Saturday 10 October 2015

Dr. Wotan's Autumn 2015 Musings and Upcoming Projects

Greetings all.  It has been a busy time for Dr. Wotan in the Tolkien Office at Balham!  Here are some updates!

Dr. Dimitra Fimi and I continue to work on our co-editing of the new volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's A Secret Vice which is now due out from HarperCollins in April 2016.

The 2016 Annual Fund Campaign for Mythgard Institute/Signum University (for which I serve as a Board member) is in full flow as we move towards our target of raising $50,000 to offer a full year of free Mythgard Academy courses and the very exciting Guest Lecture Series which is curated by Sorina Higgins - who is also the genius behind the current Almost an Inkling Flash Fiction Writing contest which has unleashed the narrative and sub-creative talents of many submitters - I have been blown away by the writing talent out there - this brilliant program even got me to dust off some old world-creating I did back in high school and submit some stories from my Lost Chronicles of the Croutoni (yes I also invented languages for this!).  The campaign is currently edging towards  $14,000 with lots of exciting planned on line activities and will be in full force to Halloween -  I encourage everyone to help support this incredible arena for the exploration, discussion and discovery of Fantasy and Science Fiction works.

As part of this fundraiser I was recently interviewed by the dream team of Sorina Higgins and Corey Olsen about my recently completed Doctor of Philosophy through Cardiff Metropolitan University and thesis 'The Genesis of Tolkien's Mythology, the upcoming 'Secret Vice' book and plans that are currently formulating to offer an 'Invented Language through Tolkien Course' through the Mythgard Institute in the near future - more details to follow on this.

I also recently completed for the excellent  Journal of Tolkien Research a book review for the Blackwell Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien which is a very important volume of papers for Tolkien studies by the top scholars in the field.  As I said in the introduction to the review during the writing of this I at times felt very much the way Tolkien must have felt when he had to review the work of the top philologists and lexicographers in those This Year's Work in English Studies (1924-1926).  Tolkien had to review the work of Jesperson, Bloomfield and Ekwall (among others) and I had to review Shippey, Flieger, Fimi, Rateliff (among others) - a daunting and challenging task!  You can access the book review here and I welcome comments. 

Talking about 'full force' I have really been enjoying Dr. Amy Sturgis's The Force of Star Wars: Examine the Epic course at The Mythgard Institute this autumn.  Amy is leading us on a brilliant exploration of world-building in the Star Wars Mythos through the six films, radio adaptations, books (many!), television shows (from The Star Wars Holiday Special (with Wookies and Bea Arthur!) up the current excellent Rebels series) as well as exploring audience and fan reception of the mythos.  It is really interesting to explore these texts and discuss the concept of 'canonicity' (now further complicated by Disney creating the 'Legendary' vs. 'Canon' distinction in Star Wars texts as we await for Episode Seven 'The Force Awakens)'.  I have read some brilliant Star Wars books including John Jackson Miller's Kenobi and James Luceno's Tarkin and (the excellent!)
Darth Plagueis (pictured).  This is world-building that is happening in our life time and it is fascinating to see how this secondary-world mythos has grown from Lucas's original concept through the multi-layered use of various forms of narrative texts...and the epic continues!

So that is the 'lit' and the 'lang' of my Mythgard Institute autumn is Introduction to Anglo-Saxon which is being team taught by Professor Michael Drout and the brilliant Nelson Goering (whose knowledge of philology and Germanic metre astounds me!).  I took this course to brush up on my Anglo-Saxon grammar and to get better at reading the poetry (an area that in the past I have plodded my way through).  One key element Drout puts important emphasis on in his lectures is listening to these poems before attempting to translate them and his website Anglo-Saxon Aloud offers audio recordings of all the poems and prose in the corpus - so I am listening carefully. We are using two excellent texts for this course Drout's Quick and Easy Old English and Pope and Fulk's Eight Old English Poems (pictured) - currently my translation of The Battle of Brunanburh is coming along!  So in a way this course is both 'lit and lang' and I am sure Tolkien would have been very pleased to see this happening (it being online may have reminded him of learning thru a palantir!)

Finally it has been an incredible joy and treat to read David J Peterson's new book The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building.  David is a linguist and the creator of such languages as Dothraki and Valyrian for the HBO series Game of Thrones, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.  He has also invented languages for Syfy's Defiance and Dominion as well as the language of Shivaisith for the movie Thor 2: The Dark World and most recently Star-Crossed and The 100.  Peterson is also a co-founder of The Language Creation Society - which is a group of not so secret language inventors.  If you are interested in the art of language invention and how language works I urge you to read this book.  Peterson adapts a very practical (and sometime humorous - this man does not like onions!) approach to laying out for the would be language inventor (and I know they are out there!) the sounds, words, and syntax of invented languages (using many practical examples and case studies from his and others invented languages).  He also includes a brilliant chapter on writing systems.  I very much enjoyed Peterson's descriptions of how his invented languages actually were used and pronounced by the actors on Game of Thrones and the detail he put into these languages as elements of world-building.  This is a must read for all practitioners (or want to be practitioners) of the 'Secret (and no so Secret) Vice' - and you will learn a lot about how language works as well.

As Autumn swiftly turns to Winter I've got a good group of stickies on my wall to work on -

The Call for Papers is out for the planned volume I would like to do to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dark Shadows in 2016.  No takers yet and if this does not get a good take-up I may just attempt some papers on subjects I want to explore around the Dark Shadows mythos and post to

I am currently working on a re-submission of an article to Tolkien Studies was well as an upcoming paper for the volume A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honour of Verlyn Flieger.

In May 2016 I will also be giving a paper 'Early Explorers and Practitioners of A Shared Secret Vice ' as part of 'Tolkien and Invented Languages' panel at The International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo and also hoping to return to the Leeds IMC.

Finally my efforts are also focused on turning this monster......into a monograph for publishing!

So lots to do - best get on with it!

Lebe wohl, Namarie and Hajas for now!

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