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Studies in Medievalism XII

Studies in Medievalism XII: Film and Fiction: Reviewing the Middle Ages

Edited by Tom Shippey
Martin Arnold (Associate Editor)
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Studies in Medievalism XII
    Book Description:

    The middle ages provide the material for mass-market films, for historical and fantasy fiction, for political propaganda and claims of legitimacy, and these in their turn exert a force well outside academia. The phenomenon is too important to be left unscrutinised: these essays show the continuing power and applicability of medieval images - and also, it must be said, their dangerousness and often their falsity. Of the ten essays in this volume, several examine modern movies, including the highly-successful A Knight's Tale (Chaucer as a PR agent) and the much-derided First Knight/ (the Round Table fights the Gulf War). Others deal with the appropriation of history and literature by a variety of interested parties: King Alfred press-ganged for the Royal Navy and the burghers of Winchester in 1901, William Langland discovered as a prophet of future Socialism, Chaucer at once venerated and tidied into New England respectability. Vikings, Normans and Saxons are claimed as forebears and disowned as losers in works as complex as Rider Haggard's Eric Brighteyes, at once neo-saga and anti-saga. Victorian melodrama provides the clichés of 'the bad baronet' who revives the droit de seigneur (but baronets are notoriously modern creations); and of the 'bony grasping hand' of the Catholic Church and its canon lawyers (an image spread in ways eerily reminiscent of the modern 'urban legend' in its Internet forms).Contributors: BRUCE BRASINGTON, WILLIAM CALIN, CARL HAMMER, JONA HAMMER, PAUL HARDWICK, NICKOLAS HAYDOCK, GWENDOLYN MORGAN, JOANNE PARKER, CLARE A. SIMMONS, WILLIAM F. WOODS. Professor TOM SHIPPEY teaches in the Department of English at the University of St Louis; Dr MARTIN ARNOLD teaches at University College, Scarborough.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-157-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Editorial Note
    (pp. 1-4)
    Tom Shippey
  4. Arthurian Melodrama, Chaucerian Spectacle, and the Waywardness of Cinematic Pastiche in First Knight and A Knight’s Tale
    (pp. 5-38)
    Nickolas A. Haydock

    This essay explores certain broad analogies in the medievalism of American popular cinema during the past six years, focusing primarily onFirst Knight(1995) andA Knight’s Tale(2001). Both movies flaunt anachronism, designed not to render faithfully their respective sources in Malory or Chaucer, but rather to appeal to a cinematic imaginary⁴ about the Middle Ages, composed of bits and pieces drawn from film history and popular culture. The postmodern call to revisit the past with a mixture of nostalgia and irony is answered in such films by deploying the “prior textualization”⁵ of the cinematic history of the “Middle...

  5. Modern Mystics, Medieval Saints
    (pp. 39-54)
    Gwendolyn Morgan

    Popularly acclaimed as a saint in her homeland and celebrated by such authors as Christine de Pisan some 500 years before receiving official Church sanction,¹ Joan of Arc nonetheless remained vilified or ignored in the English-speaking world until the Romantics adopted her as a heroine of democracy and the oppressed masses. Since then, Joan has become an increasingly fashionable focus for both intellectual and popular ideologies, first in literature and in various professional and academic journals, and later in film.² By 1996, she could claim sufficient cinematic versions of her story to merit an entire book devoted to the study...

  6. Seeking the Human Image in The Advocate
    (pp. 55-78)
    William F. Woods

    A useful taxonomy for medievalism, and one often quoted, is Umberto Eco’s “Dreaming of the Middle Ages,” which appeared in 1986 as a chapter inTravels in Hyperreality.¹ Here, Eco offers “Ten Little Middle Ages” — ten kinds of medievalism, as he sees it — including “The Middle Ages as the site of anironical visitation” (likeMonty Python and the Holy Grail), “The Middle Ages as abarbaric age” (early Bergman, “shaggy medievalism”), “The Middle Ages ofRomanticism” (“stormy castles and their ghosts”), and so on. This handlist is both a description of common pre-conceived visions of the past, the past...

  7. Harold in Normandy: History and Romance
    (pp. 79-112)
    Carl I. Hammer

    The year 1066 is certainly the most famous date in English history. And with good reason. Duke William of Normandy’s victory over King Harold at Hastings on October 14th led to fundamental changes which shifted England’s geo-political orientation and lay culture from Scandinavia to the Continent, revolutionised its social structure by entirely supplanting the ruling class, and sharply altered the development of its language. These traumatic consequences of the Norman Conquest led to profound and prolonged national reflection; the progressive reshaping of its memory supplied England with its most durable national political myth, the “Norman Yoke,” according to which William’s...

  8. The Day of a Thousand Years: Winchester’s 1901 Commemoration of Alfred the Great
    (pp. 113-136)
    Joanne M. Parker

    At 12.17 p.m. on 20th September 1901, the guns of the Royal Field Artillery fired, cathedral and church bells pealed, and applause erupted from thousands of spectators who were densely crowded in the streets, crammed onto roof-tops and balconies, and hanging out of windows. Later that afternoon, acrobatic clowns, performing dogs and “Old English sports” entertained the masses, a whole ox was roasted and distributed to the poor, and 2,000 schoolchildren were treated to a moralistic lecture and cakes. At 4.00 p.m., a commemorative service was held in the Cathedral, which proved to be so popular that hundreds of people...

  9. Eric Brighteyes: Rider Haggard Rewrites the Sagas
    (pp. 137-170)
    Jóna E. Hammer

    Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s fourteenth novel,Eric Brighteyes(1891), is not among his best-known works. Few modern readers are familiar with any of Haggard’s fiction — more than fifty novels — except for three popular tales of African adventure:King Solomon’s Mines(1885),She(1887), andAllan Quatermain(1887); these novels, especiallyShe, are the usual points of reference in Haggard studies. However, in addition to these and other African novels, Haggard wrote several set in Victorian England as well as historical novels set in different countries and times. Among the latter, Eric Brighteyes , a historical novel — or “romance” as Haggard...

  10. “Biddeth Peres Ploughman go to his Werk”: Appropriation of Piers Plowman in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
    (pp. 171-196)
    Paul Hardwick

    In his 1821 novel,The Pirate, Sir Walter Scott gives us a scholarly in-joke at the expense of what we may think of as an “unusual” reader ofPiers Plowman. Triptolemus Yellowley, Scott’s obsessively theoretical, yet hopelessly impractical, agriculturalist has little time for vernacular poetry, preferring instead classical authors with some connection, however tenuous, with farming. One of the few vernacular titles to slip through is “Piers Ploughman’s Vision,” ¹

    which, charmed with the title, he bought from a packman, but after reading the first two pages, flung it into the fire as an impudent and misnamed political libel.² I...

  11. What Tales of a Wayside Inn Tells Us about Longfellow and about Chaucer
    (pp. 197-214)
    William Calin

    Kim Moreland’sThe Medievalist Impulse in American Literatureis a first-rate book which represents a great leap forward in the study of medievalism in the New World. It also makes no mention of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow except as co-founder of the Dante Society in 1881.¹ One ought not to reproach Moreland for this; she cannot discuss everyone. Longfellow’s absence fromThe Medievalist Impulsecan be attributed primarily to his non-presence in today’s canon of American literature. In his case, absence is a trace of low status in the institution of literature, an institution which creates presence and absence. Also,Tales...

  12. Bad Baronets and the Curse of Medievalism
    (pp. 215-236)
    Clare A. Simmons

    “All baronets are bad,” observes Ruth, a professional bridesmaid, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1887 operettaRuddigore. Yet the baronets of Ruddigore are not merely bad, but cursed to be so. According to Dame Hannah, in the reign of James I, the first baronet of Ruddigore, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, spent “his leisure and his riches” in “persecuting witches.” Finally, a witch whom he was roasting on the village green uttered the following curse:

    Each lord of Ruddigore,

    Despite his best endeavour,

    Shall do one crime, or more,

    Once every day, for ever!

    This doom he can’t defy,

    However he may try,...

  13. “The Bony, Grasping Hand”: Nineteenth-Century American Protestant Views on Medieval Canon Law
    (pp. 237-254)
    Bruce Brasington

    Like their ancestors at Massachusetts Bay, nineteenth-century American Protestants distrusted, even loathed, the Church of Rome. Time had not diminished the perceived threat of Rome and her Jesuit agents to the “city on the hill.”² Rome represented everything repugnant to those who viewed themselves as the standard-bearers of Gospel salvation and enlightened modernity.³ Popular⁴ and academic⁵ cultures shared this prejudice. As Richard Hofstadter noted years ago, such hostility fanned the flames of anti-intellectualism.⁶

    I wish to focus on one manifestation of this hostility: views on medieval canon law, especially the early canon law down to the appearance of Gratian’sDecretum...

  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 255-257)