Tolkien’s Medievalism in Ruins: The Function of Relics and Ruins in Middle-earth at NeMLA

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Nick Katsiadas and Carl Sell / Slippery Rock University and University of Pittsburgh

The deadline for this call for papers has been extended to October 15, 2022.


This call for papers is for the NeMLA conference which is scheduled to take place in person in Niagara Falls, NY between March 23-26, 2023.


Many notable scholars have probed the motif of ruins in ancient and medieval texts: Alain Schnapp, Alan Lupack, Geoffrey Ashe, and Richard Barber read the poetics of ruins in Latin poetry, the Exeter Book, and Arthuriana. Scholars working outside of the Classical and Middle ages have also examined how this topos persists in literary periods up through the Renaissance, Romanticism, and to today. In short, the structural and symbolic purposes of ruins in literary texts have a long history, and the literary-critical history of engaging these poetics influences our interests in presentations grounded in reading the relationships between ruins and Tolkien’s legendarium. It is time for a formal study on the topic, and we are pleased to welcome proposals from a variety of theoretical approaches for a special session at the 54th Annual Northeast Modern Language Association Convention, with possible inclusion in a special issue of The Journal of Tolkien Research.


Throughout J. R. R. Tolkien’s history of Middle-earth, ruins appear as images that capture the mood, personality, and disposition of the characters. From the ruins of Erebor in The Hobbit to the various images of Amon Sûl, Moria, and Osgiliath in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien captures each character’s awareness of the glories of the past and their desire to emulate them. This panel seeks to deepen the awareness and importance of ruins in Middle-earth while simultaneously focusing on how Tolkien’s vision of history functions within and outside of the Middle Ages.  


Topics and texts about Tolkien’s legendarium may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:


  • Ruins and trauma and/or war
  • Ruins and nostalgia and/or melancholy
  • Ruins and loss
  • Ruins and memory
  • Ruins and travel
  • Ruins and Medievalism
  • Ruins and Classicism
  • Ruins and Romanticism
  • Golden Ages
  • Literary History
  • Abandoned cities


We seek 300-word abstracts for critical essays across periods and nations that address topics related to ruins and Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Abstracts should clearly delineate the essay’s argument in relation to this theme. Once abstracts have been collected, the organizers will send out acceptance and rejection letters after the due date (15 October 2022). We ask that abstract submissions follow MLA format.


Please submit abstract proposals to Nick Katsiadas and Carl Sell through the NeMLA portal here: