(…) he saw the King’s Tree springing up, tower upon tower, into the sky, and its light was like the sun at noon; and it bore at once leaves and flowers and fruits uncounted, and not one was the same as any other that grew on the Tree.
Every artist in some way expresses his or her own individual creativity in particular forms, but few writers of Tolkien’s stature have had the courage to take this position to its extreme: the very form of his literary work, often unjustly dismissed as ‘Fantasy’, is instead the proof of the appreciation he had of his own creative idiosyncrasies, starting from an unconditional exaltation of his aesthetic preference, both literary and linguistic. In his work, this is reflected in the centrality given to the characters and their individual stories, including the humblest, and in particular to those of the artists (the ‘sub-creators’), each one called to affirm a unique individual voice. The exaltation of the I that this entails is rarely found even in the most extreme individualistic ideologies. At the same time, Tolkien treats even the darkest and deepest idiosyncrasies of the individual, including the ability to do evil, as ‘given’ by God, and ultimately to be integrated by Him in His own creative project, just as every stream eventually flows into the Sea. In Tolkien’s powerful vision, Creation is thus imagined as a great Tree made of countless different leaves, as a polyphony of innumerable voices, each called to contribute in its own fashion to a single great Music. This awareness of being a “part” which is found at the start and the end of every human journey, in a never-resolved tension between self-affirmation and the humility of belonging, gives the artist, and everyone, the courage to undertake and continue the adventure of the I. At the heart of Tolkien’s work is the dramatic discovery that everyone is called to collaborate, with their own desires and thoughts, to a greater design, to contribute with their own ‘I’ to the great polyphony of creation, and thus entwine their own story onto the one great Tree of Tales.
The main focus of the conference is the organic tension between the particular and the universal, that is (on a (meta)narrative level) the tension between individual character and general narrative, and (on a mythopoetic level) between a sub-creator’s creative freedom and the design of a ‘higher’ Author (the ‘theme(s) of Iluvatar’).
Some of the topics that will be investigated are:
• the relationship between different planes of creation (particularly primary and secondary, but also, within the secondary world, between (sub-)creators of different ‘ranks’ (Ilúvatar and the Valar, the Valar and the Noldor, etc.));
• the tension between individual vs. general design, control of otherness vs. creative mercy, claims of (technological/gnostic) omniscience vs. ‘holy’ ignorance, autonomy vs. communionality, etc.
• the relation between a (sub)creator and their (sub)creation;
• Tolkien’s ‘private vice’ and the discovery of a literary mission
• the nature of influence of primary realities (including literary sources) on the development of Tolkien’s secondary legendarium.