Scholars of J.R.R. Tolkien will gather at the University of St. Thomas Thursday, April 26, for a daylong conference, “Concerning Hobbits and Other Matters: Tolkien Across the Disciplines.”

The English writer and scholar (1892-1973) achieved fame with his richly inventive epic,The Lord of the Rings, and the popular novel that preceded it, The Hobbit. From discussions of theology in Tolkien’s works to comparing the author’s stories to today’s Harry Potter books, the conference offers scholars and fans alike the opportunity to mine Tolkien’s literature in unique ways.

“J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has been called the greatest epic of the 20th century,” said conference organizer Tim Schindler. “The book continues to engage the scholarly world as well as firmly entrench itself in our popular culture. The forthcoming blockbuster movies based on the book prove that the ideals of Tolkien’s Middle Earth are as relevant to us today as they were when he first conceived of the mythology.” New Line Cinema’s first of three Lord of the Rings movies is scheduled for release in December.

Sponsored by the St. Thomas English Department, the conference is open to the public. Tickets are $20 if purchased by March 15; after March 15 and at the door, tickets are $30. St. Thomas students, staff and faculty can obtain advance free tickets or pay $5 at the door. Lunch, dinner and ramp parking are available for purchase.

For registration information and a printable registration form, visit the conference Web site or call (651) 962-5628.

Mark Hooker, a visiting scholar at Indiana University, will give the conference’s keynote speech, “Tolkien Through Russian Eyes,” at 9 a.m. in Room 155, Murray-Herrick Campus Center. A retired military linguist and area specialist, he is the author of The Military Uses of Literature: Fiction and the Armed Forces in the Soviet Union and Implied But Not Stated: Condensation in Colloquial Russian. Hooker will examine the sociological impact of the translation and publication of Tolkien’s works in post-Soviet Russia, based on how Russian readers perceive Tolkien.

Conference session titles reveal the rich variety of scholarly inquiry into the author’s works:

  • “Tolkien’s ‘Mythopoeia’ as a Theology of Conversion,” by Dr. Greg Maillet of Campion College of the University or Regina, Canada
  • “From Baggins to Beowulf and Back Again: Teaching (via) Tolkien,” by Dr. Jeff Massey of Emory University
  • “Wielding the Power of Faerie: Using J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘On Fairy Stories’ to Teach Reading, Writing and Interpretation in the Secondary Classroom,” by Scott Hall, Lou Worsley and Annalisa George of Irondale High School
  • “J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling: Identity and Moral Ambiguity in Middle Earth and at Hogwarts,” by Ellen Argyros of the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
  • “On Harry-Stories: Using Tolkien’s Criticism to Understand Contemporary Fantasy,” by Dr. Greg Beatty of the University of Phoenix
  • “Gollum’s Ancestry: The Influence of Beowulf on Tolkien’s Fiction,” by Alexandra Bolintineanu of the University of Toronto
  • “The Seven Deadly Sins: Medieval Images of Sin and Punishment in Lord of the Rings,” by Dr. Charles Nelson of Michigan Technological University
  • “The Shire and Notting Hill: J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesteron,” by Mike Foster of Illinois Central College
  • “The Dichotomy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Idealistic and Realistic Reactions to War,” by Andrew Spencer and Brandon Soule of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Mike Foster of Illinois Central College will deliver the conference’s closing address, “Ringo and Samwise: Paradigms?” after a 5:30 p.m. dinner in the Rogge-Leyden Dining Room of Murray-Herrick Campus Center. Foster likens Hobbits to the Beatles — pop icons that have received almost cultish admiration.

For further details on the Tolkien conference, contact Tim Schindler in the UST English Department, (651) 962-5628. Schindler organized the 1996 Tolkien conference at Mankato State University, where the first Tolkien conference in North America was held in 1966.