Thesis Title: Tolkien’s Eldar Edda: Norse Myth, the Great War, and the Writing of ‘The Silmarillion’
Supervisor: Andy Orchard & Mark Atherton
Research Interests: J.R.R. Tolkien, Geoffrey Bache Smith, Old Norse mythology, Old Norse sagas, the military and cultural history of World War I, Georgian poets, medievalism, medieval literature, Victorian and Edwardian children's literature.
Doctoral research: My thesis research explores the nuanced interaction of Old Norse myth and World War I as influences on J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’. In many ways imperfectly understood works, The Silmarillion and its related antecedents in The Book of Lost Tales and The History of Middle Earth all present a unique and challenging outlook on war, power, conquest, feud, and tragedy, by reformulating motifs, characters, and ideas from Old Norse mythological works, the Poetic and Prose Eddas, with which Tolkien was intimately familiar. In the Silmarillion corpus, Tolkien fuses elements of the dynastic, societal, and political problems of gods and men in Norse myth with the real-life concerns of the events and aftermath of the ‘War to End All Wars’ to create a stirring cycle of interrelated narratives that explore ethical questions relating to conflict, political power, and the responsibility and culpability of the individual.
BIO: I earned my B.A. in English Language and Literature (Course II, First Honours) and M.Phil (Medieval English, 550-1550; Distinction) from Merton College, Oxford.
Podcast: ‘What is the Silmarillion?’ Great Writers Inspire – Fantasy Literature – (Sub-Category: Tolkien in Oxford)
I was quoted in a BBC Culture article written in the lead-up to Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series:
A portion of my research has been published in a special issue of Studies in Medievalism:
‘The Politics of Norse Medievalism in the British Press During the First World War,’ ed. Karl Fugelso, Studies in Medievalism XXXI, Special Issue: Politics and Medievalism III (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2022), pp. 79-106.
I have also written articles for the First World War centenary on J.R.R. Tolkien and his poet friend, Geoffrey Bache Smith (who died on the Western Front in 1916):
‘“Of Songs that Die Not”: A Quiet Hero of the Somme,’ The Poor Print, 47 (‘Sacrifice,’ November 3, 2019):
‘Saving Imagination: Myth and Legend in WWI Poetry,’ The Poor Print, 35 (‘Fantasy,’ October 27, 2018):
Conferences and Festivals:
- Panelist: 'Who Was J.R.R. Tolkien?', John Garth, Grace Khuri, Dr. Adam Roberts, Bradford Literary Festival (June 25, 2023).
- Panel Chair: 'The Great Tales Never End,' with Catherine McIlwaine, John Garth, and Dr. Stuart Lee. Oxford Literary Festival, Oxford (March 28, 2023):
- ‘Geoffrey Bache Smith at Oxford and at War: A Lost History?’, G. B. Smith and J.R.R. Tolkien: A Meaningful Friendship, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (March 21-22, 2023).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_znAtyZJMY -- from 48.00-1.25.
- Panel Chair: ‘The Great Tales Never End,’ with Catherine McIlwaine, Tolkien Archivist at the Bodleian Library, and Tolkien biographer John Garth. Bradford Literature Festival (June 25, 2022).
- Panel Chair, Conversation(s), Panel 5: ‘Words, Images, and Spiritual Essences’: Corinne Clark, ‘Cultural literacies and Corporeal Palimpsests: Exploring Parallel Conversations with Divinity and Liquidity in Early Islamic and Middle English Devotional Literature,’ and William Burns, ‘Talking Pictures: Painting and Modern Poetry in Stevens, O’Hara, and Langley,’ Oxford English Graduate Conference (June 3, 2022).
- ‘Norse Medievalism in Britain During the Great War,’ Medievalism and the North, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark (July 28, 2021).
- ‘Transforming Saga: H. Rider Haggard’s Experiment with (Neo)Medieval Saga as Victorian Novel in Eric Brighteyes,’ Norse in the North (June 12, 2021).
- ‘De-Marginalizing the Margins: The Dynamic Relationship Between Margins and Central Space in Material Culture,’ Margins, Oxford English Graduate Conference (2014).
- ‘The Solomon and Saturn Tradition,’ Oxford English Graduate Conference (2014).