Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Precepted by Sara Brown

Current and Upcoming Modules

Are You Tolkien To Me? — January 2023

All Modules

Are You Tolkien To Me?

Why are the works of J.R.R. Tolkien still so relevant to us in the 21st century? In this course, we will look at some of the central themes of his novels, including Family, Home, Good vs. Evil, and Loss, exploring how Tolkien is still speaking to us almost fifty years after his death.

There are no required texts for this course, however, you may find having a copy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings very useful (any edition).

Discovering Terry Pratchett's Discworld: Which Witch is Which?

Terry Pratchett's witches - Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick - are more than just a marvelous spoof of those in Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. In addition to their undoubted comedic value, they are also a voice for some of the major themes of the Discworld novels. Through readings of extracts from the relevant novels, as well as reference to some modern scholarship, we will examine the differences between witch magic and wizard magic; the role of witches in Discworld society; Pratchett's representations of gender; themes of power and authority, and the presentation of the minor witch characters. Access to the listed texts is desirable. Prior knowledge of at least the majority of the listed texts will be assumed.

Modern British Poetry

In this module we will read and discuss a collection of some of the best British poetry of the 21st century, considering the ways in which each poet addresses the anxieties of our time.

The History, People, and Culture of Tolkien's Númenor

With the publication of The Fall of Númenor (November 2022) we finally have much of Tolkien’s writing on this period in the history Middle-earth drawn together in one place. This offers a unique opportunity, at a moment when the island of Númenor has come to greater public awareness via Amazon’s show ‘The Rings of Power’, to fully examine this aspect of Tolkien’s secondary world. In this course, we will explore the history of Númenor, with particular focus on important events, significant people, the geography of the island, and the evolving culture of the Númenóreans.

Special Note: We are excited to announce that Brian Sibley, noted for his BBC Radio adaptations of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as for his many books on Tolkien, will be joining us in one of the sessions (Date tbc). He is going to talk to us about his work on the new book The Fall of Númenor, and will be available to answer any questions you might have.

'The Rings of Power' Discussion Group

The wait is over and Amazon’s new Tolkien-inspired series has come. Already, this series has stimulated much heated discussion across various social media, with the images and trailers dividing opinion among Tolkien fans. In this discussion group, we will watch the show and discuss what we have seen, linking it to what we already know about Tolkien’s creation, and exploring the ways in which ‘The Rings of Power’ is extending the world of Middle-earth.

Access to copies of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is desirable. Prior knowledge of the texts is also desirable, but you could manage without. Knowledge of The History of Middle-earth series and The Unfinished Tales is a bonus!

Tolkien And Alchemy

Transformation and the process of transformation, either physical or of the self, is a significant theme in Tolkien’s writing and appears throughout the Middle-earth legendarium. In this SPACE course, we will explore how the practice, philosophy and symbolism of alchemy resonate in the texts and provide another way to read the changes that are apparent throughout. Amongst other topics, we will look at the Music of the Ainur and Tolkien’s creation myth, the recurring symbolism of the alchemical colours: Black, White and Red, the metaphor of Gold, the nature of the One Ring, and Frodo as alchemical subject.

Tolkien's Great Tales: The Children of Húrin

Although they were never completed in his lifetime, JRR Tolkien wrote what he considered his three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days and intended them to be a significant part of his wider Silmarillion. These Tales are The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some parts of these Tales can be found within the published version of The Silmarillion, but the more recently available individual books provide additional and extensive details for each story.

In this course, we will have a ‘read-along’ discussion of The Children of Hurin. Each session we will consider our close reading of a section of the story, examining Tolkien’s use of language and narrative structure, as well as exploring ideas about what each Tale tells us about Tolkien’s secondary world.

Access to a copy of The Children of Hurin will be necessary, and you may find having a copy of The Silmarillion very useful.

Tolkien's Great Tales: The Fall of Gondolin

Although they were never completed in his lifetime, JRR Tolkien wrote what he considered his three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days and intended them to be a significant part of his wider Silmarillion. These Tales are The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some parts of these Tales can be found within the published version of The Silmarillion, but the more recently available individual books provide additional and extensive details for each story.

In this course, we will have a ‘read-along’ discussion of The Fall of Gondolin. Each session we will consider our close reading of a section of the story, examining Tolkien’s use of language and narrative structure, as well as exploring ideas about what each Tale tells us about Tolkien’s secondary world.

Access to a copy of The Fall of Gondolin will be necessary, and you may find having a copy of The Silmarillion very useful.

Tolkien's Great Tales: The Tale of Beren and Lúthien

Although they were never completed in his lifetime, JRR Tolkien wrote what he considered his three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days and intended them to be a significant part of his wider Silmarillion. These Tales are The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some parts of these Tales can be found within the published version of The Silmarillion, but the more recently available individual books provide additional and extensive details for each story.

In this course, we will have a ‘read-along’ discussion of The Tale of Beren and Lúthien. Each session we will consider our close reading of a section of the story, examining Tolkien’s use of language and narrative structure, as well as exploring ideas about what each Tale tells us about Tolkien’s secondary world.

Access to a copy of The Tale of Beren and Lúthien will be necessary, and you may find having a copy of The Silmarillion very useful.

Tolkien's Unfinished Tales

The Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth is a collection of stories and essays by J.R.R. Tolkien that are filled with all the wonderful elements of story-telling that are to be found in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and yet, for some reason, they are less well-known and less studied. Some, like ‘Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife’, offer a compelling insight into the Second Age and the time of Númenor. Others, such as ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn’, ‘The Quest of Erebor’, or ‘The Hunt for the Ring’, shed further light on the events of the Third Age that are so familiar to readers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We will discuss some of these stories and place them in the context of the other Middle-earth works.

Access to a copy of The Unfinished Tales is essential. Prior knowledge of the stories within is desirable, but you could read them as we go along.

Vampires, Werewolves and Wights – Oh My! Uncanny Creatures in Middle-earth

There are dragons in Tolkien’s works, of course, as well as Ents, Trolls, and Orcs, all enabling Tolkien to give shape and dimension to his world of Middle-earth. Less discussed amongst readers of the legendarium are the weird creatures that sit in the shadows – the ones designed to really make the back of your neck prickle. In this course, we will discuss these more troubling inhabitants of Middle-earth, with some close reading of the texts to guide our way.

Access to copies of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is essential. Prior knowledge of the texts is desirable, but you could read them as we go along.

Victorian Gothic: Exploring Dracula

When we think of Gothic Horror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula immediately comes to mind. In this Module, we will explore the reasons why we are drawn to this compelling yet terrifying character, and how Stoker was connecting with Victorian anxiety towards the Supernatural and the Other.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].