Prof. Michael Drout, English Dept. Chair, takes on J.R.R. Tolkien and Old English

Professor of English Michael Drout

My current research focuses on tradition and influence in literary texts, particularly those from the Anglo-Saxon period (see How Tradition Works).  I also study the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, in particular the ways he took medieval source material and adapted it for his literary work.  This summer I will be working on two connected projects.

The first is Lexomics a set of methods developed here at Wheaton by an interdisciplinary team of Prof. Mark LeBlanc (Computer Science), Prof. Michael Kahn (Statistics) and me.  We recently received a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to further develop these methods of computer-assisted stylometric analysis and apply them not only to Old English texts (we have two major papers that will be published this summer on this topic), but also on medieval Latin literature and, with Prof. Shawn Christian, literary works from the Harlem Renaissance. Phoebe Boyd, a student in the class of 2012, will be working with me this summer on that project, supported by a Mars Fellowship.  Our collaborators include Prof. Sarah Downey of California University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Scott Kleinman of the California State University Northridge, and Prof. Yvette Kisor of Ramapo College.

I will also be directing—as I  have every summer for the past ten years—the J.R.R. Tolkien Bibliography project. Emily Bowman, Courtney LaBrie and Rachel Scavera will be working with me to further develop the world’s largest annotated bibliography of scholarship about J.R.R. Tolkien.  Our goal is to reach 1000 fully annotated entries by the end of the summer.  The bibliography is available for free to the public (though mostly taken advantage of by Wheaton students).