Faculty of Arts


Tolkien and his Worlds


JRR Tolkien is widely regarded as the father of modern fantasy literature. This course asks why, in offering students the opportunity to examine his major, seminal fantasy fictions, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, alongside the theories he himself developed of fantasy worldbuilding. At the same time, we discuss Tolkien’s enduring popularity and "read" some of the recent film adaptations of his texts by Peter Jackson.

The overall aim of this course is to give students an opportunity to analyse some of Tolkien’s most notable works of fantasy within an academic framework in light of his own ideas regarding fantasy worldbuilding, but also a variety of other accounts of how fantasy works as a genre. To what extent does Tolkien exemplify these accounts? Where and when are his works at odds with them? Does it matter? 

In this regard, we also attend to Tolkien’s scholarly and critical writing on Celtic and Germanic myth and legend, but especially his work on early English epic and romance. In particular we compare his own fantasies with his translation of the magnificent, early English epic poem Beowulf, recently published, but composed in the same period in which Tolkien was writing of heroic hobbits, fantastic elves and dragons.

Course outcomes

Aims and outcomes:

This course aims to improve the following skills you will have learnt in other courses in English:

  • Ability to think critically
  • Ability to listen and form sound intellectual judgements
  • Ability to write a coherent and lucid essay

and to assist you to:

  • Acquire sound reading skills
  • Gain a firm acquaintance with the fantasy genre and Tolkien's texts in particular

Availability 2021


Coordinator(s) Dr Claudia Marquis


Any edition of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit is acceptable

JRR Tolkien, Tree and Leaf

A small selection from the Beowulf text will be available under "Modules"

And, of course, Peter Jackson's films -- Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit


Coursework + exam


ENGLISH 256: 15.0 points


60 points passed



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