Honors College Retro Readings Course to Focus on the World of J.R.R. Tolkien

Like elves? Throwing things into volcanoes? Think hobbits have it good with second breakfasts? This fall, the Honors College invites you to think critically about these and other matters, and to develop a more sophisticated appreciation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Medieval scholar Joshua Byron Smith, an assistant professor in the Department of English, is once again leading one of our most popular Retro Readings seminars, Tolkien.

In this course, students will read The Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien wasn't only a fantasy writer and world-builder. He was an Oxford professor of medieval literature, and students will also read a small sampling of his professional scholarship. Tolkien thought deeply about the power of myth, the justness of war, and humanity's relationship to the natural world. 

"Tolkien's rich work allows us to have great conversations about technology, progress, religion, race, gender, history and much more," Smith said. "Teaching this class has been one of my favorite experiences at the University of Arkansas. Some students arrive with a deep knowledge of Tolkien and his mythos, but others arrive having only seen a movie or two. The mix is exciting, and it makes for some really great discussions."

In addition, students 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.

"We're delighted to have Dr. Smith once again leading discussions about such a seminal literary work," said Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College and professor for Desert, a recent Retro Readings course. "The opportunity to study classic works of literature from all genres is indispensable for a well-rounded education, and appeals to many honors students." 

Honors students must apply to participate in this Retro Readings course, and seats are typically capped at 12 per class. Interested students are encouraged to read more about Tolkien and Smith on the Retro Readings web page.

The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 3. 

In Honors College Retro Readings courses, students from all colleges tackle classic texts from a contemporary, multidisciplinary point of view. These 75-minute, one-credit-hour honors courses pair students with expert faculty to provide them with a "Great Books" experience, one of the hallmarks of a liberal arts education. Previous topics include the Quran, the works of Darwin and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series


Samantha Kirby, senior editor
Honors College
479-575-5848, srkirby@uark.edu

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


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