My summer composition course focused on nautical narratives and nostalgia. As part of the final unit, my students encountered a variety of narratives from non-textual media, and the videogame Sunless Sea really seemed to capture their imaginations. Many of them chose to focus on the game for their final projects. Here’s an article that I wrote for Kill Screen on how Sunless Sea draws on its literary heritage to offer a compelling vision of sea narratives.
This week, Unwinnable Weekly is publishing an article I wrote on the intersections between poetry and video games. I’ve reprinted the first paragraph below, and you can find the complete article at Unwinnable Weekly.
I was a poor reader of The Lord of the Rings. As a young teenager fascinated with all things fantasy, Tolkien was of course one of the first authors whose works I devoured. Indeed, I was so adept at devouring that I did very little savoring. Every time I encountered passages of the poetry scattered throughout Tolkien’s fiction my instinct (and practice) was too take a deep breath, scan quickly and move on. In my thinking, the poetry was little more than a distraction from the really important story – the adventures of Tolkien’s characters as they travelled through Middle-Earth. Why waste time reading some stilted poems?
Of course, poetry was in many ways at the very center of what Tolkien was trying to create, a fact that I appreciate more now that I study and teach literature for a living. Still, I bet my teenage self wasn’t alone in avoiding the poetry in Lord of the Rings. Yet Tolkien’s professional life was steeped in poetry, and one of his greatest admirers, W. H. Auden, was also one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets. Why is it then that the poetry of Middle-Earth can be so tempting to gloss over? Perhaps in some ways poetry is more likely to be disregarded when it’s presented within some other medium.