Last May, James Tauber and I gave a presentation about our process of planning courses for my students, either for Signum Academy Clubs or for my (now retired) Outschool courses. As a result, many participants at the Prancing Pony Podcast Moot were interested in taking classes with us! Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Signum University launched its new SPACE program (no pun intended, I promise. At least not on my part). We decided that SPACE would be a great opportunity not only to continue teaching our content to adult audiences but to also use SPACE as a testing ground for our various ideas for developing a Tolkien-based Literature and Linguistics curriculum. Since then, we’ve launched several SPACE courses using our Cyclical Feedback Method and our complementary skills in Language (James) and Literature (me).
The goal for all of our SPACE courses (including Bridge to the Silmarillion, Tolkien’s Invented Languages, and now our exploration of The Second Age of Middle Earth) was to engage directly with Tolkien’s languages and legendarium through one common source– that is, through The Lord of the Rings. For the most part, it’s safe to assume that our students had read LotR and were interested in engaging with Tolkien’s larger legendarium, but weren’t sure where or how to begin.
One of the first steps was identifying references to language (for our Invented Languages class) or to the First and Second Age (for our Bridge and Second Age classes) in the main text of Lord of the Rings. This was achieved by a full-text search of the annotated digital texts of the Digital Tolkien Project. For example, we were able to extract any paragraphs that contained an Elvish word or any paragraphs that contained a name found in the Silmarillion. All paragraphs had to be reviewed for relevance and context, but this approach was still considerably faster than re-reading through large amounts of text or doing individual searches in an e-book.
These searches enabled us to link (or bridge—there’s a reason for that word in the name of our Silmarillion class) less familiar texts with more familiar texts. As we’ll discuss more in the next part, we start our classes by going over extracts from the familiar text (Lord of the Rings) to raise questions and whet the appetites of our students to learn more. This then provides motivation and context to journey into the unfamiliar.
In our next post, we’ll discuss more of the Second Age and how we presented the content, inspired discussion, and made connections with our students.
Interested in our courses? The Second Age of Middle Earth is scheduled to run again in September! Go to SPACE and learn how to sign up!