The Middle Ages Return to S&T!

This fall, Dr. Eric Bryan joined the faculty of The Department of English & Technical Communication. Dr. Bryan’s scholarly field is medieval literature. He received his PhD from St Louis University in 2007. This fall, Dr. Bryan is teaching our upper-level course in Chaucer, a welcome return of a significant course. In the spring 2009 semester, Dr. Bryan will be offering Fantasy Literature, a course that discusses a number of fantasy authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien.

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In response to my asking what about Tolkien’s work attracts him, Eric answered with three points:

1) “When you read Tolkien, you can’t help but think, “now here’s a guy who was fascinated by absolutely everything.” ??Languages, obviously. ??Literature, of course. ??But beyond that, Tolkien was curious about everything from the environment to food preparation, from sociology to military tactics. ??All of those fascinations come out in all of his writing, whether it be LOTR or “Leaf by Niggle” (another great word that Tolkien makes good use of, “to niggle”).”

2) “What I mentioned earlier about mythology. ??When I’m working on Norse or Celtic mythology and folklore, I’m constantly faced with the realization that I’m trying to solve a problem that has no solution. ??We can’t be sure whether the accounts we have are accurate or contaminated by the obviously Christian scribes who wrote them down. ??We know so little about it not so much because there’s not enough evidence, but moreso because we just don’t know how to interpret what we do have. ??It’s a wonderful challenge, but it’s also exhausting. ??With LOTR and, of course, the Silmarillion, I can just enjoy the stories. ??It’s NOT a mythology, as much as Tolkien makes it look like one. ??We don’t have to be skeptical.”

3) “Finally, I enjoy watching Tolkien pull from the very same literatures and mythologies that I study, myself. ??It’s just wonderful to see him revive Anglo-Saxon culture in the people of Rohan, to see him bring to life the mythology of the Norse Eddas, and to see him create a world that supports those vague and ancient stories of heroes and dragons.”

The department and Missouri S&T are fortunate to have a scholar and teacher of Dr. Bryan’s promise with us.