Monday, April 1, 2019

Marquette's Tolkien Fans oral history project

So, I meant to post this a week ago, just after the article concerned was printed, but the car crash I was in last Tuesday threw me off my schedule* before I'd gotten beyond the draft stage.

For those who have access to the JOURNAL/SENTINEL, Milwaukee's hometown newspaper, the Monday March 25th issue contains a nice piece about Marquette, the manuscripts, and a new oral history project launched recently in which Tolkien fans are given three minutes to answer three questions:

  • When did you first encounter the works of J.R.R. Tolkien?
  • Why are you a Tolkien fan?
  • What has he meant to you?
Some of the early contributor's answers have been spliced together into a sampling of voices which I found surprisingly moving to hear. If you don't have access to the physical newspaper, here's the link to the piece online:

The article also has a nice picture of the Archives, for those who have never been there, and of the current archivist of the Tolkien collection, Bill Fliss.

I particularly want to see how this project develops because on the one hand I've long been interested in oral history projects, such as the one Lyle Dorsett set up at the Wade Center back in the early/mid eighties, interviewing people who'd known Lewis (and Tolkien) and getting their memories and recollections down on tape. And on the other hand I've long been struck by the diversity of Tolkien fandom, ever since I found out how people who liked the book liked it for different reasons, or were drawn to different parts of it. The story of how people discovered Tolkien also interests me, and it's notable how many people remember that moment of discovery vividly for years afterwards.

So, if you'd like to take part in this Tolkienian oral history project, here's the link explaining how you can apply to do so, either in-person at Marquette (well worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood, or indeed if you're not) are remotely via the magic of the internet.

--John R.
--still reading Barlow's bad book (two-thirds of the way through now). I just got through the part about Franklin discovering electricity.

*short version: we got hit by a car running a red light. It flipped our car over onto its roof and left us hanging inside upside down from our seat belts (wonderful things, seat belts). The good news: all three of us walked away. The bad news: my friends' car was damaged beyond repair and we're all a bit shaken. Kind of like a Bond martini: shaken but not stirred.

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