Tolkien's Middle Earth


Teacher: Ben Gross
Extra Help: Monday's, Room 303 by appointment.

Tolkien’s Universe

“To look across the wide seas of water and of time to Trion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Feanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!” –Gandalf, The Two Towers XI

Course Overview:

            You all are here for the same reason I am: we are dorks. You want to plunge into a made-up world, with a made-up history of made up ‘races.’ You are here because you want to debate whether Balrogs have wings (they don’t), elves beards (no), and whether Glorfindel from Lord of the Rings is the same Glorfindel that appeared in The Silmarillion in from the ‘Fall of Gondolin’ (he is). All of that we will do, and much more. The course will start by looking at the foundations of the work, both regarding the history of Middle-Earth, and intellectual foundations that Tolkien used to create his world.  We will read the entirety of the work and watch all 1,000 hours of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation. Throughout the course, we will draw on Tolkien’s own letters to better understand the ideas he was contemplating while writing as well as the massive amount of literary criticism regarding the novel. Tolkien’s ethics, morality, theology, and theophany will allow us to contemplate and confront deep questions about the nature of the universe, god, and morality. We will not, in any large way, concentrate on the philology present in the novel, even though it is valuable and important; I find it boring.

Essential Questions:

  1. What relationship exists between a sub-creator and his creation?
  2. What is the nature of the good and how does it contrast with evil?
  3. Why do the good not act pre-emptively, and how does evil exploit it?
  4. Is pity a sufficient virtue for good to bring about the downfall of the evil?

Essential Skills:

  1. Advance close-reading skills to analyze poetry and prose for theme and meaning.
  2. Understand subtext and how it contributes to theme in a text.
  3. Write thesis-based literary analysis essays that utilize textual evidence to support a claim.
  4.   Develop skills to analyze mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and other elements of film.

 

Texts:

Selections from The Silmarillion

Mythopedia by Tolkien

On Fairy Stories by Tolkien

Beowulf

Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

 Policies:

Academic Honesty: Plagiarism is a serious offense in this classroom as it involves theft and dishonesty. Intellectual integrity is central to learning, so I implore you to engage in original thought and cite sources when they are used (including Sparknotes and Schmoop). Work that is plagiarized, either from a fellow student or from an online source, will receive a zero with no chance to make it up, your parent or guardian will be contacted, and the office will be notified. Please see the student handbook for further clarification on the consequences of plagiarism.

Risk-Taking: Many of the texts we will be examining in class are difficult, often with complex themes that are not clearly discernable. Advancing a hypothesis about a text or painting and being ‘wrong’ is central to the learning process. Additionally, much of what we will spend our time examining was ‘risky’ in its time with the authors, painters, architects and musicians themselves taking major chances, often facing financial ruin and public shame if things were not well received. I hope we can use their risk-taking as an inspiration, and try to push ourselves in order to enhance our thinking skills and impact how we see the world around us.

Revision: Revision is central to the writing process; no one that writes professionally turns something in they have not revised themselves, and had others revise for them. We will follow this same professional behavior towards the written word in class, using class time to revise what we write in order to improve ourselves as writers. Additionally, work turned in will be revisable as my feedback on it is meant to improve your abilities as a writer.

Timeliness: All major work must be handed in on time in order to be eligible for revision, and smaller assignments must be handed in on time to be eligible for full credit. Extensions must be arranged before hand.  

Tech: Given the sometimes limited technological resources of the school, if you have access to your own laptop or tablet with keyboard, it cannot hurt to bring it on days when you know you will be using technology. You will know ahead of time when these days will be occurring and will be verbally encouraged beforehand to bring your tech in.

Honors: Honor in English is an opportunity to challenge yourself and enrich your experience of the literature we will read in class. The goal of honors is to challenge you in order to advance your independence, time management, and self-direction, and to strengthen your compositional and analytical skills. It is open to all students, but there is a good deal of independent, supplemental work involved. In order to qualify for honors credit, you must:

      ·      Maintain a grade of 80 or higher in all strand areas.

      ·      Read and respond to one piece of literary criticism for each text.

      ·      Complete an honors version of each project.

       ·      Evidence the characteristics of a classroom leader, socially and academically, including: being regularly prepared for class, speaking respectfully while advancing the tone and terroir of class discussions, assist other students when appropriate, and evidence the characteristics of good scholarship in English.

The honors assessments will supplement the cumulative assessment for each unit, and will provide an opportunity to enhance your understanding of the text. Upon completion of all the honors requirements, your semester grade will be raised by 0.5 points. Should you choose to pursue honors in English and later reconsider, the honors work you do complete will be graded for extra credit, but your semester grade will receive no additional points.

 Grading Policy:

Composition (25%) Composition is synonymous with writing, and will take the form of analytical paragraphs, in class responses to the text, analytical essays, and creative writing pieces.

Analysis (35%) Analysis represents critical thinking about a text and can take the form of study questions and other assessments where you have to think about and analyze a text. It is also embedded in many of the composition assignments, so when you write an analytical paragraph, the analysis is the thoughts you have about the text, whereas the composition is how you express those thoughts. How fluidly you embed a textual quotation would fall under composition while what you have to say about that quotation and how it contributes to a theme in the text is analysis.

Oral Presentation (10%) Oral presentation may take the form of student presentations, participation in class discussions, participation in small group discussions, and other forms of vocalizing one's ideas in class, formally or informally.

Work Habits (30%) Work habits are the study skills necessary to gain mastery over the curriculum. It might take the form of reading quizzes, book annotation checks, revisions of essays, and self-reflections. 

The class will feature a variety of formal & informal assessments including film reviews, character analyses, chapter analyses, and essays that incorporate thematic and essential questions into theses about the texts. You should also expect a summative, revisable assessment for each major text we read together. We will also have a non-revisable final assessment that we will spend the final weeks of class working on. Every effort will be made to return work within two weeks of handing it in on time, but with the caveat that the process of doing a careful job reading & assessing longer, major assessments is time consuming.

Exhibition Night, Digital Portfolios, POLs, and College Recommendations:

I will only approve work for exhibition night or POLs if you bring me the original version with the original rubric and notes. Do not just save it on the computer. Likewise, if you think you might ask me for a college recommendation letter, please save any work you are especially proud of with my comments. Bringing your work without my notes and rubric is asking me to do my job twice.

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Thomas Hinkle,
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Thomas Hinkle,
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Thomas Hinkle,
Dec 18, 2014, 5:27 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:57 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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Thomas Hinkle,
Sep 8, 2014, 7:56 AM
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