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

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Nick Katsiadas and Carl Sell / Slippery Rock University and University of Pittsburgh

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 Age 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 essays grounded in reading relationships between literary history and relics and ruins in Tolkien’s legendarium. It is time for a volume on the topic, and we are pleased to welcome proposals from a variety of theoretical approaches for a proposed edited collection.


Throughout J. R. R. Tolkien’s history of Middle-earth, relics and ruins appear as images that capture the mood, personality, and disposition of the characters. From the ruins of Erebor and the relics of Gondolin that appear in The Hobbit to the various images of Amon Sûl, Moria, Osgiliath, and post-war Isengard in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien captures each character’s awareness of the glories of the past and their desires to emulate them. The important roles of relics and ruins in the history of Middle-earth create opportunity for a more formal critical discourse on the topic. This proposed collection of essays will seek to deepen the awareness and importance of relics and ruins in Tolkien's legendarium while simultaneously focusing on how Tolkien’s vision of history functions within and outside of the Middle Ages. In this vein, we are concerned with including essays that address a greater literary history of Tolkien's work. We are equally concerned with including pieces that explore the representation of relics or ruins not only within The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but, also, the larger legendarium with The History of Middle-earth series, The Silmarillion, and the texts that Christopher Tolkien edited and published after his father's death (The Children of HúrinBeren and LúthienThe Fall of GondolinThe Fall of Númenor). 


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


  • Ruins or relics and trauma
  • Ruins or relics and war                         
  • Ruins or relics and nostalgia
  • Ruins or relics and melancholy
  • Ruins or relics and loss
  • Ruins or relics and memory
  • Ruins or relics and travel
  • Ruins or relics and Medievalism
  • Ruins or relics and Arthuriana
  • Ruins or relics and Classicism
  • Ruins or relics and Romanticism
  • Ruins or relics in the First, Second, or Third ages of Middle-earth
  • Ruins or relics in The History of Middle-earth series
  • Relics and the Silmarils
  • Relics and the Arkenstone
  • Relics and the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin
  • Relics and Bard’s Black Arrow
  • Ruins or relics in adaptations of Tolkien
  • Ruins and Tolkien's "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics"
  • Ruins of Golden Ages
  • Ruins or relics in Middle-earth and their Literary History
  • Ruins or relics of Abandoned cities, locations, and peoples


We seek one – two page abstracts for critical essays across periods and nations that address topics related to relics or ruins in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Abstracts should clearly delineate the essay’s argument in relation to this theme. Once abstracts have been collected and accepted, the organizers will craft the book proposal, and they will then submit it for consideration to publishers that have historically demonstrated a record of releasing successful collections related to Tolkien. We ask that abstract submissions follow The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition).


Please send abstract proposals to Nick Katsiadas at and Carl Sell at Those with inquiries may also email us.