Bestselling Author V.E. Schwab delivers the Sixth Annual J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature


Earlier this week V.E. Schwab delivered the Sixth Annual J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature at Pembroke College. The following article is written by Pembroke graduate student Louis Morris (DPhil History, 2017).

On Tuesday we had the privilege of welcoming leading writer V.E. (Victoria) Schwab to Pembroke College to give this year’s J.R.R. Tolkien lecture on fantasy literature.

Victoria is the #1 NYT (New York Times) bestselling author of both adult and young adult novels, notably including Vicious and the Shades of Magic series. Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages, has been optioned for film and TV, and has received widespread critical acclaim. More information about Victoria can be found on her website.

Tickets for this year’s talk were booked out in record time, and we welcomed a capacity audience of students, scholars, and fans to the Pichette Auditorium, some of whom had travelled from the other end of the country. Victoria’s lecture, entitled ‘In Search of Doors’, addressed her personal experience of taking up fantasy literature (having been told it was either that or become a cult leader), the importance of using connections to fantastic worlds to challenge hierarchies in our own, and the need for commercial fantasy to go beyond stories of “a young white man learning to wield power”.

After the talk, Lindsey Cohick (MPhil International Relations, 2016) moderated a lively and thought-provoking Q&A session, with topics ranging from strategies for reading like an author to the battle against censorship in Russia. This was followed by a reception, dinner, and, finally (in approved hobbit style), ‘second dessert’ in the MCR.

The talk and Q&A can be watched via Youtube.

The organisers of the lecture series are grateful to the Pembroke Annual Fund, whose support makes the series possible.

About the J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature

From 1925-1945 J.R.R. Tolkien served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke. During this time he wrote The Hobbit and the majority of The Lord of the Rings.

Since 2013 Pembroke students have organised an annual free-to-attend lecture in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien. The purpose of the lecture series is to promote speculative fiction — primarily, but not limited to, the fantasy genre — as literature worthy of study and scrutiny, and to advance our understanding of it by hearing from some of the most influential and talented people working in the field today.

For more information, and to sign up for a mailing list to be alerted about next year’s talk, please visit the Tolkien Lecture Series website.