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Free Course on Tolkien, LOTRO, and Online Gaming

Studying Tolkien at the university level continues with Vanderbuilt Universtiy’s new offering, “Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative“. Focusing particularly on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online, students are invited to explore the adaptation of fantasy stories and novels into video games:

Intended for both newcomers who are curious about video games and experienced gamers who want to reflect on their passion, this course will explore what happens to stories, paintings, and films when they become the basis of massively multiplayer online games.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy—the novels, films, and video game—are our central example of how “remediation” transforms familiar stories as they move across media.

The course is designed as a university-level English literature class—a multi-genre, multimedia tour of how literature, film, and games engage in the basic human activity of storytelling.  Our journey will enable us to learn something about narrative theory, introduce us to some key topics in media studies and cover some of the history and theory of video games.  It will also take us to some landmarks of romance literature, the neverending story that lies behind most fantasy games: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, a bit of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and poems by Keats, Tennyson, Browning, and others.

No background in gaming is required.  Whether you are non-gamer who is interested in understanding what video games are all about, a person who loves both popular culture and serious literature, or a guild leader who runs large raids three nights a week, this course will challenge you to think more deeply about important issues confronting our culture.

Lord of the Rings Online has been immensely popular since its release in 2007 and has been proclaimed by the New York Times as “a major achievement of interactive storytelling, the first game truly worthy of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchise and a must-play for just about anyone with an interest in Tolkien or the future of online entertainment ” and GameSpy awarded the game its prestigious Editor’s Choice award with 4.5 out of 5 stars (source). Not only that, but it’s free to play and even accessible enough for a complete game novice like myself to play.

Professor Jay Clayton’s course started July 14th and runs until September 1st and looks like we are still able to join for free, though it’s unclear how long enrollment might run.

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