The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 14, 2012

Tolkien class at Wis. university proves popular

— MILWAUKEE (AP) — The vast collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts initially sold senior Joe Kirchoff on Marquette University, so when the school offered its first course devoted exclusively to the English author, Kirchoff wanted in. The only problem: It was full and he wasn't on the literature track.

Undaunted, the 22-year-old political science and history major lobbied the English department and others starting last spring and through the summer and "kind of just made myself a problem," he said. His persistence paid off.

"It's a fantastic course," said Kirchoff, a Chicago native. "It's a great way to look at something that's such a creative work of genius in such a way you really come to understand the man behind it."

He and the 31 other students can now boast of their authority about the author who influenced much of today's high fantasy writing. The course was taught for the first time this fall as part of the university's celebration of the 75th anniversary of "The Hobbit" being published. And class wrapped up just before the film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," was released Friday.

The class, which filled up fast with mostly seniors who had first dibs, looked at Tolkien as a whole, not just the popular "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." Students took their final exam this week, and the course was so well received, Marquette is considering more in the future.

"It's the best class I've had in 27 years here ... for student preparation, interest and enthusiasm," said English professor Tim Machan. "And I can throw out any topic and they will have read the material and they want to talk about the material."

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