Sub-Creating Middle-Earth: Reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion

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Register Now for this Six-Week Live, Interactive Online Seminar – Starts Next Monday, February 18th

Before Bilbo Baggins and the dragon, before Frodo and the Ring, before the love story of Aragorn and Arwen, Middle-earth had already been the scene of innumerable tales: of Elves and Dwarves, Valar and Maiar, dragons and balrogs, and a struggle against evil that started before the world was even created. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion begins with a cosmogony, and unfolds with an Elvish mythology and history that could rival the great myths and legends of the Norse, Greek, and Celtic traditions. 

This course, hosted on Nura Learning with Dr Becca S Tarnas, guides the reader through Tolkien’s sweeping saga of the First and Second Ages of Arda. The expansive vision and grand language can make The Silmarillion a more challenging read than The Lord of the Rings, so this course is designed to unpack the philosophical, spiritual, and literary meanings within Tolkien’s text. When Christopher Tolkien published the edited volume of his father’s writings in 1977, The Silmarillion was met with mixed reactions. Audiences had hoped for a book like The Lord of the Rings, but instead received a text that sounded, in the words of one disgruntled reader, like the Old Testament. Yet these stories were Tolkien’s most beloved—narratives that he had been writing and reworking since the First World War until nearly the end of his life. In this course we will view The Silmarillion through the lens of Tolkien’s theory of sub-creation, coming to understand the imagination and creativity that stands behind a full work of mythology written down by one man. 

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Six 90 minute live classes with lecture and dialogue portions. Hosted on Zoom Meetings with Dr Tarnas.
  • Audio and video recordings of each class. Yours to keep.
  • Access to a Class Portal where course recordings and materials are archived.
  • A Class Forum, where students can share comments and questions on the reading.
  • Community​. Join a vibrant, engaged community of fellow readers, artists, and scholars—explorers of  Middle Earth and the imaginal realm.


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