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Worlds Apart. Tolkien: When worlds are built within dreams

Luna's fifth Call for Papers, Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction is now in pre-order and will be released on Tuesday 27th of July. Here is a chance to discover the 14 brilliant papers you will find in the book in the order they appear.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Enrico Spadaro, presenting the paper: "Tolkien: When worlds are built within dreams"


In his study about fantastic literature, La Narrazione fantastica, the Italian scholar Remo Ceserani (1933-2016) analyses the elements that constitute the fantastic world. In his opinion, the fantastic always depends on reality and the passage from the realistic world to the fantastic one happens thanks to a “mediating object”. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, the Secondary World, as the author defines it in On Fairy-stories, is mostly shaped throughout language, given that Tolkien was a philologist and his tales had been written “to provide a world for the languages”, as he states in his letter no. 165. Although languages are the prime mediating object that builds Tolkien’s Secondary World, there is another element which lets protagonists andreaders enter this fantastic world. This is “dreams”. As a matter of fact, in the unfinished tale The Lost Road, the protagonist has recurrent dreams, sometimes defined as “linguistic dreams”, where visions of a far world appear and which eventually lead him directly to the island of Númenor. The fantastic world of Middle-earth progressively takes shape in front of the English protagonist Alboin Errol and the passage from the primary to the Secondary World is complete. Moreover, an autobiographical element is also present here, since the Professor constantly had nightmares about a drowning island, which is finally the destiny he gives to Númenor. Although in On Fairy-stories, dreams are merely quoted, this paper aims at showing how the oneiric component plays an important role in the constitution of Tolkien’s fantasy worlds: not only can it be found in The Lost Road or in its sequel The Notion Club Papers, but even in The Lord of the Rings, concerning the feelings, the sensations, and the perceptions of some characters such as Frodo, and in some fundamental names as Olorin or Lorien. Where do these oneiric worlds stem from? Can dreams really be considered as a “mediating object” in Tolkien’s creation process? And what is then left when awakening occurs?

Enrico Spadaro is an Italian researcher with a passion for J.R.R. Tolkien. He started studying foreign languages and literatures at university. In 2014 he obtained a master in Literary Translation at the University of Pisa, in Tuscany. In his final dissertation Tolkien’s tale The Lost Road was translated into Italian. He continued his research on Tolkien in France at Aix-Marseille Université and he defended his Ph.D thesis in November 2018: the title of the thesis is La Littérature- Monde de J.R.R. Tolkien: pertinence, discours et modernité d’une oeuvre originale, under the supervision of Pr. Joanny Moulin. He worked as a teacher in French middle and high school, and he gave some lectures of English and Italian at the university. In summer 2019, he applied for the postdoc Teach@Tübingen fellowship at the University of Tübingen in Germany,which started in October 2020, with a duration of six months. He took part in congresses about literature and fiction: in May 2017, he communicated at the meeting Chemins de Traverse en fiction, held in Paris at École Normale Supérieure. In August 2019, he attended “Tolkien 2019” in Birmingham, where he presented a paper entitled To the origins of Fairy-tales. He is currently a member of the Italian group “Tolkieniani Italiani”, that analyses and comments Tolkien’s themes and works.

Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction

is now in pre-order!


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