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."