Tolkein Expert, Matt Dickerson, to Speak at UVM

What do fly-fishing, computer science, blues guitar, and The Lord of the Rings have in common? Not much…except for Professor Matt Dickerson who juggles them all with aplomb. He was hired as a professor at Middlebury College for computer science, but it’s his expertise in the realm of Middle Earth that brings him to UVM to speak.

As for fly-fishing and the blues, you’ll have to pick up an issue of Fly Fish America to read his stuff, or come to Marsh Dining Hall after the talk to hear his band, Deep Freyed, perform.

Dickerson’s talk, which will take place April 15th, will address some of the issues he discussed in his latest book entitled Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in the Lord of the Rings. These issues, Dickerson maintains, are among the ones with which Tolkien himself wrestled-issues of morality, environmental stewardship, free will and human responsibility, and questions such as: “Does Tolkien glorify war?” “What’s the real battle about in Middle Earth?” and “What’s the true nature of the Ring?”

But it wasn’t until Dickerson made the transition from a casual reader to a student of Tolkien’s work that he realized the depth and profundity of his writing. As a grad student in computer science at Cornell, Dickerson also studied Old English Language and Literature under a professor who himself studied under Tolkien at Oxford University. There Dickerson explored the medieval roots of Tolkien’s work-Beowulf, Arthurian legend, Icelandic saga-and poured over the same issues of philology and language that led Tolkien to coin the very intentional terms in The Lord of the Rings such as “Bag End,” “Baggins,” and “Tom Bombadil.” And just as the confluence of literature and language led Tolkien to plumb the depths of humanity’s deep questions, so did Dickerson’s academic journey lead him to develop his own beliefs.

This journey has culminated in the development of several courses that Dickerson now teaches at Middlebury including Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings, The Theology of Middle Earth, and Myth, Fantasy and Heroic Saga. And in the wake of The Lord of the Rings film series, Dickerson has been busy not only teaching and writing but also speaking at colleges and universities all over the country. So far he has addressed packed houses at Penn State, Dartmouth, UNH, St. Lawrence, UC Irvine, Williams, Johnson State, Lyndon State, University of Georgia, and even UVM where he spoke at a colloquium on Tolkien last month. This time around at UVM, however, marks a first: he’s never given a talk and had a gig in the same night. Coming out for one or both of these events is an opportunity that you won’t want to miss.

Dickerson’s talk begins at 7:00 pm in the John Dewey Lounge in the Old Mill on Thursday, April 15th. His band, Deep Freyed, plays after the talk at 9 pm in Marsh Dining Hall. Both are sponsored by The Navigators.