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley: “Standing Tall beside Giants: The Hobbit as the Essential Introduction to Middle-earth”

Brian Kenna, Marquette University: “Labours and Sorrows: The Role of Memory in The Hobbit

Amanda Cherian, St. Louis University: “The Aesthetics of Song and Map in The Hobbit

Ruthie Angeli, St. Louis Community College-South County Center: “Separating Truths from Myths of Tolkien’s Female Characters”


  • 3:00 pm—Session III: Myth and Mediation: Tolkien Films, Video Games, and Songs

Session Moderator: Thomas Rowland, St. Louis University

Trish Lambert, Mythgard Institute: “Snow White and Bilbo Baggins: Disney, Tolkien… and Jackson”

Paul D. Nygard, St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley: “The History of Middle-earth Network Radio”

Jasmine Tillotson, St. Louis University: “An Unexpected Story: Consequences of Japanese Influence on Sierra’s The Hobbit Video Game”

Paul Hahn, St. Louis Symphony and Chorus: “Singing in Elvish: Adapting Tolkien in Music and Song”


  • 5:00pm—Plenary Address: “Annotating and Illustrating The Hobbit

Douglas A. Anderson, Independent Scholar and editor of The Annotated Hobbit, Tales Before Tolkien, and other fantasy literature and Tolkien criticism.

Read Full Post »

All of the Tolkien fans out there have a busy and exciting few weeks coming up. The Woode-walkers are of course most excited about our symposium on The Hobbit, and as always, you can read the specific details at our symposium website. There are also a lot of other events and stories, and I have collected just a few here. Please add links to anything that I have missed in the comments below!

Before you read anything else, check out The Hobbit Blog, where you can read about Gollum attacking Wellington airport, watch an unexpected airline briefing video, and hear Peter Jackson talk about the entire movie-making process. That last video is the final video in a series of eight that premiered over the summer, and I recommend all of them.

A man named Emil Johansson, a university student in Gothenburg, Sweden, and my new personal hero, spent the last few years assembling a comprehensive census and family tree for the more than 900 of Tolkien’s Middle-earth characters. You can see the project here, and prepare to be blown away! Seriously, there are enough charts and statistics and maps and information to keep you busy for a whole weekend.

The Audience Research Unit at the University of Waikato (New Zealand) with Ryerson University (Canada) is conducting research into audience perception of the upcoming films, and you can find their 30 minute survey here. For more information, please see here.

Former St. Louis U. professor Tom Shippey wrote a piece for the Telegraph in which he discusses why The Hobbit is still so popular 75 years after its release.

NPR has a short interview with Corey Olson, the author of Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, one of the books that we will be raffling off at the symposium.

Geek Dad, one of my favorite blogs, has an interview with Noble smith, who tells you how to eat like a Brandybuck, drink like a Took, and otherwise live a long and happy life in The Wisdom of the Shire. Part two of the interview is here.

Valparaiso University is hosting a Tolkien Conference in early March that will feature some great plenary speakers, a symphonic performance, a themed banquet dinner, and a ground-breaking presentation on Beorn and Tom Bombadil on Sunday morning at 10:30 by an up and coming young scholar.

Oh, and there is a movie coming out in a few weeks that you might be interested in seeing…

Read Full Post »

We had an excellent discussion on Monday, and while I don’t want to supersede the presenter (Amanda Cherian) and post the content here, I thought I would share one item in response: I livetweeted the presentation, and having done so compiled the tweets and responses into a Storify image. I welcome responses here to this experiment in medievalism and social media.

[View the story “Woode Walkers Session on William Morris and Medievalism” on Storify]

Read Full Post »

The Original Four


In the Spring of 2008, Professor Tom Shippey was preparing to depart the St. Louis University English Department for a well-deserved retirement* back home in England. As a going away present, he left his graduate students with a simple idea–getting together regularly to talk about medieval literature. Four of us began meeting that summer at the Scottish Arms, our favorite local pub**, and we took our name from one of the first texts we read. In the fourteenth-century romance The Tale of Gamelyn, Gamelyn is forced out of normal society and must  take up with the outlaws in the forest. The Woode-walkers are those powerful troublemakers who cannot walk in town, most famously medieval folk-heroes like Robin Hood, William Wallace, Gamelyn, and Hereward. We have taken our name from this outlaw tradition because we see ourselves as rebellious medievalists in a modern American university. But this name also fits our group because of the adjectival meanings of “wood” as mad, insane, or rabid, and as the OED says, “Going beyond all reasonable bounds; utterly senseless; extremely rash or reckless, wild; vehemently excited.” “Woode” or “wod” appears in works such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in the writings of King Alfred, Layamon, Chaucer, Gower, Henryson, and even Shakespeare, and so we saw it as a fitting descriptor for our new group.

Each week throughout the year the Woode-walkers get together,  and the discussion is led by the “uthwita,” the Old English word for scholar or prophet. We have read and discussed a wide variety of texts, including Old English poetry; Latin saints’ lives and historical chronicles; Old Norse myth and poetry; Icelandic sagas; Irish and Welsh mythology’ Middle English romance, prophecy, drama and political writing; Spanish, French, and German literature; and modern texts on critical theories, orality, medievalism, and medieval studies.*** As Tom envisioned, this reading group has allowed us to research, read, and discuss a vast body of medieval (and later) texts that we otherwise might not have encountered. The Woode-walkers have also expanded beyond weekly textual analysis and have held discussions on St. Louis University’s MA and PhD comprehensive exams, professionalism and the job talk during on-campus interviews, and the current state of medieval studies.

A Meeting in Coffee-shop #2

As testaments to our tenacity and dedication in the pursuit of medieval texts, we have expanded to include more than a dozen active members in the last three years and have outlasted (not one but) two local coffee-shops. Our new favorite gathering place is coffee-shop #3, the SLU institution Cafe Ventana. The fact that we have outlasted two local coffeeshops. The Woode-walkers are actively expanding our views and activities beyond St. Louis by presenting our scholarship at local, national, and international conferences, and also organizing sessions based on material that we read and discussed at our weekly meetings. We have an ongoing relationship with the annual M/MLA Convention, and in 2009 we organized and presented in a panel under the title: “Migration, Movement, and Displacement in Medieval Literature.” This year’s M/MLA Convention will feature 2 sessions organized by the Woode-walkers on “Playing with Medieval Minds.” We are also inviting our first speaker to campus this year and plan to organize additional conference panels and on-campus events in the future.


* Tom told me that his retirement would consist of sitting in his garden and relaxing, so that passersby would be unable to distinguish his motionless body from the nearby tree stump. I later learned, however, that Tom has been as busy as ever with publications, especially in many festschrifts of his numerous retirement-aged colleagues.

**I strongly recommend any of the Fuller’s or Belhaven draft beers, especially the Fuller’s ESB when it is available, because a little bitterness now and again can be a good thing.

***A complete list of everything that we have read and discussed will be posted soon and the updated each semester. Prepare to be wowed!

Read Full Post »