Friday, April 14, 2023

Mike Foster

I ought to say a word for Mike Foster, a Mythopoeic Society stalwart who died at the age of 76 on Wednesday. He was a voluble contributor to festivities, and in recent years was most celebrated for his contribution to the Lord of the Ringos shows, scratch performances of mostly sixties pop and rock songs with new Tolkien-reference lyrics. But his best work was elsewhere.

For decades, Mike taught English literature at a community college in central Illinois, which gave him the opportunity to introduce generations of students to the study of Tolkien, and made him just about the most experienced Tolkien professor out there. At the big 50th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings conference at Marquette University, where the papers are held, Mike gave a talk bristling with intelligent and clever ideas of how to teach Tolkien.

For instance, he outlined the papers he assigned in his Tolkien class. First, an analysis of any chapter - of the student's choice - from any of Tolkien's major works: how it contributes to the story. Second, a study of a work Tolkien might have read and its possible influences. Third, an evaluation of any full-length critical study. And last, a study of the evolution of one particular character.

But my favorite line of Mike's - one I refer to often - was one he occasionally noted on an essay: "That happened in the film you obviously saw, not in the book you were supposed to have read."

1 comment:

  1. A nice tribute to Mike. I agree that when it comes to TEACHING Tolkien and sharing ideas of how to do that, Mike's name was one of the first that I would think of. And that had been the case for many years.