One of the first fantasy authors I read as a child was J. R. R. Tolkien. I absolutely loved The Hobbit, and liked The Lord of the Rings a great deal, though I found parts of the later boring (yes, I know that’s heresy…), and Tolkien’s work was largely responsible for sending me down the path of fantasy literature. I’m not an obsessive Tolkien enthusiast or scholar — though I’ve known a number of them over the years — but I think it’s very cool that Tolkien’s work is still being discussed in a serious way by literary scholars. One young academic in particular, Corey Olsen at Washington College, has embraced new media to create a series of podcasts and an associated website to explore and dissect Tolkien’s work. While I’m not personally interested in listening to podcasts, I know a lot of folks are and I appreciate what he’s doing (I would love to pick up the book he’s proposed assembling after he completes his podcast series). I also like that he’s attempting to bridge the gap between general readers and literary scholars — that’s a commendable effort.
Here is a Washington Post article on Olsen and his Tolkien scholarship. (My apologies if this piece requires a free login. If you don’t have an account with the Post and don’t want one, let me know and I will get you a copy of the article.)