This past holiday break has allowed me to delve deep into my love of Tolkien, and in particular to benefit from some terrific available resources in Tolkien scholarship.
Now, it may not sound like "studying" Tolkien would be as much fun as just reading (or going to the movies), but it is actually a lot of fun, as well as giving me a deeper appreciation of Tolkien's writings and imagination and teaching me a great deal about writing and scholarship.
Before I touch on my actual activities over my holiday break, I need to go back to how I started delving into this.
A few years ago, on a trip to South Carolina, my son picked as our audio entertainment Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature by Professor Michael Drout. It was a brilliant set of lectures which first focused on Tolkien and his process and creations, and then explored the genre of modern fantasy literature which Tolkien somewhat unwittingly helped to create. This was really my first exposure to deep and thoughtful Tolkien scholarship, and it opened me to all sorts of new ideas and understanding about what Tolkien did, what he was interested in and how his academic life as a Medievalist and Philologist informed his imagination.
Hungry for more, I began to look into what else was available and found The Tolkien Professor. Professor Corey Olsen, like Professor Drout, is by profession a Medievalist (though he has far less focus on Philology than Drout does), but by avocation he is a lover of Tolkien and fantasy literature. He is also, even more than Drout, highly focused on making Tolkien and Tolkien scholarship accessible to the public. He has dozens of chats, lectures and seminar episodes available on his website and also available through iTunes. He writes, lectures and appears for the public in many venues, and has generally done a ton for promoting the understanding and enjoyment of Tolkien's works.
He also wrote the book on The Hobbit: Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit".
So, over break, I finished reading Professor Olsen's book, and I listened to a ton of stuff.
Particularly, I listened to about a dozen episodes of his Silmarillion Seminar through which I have learned a great deal.
I also listened to his discussion of the latest Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug (here & here) which I found to be really interesting and helpful.
There are tons of other materials accessible through the Tolkien Professor site, and it is definitely a gateway to lots of wonderful and imaginative worlds and thoughts.
I really highly recommend it, and it helped me have a great vacation, even while I was busy and sick.