posted March 23, 2004

Tolkein Scholar to Discuss Film Adaptations

One of the world's leading experts on J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. T.A. Shippey of St. Louis University, will present "From Page to Screen: Problems Tolkien Set for Jackson" at Hope College on Thursday, April 1, at 4 p.m. in the Maas Center conference room.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

The lecture will focus on the adaptation of Tolkien's best-selling fantasy work "The Lord of the Rings" into a trio of films directed by Peter Jackson: "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), "The Two Towers" (2002), and "The Return of the King" (2003). "The Return of the King" won 11 Academy Awards in February, including Best Picture.

Shippey was involved with the production of the films, being responsible for proper pronunciation of names in them.

Commenting on his lecture topic, Shippey said, "I think the interesting question about the films is, for all the care taken over details, does the change of medium not create an inevitable change of message? And if so, in what direction is the change? And what would Professor Tolkien have said?"

Shippey is best known for two important and influential books on Tolkien, "The Road to Middle-Earth" (1982) and "J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century" (2000). His life and career in many respects follow in Tolkien's. Like Tolkien, Shippey attended King Edward's School, Birmingham; both played rugby for the Old Edwardians; both attended Oxford, where Shippey was one of Tolkien's last students; both taught at Oxford (Shippey for seven years at St. John's College, overlapping with Tolkien's last years of retirement); and both held the position of Professor of English Language at Leeds University (Tolkien from 1920 to 1925, Shippey later filling the same chair and following Tolkien's syllabus before he moved to the United States).

Shippey is currently the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University. He is editor of the series "Studies in Medievalism," which was founded by the late Leslie Workman and for many years was edited and produced at Hope College.

As with Tolkien, Shippey's academic specialty is medieval literature, especially the earliest literature of Anglo-Saxon England. He has published several books in this field, including "Old English Verse" (1972), "Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English" (1976), a critical study of "Beowulf" (1978), and "Beowulf: The Critical Heritage" (1998).

He has long been interested in modern fantasy and science fiction. In addition to his work on Tolkien, he has edited numerous volumes such as "The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories" (1992) and "The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories" (1994). He also writes science fiction and fantasy himself.

Shippey is appearing at Hope as the De Graaf Lecturer for 2004. The Clarence De Graaf Lectureship was established in 1988 by the family of Dr. Clarence De Graaf in memory of his service on the faculty of Hope College. De Graaf, who died in 1986, taught in the department of English for 44 years, until his retirement in 1972, and served as department chair for 25 of those years.

The Maas Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.