It's official. I've been invited to give this year's Blackwelder Lecture at Marquette University. The date will be Thursday, October 4th, starting at four o'clock in the new Library building. The evening before (W. Oct. 3rd) I will probably be doing a presentation and signing at one of the area bookstores, but the details for that are not yet finalized; more as it develops. I'm certainly following in good footsteps: the first speaker in the series was Tom Shippey (2001), then Doug Anderson (2002) and most recently Eduardo Segura (2006).
My tentative title is "A Kind of Elvish Craft: Tolkien as Literary Craftsman"; my topic is looking at HOW he wrote rather than what or why (areas that have already received a lot of attention). The key quote I'd like to use as a springboard comes from "On Fairy-Stories":
"To make a Secondary World . . . commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement . . . indeed narrative art, story-making in its primary and most potent mode"
Using the wonderful resources at the Marquette Archives, and the riches of the History of Middle-earth series, we can now get a very good idea of Tolkien's writing habits, and how they shaped his works, clearing up a lot of misconceptions along the way.
If you're in the area, drop by and say hello. The lectures are open to the public, although you might have to show an i.d. to get in the library building. See you there . . .