Sunday, January 17, 2016

Helen Young's Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms

Another new book of interest to our endeavors. 

Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones
by Helen Young

This book is in the Cambria Studies in Classicism, Orientalism, and Medievalism book series (General Editor: Nickolas A. Haydock).

Book ISBN: 9781604978964
Pages: 238
Publication Date: June 18, 2015
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in or 229 x 152 mm Case Laminate
Price: $ 104.99 (ebook options also available)

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.

For several decades after medievalism was established as a field of legitimate scholarly inquiry in the 1980s and 1990s, popular culture iterations were largely viewed with some suspicion if not outright disdain. The twenty-first century, however, has seen growing recognition of the importance of what has been termed the “neomedieval”: medievalisms which playfully reimagine the past rather than attempting historically accurate re-creation.

Science fiction and fantasy, with their necessarily impossible worlds, are perhaps the ultimate in neomedievalism. 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.

Studies of genres, moreover, often focus on a single medium—fiction, film, or television. Each section, and some individual chapters in the volume explores at least two, reflecting the multimedia nature of contemporary popular culture in general and genres in particular. By exploring the way medievalist discourses travel and shift across media within connected genres, the volume explores some of their internal complexities.

Studies of popular genres illuminate social and cultural trends and concerns, while medievalisms reveal far more about the milieu in which they were created than they do about the Middle Ages. By exploring how popular genres develop, pulling on and being pushed by changing approaches to “the medieval,” this collection sheds light on twenty-first century popular culture’s dynamic and at times conflicting moves, and those of the society which creates and consumes it. Individual chapters take diverse approaches, both synchronic and diachronic, some offering detailed case studies and others broader reviews of themes and trends. The variety enables a detailed picture of the complexities of fantasy and science fiction medievalisms to emerge.

The first section explores the reception of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the two chapters together demonstrate that fantasy’s “Tolkienian” medievalism is not that of a single author, but of many readers and creators making and remaking it in different media. The second shows that the dark and dirty medievalism of Game and Thrones and the subgenre of gritty fantasy is complex and at times contradictory. It illustrates the impact of market trends and forces on popular culture texts and the ways they are understood to engage with the past. The third section demonstrates that medievalism has been at the heart of science fiction since the ‘Golden Age’ of the 1960s, and illustrates that use of medieval material and reference points connects it with fantasy as much as it separates the two genres. The final chapter shows that in the twenty-first century, fantasy definitions of medievalisms are expanding to include more than just references to the European Middle Ages which have long been conventional in the genre.

Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms will be of much interest to scholars of fantasy and science fiction, and of medievalism.

Table of Contents

Introduction (Helen Young)

Part I: The Afterlives of Middle-earth

Chapter 1: Low-Culture Receptions of Tolkien’s High Fantasy: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want…” (Chris Bishop)

Chapter 2: Tolkien After Tolkien: Medieval and Medievalist Intertexts in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (Margarita Carretero-González)

Part II: Dirt and Grit

Chapter 3: Rewriting the Fantasy Archetype: George R. R. Martin, Neomedievalist Fantasy, and the Quest for Realism (Shiloh Carroll)

Chapter 4: Grim and Grimdark (Gillian Polack)

Chapter 5: Our minds are in the gutter, but some of us are watching Starz…: Sex, Violence and Dirty Medievalism (Andrew Elliott)

Part III: Science Fiction Medievalisms

Chapter 6: Empire and After: Science Fiction’s Medievalism in the Golden Age and Beyond (Donald Riggs)

Chapter 7: Sword and Science: Science Fiction Interpretations of Medieval Arthurian Literature and Legend in Stargate SG-1 (Steven Gil)

Part IV: Expanding the Medieval

Chapter 8: The Arabian Nights in Twenty-First Century Fantasy Fiction and Film (Kris Swank)

Chapter 9: Moving Beyond Tolkien’s Medievalism Through Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man Trilogies (Geoffrey B. Elliott)

Works Cited


About Helen Young

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 The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre, as well as articles in journals including Studies in Medievalism, Extrapolation, and Games and Culture.

About the Contributors

Chris Bishop is Lecturer in Classics at the Australian National University. Dr. Bishop’s previous publications include Text and Transmission in Medieval Europe and articles in journals such as Studies in Medievalism, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, and the International Journal of Cultural Studies.

Margarita Carretero-González is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the English and German Department of the University of Granada (Spain). She has published both nationally and internationally on J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy fiction, children’s literature, film adaptations, ecocriticism and ecofeminism.

Shiloh Carroll holds a PhD in English from Middle Tennessee State University. Her previous publications have appeared in George R.R. Martin and the Medieval Literary Tradition, Slayage, Mythlore, and The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.

Andrew B.R. Elliott is Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Lincoln (UK). He is author of Remaking the Middle Ages: The Methods of Cinema and History in Portraying the Medieval World and editor of Playing with the Past: Digital Games and the Simulation of History and The Return of the Epic Film: Genre, Aesthetics and History in the 21st Century.

Geoffrey B. Elliott is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He earned his PhD and MA at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and his work has been published in CCC, The Explicator, Studies in Fantasy Literature, and online.

Steven Gil holds a PhD in Cultural History and his publications include articles in The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, New Review of Film and Television Studies, and Thesis Eleven. Dr. Gil is the Science Area Chair for the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ), and the Science & Popular Culture Area Cochair for the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA).

Gillian Polack has doctorates in history and in English and a Master of Arts in medieval studies. She is a writer and a historian and is based at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Her publications include The Middle Ages Unlocked and Five Historical Feasts.

Don Riggs is Professor of English at Drexel University and holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His previous publications include Bilateral Asymmetry: Poems and Uncommonplaces: Poems of the Fantastic, as well as articles in journals including Journal for the Fantastic in the Arts, Journal of Modern Literature, Extrapolation, and The Sixteenth Century Journal.

Kris Swank is Library Director at Pima Community College. She holds an MLS from the University of Arizona, an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, and an MA in English with a concentration in Tolkien Studies at Mythgard Institute. Her essays on fantasy literature have appeared in Tolkien Studies, Mythlore, and she has written for Library Journal, American Libraries, and other professional library publications.

Helen Young's The Middle Ages in Popular Culture

An interesting new collection with a number of pieces of relevance.

The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre
by Helen Young

This book is in the Cambria Studies in Classicism, Orientalism, and Medievalism book series (General Editor: Nickolas A. Haydock).

Book ISBN: 9781604978971
Pages: 240
Publication Date: July 08, 2015
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in or 229 x 152 mm Case Laminate
Price: $ 104.99 (ebook options also available)

Contemporary Western society is in the midst of an efflorescence of medievalism, from political rhetoric to the names of sports teams, advertising, and themed restaurants, to the pages and screens of popular culture. Medievalism in the twenty-first century is layered, folding into itself the practices, processes, and representations of earlier eras, as well as those of the time and place in which it is produced. Reimagining history for mass consumption has as much, if not more, to do with the needs and wants of the present than with any historical reality. Profit and pleasure define popular culture, and genres are a major framework organizing the making of both: creative industries use them to make the former, and consumers to help find the latter. When the Middle Ages are reimagined in popular-culture contexts, they are shaped by the genre in which any individual creative work is produced and consumed. The nexus of medievalism and popular genres is the focus of this collection, which interrogates the interplay between past and present in mass culture.

Studies of popular culture medievalisms have not, to date, examined the interconnections of the two in any organized fashion, yet genre is a major framework structuring representation, production, consumption, and the making of meaning in popular culture. The conventions of any genre shape, even if they do not entirely circumscribe, what is possible in any constitutive creative work—this is as true of medievalism as it is of any other element—while genres themselves are shaped by the anxieties of the society which creates them. Given that a high proportion of today’s popular culture medievalisms are filtered through genre, this volume’s exploration of their interconnections sheds light not only on the nature of both, but on social issues and identity constructs of the present cultural moment.

Rather than focusing on the medievalism of a single genre, this volume puts multiple genres in dialogue and considers both medievalism and genre to be frameworks from which meaning can be produced. Chapters in it explore 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.

The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre will be of interest to scholars of medievalism, popular culture, and genre.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Multiple Middle Ages (Helen Young)

Chapter 1. Female Protagonists in Arthurian Television for the Young: Gendering Camelot (Clare Bradford and Rebecca Hutton)

Chapter 2. Women of the Cinematic Middle Ages in Red Riding Hood and Brave: Marriage or Monsters (Judy Ford)

Chapter 3. Medievalism and the Courtship Plot in Julie Garwood’s Popular Romance Novels (Geneva Diamond)

Chapter 4. The Authenticity of Intersectionality in Nicola Griffith’s Hild (Robin Anne Reid)

Chapter 5. Reinventing the Past in European Neo-medieval Music (Alana Bennett)

Chapter 6. Neomedievalism and the Epic in Assassin’s Creed: The Hero’s Quest (Elisabeth Herbst Buzay and Emmanuel Buzay)

Chapter 7. The Cyberpunk Road away from Middle-earth toward Virtual Atonement: A Quest-Pilgrimage and Surgical-Torture of Transient Transcendence between the Boundaries of Gender and Sexuality in William Gibson’s Fiction and the Wachowski Sibling’s Films (Carol Robinson )

Chapter 8. Medievalism, the Detective, and the Quest for Whodunnit (Anne McKendry)

Chapter 9. King Arthur and the Knights of the Postmodern Fable: Folding the Dead (Molly Brown)



About Helen Young

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.

About the contributors

Alana Bennett is an MA student and future Wolfson-funded doctoral candidate at the University of York. She holds a BA (Honours) from the University of Western Australia, where she has also lectured and taught. She has previously published with Limina Journal and is a cofounder of Ceræ Journal.

Clare Bradford is the Alfred Deakin Professor at Deakin University in Melbourne. Her books include Reading Race: Aboriginality in Australian Children’s Literature, which won the ChLA Book Award and the IRSCL Award; Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature; New World Orders in Contemporary Children’s Literature: Utopian Transformations; and The Middle Ages in Children’s Literature. She has published over eighty book chapters and journal articles in journals including Ariel, Children’s Literature, Australian Literary Studies, and Children’s Literature Association Quarterly.

Molly Brown is a Professor and Head of the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Pretoria and her primary research interest is in fantasy whether written for adults or children. She teaches an Honors course in children’s literature and has supervised postgraduate research in the field. She has delivered papers at various international conferences and has published articles in a number of peer-reviewed journals including The Lion and the Unicorn, Mousaion, The English Academy Review and Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature.

Emmanuel Buzay is a visiting assistant professor in the French and the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies sections of the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at the University of Connecticut. He holds a PhD from the University of Connecticut, a D.E.A. from the Université de Paris XIII–Villetaneuse, and a Maîtrise from the Université de Paris III–Sorbonne Nouvelle. Dr. Buzay has published in journals such as Contemporary French & Francophone Studies: SITES, Nouvelles Francographies, and Sciences Humaines and has given talks at several of the International Colloquia of 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies and several of the SPFFA Colloquia.

Geneva Diamond is an assistant professor of English literature at Albany State University, Georgia. She holds a PhD, two MAs, and a BA from the University of Kansas. She has presented on medievalism in Harlequin romance novels and Julie Garwood romance heroines at the Georgia Medievalists Group Conference and the Kalamazoo International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Judy Ann Ford is a professor of history at Texas A&M University–Commerce. She holds a PhD and an MA from Fordham University and a BA from St. John’s University in New York City. Dr. Ford’s scholarship focuses on both popular religion in late medieval and early modern England and on modern fictional representations of the Middle Ages, especially those of J. R. R. Tolkien. She has published in several journals including Tolkien Studies, Journal of Popular Culture, and Renaissance and Reformation. Dr. Ford also codirected two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institutes for School Teachers on Tolkien.

Elisabeth Herbst Buzay is a PhD student in the French section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at the University of Connecticut. She holds a D.E.A. from the Université de Paris III–Sorbonne Nouvelle, a Maîtrise from the Université de Paris IV–Sorbonne, and BA’s from the University of Chicago. Herbst Buzay has published in L’Esplumeoir and given talks at the 49th International Conference on Medieval Studies and the 2015 International Colloquium of 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies.

Rebecca Hutton is a PhD candidate in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University, Melbourne. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and BA (Honours) from Deakin. She has authored or coauthored papers on young adult texts that have been published in Interjuli, The Encounters: Place, Situation, Context Papers, and Deletion.

Anne McKendry holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and an MA from the University of Sydney. Her publications include “Mateship in the Middle Ages: The Australianness of William Wallace, William Thatcher, and Robin Longstride” in International Medievalism and Popular Culture, edited Louise D’Arcens and Andrew Lynch (Cambria, 2014).

Robin Anne Reid is a Professor in the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University–Commerce. Her teaching areas are creative writing, critical theory, and marginalized literatures. Her research interests include queer theory, intersectionality, digital literary studies, fan studies, and Tolkien studies. Dr. Reid edited the first encyclopedia on Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Carol L. Robinson is an associate professor at Kent State University. She holds a PhD and an MA from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include medievalism, film, video games and American Deaf culture literature. Her publications include Neomedievalism in the Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Electron Games as well as articles in journals such as Studies in Medievalism.