A week or so ago, I wrote about my favorite podcasts. But I left one out because I thought it deserved its own post. If I could only pick one “show” to listen to for the rest of my podcast listening life, I’d pick this one: The Tolkien Professor.
Professor Corey Olsen is a professor of Medieval Literature at Washington College, and also a huge fan of Tolkien, teaching, and communicating with the world outside of academia. As it’s so well put on his website:
As a professor, Olsen became increasingly frustrated with the separation between academics and general readers — namely, the inability for general readers and lovers of literature to enjoy the thought-provoking discoveries made in the cloistered world of academics.
For this, and so many other reason, he’s a huge inspiration to me. I love things that attempt to work outside the usual way of doing things. My friend Carsie Blanton is an amazing musician who gives her music away for free and uses Kickstarter to bring her fans what they want. I help coordinate social dances through an all-volunteer organization called Lindy and Blues that makes decisions through community meetings and volunteer initiative. Librivox makes public domain audiobooks through the efforts of self-organizing volunteers.
The Tolkien Professor follows a similar ethos – information and analysis that would normally be kept secreted away in expensive academic journals is free and available to the public through Professor Olsen’s website and podcasts. That’s not even to mention that his lectures are high quality, incredibly engaging, and well put together.
Start with How to Read Tolkien and Why – even if you’re not that excited about Tolkien the fantasy author, this lecture will get you interested in Tolkien as a scholar. After that, you’ve got the general survey course, the detailed look at The Hobbit, the Silmarillion Seminar, and so much more.
If Tolkien’s fantasy isn’t your bag, I’d still highly recommend Olsen’s course on Faerie and Fantasy, and I especially recommend anything involving Michael Drout. If you love what you find here, check out Olsen’s Mythguard Institute, which has a lot more awesome material, and attempts to strike a balance between the personal interaction of traditional academic environments and the flexibility of online education.