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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Robin C Stacey
HIST 498
Seattle Campus

Colloquium in History

Each seminar examines a different subject or problem. A quarterly list of the seminars and their instructors is available in the Department of History undergraduate advising office.

Class description

"Reading Tolkien". J.R.R. Tolkien was a remarkable figure: simultaneously an Oxford academic and specialist in medieval language and myth, and a mythmaker himself, who lived through some of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century. This class will focus on his writings in their historical context, exploring questions such as the relationship between language and creativity, the origins and purpose of fairy tales, the conflict between good and evil, Tolkien's reworking of medieval themes, Catholicism in the twentieth century, Tolkien's views (as a former WWI soldier himself) on war, his treatment of race and of women.

Student learning goals

Students will learn a lot about Tolkien himself, and about his main themes. They will also learn a lot about how we use myth to talk about historical events, and about the differences between fiction, myth, and history.

Writing is a major focus of this class. Each student will produce a rough draft and a final draft of their final seminar papers; each rough draft will be read and commented on by other students in workshops held during the final weeks of the class.

Students will learn the basic skills of historical research and writing: summarizing and argument, reading for innuendo as well as content, analysis of primary and secondary sources, generating a topic, researching a topic, generating an historical argument, articulating and substantiating that historical argument in seminar paper form.

Students will become editors of the prose of their peers and, through their assumption of that role, improve their ability to edit their own prose as well.

Students will engage in discussions of primary and secondary sources (e.g. sources authored both by Tolkien himself and by others writing about Tolkien).

General method of instruction

Once a week discussion of Tolkien's works and of texts from the middle ages the themes of which he reworked for his own mythological purposes. We will also read one work by Tolkien's close friend and fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis. One of the final weeks of the term will be devoted to an in-class writer's workshop focusing on the rough drafts produced by students in the class.

Recommended preparation

ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED: All students taking the class MUST have read and BEFORE the class begins. We will be referring to these texts from the very first day, so everyone needs to have finished them by this time. (This pertains ONLY to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings; we will read the other books in the class during the quarter.) Note: the movies differ in significant ways from the book, so they should not be regarded as a substitute for reading the original.

NOTE: This class is NOT open to students who are taking or have taken HSTEU 370, "Reading Tolkien," or the Honors program class by the same name.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly reading and discussions.

Seminar paper (with mandatory rough draft): 65%

Participation (as evidenced in discussion and in the in-class writing workshop): 35%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Robin C Stacey
Date: 12/23/2013