III Poetry/Literature

“my view the man who has not read the poets, is at it were, maimed as regards literature. The poets have many wise and useful things to say about life and how it should be lived; in them are to be found the origins and causes of nature and birth –the seeds as it were of all teachings. By their antiquity and their reputation for wisdom they possess a high authority, by their elegance they have acquired a splendor and perfection, by their nobility they have made themselves a worthy study for free men…”–Leonardo Bruni. The Study of Literature.

See our Course – Tolkien -Tales of Heroism and Enchantment!

Through this course, you will gain a stronger understanding of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “legendarium”, or story of our world (Middle Earth) in its most ancient days. In particular, you will learn about Tolkien’s singular approach to fiction, and many of the deepest themes that motivated him, and that help explain the lasting impact of his writing. We are also getting to know Tolkien as a man of convictions and passions throughout.  Together, we take a close look at the remarkable powers of language explored -and used- by Tolkien. We also look at broader intellectual and cultural movements, such as late Romanticism, which inform and shed light on his creative efforts.  We spend time on somewhat overlooked themes, such as courtesy, which tie the characters, action and world of his stories together. At all times, there is an interest in how the world as depicted by Tolkien resonates with the world as it is familiar to us.  We devote a full lecture to each of The Hobbit, and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, touching on a few key plot points, but focusing especially on character, value, ethos, and the cosmic themes, including good and evil, which he develops. There are a number of connections made to relevant features of the Silmarillion as well.

The course has affinities with prior Petrarch Institute offerings, including our course on Christopher Dawson. There are interesting parallels between Tolkien’s pre-history and known world history, and we explore this especially in a bonus lecture about the contrasts and shared virtues of the cultures of Rohan and Gondor.  And in keeping with our curriculum’s focus on Classical Humanities education, we examine connections with classical literature, myth, history and culture at various points.
Finally, we look at the profound impact Tolkien has had, especially in the tributes and interpretations created by his fans in many different media.

Come and get to know and understand Tolkien’s unique appeal better with us!


Bust of Homer. Courtesy of wikimedia commons.


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