About the Series

‘Tolkien appears in the fantasy universe in the same way that Mount Fuji appeared in old Japanese prints. Sometimes small, in the distance, and sometimes big and close-to, and sometimes not there at all, and that’s because the artist is standing on Mount Fuji.’
— Terry Pratchett1

From 1925-1945 J.R.R. Tolkien served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford. During this time he wrote The Hobbit and the majority of The Lord of the Rings.

Since 2013, students from Pembroke College have organised an annual public lecture in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien. The lecture series promotes the study of fantasy literature, and advances our understanding of it, by inviting influential and talented speakers to share their ideas on the field.

When Tolkien and fellow academic and fantasy writer C.S. Lewis were at Oxford, their important contributions to fantasy literature were considered embarrassing side projects. As Diana Wynne Jones wrote, ‘the climate of opinion was such that people explained Lewis’s children’s books by saying “It’s his Christianity, you know,” as if the books were the symptom of some disease, while of Tolkien they said he was wasting his time on hobbits when he should have been writing learned articles.’1

Nowadays the climate of opinion has changed. We now know that fantasy can challenge us to think differently; remind us of fundamental things we had forgotten; connect us to ages past, or a future that may one day become a reality.

We are very grateful to our speakers for taking the time to visit the college and give their thoughts, and for the Pembroke College Annual Fund and Kadas Family Trust for helping to fund the series.

1. Terry Pratchett, ‘Amazon.co.uk – Post-Fantasy Fantasy: An interview with Terry Pratchett’, 2000, The L-Space Web <http://www.au.lspace.org/about-terry/interviews/amazon3.html>
2. Diana Wynne Jones, ‘The Profession of Science Fiction’, in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, 70, Summer 1997. Reprinted in ‘Answers to Some Questions,’ Reflections: On the Magic of Writing (Oxford: David Fickling, 2012), p. 100.

List of Speakers

2022: Rebecca F. Kuang, author and academic
‘Goodness, Beauty, and Truth: The Value of Art in Times of Crisis

2021: Guy Gavriel Kay, author
‘Just Enough Light: Some Thoughts on Fantasy and Literature’

2020: Panel Discussion
‘Fantasy in Times of Crisis’

2019: Marlon James, author and academic
Our Myths, Our Selves

2018: Victoria Schwab, author
In Search of Doors

2017: Susan Cooper, author
A Catch of the Breath

2016: Terri Windling, author, editor, and artist
Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era

2015: Lev Grossman, author and journalist
Fear and Loathing in Aslan’s Land

2014: Adam Roberts, author and academic
Tolkien and Women

2013: Kij Johnson, author and academic
Inagural Pemroke Lecture on Fantasy Literature in Honour of J.R.R. Tolkien

Photos of our past speakers, standing in the spot where Tolkien once stood: