Film and Fiction: Reviewing the Middle Ages

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T. A. Shippey, Tom Shippey, Martin Arnold
Boydell & Brewer, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 257 pages
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 tooimportant 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 melodramaprovides 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.
 

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Contents

EDITORIAL NOTE
1
Arthurian Melodrama Chaucerian Spectacle and the Waywardness of Cinematic Pastiche in First Knight and A Knights Tale
5
Modern Mystics Medieval Saints
39
Seeking the Human Image in The Advocate
55
History and Romance
79
Winchesters 1901 Commemoration of Alfred the Great
113
Rider Haggard Rewrites the Sagas
137
Appropriation of Piers Plowman in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
171
What Tales of a Wayside Inn Tells Us about Longfellow and about Chaucer
197
Bad Baronets and the Curse of Medievalism
215
NineteenthCentury American Protestant Views on Medieval Canon Law
237
Notes on Contributors
255
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About the author (2003)

Tom Shippey taught at Oxford University at the same time as J. R. R. Tolkien & with the same syllabus, which gives him an intimate familiarity with the works that fueled Tolkien's imagination. He subsequently held the chair of English language & medieval literature at Leeds University that Tolkien had previously held. He currently holds the Walter J. Ong Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University in Missouri.

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