Lifelong passion for Tolkien
‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’
So said J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the best-known fantasy works ever written, and a lifelong inspiration for a member of the school’s English department. Huge congratulations go to Sara Brown, who has recently been awarded a Ph.D for her study on the author and his works. Her thesis entitled ‘From Abjection to Alchemy: Tolkien’s Middle Earth Legendarium’ is the result of over six years work under the supervision of Professor Lucie Armitt at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences in the University of Salford.
Dr Brown first took The Lord of the Rings off her father’s bookshelves at the age of eight, and from that moment on she has been fascinated by Tolkien’s fantasy world. She says that Tolkien’s works remain widely popular because of their universal and timeless themes – loss, evil, power – and she is particularly interested in issues of gender in the books.
Dr Brown takes every opportunity to pass on her expertise and enthusiasm for fantasy literature to her pupils. As well as writing and studying fantasy texts, pupils are encouraged to explore the thinking of critics and theorists who write about these texts. This is particularly useful for pupils studying the Theory of Knowledge, as well as language and literature courses.
As part of her research, Dr Brown was extremely fortunate to be permitted access to Tolkien’s private papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, which are closely controlled by the Tolkien family. There she was able to study transcripts of lectures and drafts of some of Tolkien’s essays and literary works, including a small note in the author’s handwriting (occasionally a little difficult to read, and visible only through a magnifying lens) concerning the character of Gandalf. Dr Brown has also given several lectures on Tolkien, most recently at the International Tolkien Conference at Loughborough University last year.
She is now looking forward to taking some time out from research, to watching parts two and three of The Hobbit when they appear on the big screen, and then to rewriting her thesis into a book which she hopes to publish in the near future.