UG research- Tolkien and Literary Maps

Northern Illinois University holds Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day every year.  It is actually a lot of fun to present your research to people and excellent practice for talking about research projects in graduate school.  I’ve presented medieval art research projects in the past, but this year I decided to shake things up a bit.  In the fall, I took a course that examined the medieval literature roots of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings.  Loads of fun and work, and totally worth it.  For our semester research project we had the freedom to pick whatever we wanted so long as it related to Tolkien’s works.

Wanting to bring an Art Historical approach to the table, I decided to look at Tolkien’s own artworks.  He was a prolific artists, but other than the illustrations he created for The Hobbit, his artworks are largely ignored.  Within academia all of his art is largely ignored.  Without much in secondary sources to play off of I decided to focus on the purpose of the illustrations within his works.  Although probably not intended by Tolkien to serve as maps, I discovered that many of his Hobbit illustrations function as maps for the reader to situate themselves within the world of Middle Earth.  hobbit poster

I’m quite please with how this poster turned out.  So, I thought I would share it.  🙂

Related Reading:

Bushell, Sally. “The Slipperiness of Literary Maps: Critical Cartography and                 Literary Cartography.” Cartographica. Vol. 47. No. 3. (2012): 149-160.

Hammond, Wayne G. and Christina Scull. J.R.R. Tolkien Artist & Illustrator. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

_____. The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

Oxford Scavenger Hunts!

Medieval Literature Scavenger Hunt:

Smith Gate:

Smith Gate was not one of the four main gates into medieval Oxford.  The gate crossed Catte Street and connected to an octagonal chapel.  Currently, only part of the octagonal chapel remains, now connected to other buildings related to one of the Oxford colleges, Hertford College.  By the mid 16th century the chapel was a private home, and then in the 18th century it became a shop. The town removed the gate itself in the mid 17th century. Even once the building became a part of Hertford’s quad it remained a shop for more than 20 years.  However, in the 1930’s the building became the junior common room for Hertford College.

Merton College:

Merton College was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, who later became the Bishop of Rochester.  Famous graduates include writers TS Eliot and JRR Tolkien, as well as Bodleian Library founder, Sir Thomas Bodley.  The college began admitting undergraduates as early as the 1380s.  Much of the college was constructed in the medieval period.  One such structure being the Merton Chapel.  Built to replace the Church of St. John the Baptist, which originally sat on the site, construction on the Merton Chapel began in the late 1280s, but did not completely finish until the tower was finished in 1450.

Shakespeare Scavenger Hunt:

Leaving Oriel through the Lodge, walk up Oriel Street.  Across the High Street from you is a church that once housed Oxford’s first university library.
     A. Which church is it?   The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. 
     B. How old would the oldest part of it have been in 1605? The foundation dates back to Saxon inhabitants, but the church structure would have been about 200 years old. 

Walk down Catte Street to the right of the church, past the Radcliffe Camera. 
     A.  What does the word “camera” mean in Latin? Chamber or “in a chamber”

Then continue to the Great Gates of the Bodleian Library on your left.  
     A. How many crests of Oxford Colleges appear on the doors? 20
     B. Where is Oriel’s Crest?   Right door, first column, second row from top. 
On a diagonal from the Bodleian Library is a pub where, legend has it, Hamlet, was performed on tour in the early 17th century. 
     What’s the name of the pub? The King’s Arms

Turn away from the pub and walk past the scuffling on your left down Broad Street, which appears on your 16th century maps as the city ditch. 
     A. Find the spot where three Protestant martyrs were burned at the stake during the reign of Mary I (otherwise known as “Bloody Mary,” elder sister to Elizabeth I). 
     B. Can you spot the scorch marks from the fire on the doors of Balliol College?
C. Find the memorial to the martyrs around the corner from your spot: what were their names, and what were their social positions?
(Opposite this point near the Cross in the middle of Broad Street Hugh Latimer, one time Bishop of Worcester, Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, were burnt for their faith in 1555 and 1556.)
Turn left up Cornmarket Street, and find the oldest building in Oxford on your left.  It’s a church whose font the eventual poet laureate William Davenant was baptized, godson to one William Shakespeare. 
     A.  What is the name of the church? St. Michael at the North Gate. 
Continue up Cornmarket Street and stop at the Golden Cross on your left- walk in to see what an inn-yard would have looked like in the Renaissance. 
     A. What business now occupies the back wall of the courtyard? Pizza Express
     B. What decidedly non-Renaissance color is that back wall now painted? Salmon, or Peach

Continue up Cornmarket Street until you reach the intersection with High Street- there you’ll find Carfax Tower, which marks an unofficial center of the city (Oxford undergraduates must live within 6 miles of the tower while studying at the University; grad students must live within 15 miles of the tower unless their doing an approved visit elsewhere). 

     A. Across Queen Street from the tower is Abbey National Bank, what stood on the site of the bank during Shakespeare’s time? The Swindlestock Tavern

Walk down Queen Street, past the shopping center, to the remains of the Oxford Castle. 
     A. When was the castle first used as a prison? 1239
     B. When was the castle last used as a prison?  1996

Walk back up Queen Street to Carfax, then turn right down St. Aldate’s. On your left you’ll come across the largest college in Oxford, founded by Henry VIII’s former Chancellor Cardinal Wolsey, then taken away from him when he fell into royal disfavor. 
     Which college is it? Christ Church College

Just passed that college on the left is the entrance to the Memorial Gardens- walk through the gardens to a wide gravel path with the college on your left and the meadows attached to that college on your right. During the English Civil War (1642- 1649), this college was used as a court by the King at the time; the enemy Parliamentarians came across those meadows to attack the city, which surrendered in 1646 after the King fled Oxford in disguise. 
     A. Which King was it? Charles I
     B. This King was subsequently executed by the Parliamentarians.  In which of his plays does Shakespeare depict the deposition and murder of a king? Richard II

Take the path to your left, along side of the cricket grounds (the college will be on your left), until you reach a zig-zag iron gate (designed to keep bicycles out of the meadow and cows in the meadow). Squeeze through the gate, then continue on the path between two different colleges Corpus Christi on your left, Oxford’s smallest, and Merton College on your right. During the English Civil War, the Queen used Merton College as her court.
     A. What was the Queen’s name? Queen Henrietta Maria- although as a Catholic she was never coronated in an Anglican ceremony. 
     B. Name 3 plays in which Shakespeare depicts a queen (real or imagined)?  Hamlet (imagined), Henry V (real), Richard III (real), and Henry VIII (real). 

Walk through the iron gate at the end of the path, then turn right and follow the old city wall all the way around until you reach High Street again. 
     Which college do you see directly across the street when you emerge? There was not a college directly across High Street from us, but across the side street, Merton Street, was the Ruskin School of Drawing and of Fine Art.  Closer to the center of town is Queen’s College. 

Here ends the hunt. 

Oxford- Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today was market day.  I love farmer’s markets, so of coursed I found my way over there.  Delicious English strawberries, raspberries and two pomegranates made their way home with me.

After the market I found the bestest bookstore I’ve ever seen….ever better than Powell’s Books in Portland.  It is huge and totally caters to the scholarly reader.  Needless to say, I was in heaven.

(and that is just the downstairs)

Prof. Clifton took the Medieval Literature class out for a walk through Christchurch Meadow.  This is what we saw.