Wasatch Gnostic Society – 2009 Winter Lecture Series
Lance Owens writes: In Salt Lake City, Utah we have a major series of Tolkien lectures coming up in Feb and March 2009. We would appreciate it if you could add notice on your page.
Wasatch Gnostic Society – 2009 Winter Lecture Series
J.R.R. Tolkien: An Imaginative Life
“The Land of Fairy Story is wide and deep and high…. In that land a man may (perhaps) count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very mystery and wealth make dumb the traveler who would report….The fairy gold (too often) turns to withered leaves when it is brought away. All that I can ask is that you, knowing all these things, will receive my withered leaves, as a token at least that my hand once held a little of the gold.”– Tolkien, draft manuscript of “On Fairy Stories”
J.R.R. Tolkien has emerged as one of the most important and enduring literary figures
of the twentieth century. His masterwork, The Lord of the Rings, possesses an intriguing
quality of “depth” and veracity that has evoked a sense of wonder in three generations
of readers. Those qualities have made it one of the most-printed and most-read books
Most of his fans know that Tolkien was a philologist and professor of English language
at Oxford. But very few readers appreciate the intensely with which he explored the
beauty and perils of his imaginative world before ever starting down the road that led
from the Shire to Mount Doom – a decade long labor of writing the LOTR, begun by Tolkien in 1937
This series of the three lectures will examine the broad span of Tolkien’s life and work
with special focus on Tolkienʼs experience of his imaginative gift. The lecturer, Dr. Lance
Owens is a physician in clinical practice. He lectures frequently on subjects related to
mythology, creative imagination and psychology. His last series of talks on Tolkien were
presented at the Bruchion Center in Oslo, Norway.
Location and Times:
Gore Business Auditorium, Westminster College
Tuesdays, February 10, 2009
Tuesday, February 14, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
All lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held on the Westminster College campus, in
the Gore Business Auditorium, 1840 S 1300 E, Salt Lake City, UT (The Gore School
of Business faces 1300 East between 1700 South and Downington Avenue — note that
due to current construction, on-campus parking can by difficult).
Admission is $10 per lecture, or $25 for the three lecture series.
Visit our website for more information and to pre-register: www.gnosis.org/tolkien
Lecture I: The Discovery of Faerie
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
Around 1914 while still a student of philology at Oxford, Tolkien began exploring an
imaginative dominion he named “Faerie”. His creative excursions started with the
invention of imaginary languages. But as the languages evolved in depth and
complexity, he discovered his linguistic meditations were opening upon a very strange
panorama. The languages were not just “his invention”, but became native tongues of
the Elves. And Elves had many stories to tell; their languages came replete with myth
In the trenches of the Great War, amid the horrific battle of the Somme in 1916, and
then in hospital for over a year after, Tolkien turned to the task of recording the
languages, history and legends of the Elves. These initial creative visions, recorded in
several private journals collectively titled “The Book of Lost Tales”, are the foundation for
his later creative writing. In this first lecture, we will consider Tolkienʼs discovery of the realm of Faerie.
Lecture II: There and Back Again
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
By 1938 Tolkien had been exploring the world of Faerie for over two decades. He had
recorded in prose and verse hundreds of pages of legends, setting them in English,
ancient Anglo-Saxon, and in Elvish tongues. He called this creative activity his “secret
vice”, a private matter shared only in small part with a few close friends.
Publication in 1937 of a little volume written casually for his children, The Hobbit,
brought Tolkien first public recognition. After the success of The Hobbit, his publisher
was eager for more tales of Hobbits, but apparently uninterested in the vast corpus of
creation already stacked in his study – it was simply too strange, too arcane.
At this critical juncture in his creative life – stuck with a Hobbit company at the Prancing
Pony in Bree, and struggling to see the direction his new literary journey would take –
Tolkien delivered his celebrated lecture “On Fairy Stories” at St. Andrews University.
With the help of this seminal essay on the creative imagination, we will examine the
middle-years of Tolkienʼs life.
Lecture III: Tolkien and the Imaginative Tradition
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
Late in life as he contemplated his years of work and journey in the land of Faerie, a
revealing and very personal myth came to Tolkien: Smith of Wootton Major. The short
story is a thinly veiled testament to the gift Tolkien had received, and the treasure he
now passed on to others.
Tolkien understood his creative gifts and inclinations were unusual. Though rare, they
are not however entirely unique. In this final lecture, we will consider Tolkienʼs place in
the Western imaginative tradition.
Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson, Tolkien on Fairy-Stories
Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator
Lesser known works by Tolkien that will be discuss:
The Book of Lost Tales Part 1 (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 1)
The Book of Lost Tales Part 2 (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 2)
Leaf by Niggle Smith of Wootton Major