The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre

Cambria Press
Free sample

 This fascinating study places multiple genres in dialogue and considers both medievalism and genre to be frameworks from which meaning can be produced. It explores works from a wide range of genres-children's and young adult, historical, cyberpunk, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and crime-and across multiple media-fiction, film, television, video games, and music. The range of media types and genres enable comparison, and the identification of overarching trends, while also allowing comparison of contrasting phenomena. As the first volume to explore the nexus of medievalism and genre across such a wide range of texts, this collection illustrates the fractured ideologies of contemporary popular culture. The Middle Ages are more usually, and often more prominently, aligned with conservative ideologies, for example around gender roles, but the Middle Ages can also be the site of resistance and progressive politics. Exploring the interplay of past and present, and the ways writers and readers work engage with them demonstrates the conscious processes of identity construction at work throughout Western popular culture. The collection also demonstrates that while scholars may have by-and-large abandoned the concept of accuracy when considering contemporary medievalisms, the Middle Ages are widely associated with authenticity, and the authenticity of identity, in the popular imagination; the idea of the real Middle Ages matters, even when historical realities do not. This book will be of interest to scholars of medievalism, popular culture, and genre.
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About the author

Helen Young is an Honorary Associate of the Department of English at the University of Sydney, Australia. She holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Arts/Creative Arts from the University of Wollongong. Her other publications include Race in Popular Fantasy Fiction: Habits of Whiteness and Fantasy and Science-Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones, as well as articles in journals including Studies in Medievalism, Extrapolation, and Games and Culture.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambria Press
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Published on
Jul 8, 2015
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9781621967484
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Medieval
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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 Today medievalism is increasingly intelligible as a cultural lingua franca, produced in trans- and international contexts with a view to reaching popular international audiences, some of mass scope. This book offers new perspectives on international relations and how global concerns are made available through contemporary medievalist texts. It questions how research in medievalism may help us rethink the terms of internationalism and globalism within popular cultures, ideologies, and political formations. It investigates how the diverse media of medievalism (print; film and television; arts and crafts; fashion; digital media; clubs and fandom) affect its cultural meaning and circulation, and its social function, and engage questions of desire, gender and identity construction. As a whole, International Medievalism and Popular Culture differs from those studies which have concentrated on imaginative appropriations of the middle ages for domestic cultural contexts. It investigates rather how contemporary cultures engage with medievalism to map and model ideas of the international, the trans-national, the cosmopolitan and the global. This book includes examples from Europe, Britain, North America, Australia and the Arab world. It discusses the formation and the impact of popular medievalism in the globalised worlds of Braveheart, Disney and Harry Potter, but it also explores how the contemporary medieval imaginary generates international cultural perspectives, for example in considering Middle Eastern reception of Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, the Byzantinism of Julia Kristeva, and Hedley Bull's postnationalist 'new medievalism'. International Medievalism in Popular Culture is an important contribution to medieval studies, cultural studies, and historical studies. It will be of value to undergraduate, postgraduate and academic readers, as well as to all interested in popular culture or medievalism.
This ambitious and vivid study in six volumes explores the journey of a single, electrifying story, from its first incarnation in a medieval French poem through its prolific rebirth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Juggler of Notre Dame tells how an entertainer abandons the world to join a monastery, but is suspected of blasphemy after dancing his devotion before a statue of the Madonna in the crypt; he is saved when the statue, delighted by his skill, miraculously comes to life.
Jan Ziolkowski tracks the poem from its medieval roots to its rediscovery in late nineteenth-century Paris, before its translation into English in Britain and the United States. The visual influence of the tale on Gothic revivalism and vice versa in America is carefully documented with lavish and inventive illustrations, and Ziolkowski concludes with an examination of the explosion of interest in The Juggler of Notre Dame in the twentieth century and its place in mass culture today.
The Juggler of Notre Dame and the Medievalizing of Modernity is a rich case study for the reception of the Middle Ages in modernity. Spanning centuries and continents, the medieval period is understood through the lens of its (post)modern reception in Europe and America. Profound connections between the verbal and the visual are illustrated by a rich trove of images, including book illustrations, stained glass, postage stamps, architecture, and Christmas cards.
Presented with great clarity and simplicity, Ziolkowski's work is accessible to the general reader, while its many new discoveries will be valuable to academics in such fields and disciplines as medieval studies, medievalism, philology, literary history, art history, folklore, performance studies, and reception studies.

 

 Note: this is an abridged version of the book with references removed.The complete edition is also available on this website.

From advertisements to amusement parks, themed restaurants, and Renaissance fairs twenty-first century popular culture is strewn with reimaginings of the Middle Ages. They are nowhere more prevalent, however, than in the films, television series, books, and video games of speculative genres: fantasy and science fiction. Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies and George R. R. Martin's multimedia Game of Thrones franchise are just two of the most widely known and successful fantasy conglomerates of recent decades. Medievalism has often been understood as a defining feature of fantasy, and as the antithesis of science fiction, but such constructs vastly underestimate the complexities of both genres and their interactions. "Medieval" has multiple meanings in fantasy and science fiction, which shift with genre convention, and which bring about their own changes as authors and audiences engage with what has gone before in the recent and deeper pasts. Earlier volumes have examined some of the ways in which contemporary popular culture re-imagines the Middle Ages, offering broad overviews, but none considers fantasy, science fiction, or the two together. The focused approach of this collection provides a directed pathway into the myriad medievalisms of modern popular culture. By engaging directly with genre(s), this book acknowledges that medievalist creative texts and practices do not occur in a vacuum, but are shaped by multiple cultural forces and concerns; medievalism is never just about the Middle Ages.

This book illuminates the racialized nature of twenty-first century Western popular culture by exploring how discourses of race circulate in the Fantasy genre. It examines not only major texts in the genre, but also the impact of franchises, industry, editorial and authorial practices, and fan engagements on race and representation. Approaching Fantasy as a significant element of popular culture, it visits the struggles over race, racism, and white privilege that are enacted within creative works across media and the communities which revolve around them. While scholars of Science Fiction have explored the genre’s racialized constructs of possible futures, this book is the first examination of Fantasy to take up the topic of race in depth. The book’s interdisciplinary approach, drawing on Literary, Cultural, Fan, and Whiteness Studies, offers a cultural history of the anxieties which haunt Western popular culture in a century eager to declare itself post-race. The beginnings of the Fantasy genre’s habits of whiteness in the twentieth century are examined, with an exploration of the continuing impact of older problematic works through franchising, adaptation, and imitation. Young also discusses the major twenty-first century sub-genres which both re-use and subvert Fantasy conventions. The final chapter explores debates and anti-racist praxis in authorial and fan communities. With its multi-pronged approach and innovative methodology, this book is an important and original contribution to studies of race, Fantasy, and twenty-first century popular culture.
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