The Year

The Year's Work in Medievalism, 2005 and 2006

English
158 Pages

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The Year's Work in Medievalism:2005-2006 is based upon but not restricted to the proceedings of the International Conference on Medievalism for those years. The International Conference on Medievalism is organized by Gwendolyn Morgan for the International Society for the Study of Medievalism and, for the subject volume, Karl Fugelso of Towson University (2005) and Claire Simmons of Ohio State University (2006). This first volume of this double issue focuses on medievalism as a means of exploring gender issues and identity,while the second examines the juxtaposition of modern to medieval society as a means of curing present ills.

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Published 01 July 2007
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EAN13 9781725244252
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The Year’s Work in Medievalism
Edited by Gwendolyn A. Morgan
XX and XXI 2005 and 2006
Wipf & Stock Publishers Eugene, Oregon
The Year’s Work in Medievalism Series Editor, Gwendolyn Morgan
The Year’s Work in Medievalism,volumes XX and XXI, is based upon but not restricted to the proceedings of the International Conference on Medievalism for those years, organized by the Director of Conferences of for the International Society for the Study of Medievalism, Gwendolyn Morgan, and conference hosts, for 2005 Karl Fugelso of Towson University, and for 2006 Clare Simmons of the Ohio State University.The Year’s Work in Medievalism also publishes bibliographies, book reviews, and announcements of conferences and other events.
The 2005 and 2006 volumes are indexed inThe Modern Language Association International Bibliography.
Copyright ©Studies in Medievalism2007
ISBN 1556355300
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation, no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, transmitted, or reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
First published in 2006 by Wipf and Stock Publishers th 199 West 8 Ave., Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 http://www.wipfandstock.com/Publish.htm forStudies in Medievalism
The Year’s Work in Medievalismis an imprint ofStudies in Medievalism.For the series, generally, write Gwendolyn Morgan, Editor,The Year’s Work in Medievalism,Department of English, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.
Gwendolyn A. Morgan, Introduction
The Year’s Work in Medievalism Volume XX 2005
Katya Skow, Medieval ‘Powerfrauen’  in Popular German Literature
Kara Cahill, Around 1956:  The Droit de Seigneur on Broadway
Peter Christensen, Really Queer or Just Criminally Insane?  Novelists Confront Gilles de Rais
Anita Hembold, The Virgin Martyr Updated:  “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs”  as a Secular Saint’s Life
Cory James Rushton, Where the Falling Angel  Meets the Rising Ape
Volume XXI 2006
Karen Borrensen Walsh, Back to the Future:  Revitalizing Contemporary Society  through Medieval Morality
Michael Evans, Explaining or Excusing?  The Crusades, Historical Objectivity,  and the ‘War on Terror’
Michael A. Cramer, Psychedelic Medievalism
KyoungMin Han, The Legend of St. Ogg  and the Problematics of the Ending in  Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss
Karl Fugelso, Time and Inuence in  Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy
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9 – 16
17 – 33
34 – 53
54 – 68
69 – 88
91 – 107
108 – 116
117 – 127
128 – 139
140 – 154
Introduction
Gwendolyn A. Morgan
This double issue ofThe Year’s Work in Medievalismowes its format to several factors, the most important being that holding the already delayed 2005 volume by only a few months allowed me to produce two strongly themed collections rather than two eclectic mixtures of essays. However, since essays from 2005 and 2006 are found in both volumes, it seemed logical to make them a single issue and thereby avoid any confusion in publication dates. The result, then, is that thefirst volume included herein contains essays focusing on medievalism as a means of exploring of sexuality and gender issues, while the second contains those examining the contrast between the medieval past and the nineteenth and twentiethcentury presents, not as nostalgia for a bygone age but as a remedy for the current and a plan for the future. As always, the contributions for these volumes are based upon, but not limited to, papers presented at the International Conference on Medievalism and sessions sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Medievalism at other conferences, primarily those at Kalamazoo, Michigan and Leeds, England.
Reinventing Medieval Sexuality The first issue in the present collection (volume XX) considers how contemporary fiction reimagines medieval sexuality as a means of addressing today’s unresolved issues associated with gender and sexual preference. Taking on the most traditional of feminist complaints—inequality in the workplace—Katya Skow notes the preponderance of recent German novels positing successful women entrepreneurs in the Middle Ages, an age notorious for itslack of feminine professional power. Ultimately, she links their popularity to the persistence of the problem in Germany’s workforce, an issue, she asserts, which the media and politicians are loathe to address. This attitude is reflected in the pervasive motif of crossgendering and identityswitching necessary for the protagonists of such fiction to achieve their professional goals, along with the forced choice, at one level or another, between career and the traditional feminine role of wife and mother. On the one hand, the subgenre’s popularity indicates that women recognize their disadvantages and seek recognition of and restitution for them. On the other, the fact that the successful protagonist must either eschew love, give up her career once she marries, or continue her business under—or behind—her husband’s aegis indicates that the “powerfrauen” of such novels, like contemporary German women, have yet to be fully empowered. Kara Cahill’s essay generalizes the issue of power imbalance between the genders as it is addressed in Leslie Steven’s appropriation of thedroit de seigneurtradition in her playThe Lovers. Cahill examines how “historical” and
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Gwendolyn A. Morgan
“psychoanalytical” explanations of the assumed medieval practice intertwine with popular (mis)conceptions, especially as regards the play’s reception in its short 1956 Broadway run. Stevens’ drama moves beyond the traditional conflict inherent in thedroit—that between lord and husband for possession of the female—to focus on the opposing desires within the female herself. She imbues Douane, her protagonist, with a strong libido and a will to transgress boundaries, as well as a sense of her own contradictory desires. These allow Douane to remove herself from male control, symbolized by her suicide and the subsequent deaths of both males in their feud for her body, but the utter annihilation in the ending, along with the fact that it is possession of the woman’s empty physical shell which underlies it, indicates that the female can only exercise control over her sexuality in a negative manner.The play’s almost universal rejection at that time, Cahill concludes, resulted from the unreadiness of American society to admit that female sexuality and social roles were at odds. Only a quarter of a century after thefirst feminist movement can Stevens’ bald demand that the disjunction between expectation and reality for women find acceptance. Peter Christensen’s survey of recent novels centering on Gilles de Rais moves the focus from heterosexual feminine to queer sexuality. As is the usual practice in historical fiction, the various authors recast Gilles to further their own social agendas. The novels range in vision from traditional condemnation of Gilles as depraved monster to assertions that his reputation results from political conspiracy. Their stances on his sexuality are equally diverse. Some authors center on his homosexuality, others on his pedophilia; some condemn one or both, others exhibit quasiacceptance of them. Christensen suggests they do so as part of the greater contemporary debate over the rights of both marginalized groups. Implicit in all, however, is the sense that the surge of contemporary interest in Gilles rises, at least in part, from his association with Joan of Arc, herself recently resurrected as, among other things, a poster girl for lesbian rights but within the context of her own age necessarily a virgin and hence asexual. Indeed, the centrality of virginity to the medieval female saint is a major issue addressed by Anita Hembold in her examination of Tobias Wolff’s “In the Garden of the American Martyrs,” which appropriates medieval sexuality for the purpose of moving beyond it. Hembold observes that Wolff’s story is, in fact, an adaptation of the medieval genre of the female saint’s life, which in the original form placed inordinate emphasis on the saint’s virginity or chastity, both as virtue and as focus of conflict in her struggle to retain it. Wolff’s tale adapts each stage in the formula not, however, to a sexual crisis but to a professional, as the protagonist moves from recognizing her own cowardice and lack of integrity as a history professor, through the various attempts to satisfy both outside expectations and her own conscience, and ultimately to the willing sacrifice of her professional life to inner conviction. Nonetheless,
Introduction
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the story is not merely the adaptation of a spiritual journey; it is a criticism of the soullessness of contemporary academe. Moreover, it emphasizes its connection to the medieval conventions of the saint’s life by introducing a subplot focusing on chastity. An old friend responsible for the protagonist’s sham interview at a prestigious college continually relates details of her extramarital affairs. The same friend is everything the protagonist is no longer: without integrity or compassion, professionally parasitic, and spiritually barren. In this apparently unimportant subplot, the author’s equation of sexual promiscuity to the immorality of American business practices is unmistakable. Thefinal essay inYear’s Work in Medievalism: 2005,Cory Rushton’s discussion of miscegenation in medieval and modern fantasy, bridges, I hope successfully, to the following issue. Beginning with the medieval romanceSir Gowther, Rushton examines the progress of the hero from halfdemon to saint, noting that the difference between Gowther’s case and other medieval tales results from the motivation of the sexual encounter resulting in his conception. His formerly barren mother prays to conceive—no matter how. Without any sense of bending to divine will, she in essence curses herself and her son. It is Gowther’s recognition of his own free will, and his subsequent submission to correction and penance imposed by the Church, which set him on the path of redemption and ultimately sainthood. In other words, the poet uses his tale as a metaphor for the essential human choice between good and evil, and the salvation which results from the correct decision. The same metaphor, and very much to the same end, according to Rushton, appears in Tolkien’s fiction. The children of humanelf unions are beneficial, strengthening humankind and forging alliances which help rid the world of demonic threat. On the other hand, Orcs represent a similar but unholy union (whether the corruption of Elf by human or wizard, or the offspring of demon and human), and the Urukhai a conscious usurpation of God’s power to create life in crossbreeding Orcs and Men. As Rushton’s examination illustrates, such unions, when made in accordance with divine will, produce positive effects; those in rebellion against it create an inherently evil travesty of a crossbreed. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Rushton finds the logical conclusion of the miscegenation of Tolkien’s fantasy, in which the choice between good and evil literally becomes one between life and death. The protagonist, Susan, is Death’s granddaughter and, from him, has inherited unusual powers. Her choice, much against Death’s wishes, is to use them to assist humanity in its development. The essential theme ofSir Gowtherremains. What makes the modern tales different is that they concentrate not on the individual salvation but upon the future redemption of the human race.
The Once and Future Middle Ages Frequently, we interpret the retreat into the medieval in protest of the present as mere nostalgia. However,The Year’s Work in Medievalism: 2006(XXI)
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presents essays that deliberately contradict this, examining how authors and filmmakers employ the Middle Ages not as retreat but as stepping stone to the future, recalling their moral code to revitalize that of the artist’s own age. In other words, the redemptive nature of miscegenation in Rushton’s analysis of modern fantasy moves to a philosophical plane. Karen Borresen Walsh’s contribution examines how filmmakers adapt references to the medieval past to ensure the salvation of the future in translating J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to the big screen. Indeed, while the films take their cue from Rowling’s books, which exude references to the period, they also do much more. Evoking two disparate visions of the period—the barbaric and romantic Middle Ages, to borrow Eco’s terms—and pitting them against each other, they not only underscore the inhumanity and destructive nature of the Dark Wizard and Muggle worlds, they also indicate that the good wizard society teeters on the brink of collapse from its own outmoded traditions, true in form but not in spirit to the idealized past. It is, says Walsh, up to Harry to revitalize the best of the romantic Middle Ages beyond mere tradition and combine it with the best of Muggle culture to ensure a humane, productive, and peaceful future for both races. Walsh elucidates how this is carried out, not with dialogue or scenes lifted directly from Rowling’s texts, but by artistically manipulating various cinematic techniques (lighting, scenery, soundtrack, camera angle, and so forth), in concert with foregrounding what appeared as insignificant details in the books and, indeed, inventing entirely new scenes to make the point. More than merely comparing, the Potter series filmmakers condemn both visions of the past as inadequate for the future. Delving even deeper into popular culture, Michael Cramer’s essay explores the development of the Society for Creative Anachronism during the 1960’s and ‘70’s as a protest against the violence and inhumanity of modern American culture by returning to an age in which, according to the popular imagination, “just war was possible” and morality won out over evil. Nonetheless, as Cramer points out, many early SCA members deliberately contradicted the idea that the movement was a retreat into nostalgia by being deliberatelyuntimebound in their costumes, roleplaying, and ideologies, making reference to the classical as well as the medieval period, combining tunics and swords with jeans and engineer boots to assert themselves as ultimately contemporary. In a sense, their melding of past and present illustrates T.S. Eliot’s thesis that we are a sum of all that has come before us, individually and communally, and that Time Future is indeed contained in Time Present and Time Past. Thus, the SCA resurrection of a popular notion of medieval honor and justice blends it with their own sense of humaneness to create a stronger ideology for the future. With YoungMin Han’s analysis ofThe Mill on the Floss, we return to more conventional literary analysis, but not to critical consensus. As Han suggests, at first glance Eliot appears to be criticizing her own time by comparing it unfavorably
Introduction
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with the medieval past, through the legend of St. Ogg, and is thus in line with other manifestations of nineteenthcentury nostalgia. However, as Han points out, Eliot departs from Victorian medievalism by positing that the individual “sympathy” and humaneness which sufficed for communal salvation in the Middle Ages were not longer enough in her own age, which had become too distanced from nature in a toolong history of “man’s inhumanity to man.” Instead, the community as a whole must embrace that same faculty of sympathy, achieved through a recollection of childhoodcaritasin Nature (a sensibility obviously born of her Romantic predecessors), in place of aparticularindividual (the medieval saint), in order to rehabilitate contemporary society. Saints, consequently, no longer can exist—neither Maggie nor Mrs. Tulliver’s gentle heart can set an example for nor overcome the cruelty of a community so far gone—and everyday individuals acting in concert with each other must take their place. The collection ends with Karl Fugelso’s playful examination of contemporary theories of time, not as a continuum but as a dimension, allowing a kind of time travel which would permit medieval masters to be influenced by much later artists, using William Blake’s illustrations of Dante’sDivine Comedyas a focus. The early illustrations and illuminations exhibit uncanny likenesses to Blake’s work, explained neither by Blake’s reference to art he could never have known nor by any continuing tradition carried down to him by intervening artistic schools. While Fugelso concludes that such apparent “reverse time continuum” influences are definitely NOT the result of a time warp, he does conclude that they are instead the products of universal rules in art which transcend time, in a sense proving the generality of contemporary theory where he disproves the particular. In adhering to such universal rules, in their rediscovery and reapplication, the future can indeed reach new artistic heights. The constant, then, among the essays of the 2005 and 2006 issues ofThe Year’s Work in Medievalismcontained herein is that the medieval past is not merely our heritage but our future. We have, on some level, moved past Eco’s contention that we return to the Middle Ages as to our childhood, with the purpose of explaining our problems and justifying our ideologies. We advocate not a return but a rediscovery and adaptation, recognizing the weaknesses of that era along with its strengths and demanding that we, like Harry Potter, combine them with our own if we our to survive our own inhumanity. And, if the implications of Karl Fugelso’s essay are correct, this is what was meant to be all along, for the universal laws governing the human condition are not bound by time but always out there, like Tolkien’s great cycle of stories, to be tapped into at any time, whenever we need them to explain, understand, remedy, or revitalize.
MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY