Derry author launches book on Tolkien

Liam Campbell's book on J.R.R. Tolkien was launched last week at Oxford. The front cover photograph is actually a quite rare photo of Tolkien which has never been seen before - Liam was fortunate enough to secure permission to use it from the Tolkien estate. (3009JC11)

Liam Campbell's book on J.R.R. Tolkien was launched last week at Oxford. The front cover photograph is actually a quite rare photo of Tolkien which has never been seen before - Liam was fortunate enough to secure permission to use it from the Tolkien estate. (3009JC11)

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Have you an interest in the world of Middle-earth, magic, myth and mythology? Well, over the last few years Derry writer Liam Campbell has been researching and putting together a book on The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

Now, the book, entitled ‘The Ecological Augury in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien’ has just been given its worldwide release through German and Swiss publishers ‘Walking Tree’.

Author, Dr Liam Campbell, pictured at his recent doctoral graduation. From left, Liam's wife Liz, Liam, his son Jordan and his mum Maeve Campbell. (3009JC10)

Author, Dr Liam Campbell, pictured at his recent doctoral graduation. From left, Liam's wife Liz, Liam, his son Jordan and his mum Maeve Campbell. (3009JC10)

Liam was also invited to launch the book in conference at Oxford University, Lady Margaret Hall, on Saturday past. The launch which included an hour long talk on themes explored in the book, a question and answer session, and a book signing proved very successful, and quite a coup for the Derry author and there are now plans in motion for a Derry based talk.

The book itself has attracted much interest on the international stage given, not only the popularity of Tolkien as an author, but also the environmental dimension of the work.

Liam explains the particular angle taken by the book: “Through a close analysis of not only his fiction, but also his private papers, my book unfolds the ecological dimension of Tolkien’s work and worldview.

“The work primarily asserts that by virtue of his consistent portrayal of such striking environmental themes, where machine-laden regimes of power move against the land, Tolkien was a visionary defender of nature who, before the emergence of any organised Green Movement, may have predicted the scale of the environmental emergency that modern generations now face.”

“I have no doubt,” Liam adds, “that the Green dimension of Tolkien’s fiction has fed into its enduring popularity.” The book also traces aspects of Tolkien’s work such as the influence of Celtic myth and re-evaluates Tolkien, not as an escapist writer of fantasy, but as a contemporary writer responding to the defining crises of his time.

Speaking of the Oxford launch of the book, Liam says: “It was all quite humbling for this Derry man, who first got interested in fantasy literature and Tolkien after reading The Hobbit as a boy, to find myself up behind the lectern of such a prestigious and historic establishment preparing to speak. This was especially true given that Tolkien himself was a professor of Oxford University and lived and worked there for much of his adult life.”

Liam, who was awarded his doctorate in English literature in 2010, has also published previously on Twentieth Century literature, and has given many talks on Tolkien, contemporary literature and environmentalism across Europe and America. He has also written and spoken on Irish literature and the history of Derry, and lectured for both the University of Ulster and the North West Regional College in English literature and Creative Writing respectively.

Although still lecturing and tutoring in a part-time capacity, Liam has his eyes set on teaching more. “Now that the book is out (although the research never ends) I would love to involve myself more fully with education – I do have firm plans for further writing, but hopefully my future will lie in the full time engagement with teaching and learning – it has become a great passion for me, and one, I hope, I can continue to pursue,” he admits.

‘I do also want to take a moment to acknowledge all the guidance and help I received from the English Department at the University of Ulster in the development and realisation of this book – a fuller list of kind hearts I owe a debt of gratitude to, which of course includes my family, is documented in the Acknowledgements section of the book itself.”

Aside from, although perhaps tied to, his academic interests Liam also pens his own original creative work. Early last year his first full length play ‘The Harbinger’ was announced as the winner of the Greer Garson Theatre award.

‘The Harbinger’, staged in Derry in 2008 was also previously shortlisted for the best new play by an Irish writer by the ‘Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild’, and received a nomination for one of the UK’s most prestigious awards - the Meyer-Whitworth.

The Oxford and Tolkien connection continues for Liam as he has been invited to contribute a chapter to a new Oxford based encyclopaedic reference book on Tolkien which is to be released in 2012 to coincide with Peter Jackson’s new The Hobbit films.

More information on Liam’s book, including a chapter breakdown, can be viewed at the Walking Tree Publishers website: www.walking-tree.org

Aside from general bookstores, the book is also available at online outlets such as Amazon and the Book Depository. The ‘Journal’ will, of course, keep readers informed of Liam’s proposed Derry-based talk and Q&A on the world and works of Tolkien.