29th International Conference on Medievalism

Thursday, October 23


The Club Room, Georgia Tech Hotel; Cash Bar

Regular Sessions Address:

Stephen C. Hall Building

215 Bobby Dodd Way

Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA 30313


Friday, October 24, 9am-10:30am

3 concurrent sessions

Session 1: Video Conference



Session 2: Gender and the Spirit

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Chair: Kara L. McShane (U of Rochester)

Claudia Yaghoobi (Georgia College & State U)

The Ideal of Beauty in Medieval and Post-Medieval Persian Culture: Jami’s “Yusuf and Zulaikha”

In his The Republic, Plato discusses the Greek Ideal of beauty; he writes “There can be no fairer spectacle than that of a man who combines the possession of moral beauty in his soul, with outward beauty of body, corresponding and harmonizing with the former, because the same great pattern enters into both” (402). To Greeks, beauty implied a young man with a perfectly framed body, posing in his undraped manhood for an athletic battle. It is this masculine type of beauty, though both in its physical form and the spiritual, that the medieval Persian poet, Jami draws on in his poem “Yusuf o Zulaikha.” Jami’s poem is a reinterpretation of Sura Yusuf (the story of Joseph), which is one of the most coherent chapters in the Quran. This particular Sura has generated numerous commentaries, has been the inspiration for various literary and historical texts such as mystical love poetry, and continues to be a central narrative in Islamic cultures to this day. The majority of these commentaries and works focus on the significance of female sexuality, feminine guile and its negative implications – central to understanding of sexuality in Islam – as opposed to masculine beauty. In this paper however, I examine the concept of beauty in medieval Persian culture and its redefinition in post-medieval Persian cultural forms. First, I look at Jami’s poem “Yusuf o Zulaikha” and his descriptions of Yusuf’s insurmountable beauty. To examine the concept of beauty in post-medieval Persian culture, I explore the portrayal of Yusuf’s beauty in a few 16th century paintings, 19th century titles, modern day carpets and a very recent movie adaptation of the story of “Yusuf and Zulaikha” in Iran. I offer that Plato’s proposed ideal of beauty, which found its way in Persian medieval culture including descriptions of Yusuf’s beauty, has given way to feminized depictions of Yusuf in post-medieval Persian cultural productions perhaps due to over-emphasis on his spiritual rather than physical beauty.

Carol L. Robinson (Kent State U at Trumbull)

Medievalist Media Sexism on the Move

In “Coupling the Beastly Bride and the Hunter Hunted: What Lies Behind Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale,” Susan Carter argues that “Chaucer’s foregrounding of gender exploits the shapeshifting loathly lady motif as a vehicle for examining the sphere of heterosexual power contestation.” At the 2012 International Conference on Medievalism—Cloud Conference, several medieval feminist scholars contributed to a brief discussion-blog in response to the political attacks upon women’s rights, particularly those attacks that seemed to be clearly rooted in the logical fallacies and misinformation embraced during the European Middle Ages.  What most struck several of us was the false voice of authority upon which they called for such scientific declarations, such as a definition of “legitimate” rape or the functioning processes of female reproductive organs.   The political neomedievalism as described by Bruce Holsinger has moved from the seats of government to the seats of aspiring politicians, which means that it has, ultimately, moved to the general public, a viscous cycle that is perpetuated by media medievalisms. Indeed, such medievally medical devotion and passion perhaps only rivals that of Geoffrey Chaucer’s character, Jankyn, in his teachings from the good patriarchal, misogynist works of St. Jerome, himself.  Re-shrouding the female body in a cloak of mystery and myth, a medieval scholar could not fail to see the anti-feminist mentality spewing forth from the mouths of these modern-day “clerks” and instantly call forth the spirited rhetoric of the Wife of Bath.

Niamh Pattwell (U of Dublin)

Engaging the Medieval in Frank McGuinness’s Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness was first produced in the Hampstead Theatre, London in July 1992 before it transferred to the West End in the Autumn of the same year. It also ran in Broadway for 292 performances between 1992 and 1993; that production was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play and Best Actor and received the 1993 New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for Best Foreign Play in 1993. The play was inspired by, though not actually based on, the experience of the hostages caught up in the Beirut crisis of the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the centre of the McGuinness drama are three men – Irish, British and American – who find themselves sharing a cell during the hostage crisis. It is a single-location drama which plays on the national stereotypes of the characters while, at the same time, exploring the responses of the men to the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves. During the course of the play, little outwardly happens, yet somehow the men travel through time and space in their reminiscences, transforming the nature of their relationships with each other, with their past and of their understanding of their fate. One of the men (Michael) is an English lecturer whose musings on Sir Orfeo and The Wanderer lend an intertextuality to the play. In the beginning the stereotypical personalities of the Irish, British and American threaten to fragment and overwhelm the odd community of three. Gradually, however, the recognition of a common heritage – linguistic, cultural and literary – bring the men into a space that is more respectful of one another. In the final episode, Michael prepares the Irish journalist (Edward) for the latter’s departure to an unknown fate by combing Edward’s hair in a gesture reminiscent of the Spartans preparing for battle, but also of a mother attending to a child. While there cannot be a ‘happy ending’ for these men, there is some resolution in the nurturing human gesture and in Michael’s lonely declaration of love, echoing the final lines of the Wanderer.

The interplay of the Medieval texts with the difficult circumstances enacted in this twentieth-century drama allow for a rich exploration of death, fate, heroism and love. The happy ending of the Medieval Sir Orfeo and the stoicism of the Wanderer provide a range of responses to the testing conditions in which they find themselves and to their reminiscences and musings. In addition, Ancrene Wisse or, at least, anchoritic spirituality resonates in this late twentieth-century work. It it is never explictly mentioned in the play, but there are obvious parallels in the imprisonment, the dying to the familiar, the apartness from the world. Yet, one wonders how can a text such as Ancrene Wisse, which was written for a Catholic, medieval, possibly female audience have a place in a secular drama shaped by the particular political circumstances of twentieth-century Middle East and the anguish of three male white Westerners caught there?

The engagement with the Medieval past flourishes in the McGuinness’s drama. He completed a Medieval MA in UCD which is evident in the subtle way in which he manages to overlap the crises at the heart of the Medieval texts with the struggles of the men unfolding on stage.In my paper, I would like to examine the bravery of the single scene setting of McGuinness’s drama and its connection to the anchoritic spirituality. I would like to consider the ‘death-in-life space’ and the liminality of both the anchorite and the prison cell in Beirut and its relation to the Medieval Sir Orfeo. I will look at the interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon Wanderer poem as it plays out in the lives of Michael and Edward. Finally, one of the comments that Brian Keenan (one of the actual hostages in Beirut) made about the play is that: “The ringing message is that brave men are only so when they conceive the female in themselves.” In this paper, I will explore the possibility of the anchorage as a feminine space that facilitates the emergence of new heroes?


Session 3: Remix Culture / The Medieval Remixed

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Chair: Lesley A. Coote

Eric Doyle (Villanova University)

Lohengrin Drowning: Myth and History in The Good Soldier

In many instances, the modernist British novel characterized a rejection of the medieval. Following what many saw as the sentimental excesses of Romantic medievalisms, writers such as Ford Madox Ford approached the past in more ambivalent terms. Ford’s 1915 novel The Good Soldier has been discussed at length with regard to its innovative structure and unreliable narrator, but its engagement with Romantic medievalism has largely been overlooked. This essay will argue that the novel may be seen as a snapshot of this transitional moment between Romantic and modernist medievalisms.  Much of this discussion will center on the mythical figure of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight. Ford’s choice of Lohengrin as a touchstone for his novel seems pointed, given that Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin was quite popular in London. In fact, Ford’s father, music critic Francis Hueffer, was an early supporter of Wagner and translated some of his letters into English. By appropriating the Swan Knight trope for the character of Edward Ashburnham, a figure of masculine imperialism in The Good Soldier, Ford (I argue) implicates Wagner, Romanticism, and the mythic medieval in the exploitive project of empire. This essay will explore these dueling representations of Lohengrin, charting the Swan Knight’s movement between Romantic and modernist contexts. Crucially, Ford sets the mythic, knightly Edward against a more rationally-minded character — Florence Dowell, a grasping American woman whose ambitions are girded by an obsession with history — in a struggle that leads to their destruction. Florence’s history undoes Edward’s myth, but turns out to be itself flawed. Ford’s criticism of Romantic/mythic medievalism, then, does not lead to a straightforward endorsement of a rational, historic past. Rather, the novel presents the problems of historiography and myth within a framework that renders both unintelligible. Ford’s ultimate position figures the seemingly opposed projects of mythology and history as part of the same flawed project: the impulse to explain the modernist present in terms of the medieval past.

Matthew Schwager (Montana State U)

The Mousetrap and the Medieval: Historical Rhetoric and Design in Musical Interfaces

Stanford associate professor of music Mark Applebaum is probably most well-known in research circles for his experimental musical interface, the “mousetrap.” A percussive instrument, the prototypical mousetrap is an array of strikeable materials–nails, wires, PVC tubes, copper pipes, combs, and door-stops–affixed to a soundboard and connected to a cabinet of amplifiers and other audio manipulation devices. By striking these materials, a mousetrap performer can produce a range of sounds that fit the full electro-acoustic spectrum, from highs to lows and from identifiable sounds to audio information transformed to a state far from its origin. However, Applebaum is careful to stress a particular nature that possesses the instrument, referring to its basic constituents as “medieval technology”–simple machines that are removed from historical context in order to form complex and contemporary systems of performance opportunities and meaning-making.

One can trace Applebaum’s work, as well as rhetoric, to a number of 20th-century figures in experimental composition and interface design. Most notable among them are the composer and instrument-builder Harry Partch, who disposed of the twelve-tone scale and Western performance tradition in favor of an approach tempered by pre-Christian ritual, belief, and tradition–which necessitated the crafting of unique instruments in order for his compositions to be performed at all. This study seeks the contours of “medieval technology” as envisioned in these and other sectors of 20th- and 21st-century musical practice, especially how such technologies are fitted within disparate contexts, from Partch’s modernist art to more post-modern attitudes. In deploying a combination of music history, contemporary performance studies, and visions of medieval tools and technology, this study illuminates the impact of medievalisms and their rhetoric on the field of musical interfaces, both experimental and commercial.

Alexander L. Kaufman (Auburn U at Montgomery)

Remake/Remodel: Roxy Music’s Avalon and the Spiral of Arthurian Renewal

In keeping with the theme of this year’s ISSM International Conference, “Medievalisms on the Move,” I investigate an object that is itself in movement, the vinyl LP (and its subsequent, spinning relative, the CD) of Roxy Music’s final studio album, Avalon (1982). Formed in London, 1971, Roxy Music was wholly unique: a rock and roll band with art-rock and glam-rock leanings; they were overly conscious of the power that nostalgia played in the lives of its listeners, and they thus often wrote about the past (or pasts) in such themes as love, rock-and-roll, desire, and that which can never be regained. It was also a band that, much like David Bowie, was concerned with the visual dynamics of music, and thus Roxy Music cultivated a style all their own: lead singer Bryan Ferry often wore a tuxedo, Brian Eno wore feather boas, and other members (reed player Any Mackay, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and drummer Paul Thompson) dressed in stylish ways. The band’s album sleeves, also, were unique, for all featured exotic, highly stylized female models. The sleeve design of the band’s fourth album, Country Life (1974), was deemed too risqué for the US market: the two, semi-nude models on the sleeve were replaced with ferns. By 1982, the band was reduced to a core trio (Ferry, Mackay, and Manzanera), and the album Avalon was (and remains) Roxy Music’s swan song studio album. While scholars have referenced the album as one that is Arthurian, no detailed investigation exists that examines why the album is Arthurian and a work of medievalism. I argue that much like the great texts of Arthurian literature, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and especially Malory’s Morte Darthur, Roxy Music’s final album embraces Arthurian themes, specifically the spiral of time and memory, and spiritual and corporeal renewal. Roxy Music re-presents and re-fashions them in unique ways: gone are the scantily-clad women on the album’s sleeve, here replaced with Arthur (really a female model in armor), a falcon on his arm, looking toward the mists of Avalon. The music itself has changed: gone are the frenetic, glam days of yore; here, the mood is restrained, subdued, reflective, somber, elegiac, yet still hopelessly romantic. Avalon, much like Malory’s Morte, becomes a text that serves as a history of that which was and that which may yet be.

Gwendolyn Morgan (Montana State U)

Reclaiming Englishness: Modern Usage of the Anglo-Saxon Language

Recent decades have surpassed Tolkien’s 1936 call to cease viewing Old English poetry as a dead artifact of merely archeological interest Not only the poetry, but the ancient language itself has experienced a small but determined revival on both the popular and academic fronts, not as a tool to read the old literature but as a medium for contemporary composition. This paper explores these usages in an attempt to locate reasons for this sustained revival, evident in Anglo-Saxon translations of texts ranging from Le Petit Prince to the Gettysburg Address and appearing in films from the 2008 CGI Beowulf to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.


Friday, October 24, 10:45am-12:15pm

3 concurrent sessions


Session 4: Medievalisms in the Classroom: A Roundtable

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Organizers: Leah Haught & Valerie Johnson (Georgia Tech)

Chair: Peter Fontaine (Georgia Tech)

This roundtable will examine the ways in which medievalism can be productively engaged within the classroom, regardless of whether or not the course in question primarily deals with medieval subject matter.


Leah Haught (Georgia Tech)

From Westeros to Broceliande: Mapping the Multimodal Middle Ages

Valerie Johnson (Georgia Tech)

Up-Cycling: Adapting the York Mystery Cycle

Kara McShane (U of Rochester)

“Just Like the Thirteenth Century”: Examining Fact and Authenticity In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

Arthur Bahr (MIT)

Anglo-Saxon from Anywhere:  Mobile Pedagogy and Virtual Classrooms

Robin Wharton (Georgia State U)

Digital Pedagogy, Textual Studies, and Thomas Hoccleve

Session 5: Medievalism & France

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Chair: Thomas Hahn

Kara Larson Maloney (Binghamton U)

Lost in Translation: Gawain, Reputation and His Troubles with Old French

As one of the most celebrated and valued knights of King Arthur’s fellowship, Gawain serves as a useful benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness of the fellowship as a whole, but also the feasibility of chivalry itself. Some concepts within the canon, such as Gawain and his more martial interpretation of the knightly code, seemed to get lost in translation depending on textual provenance. Because Gawain’s character depends so much on how his social identity embraces chivalry, Gawain made the perfect tool through which medieval authors could voice their opinion on chivalry.  This paper will focus on the Old French Arthurian canon, particularly the anonymous Vulgate and Post-Vulgate cycles, and will show how the modern texts, particularly T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, translate the French canon’s treatment of Gawain into something a modern audience can understand. Within the Old French canon, it is not Gawain’s character that changes, but the accepted ideal of chivalry and the focus of the French court’s social identity that shifts between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. And while White portrays Gawain as an exceptional knight, White still must contend with Gawain’s French reputation. Thus, Gawain becomes characterized as an angry knight whose violence is rationalized by his own abusive and isolated upbringing in Orkney. Just as in the French texts, White’s Gawain appears more and more out of step with the group’s social identity as the text progresses, but his excessive behavior becomes more justified because of the psychological depth White adds to his character.

Chris Ippolito (Georgia Tech)

Flaubert’s Middle Ages

This paper will examine Flaubert’s use of medieval works, History, images and concepts. A great number of Flaubert’s works deal with the Middle Ages. During his formative years as a writer, and as he is still under the influence of Romantic authors such as Dumas, Hugo or Walter Scott, he reads many history books, from Anquetil’s Histoire de France to Michaud’s Biographie universelle and Froissard’s Chronicles, and writes a number of short texts and novellas (and a play, Loys XI) inspired by the Middle Ages and its Romantic renderings: Dernière scène de la mort de Marguerite de Bourgogne (on a sadic murder set in 1315), Deux mains sur une couronne (on a murder set in Paris in 1385), La Fiancée et la tombe (on a rape), Chronique normande du Xe siècle (inspired by Georges-Bernard Depping’s Histoire des expéditions normandes et de leur établissement en France au Xe siècle, and Théodore Licquet’s Histoire de Normandie), Bibliomanie (on a madman fascinated by manuscripts), as well as excellent essays influenced by his well-known high school history teacher, Adolphe Chéruel: Influence des Arabes d’Espagne sur la civilisation française du moyen âge, La Lutte du sacerdoce et de l’empire, Histoire. Emma Bovary dreams of Walter Scott’s medieval castles and heroins. La Légende de saint Julien l’Hospitalier, set in an imaginary Middle Ages, and partly inspired by La Légende dorée and a stained-glass window, uses words-pictures that guide readers, as in medieval manuscript illumination — a process described by Mary Carruthers in The Book of Memory. A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. In Bouvard et Pécuchet, Flaubert criticizes aspects of Walter Scott’s historical novels. He was very aware that the nineteenth century was partly defined among by a new passion for History. As an artist he used a number of medieval images, such as life as a nautical voyage, or the dance of the dead. Even more significantly, his remarks on reading draw on the essential difference between lectio — not only as reading aloud, in the medieval sense of the word, but also as an image of a first, linear, literal and incomplete reading that is frequently mocked in Flaubert —, and meditatio (taken here as a perception of the implicit aspects of texts). Madame Bovary begins with a lectio, and continues with Emma’s misreadings. In the end, it becomes clear Flaubertian irony attacks Romantic nineteenth-century commonplaces on the Middle Ages, and instead attempts to recreate potential medieval universes based on a historical and poetic truth.

Laura Hollengreen (Georgia Tech)

Riding and Marching to Victory: The Military Tactic of the Chevauchée in Medieval France and Nineteenth-Century America

“Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys will never reach the coast!” So the saucy rebels said and ’twas a handsome boast Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host While we were marching through Georgia. —  “Marching through Georgia”

Atlanta, capital city of the New South, might seem to offer little to the student of medievalism. Steeped in its Confederate past but also a phoenix of dynamic self-fashioning, what has it to do with the more distant events of the Middle Ages?

Medieval warfare, like other aspects of medieval culture, has its echoes in the TV series, video games, and fantasy worlds of today. It also provided the precedent for an event of enduring, identity-constructing significance in the history of the South: Sherman’s famous “march to the sea”. When Union General William Tecumseh Sherman conducted his famous march of some 60,000 men over a 60-mile wide swathe of land from Atlanta to Savannah, it was the last major example of mobile warfare in the industrializing age of the nineteenth century—before the war of attrition that was World War I. As such, it harked back to the medieval tactic of the chevauchée, a mounted campaign of foraging and pillaging associated primarily with Edward III of England and his army before the Battle of Crécy and at other points in the 100 Years’ War.

In both cases, the chevauchée was a strikingly successful tactic, winning Edward III sovereignty over a third of what we know as territorial France and, in America, helping to hasten the defeat of the Confederacy by delivering such plums as Savannah and Charleston into Union hands. Some of the aims were similar: the depletion of a region’s life- and war-sustaining resources, the confusion and terror sown by a roving army, the conviction of helplessness on the part of local defenders. Similar, too, were some of the circumstances: the difficulty of successfully attacking fixed, fortified positions, the challenge of battle on unfamiliar land (to be avoided, if possible), and the great cost of supplying armies deep in enemy territory. By cutting loose from supply chains and subsisting by forage, both Edward’s and Sherman’s armies retained the surprise value of mobility. After the battles of the Atlanta campaign, the Confederate army was unwilling or unable to engage Sherman again. On the other hand, a recent revisionist account of Edward’s military leadership by Clifford Rogers has cut through the puzzlement of earlier historians to propose that Edward’s explicit aim was to draw the numerically superior French into battle and put them on the difficult offensive.

The architectural historian in me seeks to investigate the matrix of architecture, landscape, technology, and tactics as it conditioned the chevauchée. However, the chevauchée was not only a brilliant military manoeuver; it also provided vivid material for pictures, songs, and chronicles. The medievalist and art historian in me will probe these two instances of one of the most imageable and memorable of military tactics, still adopted as late as the 1860s.


Session 6: Physicality and Performance

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Chair: Jonathan Kotchian (Georgia Tech)

Kathryn O’Toole (Independent Scholar)

Physical Spirits

This paper will address the representation of the spirit-like, ethereal natures of the monsters in Beowulf, particularly of Grendel and his mother. Initially, it appears somewhat contradictory to argue that Grendel and his mother could be “spirits” in nature. After all, they are both physical creatures that Beowulf engages in tangible, physical struggles with. The very idea that Grendel could be at all ghost-like seems immediately undermined by the fact that Beowulf rips his arm off; to a modern reader’s understanding, ghosts have no corporeality and no arms to be ripped off.  However, this paper argues that the exclusivity of the physical and the ethereal is a modern interpretation that was not necessarily present in the Old English period. Grendel’s assault on the hall at Heorot seems highly reminiscent of another series of assaults in Germanic lore—namely, the ghost of Thorolf Twist-Foot in the Icelandic text, Eyrbyggja Saga. Building on the work of scholars such as John D. Martin and Jean-Claude Schmitt, this paper will analyze the representation of ghosts and spirits in Beowulf and Eyrbyggja Saga. This analysis seeks to suggest that both texts adhere to a shared Germanic concept of spirits having physical manifestations that is quite at odds with our modern assumptions about ghosts. Examining the disparity between our modern expectations and the Germanic context of these two texts encourages a re-conceptualization of Grendel and his mother as “physical spirits”–ethereal beings with corporeality.

E.L. Risden (St. Norbert College)

Detective Dee: Chinese Cinematic Medievalism and the Acrobatic Art of Detection

So far two movies have appeared featuring the brilliant Tang Dynasty detective Dee, a medieval Sherlock Holmes both in his methods and in the Robert Downey-esque production values. Detective Dee:  Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) follows Dee’s exploits as he gets out of jail to save the empress from a former colleague’s deadly vengeance, and the preguel, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, again shows the sleuth escaping unjust captivity to save first two young lovers and finally the entire kingdom from invaders and a relentlessly hungry sea monster.  Filled with the acrobatic combats traditional in Chinese medievalism since the days of the Shaw Brothers films and with the fast-moving plot and character development of recent Western detective films, the Dee stories show a world full of magic, mystery, and mayhem–but also wisdom and sacrifice–set for ongoing serial development sure to gain the attention of Western as well as Eastern Audiences.

Lisa Nalbone (U of Central Florida)

Moving through Time and Space in Mercedes Rubio’s Las siete muchachas del Liceo (1957) Via Wagner’s Parsifal in Barcelona, Spain (1914)

Catalan writer Mercedes Rubio’s novel, Las siete muchachas del Liceo (1957), bases her rewriting of the grail narrative on the historically-significant, first authorized production of Wagner’s Parsifal outside of Germany, which took place one hundred years ago, on the famed date that the composer himself established as the first legitimate one to perform this master work outside of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Barcelona’s performance at the Gran Teatro del Liceo began promptly at 11:30 pm on Dec 31, 1913. Reality and fiction converge when, leading up to this date, a group of seven young girls was extended the honor of forming part of the choir of angels who sang at the end of the first act. Because of family hardships, one of the seven was not permitted to perform, although her association with this group remained constant over the ensuing years. Rubio’s novel traces the ever-connected lives of these seven girls for the next two decades, including Blanca, the only one who did not perform. During the ensuing years she sought to attain the purest form of performance through diligent practice and instruction. She sought to avail herself of the most remarkable advances throughout Europe in the field of music in order to instill these qualities in the music she would create for her own country. This study will identify the influences on the novel of Wagner’s Parsifal (briefly identified as rooted in the tradition of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival) to reveal Rubio’s creative departure from the celebrated opera. In her reworking of the grail narrative Blanca aspires to win a coveted distinction in the Liceo’s conservatory despite numerous obstacles, most notably the opposition of the lead instructor, Agustin Ramirez, an evocation of the Fisher King character for his deformed left arm. This study will also examine how, despite their solidarity and common goal of attaining recognition for their musical talents, the seven girls fail to reach their goals as they move through time, due to the positioning of the feminine subject during the first third of twentieth century Spain.

Friday, October 24, 12:30pm-1:30pm


Session 7: Open Access in the Academy

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Organizers: Fred Rascoe & J. Britt Holbrook (Georgia Tech)

Chair: Richard Utz (Georgia Tech)


Kevin Harty (La Salle U; Review Editor Arthuriana); Leah Haught (Georgia Tech; Assoc. Editor Medievally Speaking); Jesse G. Swan (U of Northern Iowa; Editor UNIversitas); Thomas Hahn (U of Rochester; TEAMS editorial); Robin Wharton (Georgia State U; Hoccelve Project); Paul Sturtevant (Managing Editor, Curator: The Museum Journal)

Friday, October 24, 1:45pm-3:15pm

3 concurrent sessions


Session 8: Time, Space, Movement, Theory

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Chair: Valerie Johnson (Georgia Tech)

Vincent Ferré (Université Paris Est, UPEC)

The adventures of a notion: Alterität-altérité-alterity, from Europe to the USA

Since Paul Zumthor’s Essai de poétique médiévale (1972) and Hans Robert Jauss’s article on ‘The Alterity and Modernity of Medieval Literature’ (1977), the idea of the singularity and ‘isolation’ of the Middle Ages has become a commonplace in medievalism, in the wake of Eugene Vance and Peter Haidu’s reviews – ‘The Modernity of the Middle Ages in the Future: Remarks on a Recent Book’ (1973), ‘Making It (New) in the Middle Ages: Towards a Problematics of Alterity’ (1974). This paper will focus on the migration and transformation of a notion (alterity), between Europe and the United States; it will also examine the link with epistemological changes in medieval studies, as welle as the relation established between alterity and modernity – another critical topos. These issues will be examined in the general context of the 60’s and 70’s, following Pierre Nora’s hypothesis expressed in Présent, nation, mémoire: ‘L’histoire était jusque-là l’opération intellectuelle qui supprimait la distance qui nous séparait du passé; elle se mit à devenir l’opération qui mettait en relief cette distance’.

M.J. Toswell (U of Western Ontario)

Borges’ Medievalism First and Last

Born in 1899 in Buenos Aires, Jorge Luis Borges spent his teenage years in Geneva and elsewhere in Europe including time in the hotbed of avantgarde poetics that was Madrid in 1920. On his return to Buenos Aires with his family, his career as a writer was set, and he was heavily involved in the next ten years with small avantgarde journals. He presented many short pieces in these short-lived publications, and began as well to publish poetry chapbooks. In 1932, in Sur, he published a long article on kennings, which he republished as a booklet, Las kenningar in 1933. The piece was also at the centre of a later collection of short pieces Historia de la eternidad (A Brief History of Eternity). The work on kennings, and Borges’ thinking about how kennings work–or do not work–at the centre of poetic endeavour, remained central to his thinking as a poet throughout his life.

Among the last productions of Borges was a co-written group of translations from the Anglo-Saxon published in 1978 as a Breve Antologia Anglosajona (Brief Anthology of Anglo-Saxon). Written with María Kodama, the anthology included only seven pieces translated from the Anglo-Saxon, and of those seven only three really have the feel of a Borgesian poem. This paper will argue that thinking about the poetic structures of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse verse was a lifelong approach to the writing of poetry for Borges, and will suggest that insufficient attention has been paid to Borges’ poetic use of ideas and structures taken from his passion for the Germanic medieval.

Borges is central to the thinking of modernists, postmodernists, and hispanists in many and multifarious ways. He has hitherto not figured largely in the world of medievalism, though by his own account the medievalism of the north was his own special subject. I will consider briefly in the conclusion of this paper the extent to which Borges’ self-confessed Germanic medievalism was seen as a serious error on his part by his contemporaries and critics, and consider how that plays into the reception of Borges in the twenty-first century.

Lesley Coote (U of Hull)

CGI, Borders and Spaces Between

Scholars and students of medieval studies are used to the idea of reading that sub/consciously ignores the fact that up to a third of the page is empty space – unless, as in some very interesting (and often beautiful and comic) medieval books, the margins and interstices are filled with words and/or images. This is also true of film, which is also composed of holes and spaces, not least the interstices between frames, which we cannot see at all. In the film we do see, much is space – in the background, the foreground, around the edges, between characters and objects in the mise-en-scène. In the 21st century,   the use of computer generated images (CGI) to fill in, often to complete, ‘historical’ spaces and settings has revolutionized the way in which space is used and perceived in cinema. The theories surrounding CGI can offer interesting insights into the way in which marginal and ‘between’ space is used by medieval scribes and illustrators. With the help of Matthew Paris, Michel Foucault and others, this paper investigates not only the use of images, but also some of the ways in which CGI theory might help us to approach the discourses (legend/myth, prophecy, dreams, prognostication) of marginal and interlinear space.


Session 9: Medievalists Making Medievalism: Readings

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Organizer: Pam Clements (Siena College)

Chair: Andy Frazee (Georgia Tech)

Readers: Gwendolyn Morgan (Montana State U); E.L. Risden (St. Norbert College); Curtis VanDonkelaar (Michigan State U); Pam Clements


Session 10: Absence

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Organizer/Chair: Amy Kaufman (Middle Tennessee State U)

This session wants to explore Arthurian absences in particular, including Arthur’s personal absence from many ‘Arthurian’ texts, the movement of Arthurian scholars away from studying Arthur and toward a more generalized medievalism, the recent lack of Arthurian films, and Arthur’s movement away from Englishness and from Camelot in the 21st century.

Elizabeth Sklar (Wayne State U)

Ubi Arturus?

Rebecca King (Middle Tennessee State U)

Arthur’s Absence in Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Arthurian Works

Michael Evans (Central Michigan U)

Is Pre-Columbian America ‘Medieval’?

Donald L. Hoffman (Northeastern Illinois U)

The Medieval Absence in Arabic Film


Friday, October 24, 3:30pm-5pm

3 concurrent sessions


Session 11: Medieval Grail Quest Narratives in Contemporary Cinema

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Organizer: Peter Fontaine (Georgia Tech)

Chair: Clint Stivers (Georgia Tech)


Peter Fontaine (Georgia Tech)

Let’s Booboo: The World’s End as (Re)Iteration of the Grail Quest and Medieval Narrative

A paper examining the science fiction comedy/drama from 2013 as a self aware and self reflexive Grail Narrative that functions both as iteration of and means for reiteration of Medieval grail quest narratives for the contemporary postmodern cinemascape. Special attention paid to the conspicuous medieval ideals and tropes that populate what looks on the surface to be a ‘50s alien invasion movie homage, and how the interplay between content and form is necessary for the proper reading of the film’s purpose to reiterate the Grail Quest.

Dustin Hannum (Georgia Tech)

“This is our immortality”: Tin Cup, Sporting Quests, Inner Demons, Failure, and the American Dream

On its surface, the film Tin Cup presents a story that falls firmly within a familiar trope of American sports movies: Roy McAvoy, a talented but underachieving golf pro “chock-full of inner demons,” embarks on an epic quest to overcome those demons and realize his potential by winning the U.S. Open, beating both overwhelming odds and a smug opponent, and in the process capturing the heart of a beautiful woman. In this particular iteration of this familiar trope, however, our hero does not achieve victory. While this, in and of itself, is not especially unusual, it is the way that our hero fails–against both his opponent or his own demons–that is most remarkable about this film. Indeed, it is ultimately Roy’s near-compulsive need to take on overwhelming odds that proves to be the source of his inner demons and the cause of his undoing, as again and again in the film he succumbs to his inability to pass up a challenge, failing repeatedly and finally going down in flames in the big event. That big event–the U.S. Open golf tournament–is presented in the film as both a “holy grail” of sporting achievement and a metaphor for the American Dream: Roy calls it “not just the biggest golf tournament in the world, [but] the most democratic golf tournament in the world.” As Roy notes, and as its name suggests, the tournament is “open” to professionals and amateurs alike. But its formal openness is part and parcel to the difficulty of winning it: in order to be champion, one must beat every other competitor. As such, the tournament becomes a metaphor not just of democracy, but also the social darwinism of unfettered capitalism. The film thus captures a peculiar tension between freedom and equality that underlies the both the sports movie formula it employs and the American dream that that formula generally serves to underwrite–a dream that in this film proves as unattainable as the holy grail.

Julie Hawk (Georgia Tech)

Arthur and Lancelot Go to Camelot: The Hamburger Slider as Holy Grail in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Examines the 2004 film as absurdist, postmodern take on the traditional Grail Quest narrative. White Castle and its sliders serve as cultural and physical replenishment for the two stoner protagonists (as opposed to the Grail as replenishment of land and soul for the king) complete with road comedy narrative that actually employs a number of medieval tropes and characters to besiege and waylay our heroes. Among them are sexual enchantresses and their familiars, warring knights, and a wizard/Merlin (Neil Patrick Harris). Weed represents both magic and Guinevere.


Session 12: Major Authors

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Chair: Caitlin Kelly (Georgia Tech)


Rachel Landers (U of Alabama Birmingham)

“A Tale Thrice Told”: The Medievalism in William Wordsworth’s Geoffrey Chaucer Modernizations

In 1801 William Wordsworth began working on his four Chaucer modernizations. Ultimately during his career he produced modernizations of “The Prioress’s Tale,” “The Manciple’s Tale,” “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” and “Troilus and Cresida” in an attempt to make Chaucer more accessible to his modern audience, yet still maintain a sense of antiquity. On the surface his modernizations appear to be ‘scholarly’ attempts to repackage Chaucer into a form more suitable for a nineteenth century audience; however, upon closer examinations they are essentially works of creative medievalism that Wordsworth has used to develop his personal interests as a poet. Wordsworth’s mention of Chaucer in his and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s second edition of Lyrical Ballads is a nod to his audiences’ interest in works of medievalism. In addition to the mention of Chaucer in the Preface, the work contains several of Coleridge’s works of medievalism. The dates in which Lyrical Ballads was published and Wordsworth created his modernizations are closely related, leading one to view Wordsworth’s modernizations as works of medievalism. Wordsworth does not hesitate to connect Chaucer to his own poetic ideals. Gordon Kent Thomas in his work Wordsworth and the Motions of the Mind reports Wordsworth’s self-admitted association between Chaucer and the natural world. He quotes Wordsworth: “he [Wordsworth] read Chaucer not in a schoolroom at Cambridge nor under a tutor’s gaze but ‘Beside the pleasant Mill of Trompington/ … in the hawthorne shade / … while birds were warbling.’ ”(9). Wordsworth’s association with Chaucer and nature is reminiscent of his poetic ideologies, this connection leads one to view this as a means of medievalism. The reading of these modernizations as works of medievalism is further strengthened when Wordsworth uses his own modernization to quote Chaucer in his sonnet “Edward VI.” Wordsworth’s usage of his own modernization to refer to Chaucer is indicative that Wordsworth feels his modernizations are works of medievalism and not scholarly translations.

Clare A. Simmons (Ohio State U)

Medievalist Wandering in Wordsworth’s Excursion

2014 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Wordsworth’s massive poem The Excursion. The poem describes a walking trip of four unnamed friends as they attempt to understand faith, human society, imagination, and the power of the past. In contradiction to those critics who find little distinction between the four walkers, I have suggested elsewhere that each of the friends represents a slightly different aspect of medievalism. The Wanderer is associated with the tradition of the minstrel, while the Solitary’s desire for a retreat from the world connects him with the medieval recluse or Hermit. At a time when his poet-creator’s ideas were themselves evolving, the Poet’s medievalism is less distinct, but he is attracted to ideas of tradition and nationhood. I want to focus here, though, on the Pastor. Although on the surface he appears to be the character who wanders least, joining the excursion late in the process and only walking with the group from the church to the church-yard in the mountains, he wanders extensively in imagination, bringing together recent and earlier pasts as he recalls the lives of local people from oral tradition, as I shall argue, from his own medievalist imagination. Although the Pastor does not create stories set in the Middle Ages, he creates a more chivalric view of the medieval, especially through his narrative of Sir Alfred Irthing. Sir Alfred Irthing actually lived in Elizabethan times but in the Pastor’s imagination he embodies the finest qualities of the Middle Ages without being identified with medieval religion. I will argue that the Pastor’s version of the lives of the people that he recalls is shaped by a medievalism that properly belongs to him as a character, but that his creator was to embrace more fully in later works such as the Ecclesiastical Sonnets.

Martha Oberle (Frederick Community College)

Chaucer, Malory, Dante–the Medievals–and The Computer

Medieval Literature, which is to say the literature of several hundred years, revolves around the work of Petrarch, Boccacio, Dante, Chaucer, Malory, Langland, and the romance writers many of whom are anonymous. Thanks to the long term and very considerable efforts of Ker and others, we have a good idea of how frequently the manuscripts manuscripts of their works were copied and where a number of those manuscripts presently are.  In short, those mss.give us a list of the “best sellers” of the medieval period.

Today, finding out who were the best sellers of the past one hundred years is simply the matter of the click of a key. This paper proposes to identify the most prevalent of those writers —the list is surprising—and to examine their works for medieval influence. For instance, Owen Wister’s Virginian is a knight in cowboy boots, but other examples, popular in their day if no longer, live on the pages of a number of early novels, books now usually obtained via Amazon, another click of a key.


Session 13: Medieval Things

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Chair: Joy Robinson (Georgia Tech)


Henry Schilb (Princeton U)

Lost in Translation: The Displacement of Meaning from Post-Byzantine Liturgical Textiles Acquired by R. F. Borough and Burton Y. Berry  

An essay written in 1925 by R. F. Borough, Chaplain of the Crimean Memorial Church in Constantinople, relates the author’s adventure to Nicaea to retrieve an Orthodox Christian liturgical veil. Ostentatiously xenophobic, the alarmingly rich vein of Orientalism running through Borough’s narrative may distract twenty-first century readers from at least two strata of Medievalism. The textile Borough acquired is a post-Byzantine epitaphios, possibly embroidered in the eighteenth century when it already represented a survival, if not a revival, of Byzantine culture. Borough shifted the epitaphios from East to West while also pushing its meaning into the past, all the way to the fourth century. The Byzantine Church of the Koimesis in Nicaea had been destroyed in 1922, and the epitaphios that precipitated Borough’s journey had been looted from that church. The year 1925 was also the sixteen-hundredth anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea, and Borough regarded the epitaphios as a “relic” of that city and an emblem of the council held there. Borough’s essay is less about the epitaphios itself than the lengths to which the author, an Anglican clergyman, was willing to go to rescue the looted epitaphios from the “filth, discomfort, and general barbarity” of the land east of Constantinople. Appropriating a post-Byzantine epitaphios as an emblem of Christian piety, Borough translated his “relic” from Nicaea to Canterbury, from the Byzantine Church to the Church of England.

A contrasting displacement of meaning affects a sixteenth-century epitaphios in the Indiana University Art Museum. American diplomat Burton Y. Berry purchased this veil sometime before 1968, probably in Romania. While Borough had cast himself in the role of a crusader liberating a single relic, Berry was an avid art collector who also affected the role of pilgrim on a journey to Mount Athos. Apparently unfamiliar with epitaphioi, however, Berry identified the example he later collected as a “post-Byzantine embroidered church banner,” effectively stripping the textile of its liturgical function or any meaning other than that of an object in storage in a museum. Its intended liturgical function would be apparent to an Orthodox Christian, but other possible meanings are less obvious. A Wallachian voivode was the likely patron of Berry’s epitaphios, so we can read this textile as an early example of what Nicolae Iorga meant by the phrase “Byzance après Byzance.” Commissioning the textile was not only an act of princely piety but part of a tendency by Wallachian and Moldavian voivodes to emulate Byzantine models of patronage. When the epitaphios was created in the early sixteenth century it was already nostalgic, an example of a kind of proto-Medievalism. Its function as a post-Byzantine epitaphios now displaced, its new significance as an object of study obscures all other meanings, including the meaning of the iconography in its liturgical context, and the function of the object as a site for the display of Orthodox identity in the post-Byzantine world, the display of Byzantium after Byzantium.

Elizabeth Emery (Montclair State U)

Meubles: The Collection and Display of Medieval Furniture in Nineteenth-Century France

Meubles, the French word for furniture, stems from the Latin mobilis, movability being the defining characteristic of these useful domestic items. Transported from castle to castle and transferred from one family member to another after the Middle Ages, medieval furniture took on new life after the French Revolution as former family heirlooms and ecclesiastical furnishings flooded the marketplace as collectibles. In this illustrated paper I will question some of the private and public re-appropriations of medieval furniture in nineteenth century France: Alexandre du Sommerard’s and Frédéric Spitzer’s Paris homes (now the Musée de Cluny and the legendary auctioned “Spitzer collection,” respectively) and Victor Hugo’s and Pierre’s Loti’s collection and re-construction of medieval furniture in their homes in Guernsey and Rochefort (now the Hauteville House museum and the Pierre Loti House museum, respectively). Such treatments of medieval furniture as historical objects to be preserved or as malleable objects useful for expressing personal fantasy reflect nineteenth-century French attitudes to the medieval period as a whole. Important for French history, yet infinitely flexible in the ways in which it could be arranged or manipulated, the Middle Ages moved among a range of cultural associations related to memory, aesthetics, economics, religion, and cultural heritage.

Dustin Frazier (University of Roehampton)

Charter Horns and the Eighteenth-Century English Landscape

Of all the Anglo-Saxon artefacts studied by eighteenth-century English antiquaries, the now largely forgotten instrument of the charter horn was perhaps the most evocative for antiquaries themselves. Like manuscripts, charter horns presented a tangible link between past and present. Interest in charters is evidenced by their transcription and publication by William Dugdale and Roger Dodsworth in Monasticon Anglicanum (1655-73), Thomas Hearne’s edition of Textus Roffensis (1720) and George Hickes’s Thesaurus (1703-5). While charter horns benefited from the general level of antiquarian and legal enthusiasm for Anglo-Saxon charters aroused by these and other publications, they were also unique in themselves. In a period in which little was known about early medieval material culture, they were also rare examples of datable, readily identifiable Anglo-Saxon and Saxo-Danish artefacts.

This paper draws on minutes of meetings and published essays and engravings to trace antiquarian interest in charter horns from the first mention of the Horn of Ulph from York Minster at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of London in April 1718 through the end of the century. In doing so it seeks to investigate the ways in which the very physicality of charter horns elicited uniquely medievalist and medievalising responses from the scholars who studied them. Antiquaries found in charter horns sources for theories about the origins of titles and estates, for fanciful imaginings of historical figures and events, and (in retrospect) for forward-looking hypotheses about the relations between Anglo-Saxons and Danes. As links between the Anglo-Saxon past and still recognisable features of England’s geographical, social and historical landscape, charter horns captured the antiquarian imagination and subtly shaped their engagement with the geographical, social and cultural landscapes in which they lived.

Robin Wharton (Georgia State U)

Medievalism in the Makerspace

In this presentation, I will explore whether medieval socio-economic structures and concepts— for example, guilds, apprenticeship, micro- and manu-facture, craft, or “makyng”—might be useful to understanding and explaining whether, and if so, how critical making and physical computing fit in the humanities curriculum. Rather than arguing we should replicate the medieval or map it onto the modern makerspace, I will instead draw from Caroline Walker Bynum’s approach in Holy Feast and Holy Fast: “If [medieval] images and values cannot become our answers, they can nonetheless teach us that we need richer images and values.” Could the “range and richness of medieval symbols” shed light on pressing questions about the future of academic labor in and beyond the classroom? Have concepts such as “maker,” “work,” “craft,” “value,” “knowledge,” “learning,” been symbolically “impoverished” by a narrowing— or perhaps even an emptying—of their signifying power within modern academic discourse?

Anyone interested in digital humanities knows something about ongoing debates regarding what place building and making should have in scholarly praxis. Very recently, for example, Adam Kirsch ignited another round of “hack v. yack” with a piece in the New Republic wherein he wonders, “Was it necessary for a humanist in the past five hundred years to know how to set type and publish a book?” Even to answer the question in its narrow, literal sense of “Did humanists during the last five hundred years ever have to fabricate and publish copies of their books?” requires one to unpack who counts as a “humanist,” do “humanists” include “humanities scholars,” what are “books,” and what did it mean to “publish” a book whenever and wherever said humanists may have been working. Interpreting Kirsch’s question more broadly, as “Was it necessary for humanists in the past five hundred years to know how to make their own books and tools?,” to respond in the negative requires a definition of “making” that—unlike the medieval definition—doesn’t include writing within its frame of reference. It also requires overlooking quite a bit of material history suggesting humanists often had to fabricate all kinds of tools, from pens to compound microscopes, necessary for their work. Given Kirsch probably knows all of this, what he really seems to be asking is whether the manual labor that makes humanistic inquiry possible should ever “count” as the “work” of humanism or have a place in humanities pedagogy. For Kirsch, the answer seems to be a pretty obvious and emphatic, “no, it should not.”

Yet, as both a medievalist and digital humanist, I cannot help but see Kirsch’s throwaway rhetorical question as provocation to deep and thoughtful inquiry. Given the labor of making— whether it’s books, pens, and microscopes; or buildings, paintings, music, and dance—has historically been essential to humanist inquiry in any number of ways, why is some of that labor valued differently, or not at all, within the modern academy? To what extent are modern distinctions between what counts as the humanities and what doesn’t, between making books and writing them, between physical and intellectual labor, informed by the inexorable ontological logic of late capitalism? Do the pre- or proto-capitalist Middle Ages offer alternative conceptual paradigms? Thinking with Bynum again, perhaps rescuing some of the epistemological complexities of medieval humanity from the “oblivion” of history “can point the direction in which we should search” for a way through this most recent crisis in the humanities. More specifically, perhaps revisiting the problem of medieval humanism may help us “see a little more clearly what to admire and abhor about” an academy in which the intellectual work of humanism has become logistically and conceptually attenuated from the physical labor that makes it possible.

Friday, October 24, 5:15pm-6:15pm


Session 14: PLENARY I

D. M. Smith Lecture Hall 105 (685 Cherry Street, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Introduction: Karl Fugelso, Editor: Studies in Medievalism

Kathleen Verduin (Hope College)

“The Times of the Appreciation”: Dante among the Americans

“We animate what we can, and we see only what we animate.” This line from Emerson’s 1844 essay “Experience” suggests something of the fortunes of Dante and his Commedia in nineteenth-century America. How did Dante come to be “animated” in the United States? How did American persons of letters come to know of the Italian poet, and what precipitated their assumption that his work was worth study? How did individual American readers “animate” the Commedia to speak to their condition, to address the questions of nation, work, love, death, and life that infused their contemplations—and how did these contemplations reflect in turn their surrounding culture? In this presentation I consider the introduction of Dante’s poetry into the American literary and academic worlds from the first decades of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth; the readers of Dante I consider include George Ticknor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Charles Eliot Norton, and Edith Wharton.


Friday, October 24, 7:15pm-9pm


Georgia Tech Hotel. Menu available here; Cash Bar.

John Cressler, Reading/Presentation

Ceremony honoring Kathleen Verduin


Saturday, October 25, 9am-10:30am

3 concurrent sessions


Session 15: Monachatus non est pietas: Matthew Lewis’ The Monk

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Organizer: Nickolas Haydock (U of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez)

Chair: Nicole Lobdell (Georgia Tech)

With the release of Dominic Moll’s film (2011) and increasingly intense critical debates about the role of horror, this would seem to be an opportune moment to revisit one of the most controversial productions of what might well be termed a counter-Enlightenment medievalism. The three proposed essays approach the novel and its tradition as a transgressive and transformative text that usefully complicates our understanding of literary history and film adaptations.


Nickolas Haydock

The (A)wry Views of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk

The (A)wry Views of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk

To what degree was the early Gothic a mechanism that functioned to reveal the repressed in all its lurid, scandalous fascination? To that degree, perhaps, the Gothic morphed conventional reality and literature, finding incestuous secrets in the conception of foundlings, deep-seated fears made flesh, and flesh pulsing beneath any spiritual pretensions. In Genette’s terms such a machine is especially transtextual. Radcliffe transforms Walpole’s horrors into the terrifying illusions of an overheated imagination; Lewis responds, intimating that attempts to dispel horror foreclose and dissemble how dark human hearts actually are; and Radcliffe answers by rewriting The Monk in her final novel, The Italian. In this concatenation of early Gothic novels each new entry performs an anamorphosis of its predecessor in order to reveal a truth hidden within. These truths are a function of perspective determined by gender and social class. The literary history of the early Gothic thus reproduces the dialectic of false revelation and anagnorisis that is constitutive of the genre.

Pedro Noel Doreste (Emory U)

Collapse of the Sacrosanct: Monk Lewis’ Violent Christophobia in Ken Russell’s The Devils

During the early years of the gothic novel, no publication was as controversial as Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk. Building on Ann Radcliffe’s method of titillating terror, “Monk” Lewis crafted the tale of Ambrosio to reflect his own anti-Catholic inclinations as well as his preferred representation of horror in gothic literature. The resulting novel equally shocked and entertained its audiences with its portrayal of despotic nuns, depraved monks, and deals with the devil. The hyper-sexualized and often gratuitously-gory narrative drew the attention of fans of the genre and religious prudes alike for differing reasons, and much of The Monk’s controversial themes were captured in Adonis Kyrou’s 1972 film adaptation of the same name. However, it could be argued that Ken Russell’s The Devils, released the year prior in 1971, more fittingly captured the motifs of repressed desire, the awry numinous, and the evils of the Catholic Church. Both these works, Lewis’ timeless gothic masterpiece and Russell’s X-rated historical drama, produced the same horrific effect in its audiences–although falling victim to numerous censors and revisions since their respective initial releases–and inspired a wave of memorable monsters in their wake.

Margarita Rivera (U of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez)

Power and Social Hierarchy in Matthew Lewis’ The Monk

The purpose of this research is to analyze the relationship between social hierarchy and Anti-Catholic sentiment in various film adaptations, from early and contemporary cinema, of Matthew Lewis’ Gothic novel, The Monk. My work focuses on both the novel’s and the films’ treatment of the villainous protagonist, Ambrosio, represented as a symbol of the corrupt nature of the Church. Works by Matthew Lewis, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Charles Maturin, Ingmar Bergman, Dominik Moll, Kevin Smith, Ado Kyrou, Luis Buñuel and Carlos Carrera will be consulted.


Session 16: What We Remember to Forget: Medievalism’s Aporiae

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Organizer/Chair: Lauryn S. Mayer (Washington and Jefferson College)

What history teaches is, history teaches. Gertrude Stein. Stein’s comment applies equally to the study of medievalism, and for too long we have been “taught,” implicitly, the parameters of inquiry. This roundtable builds on the pioneering work done by Carol Robinson and Pam Clements in bringing neglected topics into the critical discussion, Karl Fugelso’s continued championing of diverse topics for the Studies in Medievalism series, and Richard Utz’s recent manifesto that sparked the online volume Medievalism NOW! Possible roundtable topics could include, but are not limited to: occluded primary texts, genres and media underrepresented in medievalist analysis, medievalist groups not invited to the discussion, or neglected theoretical approached.


Carol Robinson (Kent State U at Trumbull) & Pam Clements (Siena College)

Serious Play—Unseriously: Acceptance and Empowerment in Neomedievalism

Kevin Moberly (Old Dominion U) & Brent Moberly (Indiana U)

Swords, Sorcery, and Steam: Industrial Age Nostalgia in Medieval-themed Computer Games

E.L. Risden (St. Norbert College)

A Lesser-known Sister Rehabilitates a Lesser-known Brother: Clemence Housman’s Sir Aglovale de Galis

Thomas Goodman (U of Miami)

Arts and Crafts and Women’s Work

Richard Utz (Georgia Tech)

Medievalism’s Nationality


Session 17: Animating the Medieval World

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Organizer/Chair: J.P. Telotte (Georgia Tech)

The three papers address different efforts to quite literally “draw” the medieval world into the modern by using it as a subject or context for the contemporary art of animation.  In the process, these pieces not only address the continuing appeal of the medieval world and its characteristic imagery, but they also suggest ways in which its imagery can help to illuminate contemporary cinematic/animation practice.

Richard Neupert (U of Georgia)

Animated Animals and Embodied Performance in Starewicz’s Tale of the Fox

Ladislas Starewicz and his daughter Irene helped launch stop-motion puppet animation as a viable genre during the 1920s and ‘30s. After creating a number of short adaptations of folk tales and La Fontaine fables, they selected the collection of beast fables known as Le Roman de Renart cycle. The result was the world’s first stop-motion feature film, Tale of the Fox / Le Roman de Renard (1930). This paper examines the Starewicz adaptation strategies, selecting several key episodes, including Renart’s brutal treatment of Ysangrin the wolf and Chantecler the rooster, for ways that the animation process reinforces the oral tradition and parodic functions of the original Renart / Reynard cycle. In particular, the anthropomorphic qualities of Starewicz’s puppets and taxidermied animals illustrate the potential for animated cinema to present thinking, embodied characters who engage the spectator, while acting out medieval scenarios of deception and betrayal that revive the pertinence of the Renart cycle for twentieth century audiences as well as for classical film theory.

Krystina Madej (Georgia Tech)

Bakhtin and Disney: Dialogism, Heterglossia, and Longevity in Disney’s world of Knights and Ladies Fair

The literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin believed that the human utterance was a product of the interaction of langue (abstract grammatical form) and the context of the utterance—a context that belongs to history. The most important feature of utterance is dialogism and its intertextual dimension. “The word… weaves in and out of complex interrelationships, merges with some, recoils from others, intersects with yet a third group…. [it is] an active participant in social dialogue” (Morson and Emerson, 1990, p. 276). Walt Disney’s first presentation of the medieval in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon Oh, What a Knight (1928), is shaped by the dialogue between historical references and a representation of contemporary movie culture that patterns scenes from Douglas Fairbanks’ silent film Robin Hood released in 1922. Disney animated shorts and movies touching on medievalism that were produced over the next fifty years, Ye Olden Days, The Reluctant Dragon, A Knight for a Day, The Sword in the Stone, and Robin Hood, each reflect the heteroglossic push and pull between the acknowledged historical worlds of the medieval personalities, King Arthur and Robin Hood, and that of the environment in which the producers were temporally located.  These works reflect the influence of past understandings that each in their turn influenced and shaped the characters and stories brought forward through ballads, plays, books, and early movies. While intertextual nature of language and its presentation implies a continuous alteration of our perception of a given object or event, Bakhtin comments on the longevity of certain utterances that become socially significant for a wide group of people for a considerable time. This paper shows that these Disney stories have both shared in a dialogic and heteroglossic conversation with past representations of the medieval, and placed before its viewers an expression of the medieval that has been enduring.

J.P. Telotte (Georgia Tech)

Flatness and Depth: Disney’s Medieval—and Modern—Vision

It is hardly surprising that castles, as well as other elements of medieval architecture, figure prominently in a host of classic-era Disney films.  Among many instances, these elements show up in numerous cartoons, such as the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Oh, What a Knight (1928) and Mickey Mouse’s Ye Olden Days (1933) and Brave Little Tailor (1938); they become emblematic of goals and values in such animated features as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and The Sword in the Stone (1963); and they form the historical backdrop for several live-action adventures, including The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) and The Sword and the Rose (1953).  Walt Disney himself is partly responsible for this prominence.  His valuation of European art and culture is well known; he obviously favored classic European fairy tales; and he insisted that his animators be familiar with European art traditions.  The critical tendency has been to view such elements of Disney animation in a largely cultural light, often leading to assessments of his studio’s work as modern plunderings or abasements of older and highly valued forms, while overshadowing the role of this imagery as spatial representation, as part of a larger spatial aesthetic at work in Disney’s films.  However, that meeting ground of the new art of animation with medieval imagery like the castle can tell us much about Disney animation that largely escapes those culture-directed commentaries.  This paper explores some of those architectural elements—and, more generally, the spaces—that are featured in works like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, treating them as a lens for better seeing how Disney animation during its golden era of the 1930s-1950s was engaged in a dialogue with the space that has become emblematic of modernism, including that of the architectural modern.

Saturday, October 25, 10:45am-12:15pm

3 concurrent sessions


Session 18: The Modern Medieval Fantasy

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Chair: Patricia R. Taylor (Georgia Tech)

Maria Sachiko Cecire (Bard College)

“It Grows Like a Seed in the Dark”: Medieval Literature and Tolkien’s Alternate Canons

The fantasy genre profoundly informs popular conceptions of the Middle Ages and Anglo-American origins. Such ideas rarely come from single sources, but grow, as Tolkien suggests that his stories grew, “like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”1 In this talk I will demonstrate the movement of tropes and ideas between the long-running undergraduate English curriculum that J.R.R. Tolkien established at the University of Oxford in 1931 and twentieth- and twenty-first-century children’s fantasy literature. At the heart of Tolkien’s reforms lay an emphasis on medieval languages and literature, and the requirement that students study early texts like as literature, rather than merely “quarried” for historical and linguistic facts (as they were usually being read at the time).2 Tolkien’s colleague C.S. Lewis strongly supported these curricular changes, and a number of important British children’s fantasy authors studied this syllabus, including Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, Kevin Crossley-Holland, and Philip Pullman.

Tolkien and Lewis’s two-pronged attack on literary culture – both within the academy and outside of it – gave rise to an alternate strand of writing and thinking that resisted the disenchantment, relativism, and progressivism that they saw in modernity. Thus the “alternate canons” to which my title refers include both Oxford’s “unfashionable” academic focus on early English works, and the oft-infantilized popular fantasy genre that grew up at a time when high (and “adult”) literary culture strove to “make it new.”3 I will argue that the seeds that Tolkien and Lewis planted in the early twentieth century have grown into the thriving industry of multimediated medievalisms today, if often in ways that confound or resist the meanings that they saw as essential to medievalized fantasy.

Kyle Ann Huskin (U of Rochester)

A Theory of Slayer Slang: Creating a New “Cult Classic” Television Series out of Old English Language and Culture

An entire issue of Slayage, an academic journal devoted to Whedon studies, is dedicated to the language used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS), focusing on its unique vocabulary, its role in individual- and group-identity formation within the show itself, and its continued use in fandom communities like The Bronze and The Bronze:Beta. While each individual study elucidates an important aspect of the show, together they constitute a wealth of observations that, through their evasion of a fundamental question, point to the need for a more comprehensive study of the language at its core, not just as it functions in the show. Consequently, the fundamental question that needs asking is: Why is the language of BtVS so well-suited to members of the “Scooby Gang” and so easily adapted by fans to uses outside the show? Linguist and series-writer Michael Adams offers a preliminary answer to that question in his book Slayer Slang, which explores the show’s linguistic complexity by demonstrating its relative lack of jargon, as well as its extensive use of analogy, non-Latinate prefixes and suffixes, and conceptual metaphor.

By pushing Adams’ conclusions further, I would argue, it is possible to see that BtVS paradoxically achieves its innovative language by returning to the Anglo-Saxon roots of the English language. This is relatively easy to see through Adams’ observations of analogy, a prominent feature of English at all stages, and other non-Latinate word-building components. It is also observable through what little jargon BtVS does include — specifically the terms “Hellmouth” and “Slayer,” both of which have Anglo-Saxon origins. The former is the exact term used in Old English writings to denote the entrance into hell and cultural perceptions of what hell was like; the latter is a noun constructed by analogy from the Old English verb sléan, looking back to its original definition meaning “to kill with a weapon.” Looking beyond specific word origins, BtVS’s incorporation of Old English linguistics explains slayer slang’s adaptability by fans, since using slayer slang simply involves amplifying word-formation principles already present in Modern English. It may also explain why the language is so easy to use to describe things outside the Buffyverse: its malleable yet widely comprehensible language makes it possible to articulate the popular conceptual metaphors that underlie the show itself, such as “high school is hell” or “my boyfriend is a monster,” metaphors which are comprehensible to a wide variety of people and which are particularly well-suited to concretization through medieval themes, as scholars like Joanna Russ have noted.

Sarah Lindsay (Milligan College)

Knights vs. Prejudice in Space: The Pre-modern Past in “The Mountains of Mourning”

In her vast space opera, The Vokosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold imagines a society that shifts rapidly (in the space of about three generations) from an isolated, pre-modern condition to a technologically advanced, intergalactically connected state. Although as an imagined future society the planet Barryar does not precisely have a medieval past, in the short story “The Mountains of Mourning” Bujold uses medievalisms familiar to her audience to explore the multivalent connections between past and present. My paper will focus on the effects generated by contrasting two forms of medievalism: the negative image of the unenlightened and violent pre-modern past and the more positive image of the knight errant riding forth to right injustices. The backbone of Bujold’s story fits nicely into the perception of the medieval past as violent and ignorant; the narrative focuses on a case of infanticide in which a baby with a genetic mutation (a cleft palate) was murdered. As a modern audience might expect, the main character, Miles, represents modern, enlightened society; also as expected, he guides the backwoods community that still practices infanticide into the more tolerant and medically advanced present. However, Bujold complicates this simplistic view of past and present by framing Miles as a knight-errant and drawing on medieval romance for the narrative structure: the woman whose daughter was killed comes to the court of Miles’ father to seek justice, and he sends Miles out, on horseback, to return to the village and find the murderer. I will explore how Bujold deploys these contrasting views of the pre-modern past to emphasize the complex relationship between past and present in which the contributions of the past have inescapable and complicated impacts on the present.

Emily Huber (Franklin and Marshall)

Leave off Loki, for thou art drunk: Mediating the Trickster in Comics and Film

Abstract forthcoming.


Session 19: Russian Medievalisms

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Organizers/Chairs: Dina Khapaeva & Nikolay Koposov (Georgia Tech)

The round table will consider various aspects of Russian/Soviet medievalism from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century: fascination with national past and the formation of the concepts of Ancient Rus and the Middle Ages in the nineteenth-century Russian historiography and culture; Stalinist medievalism as a cultural and ideological phenomenon as reflected in the works of the most prominent Soviet cineaste, Sergei Eisenstein, director of the famous film Ivan the Terrible; and the present-day ‘pragmatic medievalism,’ or ‘medievalism as a way of life,’ as implemented in politics, ideology and social life in Putin’s Russia.


Nikolay Koposov

Ancient Rus: The Birth of Russian Medievalism

Kevin Platt (U of Pennsylvania)

Sergei Eisenstein and Stalinist Medievalism

Dina Khapaeva

Russian Gothic Society: Report on the Recent Advancement of Pragmatic Medievalism


Session 20: Presence

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Organizer: Amy Kaufman (Middle Tennessee State U)

Chair: Michael Evans (Central Michigan U)

This session looks at monuments, relics, and other material objects (such as Viking ‘artifacts’ in the US) as well as medievalism’s movement toward object theory and new materialisms.

Kevin Harty (La Salle U)

The Vikings in Rhode Island: The Sagas, The Newport Tower, and R. William Neill’s 1928 Film, The Viking

Susan Aronstein (U of Wyoming) & Laurie Finke (Kenyon College)

Frederick Glasscock’s New Round Table

Anne Howey (Brock U)

Uther’s Presence in the BBC Merlin

Amy Kaufman

Dark Revivals


Saturday, October 25, 12:30pm-1:30pm


Session 21: PLENARY II

D. M. Smith Lecture Hall 105 (685 Cherry Street, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Sylvie Kandé, SUNY Old Westbury

Olifants and Balafos: The Social Life of African Things in Postcolonial Middle Ages

Postcolonial approaches to the European Middle Ages have shown that the process by which Europe emerged as an entity was largely colonial –absorbing, displacing or eradicating local cultures that resisted cultural and political homogenization (Cohen). Indeed, Valentin Mudimbe’s definition of colonization as the violent transformation of “non-European areas into fundamentally European constructs,” does apply to Europe itself. If colonialism is thus “both a European and extra-European phenomenon which paved the way for all the economic and cultural projects of modernity,” as Biodun Jeyifo has persuasively argued, the mutually constitutive quality of Western and non-Western colonization remains to be emphasized, as well as their historical iterations, notably in the 16th and 19th centuries.

In keeping with one major trend in the postcolonial reading of medieval material, this presentation is centered on material culture, with an emphasis on what Ato Quayson calls “the effects of long centuries of interpretation” on emblematized objects. This presentation highlights the multi-layered meaning of the circuitous transfers implicating the said Afro-Portuguese ivories — the first objects to be imported from Subsaharan Africa into Europe and among which salt-cellars and olifants figure prominently. Commissioned by European traders, created between the 15th and the early 17th century by artists from regions that correspond today’s Sierra-Leone, Nigeria and the Congo, these objects reached the shores of Portugal to be disseminated throughout Europe into various papal, royal, private collections, or cabinets de curiosité. We know, for instance, that by 1520, Albrecht Dürer had bought two Afro-Portuguese salt-cellars in Netherlands, and that three olifants of African origin figure in the 1553 inventory of the belongings of Cosimo I, grand Duke of Tuscany. The “cultural biography” of these objects (to borrow Igor Kopytoff’s concept) continued beyond Renaissance, since many of them, forgotten and/or mislabeled, were “rediscovered” in the 19th century, in the wake of punitive colonial expeditions, such as the 1897 sack of Benin, that flooded European markets with African art.

Taking issue with the conventional scholarly interpretations of the first Afro-European encounters on the West coast of Africa –documented in the very materiality of these Afro-Portuguese ivories — which overplay the mutual otherness of the parties (as well as the temporal otherness of the period), Susan Vogel and Peter Mark have underlined African and European men’s medieval commonalities (same belief system, social groupings and notion of extended family, similar hatched houses, shared norms of the anonymity of the artist, etc.). One could consider however, that imported Afro-Portuguese objects came to contribute to the constitution of a European culture of taste that both reflected and strengthened the hegemony of the elite. Eventually, this culture of taste would succeed in commodifying African bodies and denying the existence of African art as a category (Gikandi).

Bringing together the notion of postcolonial Middle Ages, African art and Appadurai’s theorization of commodities in cultural perspective, this presentation suggests that Afro-Portuguese ivories — be they commodities by destination or by diversion – stood for approximately a century at the core of Europe’s steady self-fashioning process as the unique locus of Modernity. They were evidences of their owners’ ability to both access resources of newly discovered regions of the world and produce the specific knowledge “that goes into appropriately consuming the commodity”(Appadurai), enabling them to locating themselves on a linear narrative of progress.

As Ato Quayson pointed out, language itself can become one of those material objects with which the self is “desperately entangled”, and as such, takes its place within a social life of things (262). The entanglement of the “idea of Africa,” Otherness, and the Middle Ages in 19th-century medievalism should come as no surprise. In Hugo’s historical novel Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), published right after the July Revolution — a decidedly troubled time for the French hereditary monarchy and the nation– Esmeralda is the figure of metissage, endowed with the eclectic knowledge and tastes she brought back from her travels throughout Europe and (North) Africa with a band of Gypsies who, unbeknownst to her, abducted her at birth. Although French, as the reader discovers at the end of the narrative, she is perceived as a Gypsy and evoked with a terminology that specifically connotes a West African origin, and includes the balafon, a wooden percussion idiophone, and Djali, a synonym of griot.

The main thrust of this presentation is to explore the correlated transfer of things and words African into a medieval context, expanding on Appadurai’s proposition, according to which the meanings of things “are inscribed in their forms, their uses, their trajectories”.


Saturday, October 25, 1:45pm-3:15pm

3 concurrent sessions


Session 22: Medieval Spectres

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Chair: Alexander Kaufman

Mustafa Kemal Mirzeler (Western Michigan U)

Remembering the Voyage of Sir Vivian Fuchs to the South Island in 1934: The Elmolo and Europeans on the Shores of Lake Rudolf in the Kenya Colony

This paper aims to bring the theories in Medievalism into a growing body of cultural studies and historical anthropology, which analyzes intercultural contacts over time, and challenges the idea that life among small-scale societies was static before the arrival of the Europeans.  In my paper, I return in some ways to the unresolved debates of the 1990s over the representational concerns of colonial encounters in anthropology and cultural studies, which questioned the primacy and priority of Western history. The issues chosen for analysis strategically aim at answering these broader questions in light of Medievalism, and debate about history, memory, identity, and modernity, as well as the notions of “colonial encounter,” “extinction discourse,” the “vanishing races,” and “imperial nostalgia.” This paper aims to reconcile theories and resolve contradictions in the humanities regarding the momentous transcultural exchanges in history. In doing so, the paper looks at a particular colonial encounter experience between Vivian Fuchs, a British explorer, and the Elmolo people, an indigenous community living on the shores of Lake Rudolf (Turkana) in Kenya in East Africa, in 1934. Fuchs’ exploration ended with a tragic event in which two of his expedition members disappeared from South Island, the sacred island of the Elmolo people, and were never found.  The disappearance of the expedition members became an international event, occupying newspaper headlines for weeks. While Fuchs’ voyage set the foundation for his fame as an explorer, the press, in its coverage of local affairs, portrayed the images of the Elmolo with an “imperialist nostalgia,” mourning for the inevitable extinction of the “primitive races.” Today, the Elmolo villages and South Island are the favored tourist destinations of Europeans who are interested in the mysterious island, and in meeting the Elmolo, the smallest tribe in Kenya, before it becomes extinct.

The extinction discourse and the imperialist nostalgia most recently served as the ideological basis for the Kenyan Nation State to declare the Elmolo villages a natural museum.  This consolidates the evolutionary science of the late 19th century, aiming to salvage the Elmolo and their culture in the museums of Western science. Most anthropological writings on early explorations of colonial encounters have focused on Western influences on non-Western cultures and history, rarely examining the influence of non-Western cultures and histories on Western interpretation of culture and history. This paper focuses equally on the Elmolo, the European experiences, and their respective representations of self and others in colonial encounters. In doing so, this paper incorporates the historical dimensions of colonial and postcolonial worlds into Medievalism studies. It is in this light that I approach the unresolved debate in anthropology over the question of self and other, which contributes to the reflexivity characteristic of both fields. The paper engages in the kind of questions that Medievalism studies pose, investigating processes of recreations and reinventions, particularly in the context of cultural encounters between Westerners and non-Westerners in other cultural spaces and times. Bringing Medievalism’s epistemological concern into the studies of colonial encounters in an anthropological analysis illuminates the hitherto unexplored underlying reasons why the Westerners were so concerned with the extinction of the “primitive” in general and the Elmolo society in a far flung colonial territory in East Africa in particular. No anthropologists have grappled with the issue of extinction and reinvention in light of Medievalism’s epistemological concern, which can help us identify the underlying reasons for Europeans’ mourning of the possible extinction of the Elmolo.

Thomas Hahn (U of Rochester)

Medievalism, Oscar Wilde, and Pyle’s Robin Hood

A number of scholars have recently suggested that Gilbert and Sullivan’s lyric opera Patience (1881), far from enshrining Oscar Wilde’s standing as a medievalesque aesthete, in fact engendered that public image. The new brand of masculinity represented by Gilbert’s Bunthorne – eccentric clothes, exaggerated gestures and poses, summed up in devotion to beauty (“I walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in my medieval hand”) – reflected the practice of any number of public figures, but Wilde shrewdly claimed them for himself. Wilde corresponded with Richard D’Oyly Carte, the operetta’s impresario, occupied a prominent box early in the run, and eventually undertook a North American lecture tour of more than a year’s duration (1882), arranged by D’Oyly Carte in order to make the medievalesque satire in the piece more comprehensible to trans-Atlantic audiences. Wilde toured from coast-to-coast, flamboyantly flouting his knee-breeches and velvet frock coats while offering public lectures on pre-modern aesthetics and domestic, arts-and-crafts beauty. Wilde’s tour corresponded with the germinal interval of composition of Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, a “one-man” book upholding the ideals of arts-and-crafts aspiration, whereby a single artisan should hold responsibility for story, images, layout, typographic design, and binding. Pyle’s Robin Hood, repeatedly described as an event that changed children’s literature and the history of illustration, stands as one of the foremost monuments of American medievalism. Pyle published several installments of his project in the January 1883 number of Harper’s Young People, just at the moment Wilde returned to England. While the text previews an almost verbatim version of the volume published in December 1883, the accompanying pictures are completely non-descript: the clothing is utterly conventional, bodies are de-anatomized, and poses are stiff. For the book’s publication, Pyle completely revised the illustrations, offering robust bodies, shape-hugging clothing that emphasizes muscular legs and buttocks, and, most notably, a variant masculinity in the portrait of Will Scarlet, who walks down a forest path limp-wristedly smelling a rose in his med-i-e-val hand. Given Wilde’s subjects and Pyle’s aspirations as artist and author, it would be entirely predictable for Pyle to have attended any one of several lectures in New York (where he had constant consultations) or Philadelphia (close to his studio). But even if Pyle did not encounter Wilde directly, he would have known the Wilde-effect from the numerous commentaries (both respectful and satirical) and portraits and caricatures that appeared in American publications, and were frequently reprinted and recirculated. Using both visual and textual evidence, I wish to argue that Wilde’s modeling of alternative masculinities, widely recognized as “medieval,” crucially influenced Pyle’s classic illustrations of the forest outlaw and his forest brothers.


Session 23: Medievalisms of Early Modern English Language, History, and Drama

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Organizer/Chair: Jesse Swan (U of Northern Iowa)


Sarah A. Kelen (Nebraska Wesleyan U)

Ancestor or Alien? Early Modern Perspectives on Medieval English

Much has been written on the incipient nationalism of early modern England in relationship to political and religious history. Scholars who have studied the linguistic elements of early modern English nationalism, have largely focused either on the new roles for English as a literary and academic language, or on the uneasy way that the nation acknowledged its own linguistic diversity as the home to speakers of Celtic languages.

To fully understand the role of linguistic thinking in early modern nationalism, however, one must attend to diachronic as well as synchronic language variation. If, as Benedict Anderson has argued, the putative coherence of the nation state depends on its self-representation as “always loom[ing] out of an immemorial past” (Imagined Communities 19), how did that immanence coexist with language change between medieval and early modern English? In short, were speakers of medieval English “us” or “them” for early modern thinkers?

This paper will present some examples of early modern writing about medieval language from both perspectives. Early modern thinking about medieval English was complex and multifaceted. Knowing this can help us avoid projecting modern notions of linguistic periodization backward. Today we conceptualize Middle English and Early Modern English as distinct stages of language development. Similarly, early modern writers were aware that their language differed from that of their predecessors. Nevertheless, early modern writers were as apt to emphasize the continuities as the discontinuities between medieval language and their own. Understanding these competing historical perspectives allows us to recognize the linguistic element of early modern nationalism, and the nationalist element of early modern linguistics.

Rebecca Brackmann (Lincoln Memorial U)

Separation Anxiety: Sir Simonds D’Ewes’s Passionale in Harley 315 and Harley 624

Sir Simonds D’Ewes (1603-1650) was an enthusiastic book collector from an early age. In his 20s, he obtained a volume of a Passionale, a series of manuscripts containing lives of saints and bishops. D’Ewes’s subsequent treatment of this volume is enigmatic to say the least. He separated it into three sections (not by itself an unusual course of action for an early modern book collector). One section, containing the Vita St. Dunstan of Osbern and the Vita St. Anselm of Eadmer, he combined into one volume (now Harley 315), along with a flyleaf taken from a cartulary of St. Swithun’s Priory. Another section, containing (among other things) another life of Dunstan and various lives of other saints, he traded to Sir Robert Cotton. The remainder, a series of lives of various early Roman martyrs along with St. Alphege and Oda of Canterbury, he included as part of a new composite volume. Harley MS 624 contains (on early modern paper) copies of Nennius’s history, the Pipwell Chronicle, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s life of St. David of Wales, and other items relating to early British history. There, in the midst of the volume, D’Ewes placed part of his medieval manuscript, taking care to match the size of leaves and the decorative style of his pages to it. At the end of the volume he has a few items of post-Conquest history, including illustrations of William.

Why did D’Ewes carefully place a medieval manuscript dealing mostly with foreign saints and bishops in the midst of his elaborate volume of British history? And why would he remove two items that might at first seem as though they’d be much better “fits” with the rest of his material, the lives of Dunstan and Anselm? Certainly his actions show a discomfort with English history that smacked too much of Catholicism, but that cannot be the entire answer, for he did not need to break up the Passionale or include any of it in his other volume. D’Ewes here negotiates interests—in art and visual elements of book production, in early saints, and in Romano-British and post-Conquest history—that contrast to his (and our) later image of himself as a Puritan, skeptical of art, chiefly interested in law, and focusing on the Anglo-Saxon period of history. His treatment of this manuscript, therefore, gives us an idea of his early interests, and is a necessary background to understanding his later work in Anglo-Saxon lexicography and laws.

Brian Gourley (Independent Scholar)

An Analysis of Late Medieval Representations of Evil on the Reformation Stage: The Reconfiguring of the Seven Deadly Sins in John Bale’s Three Laws,

The early English Reformation was an extended and tortuous moment of historical transition when the continuation of cultural practice facilitated cultural change. Sixteenth century reformers and humanists proved themselves highly adept at adapting established cultural forms and genres such as the morality play for the purposes of their own individual doctrinal agendas. It is tempting to think of the Tudor Reformation as a period in which orthodox Catholics and reformist Evangelicals were polar opposites, but this paper will argue that positions concerning religious doctrine and dynastic religious policies existed on a continuum. Using drama as a means of advocating reformed doctrine implied strategies of compromise, negotiation and subtle interaction with target audiences. Returning to the key idea of the continuation of cultural practice as a means of facilitating cultural change, this paper will focus on how the Reformation dramatist John Bale ‘reconfigures’ and envisions the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins within the most accomplished of his five extant dramas   Three Laws in order to simultaneously advocate the case for the radical reform of the English Church and to reassure its target audience in carefully framed discourse of continuity with the later medieval concepts of good and evil that shaped early modern subjectivity.


Session 24: The (Augmented) Cathedral and the (Magic) Book: Image, Space, and Experiencein the Middle Ages and the Digital Age

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Organizers/Presenters: Jay Bolter (Georgia Tech) & Maria Engberg (Malmö U)

Respondents: Karl Fugelso (Towson U); Elizabeth Emery (Montclair State U); M. Jane Toswell (U of Western Ontario)

Two important spaces in the Middle Ages for the display and consumption of images were the cathedral and the illuminated manuscript, and the aesthetics and rhetoric of both these spaces have of course been very extensively researched. It happens that the media technology is emerging today that can reconfigure both of those spaces. Augmented and Mixed Reality (AR/MR) for mobile devices comes in two varieties: 1. geolocation, in which virtual images are positioned to appear in the space around the user;  2. image-tracking, in which typically the printed surface of magazines, books, or posters is complemented by virtual overlays. Although generally used for commercial purposes, geolocated images can also be used for cultural heritage in monumental spaces such as cathedrals and other historically important buildings. The tracked image technique is commonly used for advertising displays in magazines, but it can also serve to create new forms of enhanced or “magic” books for children and adults. Both these forms of AR/MR (geolocation and image-tracking) are evidence of a media culture that is becoming increasingly “polyaesthetic” in its appreciation of visual space—a polyphony of emergent digital forms that are produced and consumed in a variety of forms and platforms—from computers and giant screen displays to mobile devices.  We propose a session in which we examine two medieval artifacts, the cathedral and the book, over against their digital counterparts. The goal is to see what this juxtaposition can tell us about the visual culture of the Middle Ages in relation to the contemporary. What can we say about the experience of the space of the cathedral in relation to the polyaesthetic space of an AR experience today—in particular, a tour of that cathedral with virtual enhancements? How are images employed aesthetically and didactically in both cases? By the same token, what do the enhanced pages of a “magic” book suggest about the contemporary desire to make the surface of the page into a 3D space in comparison to the treatment of the page in the medieval illuminated manuscript.


Saturday, October 25, 3:30pm-5pm

3 concurrent sessions


Session 25: Flannery O’Connor’s Medievalism

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 106

Organizer/Chair: Jesse Swan (U of Northern Iowa)

Jesse Swan

Flannery O’Connor’s Narrative Voice and the Medievalizing of Modernity

“Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an ax, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed,” Flannery O’Connor said to the women of the now defunct College of St. Teresa in Minnesota (Mystery and Manners 189-90). What that something else is I will leave to one side so as to concentrate, in my brief exploratory paper, on O’Connor’s own cross bearing as a fiction writer. It is not common to admire a writer for her ignorance, yet this is precisely what we do, when we revel in O’Connor’s narration of stories of remarkably but not only ignorant characters in astoundingly but not only ignorant social settings. O’Connor’s narration, perhaps especially when it can seem so meticulously specific, generates continuous moments of ignorance that readers typically avoid by concentrating on what they feel is obviously, if ingeniously, presented. Yet, if contemplated even cursorily, each moment of narration actually generates questions that cannot be answered definitively as each also provides the only knowledge worth having for O’Connor, the “knowledge that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured,” as she disclosed to the Franciscans of Siena College in New York (Mystery and Manners 209). This knowledge of evil that ought to be endured more than understood definitively presses readers when interpreting the narrative voice, notably in moments where the omniscient voice mixes objective knowledge with other sorts of knowledge, such as of a character’s thoughts, emotions and attitudes, and intentions. For example, narrating Hazel Motes’s rise from his lover’s bed the morning Motes will purchase a car, O’Connor writes, “He got out of Mrs. Watts’s bed early in the morning before any light came in the room. When he woke up, her arm was flung across him. He leaned up and lifted it off and eased it down by her side, but he didn’t look at her. There was only one thought in his mind: he was going to buy a car. The thought was full grown in his head when he woke up, and he didn’t think of anything else” (Wise Blood [3 by Flannery O’Connor] 34). There is much here, but two simple observations point up the play of ignorance and evil to be borne through interpreting the narrative voice in an open as opposed to a closed or definitive way. Throughout, the voice seems objective, and, indeed, each part can be seen dramatically or accepted as objective knowledge, yet passages such as “He leaned up and lifted [his lover’s arm] off and eased it down by her side, but he didn’t look at her” call also for a first-person experience, to complement the sight of a man moving an arm without looking at the body to which the arm belongs. This mixture of first-person experience with the objective voice coupled with the observation that for readers who are ignorant of who Motes and Watts are, nothing seems odd or ironic about my not inaccurate description of Watts as Motes’s lover, while for those readers who know the novel, the accuracy becomes mordant: Watts is Motes’s lover because he is the sort of character to think of Watts that way (“What do I need with Jesus? I got Leora Watts,” Motes gleefully exclaims at the conclusion of his earlier anti-Jesus public sermon [Wise Blood 28]), but he is not Watts’s lover, as she is the most degraded of the town prostitutes turning a trick. Exactly what the first-person experience of Motes rising from his lover’s bed is turns out to be impossible to specify in any definitive way, yet every specification is not inaccurate. Dwelling with this sort of ignorance is Medieval and not modern to O’Connor, and if she can inspire her reader to it, she will have made him or her Medieval in the most important way to her: She will give him knowledge of salvation, which is, as she explained at Sweetbriar College, “a drama played out with the devil, a devil who is not simply generalized evil, but an evil intelligence determined on its own supremacy” (Mystery and Manners 168). Supremacy or mastery is the way of the devil, while dwelling in (faithful, active, thoughtful, engaged, energetic, speculative) ignorance is the way of grace. And such dwelling, like the Medieval, for O’Connor, is not so much a place or time, but a practice of many times. The modern, in O’Connor’s narrative voice, is the time-bound and temporary, while her narrative voice, like the commensurate reader’s interpretive practice, is Medieval, not by being the opposite of the modern, but by engaging the modern fully yet not exclusively on modernity’s terms. My short paper will present a few instances of this Medievalizing of the modern by the narrative voice of O’Connor’s first novel, Wise Blood.

Marshall Bruce Gentry & Elaine Whitaker (Georgia College & State U)

Flannery O’Connor’s Boy Bishops

Criticism of the works of Flannery O’Connor is quick to see O’Connor as medieval—she did, after all, famously label herself as having a temperament from the thirteenth century—and criticism is also quick to see O’Connor as interested in children. But O’Connor’s medievalism is rarely connected to her interest in the young; in fact, her kids are considered flawed or incomplete precisely because they cannot match O’Connor’s grasp of the long history of Catholicism.

Neil Mackenzie’s The Medieval Boy Bishops suggests a way to approach O’Connor’s children in a manner that might strengthen our sense of her youngsters’ religious significance, especially in the form of O’Connoresque sass. Mackenzie traces a history in which boys—and girls—were systematically put in the position of a bishop—or nun—and given serious status, however temporarily, within medieval religious institutions. The tradition of the boy bishop was a way for the Church to allow protest against the oppressiveness of authority and to stand against secular forces underestimating children.

The connections between Mackenzie’s history and the details of O’Connor’s works are numerous and fascinating. Take, for example, Harry/Bevel Ashfield, the young character in “The River,” about whose religious sophistication critics continue to despair. Like a medieval boy bishop as described by Mackenzie, Harry reacts to his sense of oppression by performing a baptism. Just as a boy bishop’s performance of the sacrament could be ruled valid, so too might Harry’s self-baptism—even though his religious training is rudimentary. Like a medieval boy bishop who could be buried in his vestments if he died while in office, Harry is allowed to keep on his deeply symbolic coat as he dies.

A female version of the boy bishop is the child in “A Temple of the Holy Ghost.” The child sometimes doubts her religiosity. Nevertheless, this girl bishop achieves an especially valid insight into the unity of body and spirit as she reinterprets stories she has been told about a “hermaphrodite” in a freak show. Her story includes passages about singing—a key element in the boy-bishop tradition—and the story concludes with the child’s being embraced by a nun.

The O’Connor work most interesting to reexamine in light of the medieval boy bishop tradition is The Violent Bear It Away. It is no surprise to see this novel as the working out of young Tarwater’s tortured acceptance of the role of prophet as he performs a valid baptism while committing murder. More original arguments about this novel arise from considering other characters as boy or girl bishops. The mentally challenged, often dismissed character named Bishop might be reinterpreted as religiously powerful. Rayber, often considered the novel’s villain, might be reinterpreted as living out the effects of having been a boy bishop in relation to an elderly relative. Lucette Carmody, a child evangelist rarely considered a major character, may be the kind of boy bishop that young Tarwater needs to and does become: one who no longer feels oppressed, one who never relinquishes religious power.


Session 26: Made in Italy

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 102

Chair: Kathleen Verduin (Hope College)


Karl Fugelso (Towson U)

Moving Illustrations of the Divine Comedy

Cecco Bonanotte’s 103 painted engravings of the Commedia positively demand discussion of how Dante, his protagonist, his narrative, the Middle Ages, medievalisms, and the study of medievalisms move. As I hope to show in this presentation, the manner in which Bonanotte portrays Dante’s pilgrimage underscores the famous flow of that narrative, as well as the evolution of the artist’s engagement with the Commedia. Moreover, these journeys across time intersect with a complex dialogue among continents that demonstrates some of the many ways medievalisms may travel across space. And the very fact that I will be foregrounding these cross-cultural, diachronic interchanges testifies to recent movement in and of our field.  Bonanotte, who was born in 1942, executed this project from 2000 to 2004 during a break from designing and executing the huge sculptures for which he is most famous. Especially for an artist who ordinarily conceives and completes each of those sculptures in less than a year, he may seem to have been comparatively quiescent in devoting so many years to the Commedia. But I would like to suggest that, merely in switching to these relatively small, multimedia illustrations and then back to monumental bronzes, he moved a great deal. Indeed, the flux in his personal and professional life during that period may have played a substantial part in his decision to illustrate a text that is famously about process and development. Dante’s mobility in and among his roles as protagonist, narrator, and author is something of a synecdoche for the narrative as a whole, and his movement, like that of the other characters and of the entire narrative, is literally and figuratively foregrounded in many of the illustrations by flying figures soaring over slashing groundlines. Moreover, through overt brushwork, Bonnanote conveys dynamism not only within the images but also of his hand. Like his penciled captions at the edge of the illustrations, as well as his stippling and other manipulation of the paper, his long, smooth strokes with a brush blatantly losing ink advertise his participation. They record not only his physical actions but also his intellectual and emotional reactions to the Commedia.  While thus spanning the time during which those responses developed and since the Commedia was created, the strokes also reach across more space than just the folios on which they appear, for they simultaneously represent Bonanotte’s international past and the transnational appeal of the illustrations. They and the rest of the images embody myriad influences from Constantin Brancusi, whom Bonanotte spend a full year studying, and from the many artists and patrons whom Bonanotte contacted during his numerous trips to east Asia. Moreover, the illustrations have enjoyed tremendous popularity not only in Italy but also in Japan and many other countries. That is to say, in their sources and spread they represent the mobility of medievalism, and in the international reactions to them, including my own, they embody the mobility of medievalism studies, of a dynamic field ever ready to extend its boundaries.

Jesse DeSales Shelton (Independent Scholar)

Multiple Modernities in the Works of Leonardo Bruni

The concept of the “Middle Ages” starts with Petrarch and reaches a level of full maturity with the Quattrocento humanists. Leonardo Bruni played a significant role in this, reinforcing that Fall of Rome as the end of antiquity in Historia florentini populi and the revival of Latin grammar as the start of modernity in many of his other works. Wallace Ferguson’s “Humanist Views of the Renaissance,” seventy-five years ago, identified that Bruni’s Historia marked an earlier start to modernity with the end of the Kingdom of Italy, but this aspect of his work has been largely ignored. I intend to argue that Bruni does not only locate the start of modernity in his own times, with the revival of Latin, but that he also sees modernity at that time when the Guelf party achieved dominance in Florence. This shows that the while we prefer to think of periods in definite terms, Bruni had a more fluid definition, where political modernity could come long before cultural modernity. Not only does this show that periodization has always been problematic for historians, it also presents an alternative to the notion of creating absolute boundaries between periods, presenting unique periodization for political and cultural history.

Eloisa Bressan (U of Aix-Marseille)

Pound’s Medievalism: Translation to Creation

Provençal Troubadours poetry is a permanent, major feature in Ezra Pound’s poetics. His interest in medieval Provençal poetry is stressed since his early writings and should be connected on one hand to the diffuse attraction of American and English literature at the beginning of 20th century towards the medieval Occitan production and on the other hand it should be understood as Pound’s own interest, which he cultivated since 1905 under the direction of Professor Shepard. This deep interest in medieval poetry was not limited to the troubadours, but included their relation with Italian medieval poetry, especially Cavalcanti and Dante: Pound found in medieval poetry a source of renewal for modern literature.

This contribution will focus on the movement of Pound’s medievalism, which, starting from his critical and theoretical essays, is explored by the meansof translation and finally finds a proper place in his collections of poetry as well as in The Cantos. Pound’s interest in Medieval literature materializes itself, first of all, in an effort of translation,which aims to translate Provençal and Italian literature of the Middle Ages in the modern world. His translations pay special attention to the linguistic and rhythmic renewal concealed in a “modern” lecture of the Medieval poetry of, for example, Arnaut Daniel or Guido Cavalcanti. At the same time, Pound starts to embrace his interest in Medieval Literature in his own poetic composition: combining his love for troubadours’ personalities, as they are narrated in Provencal vidas, with his admiration for Robert Browning’s concept of “persona”, he presents himself as a new, modern, troubadour in poems like Sestina: Altaforte and Piere Vidal Old (1909).

Pound’s medievalism, though, moves to another genre when it is included in The Cantos. In this long and complex epic poem, Medieval poetry, especially troubadours poetry, is represented just by some fragments, “luminous details”, which now are not translated, but form a constellation of citations in their original language. The majority of these citations are figures of the unspeakable: light, for example(the same light which, in Dante’s Comedy represents God, the end of his journey in paradise), but also the famous “noigandres” (enoi gandres). The unspeakable borne by the troubadours in The Cantos is due to Pound’s consciousness of their ability to match sense to form: besides, the Provencal “canso” becomes, with the intermediary of the “canto” in Dante’s Comedy, a formal model for Pound’s Cantos.

Rebecca Burnett (Georgia Tech)

Poison, Padua, and Risk: Authenticating Toxins in “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Abstract forthcoming


Session 27: Medieval Atlanta

Stephen C. Hall Building Room 103

Organizer / Chair: Richard Utz (Georgia Tech)

Katherine Squire, Karthik Rao, Matthew Kaune (Georgia Tech)


Michael Adkison, Jessica Thomas, Tabitha Shamis (Georgia Tech)


Cody Owen, Elizabeth Pemberton, and Kimberly Duane (Georgia Tech)



Saturday, October 25, 5pm-6pm


Session 28: Doing Medievalism: Projects & Opportunities for Publishing

Networking session with editors, advisory board members, and authors from Studies in Medievalism, The Year’s Work in Medievalism, Medievally Speaking, Medievalism (book series), and Perspicuitas.