Signum Symposia

Signum University

Erudite and eclectic episodes of scholarly fun from Signum University

  • 57 minutes 7 seconds
    Thesis Theater: Trevor Brierly, "Tolkien's Vision of Faërie in 'Smith of Wooton Major'"

    This recording from May 7, 2024.

    Signum University Graduate School presents Thesis Theater with Trevor Brierly on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at 2pm ET, on the subject of Tolkien's "Vision of Faërie" in "Smith of Wootton Major."

    Tolkien's story "Smith of Wootton Major", written in 1965, and an accompanying essay written at the same time, provide a rich understanding of Tolkien's "Vision of Faërie" that goes significantly beyond earlier critical works such "On Fairy-stories" and "Mythopoeia". A close reading and analysis approach to "Smith" and the essay indicate that Tolkien saw Faërie as necessary, universal, beneficent and transformative to humanity. In order to fully appreciate what "Smith" has to say about Faërie, it must be understood that "Smith" is neither an allegory nor primarily autobiographical and should be seen as a "fairy-story", a story about a human journeying in the Faërie realm. The essay adds to our understanding of Faërie as it tells a parallel story concerning Faërie intervening in Wootton Major, to restore contact with the enchantment of Faërie that is being lost. "Smith" and the essay together are important for understanding Tolkien's increasingly sophisticated and elevated view of Faërie, which he claimed was "as necessary for the health and complete functioning of the Human as is sunlight for physical life."

    About the Presenter:
    N. Trevor Brierly is a software engineer with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. He has a background in literature with an MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in English from George Mason University. His research interests include worldbuilding in speculative fiction, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Le Guin, Shakespeare, and the Renaissance. He has presented working papers on “Lord of the Rings”, “Dune”, “King Lear”, worldbuilding, and other topics. He has published an essay “Worldbuilding Design Patterns in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien” in “Sub-creating Arda” (Walking Tree Publishers, 2019) and is co-editor of “Discovering Dune” from McFarland Books (2022). He lives in Northern Virginia and enjoys books, jazz, tea and cats.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters
    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Registration is open for the Summer 2024 semester until May 10th! To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    14 May 2024, 6:00 am
  • 46 minutes 27 seconds
    Thesis Theater: Shannon Choudhari, "Notion Club Papers and Tolkien’s Vision of Creative Mysticism"

    This recording from May 10, 2024.

    Signum University Graduate School presents Thesis Theater with Shannon Choudhari on Tuesday, May 10, 2024 at 5pm ET.

    “I wonder what you’ve been up to?”: The Notion Club Papers and Tolkien’s Vision of Creative Mysticism

    Since it’s publication in 1992, Tolkien’s unfinished time-travel story The Notion Club Papers has received relatively infrequent critical attention for its depiction of time and time-travel, as well as for its representation of Tolkien’s Númenor legend. This thesis seeks to counter the dominant view – that the tale’s intricate plot, narrative complexity, and unfinished state overshadow the “real” story of Númenor, resulting in a work that is both difficult and ultimately unsatisfying. Beginning with a reconsideration of the story as written (rather than as it might have been), this study explores how narrative and stylistic strategies work together to convey a distinctive portrait of the sub-creative artist that is defined by the very techniques that make the story itself uniquely effective. It begins with a consideration of the tale’s climax and thematic focus, arguing for the threshold of creative mystic experience, rather than Númenor, as the crux of the story. Further examining the unique meeting of structure and theme, the study then moves into an analysis of narrative form, demonstrating how the metafictional interface and complex embedding of narrative layers engage in a carefully balanced rhetoric of authentication, while also working to simultaneously destabilize assumptions about reality. Further entanglement of the Papers and its vision with the Primary World through elements of metacommentary and biographical allegory are seen to break through narrative boundaries, resulting in a unique vehicle that is perhaps best suited to deliver Tolkien’s radical vision of creative mysticism – a vision that is consistent, if somewhat obscured, within his larger body of fictional and personal writings. The complexity of these features which others have perceived as failings are here reinterpreted as the “essentials” of the tale, themselves revelatory of a sweeping assertion of visionary power and overlapping realities, where personalities are subsumed and the Primary World itself transformed.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters
    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    14 May 2024, 6:00 am
  • 1 hour 1 minute
    Thesis Theater: Timothy Francis, "Administrative Art as Genre in Kafka, Tooker, and Ravn"

    This recording from April 11, 2024.

    Signum MA student Timothy Francis will present his thesis “Administrative Art as Genre in Kafka, Tooker, and Ravn” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Timothy’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Gabriel Schenk.

    Abstract
    This thesis explores bureaucracy through the works of three artists working in different media: prose, visual art, and bureaucracy itself as a medium. Rooted in an understanding of what constitutes bureaucracy and administration and previous works on the subject, it seeks to explore what might constitute bureaucratic art and what the aims of such an art might be. Building upon existing literature and prior artistic explorations of bureaucracy and their analyses, this thesis aims to understand bureaucratic art and unravel its significance and potential impacts. The works are considered individually and collectively, offering multifaceted insights from different perspectives. By navigating the labyrinth of bureaucratic structures and creative interpretation, this thesis endeavors to shed light on the intersections between bureaucracy and artistry, ultimately paving the way for a deeper appreciation and comprehension of administrative or bureaucratic art.

    About the Presenter
    Timothy Francis is a recovering bureaucrat, former public accountant in tax law, and sometimes musician who applies his collaborative and creative lenses outside of the public sector and has been Composer-in-Residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts developing and exploring creative collaborative frameworks for performers, lyricists, and composers. His compositions have been performed worldwide including at the Bregenzer Festspiele by the Vienna Symphony, Carnegie Hall by the New York Pops and the Berlin Film Festival. At Signum University, as a Language and Literature Master’s student, his focus has been on discovering works old and new, and exploring various critical lenses, approaches, and their applications. Highlights include the opportunity to read ancient texts in their original language, and focus on areas of interest including semiotics, translation, and adaptation.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters
    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Registration is open for the Summer 2024 semester! Classes begin Monday, April 29th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    12 April 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 59 minutes 39 seconds
    Thesis Theater: Duane Watson, "Dominate or Preserve: Magic as a Means of Production in Middle-earth"

    This recording from April 5, 2024.

    Abstract
    J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth has long been praised for its sense of depth, but Tolkien’s creation has often been criticized, especially by Marxist critics, for its lack in depicting economic realities and for providing a reactionary fantasy to soothe bourgeois anxieties about a changing world. However, the traditional bourgeois-proletarian dichotomy, in particular when mapped onto the Hobbits and the Orcs of Middle-earth, fails to fully engage with Tolkien’s fantasy world. Building off the concept of sub-creation established by Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” and Gergely Nagy’s examination of magic as inherent power in Middle-earth, this paper argues that magic rather than capital functions as a means of production in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Just as our relationships to capital in the real world shape our ideologies, so the peoples of Middle-earth are shaped by their relationship to magic, from the highest Elves to the most ordinary of Hobbits. This focus on magic shows how Tolkien’s works present a compelling picture of a world where relationships to power are complicated and change is inevitable.

    About the Presenter
    Duane Watson is an instructor at Llano High School in Llano, Texas, teaching English Composition, Economics, Government, and Audio/Visual Art and Technology. He received a B.S. in History from Howard Payne University (Brownwood, TX), an M.A. in English from National University (La Jolla, California), and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University – Nebraska. He resides in the Texas Hill Country with his wife, Jen, and their four cats.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters
    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Registration is open for the Summer 2024 semester! Classes begin Monday, April 29th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    12 April 2024, 9:00 pm
  • 49 minutes 38 seconds
    Thesis Theater: Laurel Stevens, "An Awareness of Debts: Dark Academia and its Source-Texts"

    This recording from March 22, 2024.

    Abstract
    Dark Academia (DA), as a genre, is an offshoot of academic fiction that has become prominent over the last decade. After defining DA and exploring its roots, I dive into Intertextuality to ask why modern authors have chosen DA as their genre of choice as they reimagine elements of classic works. The works I chose to analyze are The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005), which exists in connection with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897); Conversion by Katherine Howe (2014), which exists in connection with The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1953); Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth (2020), which exists in connection with The Story of Mary MacLane, alternatively titled I Await the Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane (1902); and The Society for Soulless Girls by Laura Steven (2022), which exists in connection with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Authors give myths breaths of new life century after century, and works that have asked pointed questions of society and their readers often stay around long enough for new, younger readers to ask those same questions of their own changing societal contexts by building on the existing classical works. DA gives a structured power setting that can be treated as a sandbox of sorts for enquiring minds on how new people and places have altered responses to questions that have been asked again and again in literature.

    About the Presenter
    Laurel M. Stevens completed her undergraduate in English at Westminster College where she first delved into fantasy studies with Tolkien. Her masters coursework at Signum focused on Imaginative Literature and has allowed her to explore fantasy at greater depths and introduced her to areas of studies such as adaptation and Dark Academia. She reads and reviews heavily in modern fantasy and science fiction, yet remains interested in a wide range of literature.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters
    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Registration is open for the Summer 2024 semester! Classes begin Monday, April 29th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    24 March 2024, 3:00 am
  • 32 minutes 52 seconds
    State of the University Address, Fall 2023

    This recording is from Signum University Annual Fundraising Webathon, December 9, 2023. If you want to watch the recordings of the full event, check the 2023 Fundraising campaign playlist here. • Signum University Annual Fundraising ...

    This year's campaign announcement • Signum University's Fall Fundraising ...

    Support Signum University https://signumuniversity.org/support/

    More about Signum University, visit
    https://signumuniversity.org/

    Support Signum Symposia

    11 December 2023, 7:00 am
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    Thesis Theater: Kira Tregoning, "The Semantic and Narrative Meaning in Homeric Epithets"

    This recording from October 6, 2023.

    Signum MA student Kira Tregoning will present her thesis “More Complicated Than They Seem: The Semantic and Contextual Meaning of Homeric Epithets” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Kira’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Gabriel Schenk.

    The thesis presentation will be pre-recorded and played in the session, followed by a live Q&A with Kira Tregoning.

    Abstract
    Milman Parry and subsequent scholars since the late 1920s have argued that Homeric noun-epithet formulas are divorced from the context of the sentence and scene. Epithets — those phrases such as “swift-footed Achilles” or “gray-eyed Athena” — have often been shoehorned for much of the last century into a strict interpretation of metrical convenience and mnemonic device. Such a rigid approach unnecessarily limits readings of Homer today. This study analyzes Homeric epithets in the Iliad and Odyssey through a combined linguistic, literary, and digital humanities approach. Three significant characters are examined in detail — Odysseus, Athena, and Helen — to determine how epithets affect interpretations of character, motivations, and actions in a scene. Specific qualities as conveyed by epithets are linked to a character in spite of the framing story. Epithets act as focalization, pushing and pulling characters to and from the foreground as needed, and the lack of an epithet for an important character is as noteworthy as the presence of one. Translators may play with the repetition of epithets to emphasize various connotations according to the context. Epithets have semantic and narrative value and, while they do have a mechanical value, are more necessary to the poems than formulaic theories suggest. This thesis argues that epithets are too complex for any single theory to encompass and should instead be considered with interdisciplinary approaches to include context, semantics, and function. Epithets can be formulaic and still express essential qualities of character, reflect the narrative action, and connect to the immediate context as needed by the poet.

    About the Presenter
    Kira Tregoning (she/her) is a lifelong fan of mythology, language, and fantasy. Greek and Roman mythology, and the Robert Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey, were the gateway to studying Classics in undergrad. Kira holds a B.A. in Classics and a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Maryland, College Park. She now works as a freelance editor and proofreader and is considering options for further study. In her spare time, she writes fantasy novels, plays video games with her two cat sidekicks, and spends time with her husband and family.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters
    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    To view Kira's Epithets Database, please visit: www.epithetsdatabase.com

    Registration is open for the Spring 2024 semester! Classes begin Monday, January 8th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    9 October 2023, 12:00 am
  • 47 minutes 21 seconds
    Thesis Theater: Gina Petrone, "'Let Me In!' Vampirism in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights"

    This recording from August 1st, 2023.

    Signum MA student Gina Petrone will present her thesis “‘Let Me In!’ Vampirism in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Gina’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Sara Brown.

    Abstract

    In Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, scholars have studied the gothic elements of the story, but only in recent years has the idea of vampirism emerged. Cathy, a strong-willed and spirited girl, wants nothing more than to live her life at Wuthering Heights with her soulmate, Heathcliff. However, it is impossible for the two to be together in Victorian society. Cathy is from a respectable family, and Heathcliff is treated as no better than a servant after the death of Cathy’s father. Both monstrous in their own rights, Cathy and Heathcliff undergo transformations in order to become vampiric. I explore the transformation process of both characters and argue the possibility of traditional vampirism. I also argue the vampiric qualities of both characters due to their souls being halved by Cathy’s death. As such, this research connects Brontë’s own criticism of Victorian society to the meaning behind her characters in Wuthering Heights.

    About the Presenter

    Gina Petrone (she/her) is an English teacher for both middle and high school students. She has been an educator for the past thirteen years, and this will conclude her second Master’s degree. She recently moved to upstate New York with her fiancé and four cats.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters

    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Registration is open for the Fall 2023 semester! Classes begin Monday, August 28th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    3 August 2023, 4:45 am
  • 1 hour 6 minutes
    Thesis Theater: Patrick Lyon, "The Familiar and the Strange in the Old English Rhyming Poem"

    This recording from July 30, 2023.

    Signum MA student Patrick Lyon will present his thesis “Merry Old Englyn: The Familiar and the Strange in The Old English Rhyming Poem” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Patrick’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Paul Peterson.

    Abstract

    The Old English Rhyming Poem is one of the stranger and more overlooked entries in the lexicon of OE poetry, often regarded as interesting but flawed and incoherent due to its intensive pursuit of rhyme. As the poem is both unique and highly allusive, critical analyses have focused on the potential inspirations for (and origins of) the poem, and have attempted to make sense of the work’s convoluted grammar and syntax. This thesis examines three related questions concerning the poem’s origin, translation, and interpretation, and in conversation with critical analyses and previous editions of the poem presents a new argument for the inspiration of the poem coming from Welsh poetry. This thesis also makes the case that treating the poem as a riddle in addition to an elegy can make greater sense of some of the passages that earlier critics have found most vexing in the past.

    About the Presenter

    Patrick Lyon is a graduate of the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame and has presented on topics of Tolkien Studies, Homeric epics, and Black Speech at various Mythmoots; he also writes freelance Movie and TV Features for collider.com. In his spare time he enjoys gardening, Beowulf, juggling, Irish music, more Beowulf, playing the violin, a pipe full of Old Toby, a spot of the Old Winyards, and tilting at windmills of various sizes as he whiffles through the tulgy wood of academia. He enjoys all the comforts of a hobbity home with his lovely wife and three rambunctious children.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters

    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    Registration is open for the Fall 2023 semester! Classes begin Monday, August 28th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    3 August 2023, 4:00 am
  • 57 minutes 34 seconds
    Thesis Theater: Christoph Schabert, "Magus Saga Jarls: A Digital Edition"

    This recording from July 29, 2023.

    Signum MA student Christoph Schabert will present his thesis “Mágus saga jarls: A Digital Edition” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Christoph’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Paul Peterson.

    Abstract

    An Old Norse-Icelandic genre that has long been relegated to the background of scholarly studies is the genre of riddarasögur. With the largest amount of surviving manuscripts, this genre was very popular among audiences of medieval Norse sagas. With 89 different manuscripts, Mágus saga jarls has the most attested witnesses of all riddarasögur. The saga exists in two recessions: a younger and an older one. The earliest surviving manuscript of the younger and longer recension is the subject of this edition. It is known under the shelfmark AM 567 XVII ß 4to and was written between c. 1390 and 1410. This version of the saga has been rendered into a three-layer transcription – facsimile, diplomatic, normalized – and is fully compliant with version 3 of Medieval Nordic Text Archive (Menota) standards.

    About the Presenter

    Christoph Schabert is a development operations engineer currently living and working in Germany. Growing up he loved reading fantasy and was always intrigued with old languages, which only deepened during his studies of Old Norse with Signum. His combination of a deep interest in language and a technical background made him a prime candidate to do a digital edition.

    About Signum Thesis Theaters

    Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

    For more information about Signum University and our degree program, please visit: https://signumuniversity.org/

    Registration is open for the Fall 2023 semester! Classes begin Monday, August 28th. To view our upcoming courses: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p....

    Learn about Signum University’s mission, leadership and more: https://signumuniversity.org/about/.

    Want to enjoy Signum’s educational offerings? Start here! https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr....

    Support Signum Symposia

    3 August 2023, 4:00 am
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    Summer Courses 2023

    Find out about the new courses offered at Signum University this coming Summer Term (May 1 – July 30) and meet the professors who will be teaching them! Representatives from the courses will be on hand to explain how the classes work, what people can expect if they sign up, and answer questions from the live audience.

    The Summer 2023 Courses:

    Please note: Unfortunately, following the recording of this Signum Symposia event, we have decided to postpone "Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft" until the Fall 2023 semester. "Tolkien Illustrated," "The Inklings and King Arthur," and "Introduction to Old Norse" are still open for registration. Thank you.

    Tolkien Illustrated: Picturing the Legendarium – This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the history of Tolkien illustration and its visual, contextual, and critical analyses.

    Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft – This course explores the work of H.P. Lovecraft and his impact on literature and popular culture. Students will study the foundations of Lovecraft’s writing, the meaning behind his works, along with his cosmic vision and legacy.

    The Inklings and King Arthur – This course explores how J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and other Inklings authors interpreted the Arthurian legends in their work.

    Introduction to Old Norse – The first half of this course provides a focus on Old Icelandic grammar, and the second half allows students to begin reading from a selection of Old Icelandic prose and poetic texts.

    To view our course offerings for Summer 2023, please visit: https://signumuniversity.org/degree-p...

    To learn more about Signum University: https://signumuniversity.org/about/

    For more upcoming news and Signum events: https://signumuniversity.org/news-and...

    Want to learn more about Signum's educational offerings? Start here: https://signumuniversity.org/non-degr...

    Support Signum Symposia

    28 April 2023, 5:00 am
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