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Medievalism on Screen

It is often assumed that those outside of academia know very little about the Middle Ages. But the truth is not so simple. Non-specialists learn a great deal from the myriad medievalisms – post-medieval imaginings of the Medieval world – that pervade our everyday culture. From film and television, to computer games and internet memes, the ‘Medieval’ is an active and vibrant part of our culture today. Bloomsbury Medieval Studies provides numerous ways with which to explore this fascinating topic: from eBooks to images, this Featured Content is your gateway into the study of medievalism on screen.


Image Showing Game of Thrones book.
Game of Thrones (Pixabay)

The Medieval World of Game of Thrones

'All men must die’: or ‘Valar Morghulis’, as the traditional Essos greeting is rendered in High Valyrian. And die they do – in prodigious numbers; in imaginatively varied and gruesome ways; and often in terror within the viciously unpredictable world that is HBO’s evocation of George R R Martin's fantasy series, Game of Thrones. In this vital follow-up to the popular Winter is Coming (2015), acclaimed medievalist Carolyne Larrington explores themes of power, blood-kin, lust and sex in order to draw entirely fresh meanings out of the sensational series. Click here to read more from Larrington’s brand new book, All Men Must Die.

Image Showing a Film Production.
Film Production (Pixabay)

Medievalism in Film

In The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination: Memory, Film and Medievalism, the first evidence-based exploration of the wider public’s understanding of the Middle Ages, Paul B. Sturtevant adapts sociological methods to discover how conflicting medievalisms in contemporary imaginings of the Medieval world contribute to public knowledge of the Middle Ages. Based on extensive focus groups, the book details the ways – both formal and informal – that people learn about the Medieval past and the many other ways that this informs, and even distorts, our present.

This image shows Morgan with Lancelot under an apple tree in a Siedlęcin Tower fresco.
Morgan with Lancelot under an apple tree in a Siedlęcin Tower fresco (early 14th century) (Wikimedia Commons)

Enchantresses on the Screen

Arthurian stories have been filmed since the very earliest days of the cinema; while directors usually emphasize battle scenes, the powerful bonds between Arthur and his knights, or the agonizing love triangle, a few film or made-for-television movies have featured Morgan and Nimuë. The enchantresses are envisaged in strongly visual terms, and their images are popularized in other media; the nineteenth-century paintings are a mouse-click away. This chapter from King Arthur’s Enchantresses takes in the enchantresses as they appear in poetry and painting, in politics and the theatre, on the Internet and TV, in high culture and popular culture to discover why the Arthurian enchantresses continue to bewitch us.

This image shows Mjollnir.
Mjollnir (Pixabay)

Thor

In 1962, the comic-book superhero The Mighty Thor, brainchild of Marvel Comics editor Stan Lee, arrived on the scene in the United States. The Mighty Thor has had a continuous presence in US culture, and in many other countries, for almost 50 years, and there is little sign of his popularity waning. This chapter from Martin Arnold’s Thor: Myth to Marvel explores the development of Thor in American culture and film. Arnold argues that ideas about Thor and Scandinavian antiquity have generally involved a shift away from the purview of scholars, polemicists and the literati, and into mass markets, where entertainment substitutes for aesthetics and unbridled imagination substitutes for serious analysis and accuracy.

This image shows the Universal Studios, Harry Potter.
Universal Studios, Harry Potter (Pixabay)

Objects of Comfort in Swedish Country Houses

With contributions from 29 leading international scholars, Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture explores a range of media and sources, from adaptations of Dante, Beowulf, and Chaucer, to Spamalot, Lord of the Rings, and Medieval memes. In this chapter Renée Ward explores the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which participates extensively in medievalism. With his adaptations of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, director Christopher Columbus initiated the trend of employing Medieval historical sites as sets for the Harry Potter film franchise, selecting locations such as the Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters and Alnwick Castle as the backdrop for Hogwarts and its environs, which provide audiences with visual access to excellent examples of Medieval architecture.


This image shows Gustave Doré’s illustration for Canto 31 of Dante’s Paradiso.
Gustave Doré’s illustration for Canto 31 of Dante’s Paradiso (Wikimedia Commons)

Why Dante Matters: 700 years on

This year marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential writers in European history and culture. In a body of work spanning from romantic poetry to philosophical and political treatises, culminating in his eschatological and theological epic The Divine Comedy, Dante offers both contemporary and modern readers profound reflections on the nature of the self, divinity, friendship, power, and human fulfilment, which have continued to instruct and inspire to this day.

Written in exile from his native Florence following the intense political factionalism which devastated the city at that time, Dante’s Comedy channelled the personal anguish of his unmoored later years (“how bitter is the taste of another man’s bread, and how hard is the way up and down another man’s stairs” – Paradise XVII) into a work of ecstatic revelation, with Dante the pilgrim traversing the depths of Hell before encountering the very essence of the divine.

In his latest study of the poet,
Why Dante Matters, John Took explains how Dante’s writings continue to speak to the world of today, committed as he was to the welfare not only of his contemporaries but of those ‘who will deem this time ancient’. Read the introduction to this volume here, as well as those of two other examinations of Dante’s life and works on Bloomsbury Medieval Studies: Barbara Reynolds’ Dante: The Poet, the Thinker, the Man, and Sheila J. Nayar’s Dante’s Sacred Poem.