Tolkien and His Minor Works at Trento Congress

13-14 May, University of Trento, Italy

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In my recent correspondence with AIST, Associazione Italiana Studi Tolkieniani, Alberto Ladavas communicated the following:

“The time has come. Everything is ready and all the speakers have confirmed their presence: on May 13th and 14th the University of Trento will host the International congress J.R.R. Tolkien and his Minor Works, organized by the Literature and Philosophy Department and the Associazione Italiana Studi Tolkieniani (AIST) with the help of Del Miglio publisher, to talk about stories, essays and philological works in the shadow of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

One notion must be forgotten: they are not minor works. In the last decades, non-Italian scholars have started to study different types of Tolkien’s works: short, academic (very important to deeply understand its fiction works) and those about the so called “creative philology”, strongly developed in the past few years thanks to the latest books about the Professor’s alliterative poems.

An example of these studies is the very interesting congress organized in 2006 by the Deutsche Gesellschaft Tolkien (Tolkien German Society) and Walking Tree Publishers at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany. Its proceedings, Tolkien’s kleinere Werke, has been published in the magazine Hither Shore no. 4.

Tolkien is most renowned as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings author, novels read by more than 100 million people throughout the world and now made even more famous by Peter Jackson’s movies. Very few know that Tolkien explored different literary genres ranging from fairy tales to children stories, from short tales to poems. And all these “short works” strongly contributed to the composition of Tolkien’s Legendarium. Characters like Farmer Giles, the painter Niggle, Mr. Bliss, the cook Nokes or the dog Rover are well-known in the English-speaking literary world. We can say the same for the old stories Tolkien rewrote: Beowulf, the Battle of Maldon, and the more recent Old German inspired Sigurd and Gudrún and The Fall of Arthur.

Following the well established European tradition of Tolkien studies and starting a journey on the path of less known Tolkien works, the Literature and Philosophy Department of the University of Trento and the Associazione Italiana Studi Tolkieniani (AIST) invited some of the most important international and Italian Tolkien scholars to present and discuss the less known works written by the Oxford Professor.

The congress will be attended by scholars from the United Kingdom and Germany, by professors of English and German Literature and German Philology from the university Department, and by Italian scholars and AIST members.

One of the world’s leading academic Tolkien scholars, Tom Shippey, English Language and Medieval English Literature Professor at Leeds and Oxford, will be there. From the most famous English University City, Mark Atherton, English Language and Literature Lecturer with a keen interest for Old English, will come too. Atherton explored the main influences on the first Tolkien’s work in the volume There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit (I.B. Tauris, 2012), and contributed to the book Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Stuart Lee and to the magazine Mallorn no. 55 dedicated to Tolkien’s Beowulf translation in 2014.

From the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany, Thomas Honegger, Old English Languages Professor specialized in the medieval period, will join the congress. Born in Zurich he is a champion of Tolkien studies, being the editor of almost all the Cormarë Series volumes published by Walking Tree Publishers and a member of Hither Shore scientific committee, the literary magazine of the Deutsche Gesellschaft Tolkien. We lost count of his studies, essays and participation to international congresses about Tolkien, and he is the promoter of the annual Tolkien congress held by the University of Jena. Moreover, he is secretary  of Seryn Ennor (Switzerland Tolkien Society) based at Jenins, home of the Greisinger Museum dedicated to Middle-earth.

But the congress will see many Italian scholars too: a University of Trento Professor for each subject Tolkien taught will be there.

Francesca Di Blasio teaches English Literature at the Literature Department and she published many books about Elizabethan theatre and American and Australian literature, with particular attention to Shakespeare’s tragedies. She is also Fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, USA.

Her colleague Alessandro Fambrini, German Literature Chair, is a researcher of the 19th century, and especially the influences of late 19th century and first 20th century literature on fantasy novels, his studies embracing Kurd Laßwitz, Egon Friedell and Franz Kafka. Fambrini is also a famous sci-fi scholar, member of the editorial staff of the Anarres magazine and valued author of articles, essays and short tales published on Italian magazines like Robot and Futuro Europa, gathered in the anthology Le strade che non esistono (Perseo Libri, 2005), since the ‘80s.

Fulvio Ferrari is the Director of Literature and Philosophy Department of the University of Trento, and AIST founder member. He is a German Philology Professor and professional Dutch and northern languages translator for the Italian publisher Iperborea. He has a deep knowledge of ancient and medieval Germanic heritage in the present culture, and his interest is focused on Beowulf and Tolkien. On this subject he wrote articles on magazines like Anarres and L’indice dei libri, and in 2014 he organized a conference in Trento about the northern myths modern re-use and Tolkien.

Last but not least, many AIST members (besides Professor Ferrari), all Tolkien scholars and experts with a long list of articles, essays, speeches, conferences and seminars will attend the congress.

Wu Ming 4, Italian writer, editor of the new Italian edition of Tolkien’s The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son (Bompiani, 2010) and author of various essays on the Professor’s works gathered in the volume Difendere la Terra di Mezzo (Odoya, 2013).

Claudio Antonio Testi, philosopher, director of the Tolkien e Dintorni book series published by Marietti 1820, and author of the recent book Santi pagani nella Terra di Mezzo (Edizioni Studio Domenicano, 2015).

Roberto Arduini, AIST President, journalist and editor of various books published by Effatà, Cuec, Aracne e Routledge University Press.

Lorenzo Gammarelli, translator and editor of various Tolkien’s works published in Italy by Bompiani.

Stefano Giorgianni, young student that recently wrote an essay on Tolkien and Dostoevskij in the book Tolkien e i Classici published by Effatà.”

Here is the programme:

In the Shadow of the Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Minor Works

 Wednesday, May 13th

14:00 – Greetings and congress opening.

14:30Wu Ming 4: “A single man will and the misfortune of many. Honor, cowardice and common salvation in The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son”.

15:00Roberto Arduini: “Playing with brushes: psyche, art and sublimation in Leaf by Niggle”.

15:30Stefano Giorgianni: “Mr. Bliss & Roverandom: philological sources and literary contaminations in didactic Tolkien”.

Break

16:30 – Short film screening: Mr. Bliss by Gennadij Tiščenko.

17:30 – Francesca Di Blasio: “Uncautionary tales: dragons and other wonders in J.R.R. Tolkien’s minor literature”.

18:00 – Public discussion and first session conclusion.

Thursday, May 14th

9:30Mark Atherton: “Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur”.

10:00Thomas Honegger: “From Fairy Tales to Epic: Tolkien’s Beowulfian folk-tale and its implications”.

10:30Tom Shippey: “The Adventure of Tom Bombadil”(video-recorded speech with Italian subtitles).

11:30 – Short film screening: Tolkien’s Road by Nye Green.

12:00 – Public discussion and second session conclusion.

Break

14:30Claudio Antonio Testi: “Between Analogy and Poliphony: the truth about fairy tales”.

15:00Lorenzo Gammarelli: “From ironic fairy tale to the oneiric one: Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major”.

15:30Alessandro Fambrini: “J.R.R. Tolkien and German fantasy”.

16:00Fulvio Ferrrari: “From Legend to Myth: the new Sigurd and Gudrún poem”.

16:30 – Public discussion and third session conclusion.

To read the article in Italian you can visit the AIST website, here.