Honors College to Launch 'Retro Readings' with Course on Tolkien

Honors College students well-versed in all things Middle Earth, who cut their teeth on The Hobbit and have read and reread The Lord of the Rings, will have a chance to develop a more sophisticated appreciation of J.R.R. Tolkien in a new course, Tolkien (HNRC 300VH), to be offered in fall 2017. This weekly, 75-minute discussion class will be the first in a new series of "Retro Readings" honors courses.

"Retro Readings will be a 'great works' class distinguished by its contemporary focus," said Lynda Coon, Honors College dean. "The idea is to bring together students from all six undergraduate colleges to read classic works. Our vision of a 'classic work' is not limited to texts — I could see future courses focusing on Bosch, Beethoven or Darwin."

Joshua Byron Smith, assistant professor of English in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the associate director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, will teach the course. His research focuses on the multilingual literature of medieval Britain, especially Anglo-Welsh literary exchange. Smith received a prestigious, three-year Scholars of Critical Bibliography Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation in 2015, which provided seed money for the recent Bible Craft symposium and the 2016 Mellon Symposium on Manuscripts and Rare Books, both hosted in the Honors College wing of Gearhart Hall. His book Walter Map and the Matter of Britain is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Smith is eager to take a new spin on a beloved classic.

"You might think Tolkien's work is all fantasy, but he was an Oxford professor of medieval literature, and he thought deeply about the power of myth, the justness of war, and humanity's relationship to the natural world," Smith wrote in the course description. The course will explore the critical reception of Tolkien's work, his status as a post-war writer, adaptations of his work, and his use of medieval literature in creating his own fictional universe. Students will also read a small sampling of Tolkien's professional scholarship as a professor of medieval literature.

Tolkien will meet Thursdays from 5-6:15 p.m. in Gearhart Hall, room 243 during the fall 2017 semester. Seats are limited to 12 and students must fill out a short online application. The deadline to apply is May 1.


Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College
479-575-2024, kcurlee@uark.edu


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