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Studies in Medievalism XXIII

Studies in Medievalism XXIII: Ethics and Medievalism

Edited by Karl Fugelso
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Studies in Medievalism XXIII
    Book Description:

    Ethics in post-medieval responses to the Middle Ages form the main focus of this volume. The six opening essays tackle such issues as the legitimacy of reinventing medieval customs and ideas, at what point the production and enjoyment of caricaturizing the Middle Ages become inappropriate, how medievalists treat disadvantaged communities, and the tension between political action and ethics in medievalism. The eight subsequent articles then build on this foundation as they concentrate on capitalist motives for melding superficially incompatible narratives in medievalist video games, Dan Brown's use of Dante's Inferno to promote a positivist, transhumanist agenda, disjunctures from medieval literature to medievalist film in portrayals of human sacrifice, the influence of Beowulf/I> on horror films and vice versa, portrayals of war in Beowulf films, socialism in William Morris's translation of Beowulf, bias in Charles Alfred Stothard's Monumental Effigies of Great Britain, and a medieval source for death in the Harry Potter novels. The volume as a whole invites and informs a much larger discussion on such vital issues as the ethical choices medievalists make, the implications of those choices for their makers, and the impact of those choices on the world around us. Karl Fugelso is Professor of Art History at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland. Contributors: Mary R. Bowman, Harry Brown, Louise D'Arcens, Alison Gulley, Nickolas Haydock, Lisa Hicks, Lesley E. Jacobs, Michael R. Kightley, Phillip Lindley, Pascal J. Massie, Lauryn S. Mayer, Brent Moberley, Kevin Moberley, Daniel-Raymond Nadon, Jason Pitruzello, Nancy M. Resh, Carol L. Robinson, Christopher Roman, M.J. Toswell.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-304-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Editorial Note
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Karl Fugelso
  5. I: Ethics and Medievalism:: Some Perspective(s)

    • The Dangers of the Search for Authenticity? The Ethics of Hallowe’en
      (pp. 1-10)
      M. J. Toswell

      In the last twenty years Hallowe’en has become a major festival in the North American annual calendar, easily outstripping Easter and even the Fourth of July in retail sales and the popular imagination. It involves a lot of masquerading, even more candy and treats, and a joining together of communities.¹ At its core remains a profound fear of death, a recognition that the world is a difficult entity to understand, an acknowledgment that humanity cannot fully comprehend its place in the universe. These are philosophical and ethical questions, and they reflect the paradox at the core of the Hallowe’en festivities:...

    • Living Memory and the Long Dead: The Ethics of Laughing at the Middle Ages
      (pp. 11-18)
      Louise D’Arcens

      Is there an ethics particular to laughing at the Middle Ages? What are the stakes of making the medieval past an object of postmedieval humor, and can the long dead of the Middle Ages laugh back at modernity?

      A focus on the ethics of humor as an instrument of social tolerance or exclusion has gained momentum over the past two decades, with an increased analysis of how globalization and multiculturalism have brought different ethnic, cultural, and religious communities into daily proximity with one another.¹ Because of the emergence of bigoted humor out of ideologies of ethnic hatred, misogyny, and homophobia,...

    • Justice Human and Divine: Ethics in Margaret Frazer’s Medievalist Dame Frevisse Series
      (pp. 19-30)
      Lisa Hicks and Lesley E. Jacobs

      According to Dorothy Sayers’ fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey, “In detective stories, virtue is always triumphant. They’re the purest literature we have.”¹ The rise of the historical detective novel – particularly the detective novel set in the medieval period – both complements and complicates Wimsey’s claim. Certainly, virtue triumphs, but what counts as virtue in the fictional Middle Ages, and what counts as its triumph? To answer these questions, we must turn to ethics. The ethical questions raised by medievalist detective novels fall into two categories: first, questions about the ethics of the novelistic endeavor and its representation of the...

    • The Song Remains the Same: Crossing Intersections to Create an Ethical World via an Adaptation of Everyman for Everyone
      (pp. 31-44)
      Carol L. Robinson, Daniel-Raymond Nadon and Nancy M. Resh

      Medieval English morality plays had the same general agenda as contemporary American community theatre has now: to teach values in the face of the challenges of a fundamentally and generally unethical world. In the former, the performance is intended to be more overtly didactic by promoting a particular Christian doctrine of ethics and by working to enforce the development of an ethical soul, all within the further proactive development of an ethical community that has been developed by the Church clergy. In the latter, the performance is more subtle and complex, as it promotes a more general doctrine of ethics...

    • Bringing Elsewhere Home: A Song of Ice and Fire’s Ethics of Disability
      (pp. 45-60)
      Pascal J. Massie and Lauryn S. Mayer

      As essay after essay in this series has reminded us, the term “neomedievalism” is too multivalent and maddeningly complex to define with any satisfaction: any attempt to createadefinition invariably oversimplifies the concept or distorts it to fit current needs. In the case of neomedievalism, rather than attempt another iteration of an Ur-definition, Carol R. Robinson and Pamela Clements have done invaluable work in creating a field guide to understanding the characteristics of neomedievalism. In brief, we can call a text neomedieval when it does one or more of the following:

      1. It is playful or ironic in nature.

      2. It...

    • The Ethical Movement of Daenerys Targaryen
      (pp. 61-68)
      Christopher Roman

      George R. R. Martin’sA Song of Ice and Firesuggests that attaining power often involves utilizing a politics that does not answer to ethics. While in Westeros, the setting for much of Martin’s saga – and most specifically while in the seat of power itself, the capital city, King’s Landing – we see that power is wielded by the one who is most willing to be treacherous. Or, as the character Ser Jorah Mormont formulates it, those most willing to play “the game of thrones.” As philosopher Marcus Schulzke points out, “the War of the Five Kings follows the...

  6. II: Interpretations

    • What If the Giants Returned to Albion for Vengeance? Crusade and the Mythic Other in the Knights of the Nine Expansion to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
      (pp. 69-80)
      Jason Pitruzzello

      Geoffrey of Monmouth’sHistoria Regum Britanniaedevotes considerable time to the exploits of Brutus and his people as they journey to the island of Albion. Wars are fought, treacheries are uncovered, and deeds of courage are undertaken in the best traditions of medieval historiography; yet, the conquest of the island itself is only briefly covered in the narrative above. In such a short passage, however, Geoffrey engages in mythopoeia that resonates both with his medieval successors and with scholars of imperialism and colonialism today. While Ireland is often called England’s first colony, Geoffrey gives the reader a mythic story that...

    • The Dark Ages of the Mind: Eugenics, Amnesia, and Historiography in Dan Brown’s Inferno
      (pp. 81-106)
      Kevin Moberly and Brent Moberly

      Eugenics is one of those words that seems older than it is. The term itself, though, is actually younger than the movement that it has come to represent. Francis Galton, cousin to Charles Darwin and English public intellectual at large, first proposed his ambitious program of human improvement through selective breeding and sociological investigation in a two-part article, published in 1865 inMacMillan’s Magazineand, in much more detail, in his 1869Hereditary Genius.² When the movement’s first two names, “viriculture” and “stirpiculture,” proved to be public-relations nightmares, Galton subsequently coined the term “eugenics,” which, derived from the Greek for...

    • Plastic Pagans: Viking Human Sacrifice in Film and Television
      (pp. 107-122)
      Harry Brown

      In 1915 the Swedish painter Carl Larsson completed a massive work commissioned by the National Museum of Sweden to crown its central staircase. Larsson proposed a work to complement his earlier depiction of King Gustav Vasa’s triumphal entry in Stockholm, also hanging in the central staircase. The new painting,Midvinterblot, represented a scene from Norse legend: King Domaldi of Sweden offering himself in sacrifice at the temple of Uppsala to save his people from famine.Midvinterblotsparked controversy even before Larsson finished it. The art critic August Brunius called the painting “unreal” and “creepy,” comparing it to a “scene of...

    • Meat Puzzles: Beowulf and Horror Film
      (pp. 123-146)
      Nickolas Haydock

      Brought face to face at last with her monstrous antagonist, the redoubtable Ripley ofAlien 3(1992) shivers in disgust as viscous drool oozes from the xenomorph’s lipless mouth. In a comparatively restrained image fromThe Silence of the Lambs(1991), Hannibal the Cannibal Lector noisily sucks saliva through his teeth, describing with relish how he once ate a census taker’s liver, “with fava beans and a nice chianti.” These images seethe with the horror film’s voracious appetite for terror and revulsion, its slavering abjectness. No surprise at all, then, to find Wealhtheow falling victim to goo dripping from Grendel’s...

    • Words, Swords, and Truth: Competing Visions of Heroism in Beowulf on Screen
      (pp. 147-166)
      Mary R. Bowman

      The calendar of American colleges and universities is such that many classes in early British literature were readingBeowulfshortly before or after 11 September 2001. To some of these instructors and students, Beowulf’s advice to Hrothgar that “it is better for everyone to avenge his friend than to mourn much” (Sēlre bið ǣġhwǣm / þæt hē his frēond wrece tonne hē fela murne)¹ had a peculiar resonance as this nation both mourned and contemplated a military response. The following years have seen a remarkable outpouring of newBeowulfs, in print, performance, and newer media. While the reasons for this...

    • Socialism and Translation: The Folks of William Morris’s Beowulf
      (pp. 167-188)
      Michael R. Kightley

      William Morris’s doctor is famously said to have declared that Morris died of “simply being William Morris, and having done more work than most ten men.”¹ In literary circles he is perhaps best remembered for his utopian text,News from Nowhere; thanks to his vital role in the emerging Arts and Crafts Movement, he is still remembered even now in interior-decorating circles for his remarkable range of product designs, most particularly wallpaper. His life was filled with an assorted array of enthusiasms and enterprises, but by the 1880s and 1890s, the last decades of his life, his focus had finally...

    • “We Wol Sleen this False Traytor Deeth”: The Search for Immortality in Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale and J. K. Rowling’s The Deathly Hallows
      (pp. 189-204)
      Alison Gulley

      InHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series, while engaged in a search for the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, Harry and his friends learn about the Hallows – three magical objects that give their possessor the power to overcome death – from a children’s fairy tale called “The Three Brothers.” In the story, which appears in a collection of tales by the medieval writer Beedle the Bard, three brothers (later identified as the Peverell brothers), traveling along a dark road at night, come to a river too deep to cross, so...

    • Intention or Accident? Charles Alfred Stothard’s Monumental Effigies of Great Britain
      (pp. 205-242)
      Phillip Lindley

      Charles Alfred Stothard’s (d. 1821)Monumental Effigies of Great Britaincontains some of the finest etchings of medieval tomb-effigies ever published. The superb quality of the prints, and the fidelity with which they were thought to represent the medieval effigies Stothard depicted, guaranteed the book’s reputation throughout the nineteenth century.

      In the last forty years, several major studies have stressed the book’s great cultural significance in the early phases of the Gothic Revival. They have also highlighted its visual distinctiveness. Stothard’s etchings have always been renowned for their intense artistic focus on the effigies alone. This concentration contrasts with the...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 243-246)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-249)