Prof. Bowers to Lecture on Newly Discovered J.R.R. Tolkien Manuscript

Professor John Bowers of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas will deliver a lecture titled "Tolkien as a Chaucerian: The Reeve's Tale." The lecture comes out of Bowers' discovery of a new manuscript written, but never published, by J.R.R. Tolkien. 

The lecture will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, in Gearhart Hall 150. 

Tolkien worked on a "Clarendon Chaucer" edition between 1922 and 1928, but he never completed the project because he was limited to 20 pages of notes and drafted 160 instead. Oxford University Press secured the return of these materials in 1951 and stashed them in the basement archives — where Bowers found them in summer 2013. Unknown because unpublished, the Chaucer edition changes our notion of Tolkien otherwise known as a Beowulf scholar and permits us to recognize influences on The Lord of the Rings. The importance of the Reeve's Tale with its violent miller can be traced from Tolkien's boyhood experiences with a scary miller, to his 1934 article "Chaucer as a Philologist: The Reeve's Tale" and then to The Two Towers with the evil mill-master Saruman.

The lecture ties in to professor Joshua Byron Smith's Retro Readings course for the Honors College, in which students from a wide variety of disciplines have been studying Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy this semester. 

Bowers has published widely in the field of medieval literary studies, including The Crisis of the Will in Piers Plowman (Catholic University of American Press, 1986), The Canterbury Tales: Fifteenth-Century Continuations and Additions (Western Michigan University TEAMS Medieval Institute Publication, 1992, rev. 1999), The Politics of 'Pearl': Court Poetry in the Age of Richard II (D. S. Brewer, 2001), Chaucer and Langland: The Antagonistic Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), and An Introduction to the 'Gawain' Poet (University Press of Florida, 2012). 

The event is free and open to the public. Funding for the lecture has been provided by the Honors College and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 


Joshua Byron Smith, assistant professor
Department of English


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