So, last night I used Skype for the first time* to deliver a brief lecture, followed by an hour and more of questions & answers, to Corey Olsen's class studying THE HOBBIT [cf. The Tolkien Professor and Mythgard Institute]. My topic was 'the origin of THE HOBBIT', and I talked about the two competing origin stories -- the myth of an oral hobbit preceding the one we have today contrasted with the documented account describing the creation of the written tale wh. I give in the introduction of my book ("The Chronology of Composition"). As part of the preparation for this, I went back and listened again to Michael Tolkien's wonderful talk to the Tolkien Society back in 1977 where he discussed the Hobbit apocrypha he and his siblings created deriving from their father's tale, as well as a briefer account he gave to a local radio station (don't have a date for this one; think it was either 1975 or 1977): wonderful stuff. The students had a lot of really interesting questions, some of which I didn't have answers for, and some I hope they follow up on and write-up into articles of their own (like the role of the FCL in Tolkien's development as a writer, or the origin of wizards in his works).
Being new to Skype (thanks to Janice for getting it all set up for me), I was amazed how smoothly it all went. Me, here in west coast Pacific time (6.30 pm), giving a talk co-ordinated and moderated by someone in east coast Eastern time (9.30 pm), with one of the participants who lives in England having sat up late in order to be able to take part (hi Andrew!), despite its being 2.30 am (Greenwich time) for him.
I give another talk there on Thursday night (6.30 my time; 9.30 Eastern). This time we'll be looking at the outlines or Plot Notes for THE HOBBIT -- not just for what they tell us about JRRT's compositional method (something well worth studying in its own right) but also for the glimpses they give us into alternate worlds, different ways THE HOBBIT could have come out. Some v. different indeed. I'm looking forward to it.
And, before I forget: congratulations to Corey for the publication this past weekend of his new book: EXPLORING J. R. R. TOLKIEN'S THE HOBBIT, just out from Houghton Mifflin (or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as I suppose I shd call them). I think this marks the vanguard of a whole wave of HOBBIT-themed books we'll be seeing over the next two-three years, and we're off to a good start.
*aside from a test run a few weeks ago, just before we left for England, to see how it actually worked. (Hi, Mary!), and a brief test with Corey to make sure All Was Well.
inside Edmund Wilson
16 hours ago