Neomedievalism, Popular Culture, and the Academy: From Tolkien to "Game of Thrones" 1843845415, 9781843845416

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Neomedievalism, Popular Culture, and the Academy: From Tolkien to "Game of Thrones"
 1843845415, 9781843845416

Table of contents :
Frontcover
Contents
Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations
Introduction
I. PRODUCING NEOMEDIEVALISM
1. The Academy and the Making of Neomedievalism
2. Tolkien: From Medieval Studies to Medievalist Fantasy
II. SHAPING NEOMEDIEVALISM
3. Hollywood Genders the Neomedieval: 'Sleeping Beauty', 'Beowulf', 'Maleficent'
4. 'Game of Thrones': Neomedievalism and the Myths of Inheritance
III. PLAYING NEOMEDIEVALISM
5. 'Magic: The Gathering' and the Markets of Neomedievalism
6. Digital Gaming: Coding a Connective Neomedievalism
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Volume XVI

Neomedievalism, Popular Culture, and the Academy

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ISSN 2043–8230 Series Editors Karl Fugelso Chris Jones Medievalism aims to provide a forum for monographs and collections devoted to the burgeoning and highly dynamic multi-disciplinary field of medievalism studies: that is, work investigating the influence and appearance of ‘the medieval’ in the society and culture of later ages. Titles within the series will investigate the post-medieval construction and manifestations of the Middle Ages – attitudes towards, and uses and meanings of, ‘the medieval’ – in all fields of culture, from politics and international relations, literature, history, architecture, and ceremonial ritual to film and the visual arts. It welcomes a wide range of topics, from historiographical subjects to revivalism, with the emphasis always firmly on what the idea of ‘the medieval’ has variously meant and continues to mean; it is founded on the belief that scholars interested in the Middle Ages can and should communicate their research both beyond and within the academic community of medievalists, and on the continuing relevance and presence of ‘the medieval’ in the contemporary world. New proposals are welcomed. They may be sent directly to the editors or the publishers at the addresses given below. Professor Karl Fugelso Art Department Towson University 3103 Center for the Arts 8000 York Road Towson, MD 21252–0001 USA

Professor Chris Jones School of English University of St Andrews St Andrews Fife  KY16 9AL UK

Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9 Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 3DF UK

Previous volumes in this series are printed at the back of this book

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Neomedievalism, Popular Culture, and the Academy From Tolkien to Game of Thrones KellyAnn Fitzpatrick

D. S. BREWER

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© KellyAnn Fitzpatrick 2019 All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner The right of KellyAnn Fitzpatrick to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published 2019 D. S. Brewer, Cambridge ISBN  978 1 84384 541 6 D. S. Brewer is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mt Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620–2731, USA website: www.boydellandbrewer.com A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library The publisher has no responsibility for the continued existence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate This publication is printed on acid-free paper

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For my family, who have stuck with me from Beowulf to Fortnite

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Contents Acknowledgements ix List of Abbreviations xi Introduction xiii I PRODUCING NEOMEDIEVALISM 1 The Academy and the Making of Neomedievalism 2 Tolkien: From Medieval Studies to Medievalist Fantasy

3 31

II SHAPING NEOMEDIEVALISM 3 Hollywood Genders the Neomedieval: Sleeping Beauty, Beowulf, Maleficent 73 4 Game of Thrones: Neomedievalism and the Myths of Inheritance

103

III PLAYING NEOMEDIEVALISM 5 Magic: The Gathering and the Markets of Neomedievalism

143

6 Digital Gaming: Coding a Connective Neomedievalism

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Bibliography 196 Index 213

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Acknowledgements This book grew out of a call for definitions of neomedievalism for Studies in Medievalism XX: Defining Neomedievalism(s) II (2011), in which my article “(Re)producing (Neo)medievalism” appears. Many thanks to Karl Fugelso for putting together the call and for his editorial patience. I am also grateful to Karl, and to Chris Jones, Caroline Palmer, and the editorial staff at Boydell & Brewer, for expertly producing their Medievalism series, which has both provided me with excellent reading and inspired me to contribute this volume. I am indebted to the Georgia Institute of Technology for the mental and physical space to complete this book. Richard Utz, Rebecca Burnett, and Andy Frazee were integral in helping me balance my administrative and teaching duties with my research agenda. Many of my Brittain Fellow cohort provided smart and much needed perspectives from nonmedievalists. Casey Wilson, Sarah Lozier-Laiola, Rebekah Greene, Rachel Dean-Ruzicka, and Amanda Girard helped me navigate the intricacies of getting words on the page while also teaching technical communication. My colleagues at RedMonk kindly gave me the time and support to complete this book while starting a new job with them. Thank you for letting my writing process invade our Slack channels, and for encouraging me to write more about dragons. I also gratefully acknowledge Helene Scheck, Ineke Murakami, and Rachel Dressler for their constructive feedback and kindness on earlier drafts of this book, and Jil Hanifan for being brave enough to co-author an article with me. A million thanks to Tristan Dewdney, who helped me think and write my way through this entire project, from initial article proposal to finished draft. Books like this are rarely completed without the support (often unconsciously given) of varied networks of colleagues and cohorts. My thanks to the many medievalists and neomedievalists, writers and runners, software developers, whisky/coffee connoisseurs, and out-and-out friends who have made my time with this project worthwhile.

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x

Acknowledgements

Parts of Chapter 3 draw on my essay “‘Ond Hyre Seax Geteah Brad ond Brunecg’: Failing Swords and Angelina’s Heels in Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf,” which appeared in The Americanization of History: Conflation of Time and Culture in Film and Television, ed. Kathleen McDonald (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011), 212–31; these parts are published with the permission of Cambridge Scholars Publishing. An earlier version of Chapter 5 was published as “Commodifying the Medieval in Magic: Online,” in Neomedievalism in the Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Electronic Games, ed. Carol L. Robinson and Pamela Clements (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2012), 251–81. The Edwin Mellen Press has kindly granted permission to publish the revised version.

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Abbreviations CRPG D&D DM MEMO MLA MMORPG MUDs NPC OED PC POV RPG SiM TSR WoW

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computer-based role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization Modern Language Association massively multiplayer online role-playing game Multi-User Dungeons Non-Player Character Oxford English Dictionary Player Character point of view role-playing game Studies in Medievalism Tactical Studies Rules World of Warcraft

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Introduction

I

But we are all medievalists now.1 Bruce Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror

n his 2007 response to the uses of the term “medieval” in the political discourse that followed the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Bruce Holsinger describes how he was initially drawn to the subject through a New York Times column from September 14, 2001, in which Thomas Friedman states, “This civil war within Islam, between the modernists and the medievalists, has actually been going on for years.”2 Friedman’s column is a warning to Americans to refrain from blindly painting Islam as the source of the terrorist attacks; however, his contrast of the “Osama bin Ladens”/terrorists of the world as “medievalists” with the “Muslim majority” as “modernists” proves particularly troubling for Holsinger due to Holsinger’s relationship to the word “medievalist”: What a curious choice of words, I thought at the time; and as Friedman’s pronouncement quickly became an organizing metaphor for that pervasive metonymy known as the “War on Terror,” the single term “medievalist” continued to nag at my apprehension of September 11 and its aftermath. That my own professional identity coincided precisely with Friedman’s designation for bin Laden became the starting point for an investigation that has led me in a direction I did not expect: an investigation in which my own academic expertise has more often than not seemed frustratingly beside the point. This frustration, in fact, has remained central to my thinking about all that follows here. In standard academic parlance, a medievalist is a scholar of the history and civilization of what we 1 Bruce Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007), 84. 2 Thomas L. Friedman, “Foreign Affairs; Smoking or Non-Smoking?” New York Times, September 14, 2001, accessed May 15, 2013, http://www.nytimes. com/2001/09/14/opinion/foreign-affairs-smoking-or-non-smoking.html.

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commonly call the Middle Ages, a period stretching roughly from the fifth century of the Common Era through the fifteenth; an era that embraces the final fall of the Roman Empire, the rise and triumph of Islam, and the Crusades fought over Jerusalem and the Holy Land; a millennium that gave us Mohammed, Charlemagne, the Koran, the Book of Kells, courtly love, Ghengis Khan, feudalism, the Jin dynasty, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Francis of Assisi, Dante, Marco Polo, Petrarch, Chaucer, the Aztec Empire, the cathedral of Notre Dame, and the English kings Shakespeare would immortalize in plays such as Richard III and Henry V.3

That Holsinger, who locates his “professional identity” as a medievalist, takes issue with Friedman’s use of the word to characterize terrorists as “the primitive, the archaic, the premodern” is not surprising, and he cites other professional medievalists who have also reacted to this use of “medievalist” with the scholarly tools available to them at the time: conference appearances, panel discussions, and informed articles that attempt to combat such reductionism.4 As the remainder of Holsinger’s book points out, however, it is not just the term “medievalist” that is in question in the rhetoric surrounding the “War on Terror,” but also the varied accepted histories, ideas, and terminologies that constitute our understanding of both “the medieval” and the “Middle Ages” themselves. The most recognizable of these, and one that is part of the connotative list generated by Holsinger in the definition of the “Middle Ages” cited above, is arguably the Crusades. Although the term “crusade” has become a rather ubiquitous reference that is often applied to any movement that opposes a perceived ill,5 it was also specifically applied by President George W. Bush to characterize the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks when he noted “This crusade, this 3 Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 4. 4 Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 12–14; in particular he notes, “Those of us who make it our life’s work to study the history of the millennium our cultural traditions have dubbed the Middle Ages and teach its civilization to American students have watched in despair over the last several years at the reduction of the medieval to the level of glib and unconsidered analogy (leading NYU’s Carolyn Dinshaw, with tongue in cheek, to propose the founding of a post-9/11 organization called Concerned Medievalists for Peace)” (12). 5 The nineteenth-century anti-slavery movement in America, for instance, is often referred to as the “Crusade against Slavery”; in 1965 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp promoting the “Crusade against Cancer”; the nickname “Caped Crusader” is used to invoke Batman, a fictional superhero.

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war on terrorism, is going to take a while.”6 Holsinger’s reading of this statement and the various invocations of the crusades that followed is both perceptive and on point – if by no means exhaustive – yet what most interests us here is the analysis that follows of the term “neomedievalism.” Although initially popularized by the Italian medievalist and novelist Umberto Eco in his essay “Dreaming of the Middle Ages,” to refer to the renewed interest in the Middle Ages in popular culture,7 here Holsinger examines a very specific meaning of neomedievalism as it is used in certain branches of International Relations theory. Stemming from the work of the English political scientist Hedley Bull, “neomedievalism” in this context refers to the perceived decline of the nation-state as the key locus of power (a process that we would now likely term “globalization”) as a displacement by different types of non-governmental entities. Bull writes: If modern states were to come to share their authority over citizens, and their ability to command their loyalties, on the one hand with regional and world authorities, and on the other hand with sub-state or sub-national authorities, to such an extent that the concept of sovereignty ceased to be applicable, then a neo-medieval form of universal political order might be said to have emerged.8

Bull cites “vassals beneath” and the Roman Catholic Church as two entities that constitute the power of the state; the former illustrates a “sub-national” authority, the latter a “world” authority that transcends national borders, and both are posited as specifically medieval loci of power.9 For Holsinger, this theory manifests most pointedly in what he calls the “torture memos,” an exchange among members of the Bush For a more in-depth study of the rhetorical and political uses of the term, see Andrew Elliot, Medievalism, Politics, and Mass Media: Appropriating the Middle Ages in the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017), 87–90. 6 The comment is from a news conference held on September 16, 2001, as cited in Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 6. 7 Umberto Eco, “Dreaming of the Middle Ages,” in Travels in Hyperreality, trans. William Weaver (New York: Harcourt, 1986), 61–72. I will return to Eco’s definition in depth in Chapter 1. 8 Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); as cited in Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 56. 9 Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 55–62.

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administration – read the “neoconservative” section of his project – that outline the justification used for denying Afghani captives “prisoner of war” status as dictated by the Geneva Convention. In essence, arguments were made that the Taliban, which constituted the Afghani government at the time, must be viewed as a “failed state” – a “non-nation” – which thereby rendered its military captives unprotected.10 One vein of these arguments asserts that the Taliban failed to establish adequate governmental and military control of Afghanistan at a national level, and that its leaders “were more akin to feudal lords than military officers … the Taliban militia functioned more as many different groups that fought for their own tribal, local, or personal interests.” Yet at the same time, the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda was also used to characterize them as exceeding the bounds of state authority, as al Qaeda had already been defined as a trans-national terrorist group.11 “Neomedievalism,” then, was used to characterize Afghanistan and its leadership as “feudal,” “tribal,” too “local” to constitute a proper state, while at the same time participating in an organization too trans-national to constitute a proper state; both of these fall under Bull’s definition. This “neomedieval” characterization, with all its barbaric implications, was then used to justify stripping Afghani captives of protections against, among other things, torture. As the above example illustrates, there can be much at stake when concepts and ideas seemingly rooted in the Middle Ages are invoked, regardless of whether these concepts and ideas are those legitimated by scholars who take the Middle Ages as their object of study, or whether they are wielded with little or no knowledge of any scholarly traditions that surround them. Furthermore, as Holsinger notes and exemplifies, scholars are well aware that such uses of the medieval exist. Tom Shippey, in his aptly named essay “Medievalisms and Why They Matter,” has devised the term “dangerous medievalisms” to refer to uses of the medieval as a means to perpetrate violence, hate, and any dehumanizing actions.12 The 10 Ibid., 66–75. 11 Taken from a February 2002 memo from Jay S. Bybee to Alberto Gonzalez, as cited in Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 72. 12 Tom Shippey, “Medievalisms and Why They Matter,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 50. Shippey writes, “There is a medievalism still at work in the world, and it is a dangerous one: which is why scholars, having set the bomb ticking, have a duty not to distance themselves from any possible explosion.”

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essay appears in the academic journal Studies in Medievalism (SiM), and while one might thereby assume that the term “medievalism” itself was not in question, the specific issue, subtitled “Defining Medievalism(s),” is devoted in part to contributions that struggle to clarify the term. Therefore Shippey begins by citing an entry for “mediaevalism” (an older spelling of the word) in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines the term as “the system of belief and practice of the Middle Ages … the adoption of or devotion to mediaeval ideals or usages; occas. An instance of this.” Shippey then very quickly devises his own meaning for “medievalism” as “Any post-medieval attempt to re-imagine the Middle Ages, or some aspect of the Middle Ages, for the modern world, in any of the many different media; especially in academic usage, the study of the development and significance of such attempts.”13 For Shippey, in this instance, “medievalism” refers both to the reconstruction or appropriation of the Middle Ages in later eras, and to a growing field of study that examines instances of this phenomenon. Himself a medievalist, Shippey is concerned with the role that scholars play not only in studying the Middle Ages but also in evaluating the ways in which the Middle Ages are reforged through instances of medievalism.14 Indeed, Shippey cites Holsinger’s book in his article, and goes on to conclude: There are … many medievalisms in the world, and some of them are as safe as William Morris wallpaper: but not all of them. Here, as much as anywhere in the academic world, scholars have a duty to trace connections, expose errors, and above all to make their voices heard inside and outside the academy.15 13 Ibid., 46. 14 Shippey, who is as well known as a scholar of the works of the fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien as he is for his work with medieval texts proper, started his academic career teaching Old English, most notably at St. John’s College at Oxford. Shippey is known for “following in Tolkien’s footsteps,” as he attended and held posts at many of the same schools as Tolkien (albeit decades after Tolkien in most cases). As Shippey noted on his faculty biography page at the University of St. Louis, “Purely by accident, I followed in Tolkien’s footsteps in several respects: as a schoolboy (we both went to King Edward’s School, Birmingham), as rugby player (we both played for Old Edwardians), as a teacher at Oxford (I taught Old English for seven years at St. John’s College, just overlapping with Tolkien’s last years of retirement), and as Professor of English Language at Leeds (where I inherited Tolkien’s chair and syllabus).” http://slu. academia.edu/TomShippey/CurriculumVitae, accessed September 1, 2017. 15 Shippey, “Medievalisms and Why They Matter,” 52.

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Neomedievalism, Popular Culture, and the Academy: From Tolkien to Game of Thrones endeavors to do what Holsinger models and Shippey explicitly charges us as a scholarly duty: to “trace connections,” “expose errors,” and to call out the myriad of ways in which one sees the medieval employed. In doing so this project focuses on developing a concept of the term “neomedievalism” that, while acknowledging the term’s use in political discourse, considers it primarily as a form of medievalism: a postmedieval imagining or appropriation of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, this book takes into account what would be considered popular forms as well as scholarly treatments. After tracing the split from popular medievalism that academic medieval studies historically used to help define itself, I propose neomedievalism as a term not only to describe objects of critique but also to inform a process of critique that provides an essential tool in understanding the continual and often politicized reinvention of the Middle Ages in both popular and academic culture. As such reinventions are often used in attempts to naturalize constructed identities (gender, class, race) and historicize certain postmodern practices (war, torture, capitalism, scholarship), I demonstrate the need for vigilant critique of neomedievalist texts, and also suggest neomedievalism as a way to forge collaborations and partnerships in an increasingly technologically complex landscape. In Chapter 1 I unpack some of the history between popular medievalism and academic medieval studies. My opening examination of medievalists and medieval studies serves both to introduce the current state of the discipline for readers unfamiliar with the field and to recall strategic scholarly characterizations for readers who know it well. The proceeding focus on the terms “Middle Ages” and “medievalism” then transitions to a survey of medievalism studies as a necessary step in tracing the emergence of the term neomedievalism and its origins in both political (Bull) and critical (Eco) theory. I then discuss recent scholarly attempts to define neomedievalism in order to create an informed context to situate my own working definition of the term as “the ongoing process of re-evaluating what can be done with the Middle Ages in an ever-moving present”: a definition that will be refined by the chapters that follow. Further complicating the popular–academic divide, I begin Chapter 2 with J. R. R. Tolkien’s groundbreaking essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” in which Tolkien revolutionized medieval studies by charging medievalists to look at Beowulf as a poem/art, and not just as a linguistic or historical artifact. Yet, I argue, it is Tolkien’s attachment to

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language and history – as well as his familiarity with popular medievalisms of the nineteenth century – that makes The Lord of the Rings such a foundational text for the contemporary fantasy genre. Tolkien used his extensive knowledge of medieval language, history, and texts to create the language, history, and mythology of Middle-earth, thereby turning his knowledge of medieval studies into a creative work of medievalism. I further explore how the suggestion of medievalist authenticity, even in a work of what would later be termed “high fantasy,” allowed Tolkien to employ medievalism to critique modern practices of war and industrialization even as he also used it to reiterate ideas about gender and class that now appear outmoded. Tolkien, of course, was not the first writer to employ the medieval to such ends, as I demonstrate through a reading of Tolkien’s relationship to certain texts of the nineteenth-century “medieval revival”: texts that base their representations of the medieval, whether realistic or fantastic, on the idea of Middle Ages as a real entity that can be accessed, uncovered, and modeled. This, I argue, characterizes them firmly as forms of traditional medievalism: the basis and point of departure for my understanding of neomedievalism. I also point out here that, while these writers used the medieval to expose certain societal ills, they all consistently used it to naturalize other elements; constructions of gender, class, and race, in particular, are troublesome issues for a twenty-first-century reader. Taking up the thread of medievalism as a means of naturalizing constructed identities, my next chapter examines how the “medieval” is used to both naturalize and historicize gender and class. Focusing on two seemingly disparate films, Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Beowulf (2007), Chapter 3 uses differences in each film’s imagined Middle Ages to differentiate “neomedievalism” from more traditional medievalism. I then show how both films construct images of women in accordance with the Western ideals of femininity propagated by late capitalism. The explicit attempt to mask decidedly non-medieval gender constructs with the explicit incorporation of realistic medieval impulses exemplifies how the use of the “Middle Ages” can naturalize or essentialize constructed concepts such as gender. I conclude by demonstrating how Maleficent (2014), a live-action adaptation of Sleeping Beauty that stars the Beowulf actress Angelina Jolie, serves as a neomedieval critique of the essentialized gender constructions in the two earlier films. This is achieved primarily by locating narrative agency (an issue in both earlier films) in Aurora and heroic agency in the title character, Maleficent (a villain in Sleeping Beauty), rather than in a dragon-slaying prince.

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Chapter 4 examines the complex relationship between the popular HBO series Game of Thrones and our ideas of the medieval. Based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the series inherits Martin’s “gritty” or “grimdark” approach to world building, an approach that is often read as a somehow more historically accurate or authentic vision of medievalist fantasy. As Westeros and Essos, the continents where most of the action unfolds in both the series and the novels, are themselves characterized by a complex web of history, lore, and mythology, I then analyze how medievalisms both internal and external to that setting are used to historicize coded ideas of blood inheritance, magic, and class. Picking up the critique of class started in the previous chapter, Chapter 5 examines constructions of class and economy in popular neomedieval texts produced expressly as commodities. Magic: The Gathering, a trading card game introduced in the early 1990s, and Magic: Online, the online version of the game, merge images of the medieval (knights, guilds, castles) with those that are utterly fantastic yet popularly associated with the medieval (dragons, wizards, magic). These aspects of the game make it a useful space for reading the complex ways in which consumption of a neomedieval commodity perpetuates the productive forces necessary to manufacture and purchase such a commodity. Through its representations of a seemingly fantastic, premodern economy, the game thereby reveals a number of ways in which representations of the medieval serve as distractions from late capitalism while nevertheless upholding postmodern, capitalist values. In my final chapter I pull together the strands woven through the previous chapters concerning commodity culture, class divisions, gender roles, and violence in order to articulate neomedievalism’s capacity for both exposing and hiding the conditions of the societies that produce it. In doing so, I critique the productive and consumptive practices inherent in more technologically advanced and socially produced texts. By tracing the evolution of social table-top games like Dungeons & Dragons (1974) to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft (2004), I examine the allure inherent in the communal and neomedieval aspects of such games, and the continued commercial draw of such commodities. I then juxtapose the games themselves with the labor practices common in the online gaming industry: practices that are often mystified or ignored by academics working in medieval and medievalism studies. By emphasizing the roles that software developers in general and gaming culture in particular play in the production and consumption of these neomedieval artifacts, I argue that these very artifacts may provide

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the common ground necessary for productive collaboration and overlap between academics who increasingly study the products of code and the developers who produce them. Because this book aims to illustrate the possibilities of neomedievalist critique, especially in its capacity to examine its own conditions of production, this last chapter concludes by applying this method of critique to the academic disciplines that make the Middle Ages their object and product. Because my chapters each cover a wide range of dates – even the single television show examined in Chapter 4 ran for over eight years – I have grouped them by theme and medium rather than in temporal order. The nature of the material I cover also means that I often go beyond the scope suggested in my subtitle. In that light is it important to note that, for me, Tolkien was the entry point to medievalism, medieval studies, and medievalism studies: my gateway to dragons, Beowulf, and an entire world of scholarly critique. On the other end of the spectrum, Game of Thrones has, in recent years, allowed me to talk medievalism with the most varied groups of people. Some of these groups hail from within the academy and some from without; regardless of whether they love or hate the series, they all seem to have quite a lot to say. As reaching seemingly disparate audiences is one of the goals of this project, some may ask, “Why write an academic book at all?” Social media and electronic publishing venues provide more immediate platforms and immediate feedback. And yet, in spite of the waiting (for publication and responses), I could not have sufficiently and cohesively managed the different threads that run through this project in any other form, and my sense is that publication as both print and electronic book has the best chance of reaching the diverse audiences I seek without tearing those threads apart. Umberto Eco once wrote about the agony of waiting for the academic publishing process to complete, and the corresponding anxiety involved in such a long feedback loop. “But,” he concludes, “sometimes you have to speak because you feel the moral obligation to say something, not because you have the ‘scientific’ certainty that you are saying it in an unassailable way.”16 I have written this book as a partial fulfillment of my own obligation to say what, from my own perspective between the 16 Umberto Eco, “Preface to the American Edition,” in Travels in Hyperreality, xii. Eco previously notes “It takes years to write an ‘academic’ book, and then you have to wait for the reviews, and then correct your own thinking in the later editions. It is work that demands time, peace of mind, and patience” (xii).

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academic and the popular, I have seen us do with the Middle Ages. My dearest hope is that it might encourage voices both new and familiar to say something back: to enter the debates that are so crucial to the ongoing evolution of neomedievalism and neomedievalist critique.

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I PRODUCING NEOMEDIEVALISM

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1 The Academy and the Making of Neomedievalism

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arolyn Dinshaw, in her now famous essay “Getting Medieval: Pulp Fiction, Gawain, Foucault,” explains how she was drawn to what she saw as an unsettling use of “medieval” in contemporary popular film. Her analysis addresses the utterance a character from the film Pulp Fiction makes as a promise of retributive physical violence: “I’m gonna git Medieval on your ass.”1 Dinshaw’s interest goes beyond the utterance per se and extends to how the words themselves, completely divorced of the context of the film, made their way into popular culture. She notes: The phrase has entered American public culture. Why has it proved so popular? What exactly makes it so useful? To get a clue, I want to look first at what it means in this film: why this word here? What function does it perform other than to inflict a slight sting on the medievalist, buried in the past but finally getting out to see a movie?2

As Dinshaw makes a gentle, comic jab at her own profession, she clearly identifies herself as a medievalist. She then goes on to draw connections between the structure and action of the film and trends in medieval texts, and also compares her film analysis to a more traditionally medievalist reading of the fourteenth-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight before bringing in theory via the work of Michel Foucault. Notably, a revised version of the essay that appears as the “Coda” to her book Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern drops the 1 Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction: A Quentin Tarantino Screenplay (New York: Hyperion, 1994), 108. 2 Carolyn Dinshaw, “Getting Medieval: Pulp Fiction, Gawain, Foucault,” in The Book and the Body, ed. Dolores Warwick Frese and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe (Notre Dame, IN, and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 117.

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section on Gawain altogether (a section which always seemed superfluous to me), suggesting that it may have been there to help legitimate the initial incarnation of the argument with a direct dash of canonical medieval studies material: a dash that proves unnecessary in the later incarnation, possibly due to the book’s treatment of medieval material elsewhere and/or the increased professional footprint of the author.3 The terms used above – medievalist and medieval studies – may seem straightforward to academics working within medieval studies; however, both the changing nature of academic fields and the ongoing fascination in popular culture with the Middle Ages and medievalism warrant a closer look at these concepts. Before it addresses neomedievalism, then, this chapter begins with an effort to clarify (or at least more precisely complicate) two pairs of terms: (1) medievalists and medieval studies, and (2) medievalism and the Middle Ages. It then traces how the academic roots of the term neomedievalism are complicated by ongoing changes in the relationship between the academy and popular culture. The chapter concludes with an initial working definition of neomedievalism. Medievalists and Medieval(ism) Studies In the quotation that opened this book, we saw Bruce Holsinger define a medievalist as “a scholar of the history and civilization of what we commonly call the Middle Ages.”4 At the outset, this seems fairly simple: medievalists study the Middle Ages, which is the object of scholarly medieval studies. This definition is complicated, however, by projects such as Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror that focus on reactions to and misappropriations of the Middle Ages rather than the Middle Ages per se. Tom Shippey, likewise, seemingly takes yet another step away from the Middle Ages proper, as he works to define medievalism as a term that encapsulates both reactions to the Middle Ages and the scholarly study of these reactions. The question arises, then, as to the relationship between medievalists (who work in medieval studies) and scholars who study medievalism – a question that is further complicated by the realization that the scholarly study of the Middle Ages falls under Shippey’s definition of medievalism as “Any post-medieval 3 Carolyn Dinshaw, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Preand Postmodern (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1999). 4 Bruce Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007), 4.

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attempt to re-imagine the Middle Ages, or some aspect of the Middle Ages, for the modern world, in any of the many different media.”5 The short answer is that in many cases the role of medievalist and scholar of medievalism are embodied by one and the same person, as is the case with both Holsinger and Shippey. It should be noted, however, that the positions do not necessarily hold equal weight in the academic world, as both Shippey and Holsinger have held positions in the more traditional fields of English and Music, positions that are likely based more on their status as medievalists than on their work with medievalism. This is in part due to the relative newness of medievalism studies as an accepted field of scholarship, whereas “medieval studies” – a term that describes the work that medievalists across other traditional academic fields such as Art History, English Studies, History, Music, Linguistics, Theology, and Philosophy do – has been an accepted field of study within the academy for some time, as indicated by the numerous “Medieval Institutes,” “Centers for Medieval and Early Modern Studies,” and the like that can be found scattered across North American and European universities.6 Indeed, many scholars who find their way to medievalism studies do so with the economic and intellectual aid of medieval studies, often starting their careers as medievalists and then venturing out into

5 Tom Shippey, “Medievalisms and Why They Matter,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009), 46. The use of “medievalist” to refer to a scholar of medieval studies is further complicated by its increasing use as an adjectival form of “medievalism” (e.g., “medievalist fantasy” as a version of fantasy that incorporates tropes of medievalism). I add to this complexity by using “neomedievalist” as an adjectival form of “neomedievalism,” e.g., “neomedievalist scholarship.” 6 Many scholars locate the foundation of medieval studies in the nineteenth century, as summed up nicely by Lee Patterson in Negotiating the Past: The Historical Understanding of Medieval Literature (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 9–14. Norman Cantor provides an alternative foundational history in Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century (New York: William Morrow, 1991), as he argues that the field of study per se could have emerged only from the knowledge and methods of the twentieth century, yet still acknowledges the nineteenth century as the space in which the numerous historical, literary, and artistic artifacts of the Middle Ages became objects of value and preservation en mass. All recent accounts I have read, however, acknowledge the constructed nature of medieval studies itself.

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the younger, less tenurable field of medievalism studies.7 This relationship often starts, as exemplified by both Dinshaw and Holsinger, when medievalists witness uses of the medieval that do not coincide with how the term is used in their professional field. Although there are a number of medievalists who embrace the nascent field of medievalism studies, the relationship between the two fields is often fragile, as exemplified by the professional reliance of scholars of medievalism on specializations in other fields of study (such as English or medieval studies proper) and/or alternative career paths as a means of supporting their intellectual pursuits. While one could simply attribute this to the newness of the field or a distaste for change in the academy in general, a look at the specificities of the foundation of the field of medieval studies reveals a much more deeply rooted constitutional aversion to medievalism in particular. In The Shock of Medievalism Kathleen Biddick succinctly outlines the process by which medieval studies established itself as part of the academy by means of abjecting romantic and popular forms of “medievalism”: The methods used to establish medieval studies as an academic discipline in the nineteenth century are well known and can be summarized as follows. In order to separate and elevate themselves from popular studies of medieval culture, the new academic medievalists of the nineteenth century designated their practices, influenced by positivism, as scientific and eschewed what they regarded as less-positivist, “nonscientific” practices, labeling them medievalism. They isolated medieval artifacts from complex historical sediments and studied them as if they were fossils …. Through these different kinds of exclusions, justified as avoiding sentimental medievalisms, these scholars were able to imagine a coherent inside to the discipline of medieval studies. Medievalism, a fabricated

7 For practical purposes, I follow the trend of referring to the scholarly study of medievalism as “medievalism studies”; however, I also acknowledge the argument for Shippey’s Workmanesque definition by which “medievalism” is used to refer both to post-medieval reimaginings of the medieval and to the study of these reimaginings. For an excellent overview the of emergence of the field of medievalism studies, some of the complications inherent in using this term, and the relationship of medievalists to medievalism studies, see David Matthews, Medievalism: A Critical History (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2015), 6–10.

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effect of the newly forming medieval studies, thus became visible as its despised “other,” its exteriority.8

Biddick locates this initial division of medieval studies from medievalism in the “scientific” methods of the nineteenth century, but asserts that even though medieval studies of the late twentieth century disavows the exclusionary methods used by its “fathers” over a century ago, it is nonetheless still haunted by these exclusionary impulses.9 In particular she critiques what she collectively calls the “new medievalism,” which she sees as excluding “theory” for the sake of history.10 Such a reluctance to move away from practices of exclusion fits with what Lee Patterson has identified as a rampant conservative impulse in professional medieval studies. Patterson notes: Whether a physical institute, center, or program, or simply a normative idea of the way work on medieval materials ought to be undertaken, it is by means of Medieval Studies that the fundamentally liberal modern university has accommodated a conservative, institutionalist, and universalist conception of culture. That this is the ideology that underwrites the “interdisciplinary” programs of Medieval Studies common throughout North America has been made abundantly clear by the rash of self-explanations proffered by institutionalized medievalism.11

Patterson, writing over a decade before Biddick, writes from the perspective of a Marxist scholar located in an iteration of medieval studies that is resistant to theory and rather insistent on sticking to earlier 8 Kathleen Biddick, The Shock of Medievalism (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1998), 1–2. 9 Biddick asks, “How can a critical medieval studies imagine an exterior produced by productive openness to futurity rather than negative processes of expulsion? Recent debates in medieval studies do not hide that something must be sacrificed to retain a purified notion of the interior of the discipline. ‘Theory’ is to be moved to the outside since it is imagined as threatening history, whose function in the new medievalism is to guarantee the ‘hard-edged alterity we need to discover our [medieval] period.’” The Shock of Medievalism, 4. Biddick cites R. Howard Bloch and Stephen G. Nichols in their introduction to Medievalism and the Modernist Temper (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1996), 49. 10 For examples of the “new medievalism,” see Marina S. Brownlee, Kevin Brownlee, and Stephen G. Nichols, eds., The New Medievalism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); and Bloch and Nichols, Medievalism and the Modernist Temper. 11 Patterson, Negotiating the Past, 37.

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methodologies. Although medieval studies has historically been slow to change, that does not mean that is incapable of doing so. Even the methodologies that Patterson decries as conservative were at one point new and likely had to make their way into institutionalized medieval studies at the same snail’s pace at which theory eventually arrived.12 Arguably, the growing trend of medievalists engaging in scholarship on medievalism – and questioning the divide between the two – indicates a breakdown of the exclusionary practices critiqued by Biddick. Change is possible, then, in medieval studies, and the field has shown an increasing acceptance of more progressive and theoretically sophisticated approaches since the publication of Biddick’s book. Furthermore, there is every indication that medievalism, which arguably has never really been fully absent from institutionalized medieval studies in spite of protestations to the contrary, will also make its way more thoroughly into the fold. One such indication lies in the use of medievalism for instructional purposes in courses that are, ostensibly, focused on the Middle Ages. Who among us has not brought a film adaptation into our classrooms in the hopes of helping our students “connect” to what they are reading? Or to illustrate the different ways in which Hollywood has presented the Middle Ages, whether through approaches that register as super-serious (Excalibur, The Seventh Seal), intentionally anachronistic (A Knight’s Tale), or smartly silly (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)? Or simply, as Dinshaw puts it, as a way for medievalists to “[get] out and see a movie”? Arguably, such pedagogical approaches may help keep both students and medievalists in the classroom at a time when the humanities are perpetually in crisis and departments are compressing medieval tenure-track positions into, at best, a single medievalist to cover 1,000 years’ worth of material (if they wish to offer it at all in the curriculum).13 12 For more on the relationship between “theory” and medieval studies, see Paul Strohm, Theory and the Premodern Text (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000); and Bruce Holsinger, The Premodern Condition: Medievalism and the Making of Theory (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005). For excellent examples of the use of theory in a number of recent works by medievalists, see Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 13 See Stanley Fish, “The Crisis of the Humanities Officially Arrives,” The New York Times, October 11, 2010, accessed May 1, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs. nytimes.com/2010/10/11/the-crisis-of-the-humanities-officially-arrives/; Fish cites the announcement of the now infamous dissolution of the Classics, French, Italian, Russian, and Theater departments at the University at Albany.

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However, aside from its utility as a teaching tool, medievalism has been making headway into a number of established scholarly spaces and forms. Indeed, while medievalism studies lacks the institutional pull of medieval studies, it has managed to acquire all the trappings of a proper scholarly field. Medievalism studies has had a foothold at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, hosted annually by the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University and considered “the” conference if one is a North American medievalist, since 1976 – only the tenth year of the Congress proper. This is due primarily to the efforts of Leslie J. Workman, often cited as the “founder” of medievalism studies as an academic discipline, who was determined to find a “home” for medievalism.14 Having been granted a session at Kalamazoo (Medievalists commonly refer to the International Congress on Medieval Studies as “Kalamazoo” or, simply, “K’zoo”), and another one at the Third Ohio Conference on Medieval Studies in the same year, Workman noted: The trouble with medievalism is that it doesn’t belong anywhere in the academic world, and people interested in it might come from almost any field – except perhaps microbiology. But I have found a home for it at two medieval conferences, and we do have, conversely, the fun of developing a methodology and so on for what is in effect a new kind of interdisciplinary subject.15 14 Kathleen Verduin recounts the 1992 International Conference on Medievalism, at which this designation was initially bestowed upon Workman – her husband and collaborator until his passing in 2001 – in her essay-length memoir of his life and work, “The Founding and the Founder: Medievalism and the Legacy of Leslie J. Workman,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 18. 15 Personal correspondence dated September 12, 1976, printed in Verduin, “The Founding and the Founder,” 7–8. Writing of Workman’s initial foray into the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Verduin describes how he and colleague Alice P. Kenney had initially sought out “the museum world” as a space for medievalism. She then cites Workman’s correspondence to the conference chair of the Ohio Conference on Medieval Studies, in which Workman writes, “We decided recently that it was time to work the other side of the street, namely the medievalists; hence the session which I have organized for the Kalamazoo conference – and next, hopefully, the Ohio Conference. What we are hoping to achieve, hopefully beginning at Kalamazoo, is some kind of continuing organization, a study group or conference, to draw together those interested in medievalism from widely scattered fields, probably a newsletter, and perhaps some continuing relationship with a conference like yours or the Kalamazoo one. The field is wide open and the need is becoming urgent.”

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As a result of Workman’s efforts, the International Society for the Study of Medievalism (ISSM) – the academic organization that grew out of Workman’s efforts to draw together people interested in medievalism – regularly sponsors three or four sessions at Kalamazoo;16 organizes sessions yearly at the International Medieval Congress held at the University of Leeds (U.K.); holds its own annual conference, the International Conference on Medievalism, the proceedings of which are published in The Year’s Work in Medievalism; and sponsors Medievally Speaking, “An Open Access Review Journal Encouraging Critical Engagement with the Continuing Process of Inventing the Middle Ages.”17 Perhaps most importantly from an academic point of view, Workman also founded a formal academic journal: Studies in Medievalism (SiM), which I cite extensively throughout this book.18 The topic of medievalism has further warranted a scholarly volume of “key critical terms,”19 an entry in the Cambridge Companion series,20 an excellent critical history,21 and a number of specialized monographs.22 Scholars of medievalism, then, have a journal. We have a conference. We even have our own “superstars,” and the interdisciplinary nature of our field means that sometimes they are also medievalists or English scholars, but they might also be Nobel Prize-winning poets or wandering

16 The 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies was held from May 11 to May 14, 2017. ISSM sponsored a roundtable on “Performing Medievalism,” a session on “The United States of Medievalism,” and two sessions on “Medievalism and Immigration.” 17 “Medievally Speaking,” accessed September 1, 2017, http:// medievallyspeaking.blogspot.com. 18 Although the initial volume was produced in 1979, the journal did not become a regular, reliable fixture until 1990, when it was adopted by Boydell & Brewer. 19 Elizabeth Emery and Richard Utz, eds., Medievalism: Key Critical Terms (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014). 20 Louise D’Arcens, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Medievalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). This volume includes an excellent list of related journals, articles, and monographs in its “Further Reading” section. 21 David Matthews, Medievalism: A Critical History. 22 See, for instance, Tison Pugh and Angela Jane Weisl, Medievalisms: Making the Past in the Present (New York: Routledge, 2012); and Michael Alexander, Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2007).

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members of British comedy troupes.23 We do not have institutional centers, professorships, or even a proper name – at least nothing as catchy as “medievalists” – but one wonders, with the state of the academy as it is, whether or not we actually need any of these (a question I will pick up again below). At present, it is enough to posit that medievalism studies, in one form or another, is here to stay, and that it rarely practices the exclusionism Biddick attributes to medieval studies.24 Such a lack of exclusionary practices, however progressive, makes medievalism studies difficult to define, especially compared to the relatively solid discipline of medieval studies; a closer look at the term medievalism and its relationship to the “Middle Ages” indicates that neither is amenable to a cut-anddried definition. Medievalism and the Middle Ages For a number of years, the term “medievalism” was thought to originate with the nineteenth-century critic John Ruskin, who used it to describe one of three historical periods: “Classicalism, extending to the fall of the Roman empire; Mediaevalism, extending from that fall to the close of the 15th century; and Modernism.”25 Indeed, Ruskin’s usage was listed as the first known usage in the OED until the second edition was released in 1989; the third edition lists three usages earlier than Ruskin’s.26 The English Churchman, an Evangelical Protestant newspaper, used the term in 1844 to characterize negatively the Oxford Movement within the Anglican Church, a movement that pushed for a return of the church to Roman Catholicism, which was often characterized as “medieval” or barbaric:27 23 A 2013 conference on “The Middle Ages in the Modern World” held at the University of St. Andrews boasted plenary lectures by Carolyn Dinshaw, Seamus Heaney, Bruce Holsinger, and Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame). 24 Biddick, The Shock of Medievalism, 1–2 25 John Ruskin, Lectures on Architecture and Painting, Delivered at Edinburgh in November, 1853 (London, 1854), 155, quoted in David Matthews, “From Mediaeval to Mediaevalism: A New Semantic History,” The Review of English Studies 62 (2011): 705. 26 For the origin of some of these additions, see Matthews, “From Mediaeval to Mediaevalism.” The third edition of the OED directly cites Matthews as an authority on uses of the term medievalism. 27 For more on the medievalist terminology used to describe the Oxford Movement, also known as the Tractarian Movement, see Michael Alexander, Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2007), 99–104.

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“There is one who fiercely denounces mediævalism, yet whose heart is tainted with the monastic or antisocial poison.” The term appears again, this time in the American periodical the Southern Literary Messenger, in 1849 to denounce conservative politics in general: “Toryism, feudalism, medievalism, all manners of retrogradism and rottenness in opinion.” The term, then, is initially used with negative connotations to characterize religious or political conservatism as atavistically out of place in contemporary thought. As David Matthews has shown, such negative uses of “medievalism” can be linked to earlier uses of the term “Middle Ages.” The concept of a “Middle Age” was developed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a way for Renaissance thinkers to make a break from the immediate past, especially its perceived link to the power of the Roman Catholic Church, while at the same time justifying a preference for the “Classical” impulses of ancient Greek and Roman civilization. As Matthews notes, it was not until the late eighteenth century, when antiquarians and Romantics alike reclaimed the Middle Ages for their own purposes, that the term underwent a “rehabilitation” that resulted in neutral and even positive connotations.28 It is at this time that the term “medieval” appeared as an adjectival – and neutral – form of the “Middle Age.”29 The adoption of both terms by the discipline of medieval studies that evolved throughout the nineteenth century arguably co-opted them as seemingly neutral descriptive historical terms. “Medievalism,” however, appears to have originated as both a derogatory term and one that signifies a return to values – whether religious or political, as demonstrated in the examples above, or in regards to architecture or aesthetics – thought to be nostalgic and out of date in the modern world. Ruskin’s usage, then, is markedly important in that he uses the term in what appears to be a neutral manner. Ruskin’s usage, taken in context with the other known connotations at the time, indicates that the term was as multivalent in the mid-nineteenth century as it is in the early twenty-first.30 In academic circles medievalism at one point became a term used to exclude treatments of the Middle Ages that were not considered properly academic. In contrast, medievalism studies in its present form is known for being rather inclusive and for leaving room, therefore, for multiple 28 Matthews, “From Mediaeval to Mediaevalism,” 697–8. 29 Ibid., 699–701. 30 Ibid., 705; see 707–8 for a neatly categorized set of meanings for medievalism derived from the mid-nineteenth century.

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meanings of the word. Yet, academic medievalism also calls into question the very meaning of the Middle Ages: the concept upon which medieval studies was founded. This impulse is most readily apparent in the definition of medievalism that Workman formulated towards the end of his career: a definition developed over twenty years of founding and then engaging with an academic field devoted to the term. This definition appears in his often cited “The Future of Medievalism,” where Workman writes: But the Middle Ages quite simply has no objective correlative. This is a truth which has pretty generally been overlooked. … It follows quite simply that medieval historiography, the study of the successive recreation of the Middle Ages by different generations, is the Middle Ages. And this of course is medievalism.31

Workman soon after simplified this to “Medievalism is the continuing process of creating the Middle Ages.”32 For Workman, medievalism does not engage in uncovering or recovering the Middle Ages (as there is no constant object to uncover); it constantly recreates them, thereby constituting the medieval in the process. As Elizabeth Emery argues, Workman’s definition addresses both the multiplicity of the meanings for medievalism and the ambiguous nature of the term “Middle Ages” in the present day. She writes: The brilliance of Workman’s definition lies less in identifying medievalism as a method (the OED also does this), than in acknowledging the extent to which the “Middle Ages” is itself an artificial construct, changing in accordance with the individual or society imagining it. By recognizing that the concept of what we call “the Middle Ages” has been in flux since the phrase was coined in the fifteenth century, Workman cleverly recognized and circumvented the ambiguity at the heart of the OED’s definition, which makes the meaning of medievalism dependent on “medieval” and “Middle Ages,” terms fraught with ambiguity. Scholars recognize that the term “Middle Ages” (from medium ævum) was popularized by fifteenth-century Italian humanists in order to contrast their “Renaissance” with a “Dark Ages,” thereby establishing a solid link between this “Renaissance” 31 Leslie J. Workman, “The Future of Medievalism,” The Year’s Work in Medievalism 10 (1999): 12, quoted in Verduin, “The Founding and the Founder,” 20. Although Workman’s essay is often cited, it is notoriously difficult to find. I therefore follow a common practice in citing the essay via Verduin. 32 Verduin, “The Founding and the Founder,” 20.

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and the classical period it sought to emulate. The public, however, does not generally know the history of the term and knows little about the centuries ostensibly intended by the phrase “Middle Ages.” Undergraduates, for example, rarely speak of the thousand years from the fall of the Roman Empire (476) to the fall of Constantinople (1453). Instead, they tend to identify stereotypes drawn from fairy tales: knights, princesses, magic. Ultimately, the problem in defining medievalism lies with how we define “medieval.”33

Emery’s language here is very precise. Whereas one could be tempted to juxtapose “scholars” with “the public” and “undergraduates” (a group which may frustrate some scholars most of all) as a means to divide those who have somehow correctly accessed a medieval historical past (the scholars) and those who have not (everybody else), Emery very carefully grounds contemporary scholarly understandings of the Middle Ages and the medieval within a system of periodization that is recognized as itself historically constructed. The contrast, then, becomes over and against a “public” that has divorced the term from its own history, ostensibly to replace it with fairy-tale tropes. Although there are notes of disdain for this particular construction of the Middle Ages, indicating that their very constructedness does not necessarily preclude value judgments, Workman’s definition and Emery’s analysis of medievalism acknowledge both versions of the Middle Ages as equally constructed, invented, produced. This, of course, undermines the medieval studies–medievalism divide entirely – a divide that has, as noted above, been critiqued by the work of scholars such as Biddick, Patterson, and Cantor. Yet, the aim here is not to attack or even critique medieval studies but instead to identify it as a discipline constructed around a concept that is itself constructed, and to acknowledge the manner of this invention as itself significant.34 As Emery goes on to note: 33 Elizabeth Emery, “Medievalism and the Middle Ages,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 79. That Emery provides a “scholarly” definition of the Middle Ages is not uncommon, as most medievalists define the Middle Ages even when presenting material to other medievalists (which is, quite frankly, the most terrifying space in which to attempt to define the Middle Ages). For another example of this practice, see the definition provided by Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, 4. 34 This is not to say that all constructions of the medieval are created equal; one of the issues at stake is which versions of the medieval “count,” a question I address below.

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As a result, what one chooses to say about these 1,000 years often reveals much more about the person evoking the “medieval” than about the historical period itself: “[medievalism] might well be defined as the Middle Ages in the contemplation of contemporary society,” as Leslie Workman put it. In the wake of Hayden White’s work on the importance of subjectivity for history, we recognize that the conclusions drawn by figures such as Jules Michelet, Johan Huizinga, and Marc Bloch, who were all known as serious medieval scholars in their time, reveal as much about their own beliefs as they do about history.35

While Emery cites medieval historians in particular, her observation on Hayden White is applicable to all facets of medievalism in general. Although White is perhaps best known for his theory that history is, essentially, narrative, he extends the constitutive nature of history to similar “fields of study”:36 My own hunch … is that in any field of study that, like history, has not yet become disciplined to the point of constructing a formal terminological system for describing its objects, in the way that physics and chemistry have, it is the types of figurative discourse that dictate the fundamental forms of the data to be studied. This means that the shape of the relationships that will appear to be inherent in the objects inhabiting the field will in reality have been imposed on the field by the investigator in the very act of identifying and describing the objects that he finds there. The implication is that historians constitute their subjects as possible objects of narrative representation by the very language they use to describe them.37

In short, the “objects” of medievalism are always and continually constituted through the very acts of inquiry performed by those who investigate them; in turn, these objects may be the Middle Ages, medieval studies, 35 Emery, “Medievalism and the Middle Ages,” 81. Nils Holger Petersen also invokes a link between the work of Workman and White when he notes, “Workman’s cited understanding does not emphasize the differences between scholarly and creative (artistic) approaches to the Middle Ages. In this respect, his attitude is similar to Hayden White’s focus on the importance of rhetorical means in historiography.” See “Medieval Resurfacings, Old and New,” Studies in Medievalism XX (2011): 37. 36 See Hayden White, Metahistory (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973). 37 Hayden White, “Historical Text as Literary Artifact,” in The Writing of History, ed. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 61.

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popular medievalism, or the scholarly field of medievalism studies itself. The question remains, then, as to which constructions of medievalism, to borrow a word from Shippey, “matter.” This subject has spurred much productive scholarly debate as exemplified by two volumes of SiM with special sections devoted to “Defining Medievalism(s).”38 A common theme among these definitions – and one that should be familiar by now, considering our foray into the similarly hard-to-define Middle Ages – is the difficulty in honing a precise definition of medievalism. Indeed, Shippey suggests that we might refer to “medievalisms” instead of a single medievalism, “and that a natural academic approach is to single out just one of them.”39 M. J. Toswell suggests that defining or “denoting” medievalism proves difficult “because medievalism is both a scholarly field and a nostalgic impulse to rework or recreate or gesture towards the Middle Ages,” and suggests that instead “Investigating the tropes that inhere in the representation or recreation of the Middle Ages may prove to be a useful approach to thinking about the definition of ‘medievalism’ by way of its connotations, rather than trying to establish steadily more precise descriptive terms.”40 Gwendolyn Morgan may phrase it most economically when she notes that medievalism remains “somewhat slippery.”41 While scholarship struggles to come to terms with both medievalism and medievalism studies, the “public” sense of the medieval as referenced by Emery, Dinshaw, and, perhaps most pressingly, Holsinger invokes the Middle Ages in ways almost entirely severed from the academically constituted medieval. Often it does so with no regard for or acknowledgement of the academy whatsoever. In light of the culturally produced meanings of the Middle Ages forwarded by countless novels, video games, Hollywood films, twenty-four-hour news channels, marketing departments, and (perish the thought) undergraduates, does medievalism even belong in the academy, or is Holsinger correct in his assessment (with which I have opened this inquiry) that “we are all medievalists now”? An answer,

38 See Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009), subtitled “Defining Medievalism(s),” and Studies in Medievalism XVIII (2009), subtitled “Defining Medievalism(s) II.” 39 Shippey, “Medievalisms and Why They Matter,” 47–8. 40 M. J. Toswell. “The Tropes of Medievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 69. 41 Gwendolyn A. Morgan, “Medievalism, Authority, and the Academy,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 55.

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though by no means the only one, lies in the concept of neomedievalism that this project endeavors to develop. Neomedievalism If, despite – and perhaps because of – the barrage of critical attention paid to it recently, medievalism remains, as Morgan notes, “somewhat slippery,” then neomedievalism is outright ephemeral. Unlike medievalism, neomedievalism has no centuries-old set of usages to turn to (even if only to reject them), nor does the Oxford English Dictionary provide an entry that we can cite (if only to correct it). However, just as the “slipperiness” of medievalism has resulted in productive scholarly debate over the definition of medievalism, so the ephemerality of neomedievalism has in turn led to an impulse in academic circles to assess and crystallize the term. The results are varied. As the following brief survey of scholarship dedicated to “defining” neomedievalism suggests, neomedievalism manages to be part of yet separate from medievalism, creates a (post)postmodern “hyperreality” more real than reality itself, carves out its living in the furtive and ravenous consumption of mass-produced commodities, yet also floats disembodied above a sea of already constituted academic disciplines, waiting to be formed into something solid and deemed worthy of publication and tenure. The closest thing “neomedievalism” has to an imagined original source is Umberto Eco’s use of the term in his famous essay “Dreaming of the Middle Ages.”42 Eco first uses the word to reference popular culture’s love affair – however tawdry – with the medieval. He writes, “Indeed, it seems that people like the Middle Ages. A few minutes in an American bookstore allow you to discover many interesting specimens of this neomedieval wave.”43 Eco adds to his list of neomedievalisms “such postmodern neomedieval Manhattan new castles as Citicorp Center and Trump Tower, curious instances of a new feudalism, with their courts open to peasants and merchants and the well-protected high-level apartments reserved for the lords.”44 With this assessment Eco goes on to argue that we constantly reconstruct the Middle Ages as “something in which we still live,” ultimately characterized by various “Little Middle Ages,” of 42 Umberto Eco, “Dreaming of the Middle Ages,” in Travels in Hyperreality, trans. William Weaver (New York: Harcourt, 1986), 61–72. 43 Ibid., 61. 44 Ibid., 62.

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which he identifies ten.45 Each Middle Age constitutes a different category that can be used to organize our constructions – or “dreams” as he calls them – of the Middle Ages; in order to understand what we mean by neomedieval, “we have to establish to which notion of the Middle Ages we are referring.”46 Much scholarship dedicated to defining or critiquing neomedievalism begins, logically enough, by constructing a meaning in relation to previous uses of neomedievalism and/or medievalism. It is common, for instance, to cite Eco’s “Dreaming of the Middle Ages” and to read various texts as fitting one or more of his “ten little Middle Ages”; likewise, Eco serves as a springboard for proposing additional visions of the Middle Ages that supplement his original ten.47 As Carol Robinson and Pam Clements have argued in their oft-cited essay “Living with Neomedievalism,” Eco’s “neomedievalism” does not drastically differ from Workman’s inclusive definition of “medievalism,” in spite of the fact that each developed his respective term independently from the other at roughly the same time.48 Indeed, both Eco and Workman more or less describe the continuing process of creating the Middle Ages, a process that constitutes the Middle Ages themselves. Finding Eco too inclusive, and the neomedievalisms of Holsinger and Bull to be too limiting in their focus on political rhetoric, Robinson and Clements explicitly construct their definition of neomedievalism against them and characterize it as “a conception of neomedievalism that is clearly an alternative to previous uses.”49 In differentiating their understanding of neomedievalism from the open-endedness of Eco’s neomedievalism and Workman’s medievalism, from Hedley Bull’s “neo-medieval” contribution to International Relations theory, and from Holsinger’s critique of the re-emergence of “neomedieval” as a neoconservative political term, Robinson and Clements attempt to stake out their own intellectual space 45 Ibid., 68–72. 46 Eco, “Living in the New Middle Ages,” in Travels in Hyperreality, trans. William Weaver (New York: Harcourt, 1986), 73. 47 Cory Lowell Grewell, “Neomedievalism: An Eleventh Little Middle Ages?” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 34–43. 48 Carol L. Robinson and Pamela Clements, “Living with Neomedievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XVIII (2009): 59. As I explain below, “Living with Neomedievalism” has become a touchstone for constructing definitions of neomedievalism in its own right. This is also the case with Holsinger and, through him, Bull, a practice that I myself have followed as evidenced in the opening of this book. 49 Ibid., 61.

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for neomedievalism, yet do so with an awareness of the academic and theoretical conventions upon which they are building. In addition to defining their concept of neomedievalism as distinct from the “previous uses” outlined above, Robinson and Clements also invoke medievalism as a point of departure. In some instances, such as when they say of neomedievalism “Nor is it the same as what we conceive to be medievalism,” they appear to take the position that neomedievalism and medievalism are completely distinct entities.50 Suggesting such a complete break echoes the techniques of legitimization employed by the pioneers of medieval studies when separating their subject matter from what they constructed as popular medievalisms; it also has generated a rather heated set of reactions. Cory Lowell Grewell, in responding to Robinson and Clements, credits them with presenting some useful approaches in defining neomedievalism, but disagrees with them “when they assert that neomedievalism is something other than medievalism.”51 David W. Marshall, invoking the open Workmanian definition of medievalism from which Robinson and Clements attempt to break, states, “If we maintain a sense of multiplicity, then neomedievalism is not separate from medievalism, but distinct from other, perhaps more traditional, types of it.”52 Lesley Coote agrees with Robinson and Clements’s assertion when she makes the forthright epistemological claim that “neo-medievalism, by its nature, cannot be fully contained within ‘medievalism,’ or any other, similar, terminology.”53 At times, however, Robinson and Clements contradict their statement that neomedievalism is not “the same as what we conceive to be medievalism,” when they characterize it as a form of medievalism. Earlier in “Living with Neomedievalism” they clearly define neomedievalism as “a new type of medievalism that is born of postmodernist, increasingly globalized values that include an appreciation for the absurd.”54 At another point they describe it as “a post-postmodern ideology of medievalism,” thereby implicitly abstracting neomedievalism away to a dependent area determined by a relationship to the postmodern.55 50 Ibid., 62. 51 Grewell, “Neomedievalism: An Eleventh Little Middle Ages?” 41. 52 David W. Marshall, “Neomedievalism, Identification, and the Haze of Medievalisms,” Studies in Medievalism XX (2011): 22. 53 Lesley Coote, “A Short Essay about Neo-Medievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 25. 54 Robinson and Clement, “Living with Neomedievalism,” 56. 55 Ibid., 61–2.

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This approach situates neomedievalism as the most recent segment in the system of periodization that produced the very idea of the “Middle Age” to begin with. Notably, this system of periodization, through which modernity gave name to the “Middle Age” between the “Classical” and “Modern” periods, is just as integral to postmodernism, which has in part defined itself as breaking from the modern. A number of key efforts to define neomedievalism according to this system of periodization have sprung from the efforts of the Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization (MEMO), a group of scholars (including Robinson and Clements) that formed during the proceedings of the 2002 International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo.56 Although MEMO does not exclusively deal in neomedievalism, it has served as a focal point for the development of different definitions of medievalism, including neomedievalism. The main medium for articulating these definitions, which one can only describe as fitting for an organization that deals in new media, is MEMO’s website. The “Definitions” section of the website references Shippey’s open-ended definition of medievalism, and then posits a genealogy of medievalism that suggests the progression of types of medievalism that accompany post-medieval terms of periodization prevalent in critical thought: modernism and postmodernism. While these definitions have evolved since their initial inception, as of 2019 they read as follows:57 MODERNIST MEDIEVALISM: Experimental medievalist fictions that imply historical discontinuity, rejecting traditional values and assumptions. Rewritten medieval values and assumptions into new values and 56 Carol L. Robinson, “Neomedievalism in a Vortext of Discourse: Film, Television, and Digital Games,” in Neomedievalism in the Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Electronic Games, ed. Carol L. Robinson and Pamela Clements (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2012): 4–5. 57 “ABOUT Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization,” Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization, accessed February 10, 2019, http:// medievalelectronicmultimedia.org/?page_id=39. I have included these definitions in full, partly as a way of preserving them in light of the transitory nature of websites, but also because they so aptly illustrate the system of periodization that I wish to address. It should be noted that the definitions listed here correspond to those that were developed and expanded as a result of MEMO’s book project, Neomedievalism in the Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Electronic Games; the “Some Basic Definitions to Consider” section of the “ABOUT” page on the MEMO site presents both these expanded definitions and the original definitions used as a starting point for the anthology.

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assumptions, but framed within symbolic antiquities associated with the Middle Ages. Full of angst and a sense of futility, an infusion of what we perceive to be medieval characterization, plot, and fantasy with an awareness, exploration and elevation of the individual unconsciousness and consciousness. Such works may contain, for example, contemporary “medieval” narratives that contain stereotyped medieval characterizations and plots infused with an awareness, exploration and elevation of individual unconsciousness and consciousness: medieval romances, for example, with psychological depth. POST-MODERN MEDIEVALISM: More “medieval” than Modernist Medievalism in that it is more critical of contemporary perspectives of medieval values and societal codes, these narratives are overtly constructed and synergized fragments of a fragmented history, seamless and constantly changing in perceptions and interpretations of the medieval without idealizing these changes and perceptions. Thus, they are often less comprehensive: fragments of a fragmented history, a synergism of histories, seamless and constantly changing histories that strike us as “medieval” – whether or not they truly are medieval in nature. A recognition that we don’t really know the past any more than we know the future (much less the current zeitgeist). In other words, contemporary “medieval” narratives that recognize an inability to understand the past any more than one can understand the future. Because they are often self-reflexive, such narratives may be more authentic to medieval values and assumptions in that they recognize the infiltration of modernist ideology and reject it.

MEMO’s website thus correlates “modernist medievalism” to modernism and “post-modern medievalism” to postmodernism. It then locates its definition of neomedievalism directly after that of “post-modern medievalism”: NEOMEDIEVALISM: Neomedievalism is a neologism that was first popularized by Italian medievalist Umberto Eco in his 1973 essay “Dreaming in the Middle Ages,” and has been used in a variety of way[s] since. Angst becomes aggression. Histories are purposely fragmented. The illusion of control is made through changes of the illusion, rather than attempted changes of reality. There is no longer a sense of the futile, or at least it is second-staged by an illusionary sense of power and a denial of reality. Medieval concepts and values are purposely rewritten as a conscious vision of an alternative universe (a fantasy of the medieval that is created with forethought). Furthermore, this vision lacks the nostalgia of earlier

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medievalisms in that it denies history. Contemporary values (feminism, gay rights, modern technological warfare tactics, democracy, capitalism, …) dominate and rewrite the traditional perceptions of the European Middle Ages, even infusing other medieval cultures, such as that of Japan. Neomedievalist stories are contemporary “medieval” narratives that purport to merge (or even replace) reality as much as possible; compared to postmodernist and modernist medievalisms, they are more playful and in greater denial of reality.

This situates neomedievalism, both in chronology and in constitution, as the form of medievalism that responds to its (post)modern predecessors and corresponds to the as yet unnamed successor to postmodernism.58 It should be noted that in this system of periodization, both “postmodern medievalism” and neomedievalism see history, and with it the idea of a “real” Middle Ages outside of that which we construct, as something that cannot be accessed. The key difference lies in the perception that neomedievalism is “more playful and in greater denial of reality.” Such a distinguishing characteristic is also used by Robinson and Clements in their explanation of how neomedievalism differs from postmodernism. They write: Unlike in postmodernism, however, neomedievalism does not look to the Middle Ages to use, to study, to copy, or even to learn; the perception of the Middle Ages is more filtered, perceptions of perceptions (and of distortions), done without a concern for facts of reality, such as the fact that The Knights Who Say “Ni” never existed. This lack of concern for historical accuracy, however, is not the same as that held in more traditional fantasy works: the difference is a degree of self-awareness and self-reflexivity.59

Their prime example in this passage, “The Knights Who Say ‘Ni,’” refers to fictional characters in a scene from the film Monty Python and the Holy 58 Frederic Jameson has argued that postmodernism itself operated unnamed for quite some time. He writes, “Why we needed the word postmodernism so long without knowing it, why a truly motley crew of strange bedfellows ran to embrace it the moment it appeared, are mysteries that will remain unclarified until we have been able to grasp the philosophical and social function of the concept, something impossible, in its turn, until we are somehow able to grasp the deeper identity between the two.” Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991; (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), xiii. 59 Robinson and Clements, “Living with Neomedievalism,” 62.

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Grail,60 and offers what Tison Pugh and Angela Jane Weisl have called “a very learned joke about the difficulties in pronouncing Middle English, both for medieval and modern speakers.”61 Therefore, while the Knights who say “Ni” never existed, their presence in the film tells us something about what the filmmakers think medieval studies has constructed as a “truth” of the Middle Ages; yet the film clearly has no concern with historical accuracy per se. The inside joke about Middle English suggests that this lack of concern reflects knowledge, rather than ignorance, of the Middle Ages shaped by medieval studies, as well as an acknowledgment of the constructed nature of that Middle Ages. This frames the break from history as a conscious one, as is also evident in the film’s iconic scene where a modern historian narrating the film’s “medieval” story of the quest for the Holy Grail is violently killed by a knight. According to the paradigm asserted by Robinson and Clements, the film arguably moves beyond the postmodern both in the playfulness in which this break is made and in the self-reflexive manner in which the film intertwines the aftermath of the historian’s death with the remainder of the quest for the grail. In neomedievalism, then, history is killed – and replaced – carefully, purposefully, rather than stopping, as postmodernism is wont to do, at the impossibility of history. That is not to say that neomedievalism must outright exclude the postmodernism. As David W. Marshall argues in regard to the association of neomedievalism with post-postmodernism, “The double ‘post’ suggests a relationship of tension in which neomedievalism follows but does not supersede the postmodern and its own approach to the medieval. The initial ‘post’ suggests a sequence but does not absent the latter term.”62 Rather than reject postmodernism, neomedievalism offers an already critically complex name for the form medievalism takes in post-postmodernity; in doing so, it recognizes and uses postmodernism as much as postmodernity relies on the modern (even as it differentiates itself from it). Pointedly, all of these terms rely on the system of periodization that produced the medieval to begin with; indeed, if one were to absent the 60 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones (1974; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2001), DVD. 61 Tison Pugh and Angela Jane Weisl, Medievalisms: Making the Past in the Present (New York: Routledge, 2012), 4. 62 David W. Marshall. “Neomedievalism, Identification, and the Haze of Medievalisms,” 23.

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ideas of modernity, one would have to give up speaking of the “Middle Ages” altogether. The most pressing argument, however, for the applicability of the postmodern to neomedievalism may be the prevalent use of postmodern theory in scholarly attempts to define neomedievalism. While the list of postmodern theorists used is too long to include here, Jean Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality, which can be understood in postmodernity as a simulation of reality that has no “real” origin, seems particularly popular in articulating definitions of neomedievalism.63 Toswell, for instance, uses Baudrillard to differentiate medievalism from neomedievalism, arguing that “The difference between the two terms as they are used in the English-speaking world is that medievalism implies a genuine link – sometimes direct, sometimes somewhat indirect – to the Middle Ages, whereas neomedievalism invokes a simulacrum of the medieval.”64 Lesley Coote draws on Baudrillard as well, but leaves open the possibility of neomedievalism tapping into some form of medieval reality behind the hyperreal simulation, when she notes “Neomedievalism embraces both the postmodern emphasis on epistemology, and the possibility that some form of ‘reality’ exists behind the construct.”65 Baudrillard has likewise influenced the definition of neomedievalism forwarded by Brent and Kevin Moberly. They write Neomedieval works, in this sense, do not simply seek to describe, reproduce, or otherwise recover the medieval, but instead employ contemporary techniques and technologies to simulate the medieval – that is, to produce a version of the medieval that is more medieval than the medieval, a version of the medieval that can be seen and touched, bought and sold.66

Notably, the definition forwarded by the Moberlys suggests that the Middle Ages of neomedievalism manages to supersede any Middle Ages per se in “medievalness.” This observation is particularly warranted when one considers that the majority of non-medievalists apparently formulate their understanding of the Middle Ages from neomedieval commodities: certain versions of the medieval that can be “bought and sold,” be they 63 Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulations, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995). 64 M. J. Toswell, “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 44. 65 Coote, “A Short Essay about Neo-Medievalism,” 26. 66 Brent Moberly and Kevin Moberly, “Neomedievalism, Hyperrealism, and Simulation,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2011): 15.

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films, video games, novels, experiences at jousting dinner theater, or even the experience of sitting through a medieval history course. As a quick view of a nineteenth-century Morris & Co. catalog would show, commodification of the medieval is not particular to neomedievalism, and is frequently assumed when referring to any kind of “popular” medievalism. David W. Marshall’s anthology, Mass Market Medieval: Essays on the Middle Ages in Popular Culture, for instance, takes its name from the implicit understanding that popular culture and the market are intertwined.67 And yet, neomedievalism’s position as part of the aftermath of postmodernism suggests that its relationship to the market runs somewhat deeper. The post-Marxian critic Frederic Jameson, among his many other contributions to postmodern critical thought, ties postmodernism to what he critically terms “late capitalism.”68 He writes, “Every position in postmodern culture – whether apologia or stigmatization – is also at one and the same time, and necessarily, an implicitly or explicitly political stance on the nature of multinational capitalism today.”69 Jameson’s keen observation that culture is inherently a commentary on contemporary capitalism seems particularly relevant to neomedievalism, as many discussions of neomedievalism position it as having some relationship to contemporary consumer culture. In some instances, this relationship is articulated as part of neomedievalism’s DNA. Just as the Moberlys define neomedievalism as something that can be “bought and sold,” so E. L. Risden highlights the “products related to the alternative world” of neomedievalism as a defining aspect of his ideal neomedieval text.70 In other instances, the relationship is demonstrated rather than articulated. Alison Tara Walker, for instance, in her excellent critique of medievalism in a slew of Capital One credit-card commercials, points to the commercials’ construction of two 67 David W. Marshall, ed. and intro, Mass Market Medieval: Essays on the Middle Ages in Popular Culture (Jefferson, NC, and London: MacFarland, 2007). The term “neomedievalism” is absent from Marshall’s volume, likely due its re-emergence in scholarly parlance with Holsinger’s book, published the same year. 68 Jameson links postmodernism and capitalism together in the title of his book, Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism; he contemplates the relationship between them more carefully on pp. xx–xxii. 69 Ibid., 3. 70 E. L. Risden, “Sandworms, Bodices, and Undergrounds: The Transformative Mélange of Neomedievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2011): 63–5.

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types of Middle Ages.71 One, the consumer- and market-friendly Middle Ages, is embodied in the types of purchases consumers are seen making, such as a plush “Viking”-like toy. The second, the dangerous Middle Ages of the pre-market era, is embodied in the hordes of live-action “Viking”like characters that threaten the consumers. The knowing disjunction between the medieval that is playfully packaged for consumers and the “real” medieval that threatens consumer safety is purposely constructed to lure consumers to the safety of a particular credit-card brand, giving us a very clear example of the neomedieval at work. And yet, although Walker’s article appears in a volume dedicated to neomedievalism, she never once uses the term itself. The increasing prominence of neomedieval commodities and their willingness to construct versions of the Middle Ages demonstrate how the meaning of the medieval appears to come, for many, from the marketplace rather than the academy. As the plethora of scholarly references in this project indicates, however, the academy is beginning to take notice, in spite of the disdainful manner with which it can sometimes approach popular culture.72 Some critics, such as Cory Lowell Grewell, ascertain that neomedievalist scholarship’s best chance of gaining wider academic acceptance as an object of study is to group itself with the relatively more established field of medievalism studies.73 Similarly, Richard Utz sees the ongoing process of defining and establishing neomedievalism as mirroring the techniques of legitimation employed in shaping medievalism as an acceptable field of academic inquiry.74 Still other critics view neomedievalism as an already accepted part of the academy; Karl Fugelso, for instance, in his Editorial Note for SiM XIX, writes that neomedievalism is “expanding faster than perhaps any other area of academia.”75 The fact that established medievalism studies institutions such as SiM and the International Society for the Study of Medievalism 71 Alison Tara Walker, “‘What’s in Your Wallet?’: How to Construct an ‘Authentic’ Middle Ages,” in Neomedievalism in the Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Electronic Games, ed. Carol L. Robinson and Pamela Clements (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2012), 149–64. 72 For an excellent discussion of the similarities between medievalism studies and popular culture studies, see Marshall, introduction to Mass Market Medieval: Essays on the Middle Ages in Popular Culture, 5–7. 73 Grewell, “Neomedievalism: An Eleventh Little Middle Ages?” 34. 74 Richard Utz, “Medievalitas Fugit: Medievalism and Temporality,” Studies in Medievalism XVIII (2009): 33–6. 75 Karl Fugelso, “Editorial Note,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): xi.

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have embraced neomedievalist scholarship suggests that it may have found an academic home within medievalism studies. “Living with Neomedievalism,” for instance, appears in SiM XVIII, the second of two volumes dedicated to “Defining Medievalism(s),” while the following two SiM volumes focused explicitly on “Defining Neomedievalism(s).”76 As neomedievalism regularly appears on the programs for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, neomedievalist scholarship may also be gaining ground in medieval studies proper. To my mind this distribution of neomedievalist scholarship fits well with the ephemeral nature of neomedievalism itself (and, indeed, I do not see the need for a separate International Conference on Neomedievalism any time soon). As Harry Brown has suggested, neomedievalism is an opportunity to develop a theoretical paradigm that facilitates a more productive understanding of contemporary medievalism, one that moves beyond the postmodern and can critically address the increasingly artificial divide between commodity culture and the academy.77 Arguably, the academy, with its institutionalized understanding of the Middle Ages (however constructed), informed by both a toolbox of critical paradigms and the self-reflexive impulses demanded by medievalism studies, is in a unique position to shape the future of neomedievalism and neomedievalist scholarship. Yet this effort, ironically, is often curtailed by the perception that neomedievalist critique – even if it has made headway into medieval(ism) studies – enjoys but tenuous acceptance as viable scholarship in the hiring and tenure decisions of the academic job market. The job market, then, may ultimately determine whether or not neomedievalist scholarship finds a permanent place in the academy, or is relegated to the side projects of either tenured faculty in more established fields or critics who have been unable to obtain permanent employment in the academy. The place of neomedieval commodities in the market, however, is assured regardless of whether or not the academy chooses to acknowledge them. As the above survey shows, attempting to define neomedievalism means trying to pinpoint a term that is inherently in flux, a term that works, as Coote asserts, “always to escape from the parameters that ‘isms’ 76 My own “(Re)producing (Neo)medievalism” appears in Studies in Medievalism XX and became a focal point for theorizing my own understanding of the Middle Ages. 77 Harry Brown, “Baphomet Incorporated,” Studies in Medievalism XX (2011): 2.

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impose.”78 Arguably, neomedievalism has inherited, among other qualities, the imprecise nature of the postmodern, of which Jameson notes: Postmodernism is not something we can settle once and for all and then use with a clear conscience. The concept, if there is one, has to come at the end, and not at the beginning, of our discussion of it. Those are the conditions – the only ones, I think, that prevent the mischief of premature clarification – under which this term can productively continue to be used.79

Jameson’s conditions for postmodernism apply very usefully to neomedievalism, and yet, amid the wide range of definitions outlined above, it is also necessary to set out some guidelines for my use of the term. First and foremost, neomedievalism invokes a constant state of producing, alternating, and reproducing, one by which it can position and reposition itself toward and away from the Middle Ages proper as the occasion requires. Ergo, this project begins with a working definition of neomedievalism as the products of an ongoing process of re-evaluating what can be done with the Middle Ages in an ever-moving present. At times this process results in what one might, on the surface, consider to be objects of critique: art, commodity, amusement park, game; at other times, in critique per se: monograph, article, lecture, university seminar. Yet such classifications are deceptive, as so easily a monograph becomes a commodity (en route to tenure), a game critiques gender roles past and present, or enrollment numbers for a class become more important than its content. While I acknowledge the value of Workman’s argument for using the term “medievalism” to refer to both texts that reinvent the Middle Ages and the field that studies these texts, as I noted earlier, for practical reasons I use the term “medievalism studies” to describe the academic field that takes medievalism as its object. I likewise employ “neomedievalist scholarship” to describe the critique of instances of neomedievalism.80 Throughout I follow Shippey in acknowledging the multiplicity of forms of medievalism inherent in Workman’s definition, and also extend 78 Coote, “A Short Essay about Neo-Medievalism,” 25. 79 Jameson, Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, xxii. 80 I shy away from the term “neomedievalism studies,” as it implies a separate academic discipline. At present the functional academic homes of neomedievalist scholarship are often medievalism studies and, at times, medieval studies. I also prefer to think of neomedievalist scholarship – and neomedievalist critique more broadly – as producible outside of the academy, a topic I take up in Chapter 6.

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that to neomedievalism; however, I also accept Emery’s argument that “Workmanian medievalism is itself a plural concept” that “obviates the need to speak of ‘medievalisms.’”81 I therefore will use the terms “medievalism” and “neomedievalism” in the plural only when referring to more than one distinct instance of (neo)medievalism. On the medievalism–neomedievalism divide, I follow Amy S. Kaufman’s assessment that that “Neomedievalism is one way of doing medievalism, one that requires certain philosophical and technological shifts in order to exist at all. Yet while medievalism can exist perfectly independently at any point in time, neomedievalism, despite its seeming ahistoricity, is historically contingent upon both medievalism itself and the postmodern condition.”82 Although I see medievalism and postmodernism as necessary preconditions to neomedievalism, I agree with Robinson and Clements that neomedievalism is also dependent on and can perhaps help us define the post-postmodern, and is therefore a worthwhile term that offers something beyond medievalism. As Lauren S. Mayer cautions us, even a working definition of neomedievalism can seem deceptively authoritative. She writes: If there is one aspect of neomedievalism that critics can agree upon, it is that it resists any easy definition, and the problem may lie in the questions we are asking. To ask “what is neomedievalism?” or even “what are neomedievalisms?” is to treat a continuously unfolding and changing phenomenon as if it were a finished and static entity; any answer given will by default be “a slight fabrication.”83

To borrow from the title of an aptly named MEMO blog, the neomedieval is always “in motion”;84 by the time we look at where and what it is, it has already moved on to somewhere and something new. To my mind, the wisest course of action in responding to this tangential nature of neomedievalism is to take Mayer’s advice and “worry less about what, precisely, it is and to spend more time thinking about what it does and why it does it.”85 To that end, the following chapters examine instances of 81 Emery, “Medievalism and the Middle Ages,” 81. 82 Amy S. Kaufman, “Medieval Unmoored,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 2. 83 Lauren S. Mayer, “Dark Matters and Slippery Words: Grappling with Neomedievalism(s),” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 68. 84 “The Medieval in Motion,” accessed November 30, 2018, http:// medievalelectronicmultimedia.org/blog/. 85 Mayer, “Dark Matters,” 75.

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(neo)medievalism with a keen focus on what they do (and how they do it), and demonstrate some of the ways neomedievalism is contingent on and participatory in a constant producing and reproducing, assembling and reassembling of the Middle Ages in contemporary culture.86 While I employ both materialist and feminist perspectives in my readings, some chapters will emphasize one perspective over the other; both are crucial, however, to the accomplishment of one of my main goals: to take Mayer’s advice as a starting point for an articulation of neomedievalist praxis.

86 As Lesley Coote notes in “A Short Essay about Neo-Medievalism,” “Deconstructing the text is postmodern, but cutting and pasting it to make something new is neo-medieval – and it brings the cut-and-paster surprisingly, dangerously, close to medieval reading practices” (30).

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2 Tolkien: From Medieval Studies to Medievalist Fantasy

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n informal discussion among twenty-first-century academics in the field of Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, studies revealed that almost half of them found their path to medieval studies through the writing of J. R. R. Tolkien.1 Tolkien was himself a prominent philologist and Anglo-Saxon scholar who served, among other professional roles, as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford. With such a scholarly pedigree, one might expect that Tolkien’s draw to potential medievalists would be purely academic, and indeed some Anglo-Saxonists cite Tolkien’s scholarly work as the impetus for their choice of career.2 It is “early exposure” to Tolkien’s fictional work, however, that is specifically credited as having lured so many Anglo-Saxonists to their current vocation.3 This is not surprising, as “Middle-earth,” the fantastic world Tolkien constructs in The Lord of the Rings,4 The Hobbit, and The

1 Jonathan Evans, “The Dragon Lore of Middle-Earth: Tolkien and Old English and Old Norse Tradition,” in J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth, ed. George Clark and Daniel Timmons (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 21. 2 Andy Orchard, upon his appointment as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in 2013, noted that “Tolkien was one of the reasons I got into English … because of his amazing lecture to the British Academy in 1936, ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’. He was the first person really to think of Beowulf as a work of literature.” See “Appointments – 30 May 2013,” Times Higher Education, accessed May 15, 2015, http://www. timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/people/appointments-30-may-2013/2004170. article. 3 Evans, “The Dragon Lore of Middle-Earth,” 21. 4 It should be noted that The Lord of the Rings was initially published as three separate books – The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1954), and The Return of the King (1955) – although Tolkien wrote and envisioned them

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Silmarillion,5 has long been acknowledged as reflecting Tolkien’s interest and professional training in the languages, literature, and culture of the European Middle Ages.6 At the same time, Tolkien’s fiction is also read as firmly rooted in the events of the twentieth century. The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, for instance, locates Tolkien among a group of what he calls “‘traumatised authors’, writing fantasy, but voicing in that fantasy the most pressing and immediately relevant issues of the whole monstrous twentieth century – questions of industrialised warfare, the origin of evil, the nature of humanity.”7 Tolkien’s medievalism, then, while shaped very much by his professional understanding of the Middle Ages, can also be seen as a means of critiquing the time and place in which he wrote. As many Anglo-Saxonists have found their way to the Middle Ages through Tolkien’s fantasy, Tolkien arguably found his way to them through William Morris, one of the best-known figures of the later part of the nineteenth-century British medieval revival. In what has become an oft-cited part of Tolkien lore, Tolkien biographer Humphrey Carpenter heralds Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book,8 with its condensed version of William Morris’s translation of the Völsunga Saga,9 as the impetus for

as a single text. Many later editions present the text in unified form, and all subsequent citations in this chapter refer to such an edition: J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 2nd ed. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994). 5 While The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit (1937), and The Silmarillion (1977) are his most widely known fictional works, Tolkien wrote extensively of Middle-earth up until his death in 1973. Much of this writing, including The Silmarillion, was published posthumously by Tolkien’s son Christopher, who also served as editor. A complete list of Tolkien’s publications up until 1998 can be found in Humphrey Carpenter, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (1977; repr., Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 266–75. For a continually updated list, see “Books by J. R. R. Tolkien,” The Tolkien Society, accessed December 15, 2014, http://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/books-by-tolkien/. 6 See Jane Chance, Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England, rev ed. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001); and Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, 3rd ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003). 7 Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, xvii. 8 Andrew Lang, ed., “The Story of Sigurd,” in The Red Fairy Book (1890; repr., New York: Dover, 1966). 9 William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon, trans., Völsunga Saga: The Story of the Völsungs and Niblungs, with Certain Songs from the Elder Edda (London: Ellis, 1870). Morris later adapted some of the events of the Völsunga Saga into a long, narrative poem: The Story of Sigurd the Völsung and the Fall of the Niblung (London: Ellis & White, 1877).

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what Tolkien himself would later call his “profound desire” for dragons.10 In his excellent study of dragon-lore in Tolkien’s fiction, Jonathan Evans goes on to link this early exposure to the Völsunga Saga, which recounts the Norse myth in which Sigurd the Völsung slays the dragon Fafnir, to one of Tolkien’s earliest documented attempts at fiction. Evans cites a 1955 letter from Tolkien to W. H. Auden where he writes, “I first tried to write a story when I was about seven. It was about a dragon.”11 When Tolkien writes to his future wife, Edith, in October of 1914, he describes how his short story in progress is modeled “somewhat on the lines of Morris’ romances with chunks of poetry in between.”12 The relationship between Tolkien and Morris’s work is extensive, and is covered in greater detail below, yet the anecdotes above offer a brief glimpse at how deeply Tolkien’s work is rooted in the nineteenth century as well as the twentieth. Indeed, all aspects of Tolkien’s medievalism – his professional training, his exposure to forms of non-academic medievalism, his use of the Middle Ages as contemporary critique – must also be understood as partly derived from what is commonly called the nineteenth-century British medieval revival. This resurgence of interest in the Middle Ages in everything from fiction to architecture to home décor affected not only culture and the arts, but also the ongoing professionalization of medieval studies that occurred throughout the nineteenth century, which resulted in what M. J. Toswell calls “the romanticizing eye of nineteenth-century medievalist scholarship and study that is the foundation of the medievalizing impulse in the contemporary world.”13 Accordingly, this chapter examines the relationship between Tolkien’s 10 Carpenter, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, 30. The quotation from Tolkien comes from his 1947 essay “On Fairy-Stories,” based on a 1939 lecture at the University of St. Andrews and available in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, ed. Christopher Tolkien (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983), 135. Evans also recounts this story and, as regards Tolkien, cites Andrew Lang and William Morris as “his most immediate literary forebears” (“The Dragon Lore of Middle-Earth,” 22). For yet another analysis of the early link between Tolkien and Morris, see Andrew Lazo, “Gathered Round Northern Fires: The Imaginative Impact of the Kolbítar,” in Tolkien and the Invention of Myth, ed. Jane Chance (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), 194–5. 11 Evans, “The Dragon Lore of Middle-Earth,” 23. Evans cites Letter 163 from Humphrey Carpenter, ed., The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981; repr., Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 214. 12 Letter 1 in Carpenter, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 7. 13 M. J. Toswell, “The Tropes of Medievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 74.

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professional scholarship and popular fiction, and posits these aspects of Tolkien’s medievalism as indebted to the nineteenth-century medieval revival. It further examines how Tolkien’s medievalism has been read as a critique of twentieth-century events and concerns: another way in which Tolkien mirrors his nineteenth-century predecessors. Tolkien and Medieval Studies Tolkien’s groundbreaking essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” which was originally delivered as a lecture to the British Academy in 1936, has since become a foundational text for twentieth-century medieval studies and remains frequently cited and anthologized to this day.14 In one of his opening passages, Tolkien famously takes aim at the body of scholarship surrounding the poem and the “critics” who have produced it: I have, of course, read The Beowulf, as have most (but not all) of those who have criticized it. But I fear that … I have not been a man so diligent in my special walk as duly to read all that has been printed on, or touching on, this poem. But I have read enough, I think, to venture the opinion that Beowulfiana is, while rich in many departments, especially poor in one. It is a poem poor in criticism, criticism that is directed to the understanding of the poem as a poem.15

Tolkien wryly implies that one need not read the poem in order to produce what passes as Beowulf criticism, yet his central argument that Beowulf should be read “as a poem” relies primarily on the vital assertion that medieval texts must be considered as works of art and not merely as historical or linguistic artifacts. This assertion proved highly influential on medievalists who followed Tolkien, yet Tolkien’s explanation of the critical approaches that had until that point prevailed in Beowulf criticism provides a fascinating look at the state of professional medieval studies in the early half of the twentieth century. He writes: 14 For a full literary history of the lecture and essay, see Michael D. C. Drout, ed., Beowulf and the Critics by J. R. R. Tolkien, 2nd ed. (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS, 2011). 15 J. R. R. Tolkien, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” in Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983), 5.

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As it set out upon its adventures among the modern scholars, Beowulf was christened by Wanley Poesis – Poeseos Anglo-Saxonicae egregium exemplum. But the fairy godmother later invited to superintend its fortunes was Historia. And she brought with her Phililogia, Mythologia, Archaeologia, and Laographia. Excellent ladies. But where was the child’s name-sake? Poesis was usually forgotten.16

History, philology, mythology, archaeology, laography (folklore): the list of disciplinary approaches that Tolkien contrasts with poetry, allegorized as they are, is telling: excluding folklore, all are approaches with long academic pedigrees that preceded the professionalization of medieval studies that occurred in the nineteenth century. While the early twentieth century saw the creation of formal centers that institutionalized medieval studies as an interdisciplinary pursuit,17 many of the related disciplines have institutional histories that stretch back to the Middle Ages themselves, when the university as we know it came into being. Theology and liberal arts were courses of study available in the medieval university proper, while fields such as philology and archeology developed later, in part due to a Renaissance interest in Greece and Rome.18 By the late seventeenth century European scholars began pursuing these disciplines with a focus on the subject matter of the Middle Ages;19 the eighteenth century saw the creation of institutional appointments in areas that we now associate specifically with medieval studies. Tolkien’s post at Oxford, for instance, the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, was established in 1795. The creation of similar high-profile positions throughout the nineteenth century, such 16 Ibid., 6. 17 The Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame, for instance, was formed in 1946; similar interdisciplinary programs were founded throughout the 1960s at various universities in North America and Europe. For more on the institutionalization of medieval studies as an academic discipline, see Chapter 1, pp. 5–8. 18 As I note in my introduction, neoclassical impulses in part led to the constitution of the “Middle Age” as a means of aligning the “Modern” with the “Classical” civilizations of Greece and Rome. 19 For an excellent history of scholars of medieval subject matter, see Helen Damico et al., eds., Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies in the Formation of a Discipline, 3 vols. (New York: Garland, 1995–2000). I take my dating of the late seventeenth century from Damico’s inclusion (with which I agree) of both Jean Bolland (1596–1665), founding author of the Acta Sanctorum, and Jean Mabillon (1632–1707), considered the founder of the field of paleography.

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as the Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge in 1878, indicates the progressively professionalized field of specifically medieval scholarship. The professionalization of medieval studies in the nineteenth century relied in no small part on the increasing availability of artifacts from the Middle Ages. In Britain, many such artifacts were discovered and collected through the efforts of antiquaries who made the recovery, study, and preservation of antiquities, or artifacts, their business. As D. R. Woolf notes, the “antiquarian impulse” in Britain can be traced back as early as 1500, when antiquaries functioned as “the finest sort of critical, learned philologist.”20 As a general interest in gathering objects from the past drove the formation of various antiquarian movements and societies, and this interest garnered the participation of wealthy and often untrained members, by 1700 the word antiquary, according to Woolf, “had become widely synonymous with pedantry, tedious conversation, a morbid fascination with rot and decay, and an undisciplined love of the old – precisely the pejorative image conjured up by the more modern ‘antiquarian.’”21 Antiquarians thereby became one of the groups against whom trained scholars defined themselves, although a number of antiquarians were as learned as their formally trained scholarly counterparts, especially in fields that had little formal precedent. Furthermore, the products of antiquarian labor, which included but were not limited to artifacts from the Middle Ages, often became the basis of scholarly research. As Woolf points out, the “spadework” of antiquaries, which turned up countless manuscripts, documents, coins, and other objects, made it possible for modern scholars to build careers out of studying the past without ever having held such an artifact in their hands. Beowulf, for instance, the cornerstone of Anglo-Saxon studies on which Tolkien based his famous lecture, was recovered and preserved through the efforts of Sir Robert Cotton, the late-seventeenth/ early-eighteenth-century antiquary whose collection became a founding component of the British Museum.22 Notably, the survival of specifically medieval English artifacts can be attributed in part to those antiquaries 20 D. R. Woolf, “Dawn of the Artifact: The Antiquarian Impulse in England, 1500–1730,” Studies in Medievalism IV (1992): 27. 21 Ibid. 22 Beowulf has been found in written form in a single manuscript, Cotton Vitellius A.xv, dating from c. 1000 CE. Although almost lost in a fire that destroyed parts of the manuscript, the poem represents roughly 10 percent of the Anglo-Saxon literary corpus.

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who braved accusations of “popery” throughout the English Reformation and Civil War in order to preserve medieval artifacts and texts.23 The availability of texts was further bolstered by the formation of various text societies in the early nineteenth century. As Clare Simmons notes, “The Camden Society is a good example of a growing interest in historical publishing after the founding of the Roxburghe club in 1814. Formed in 1838 to publish documents illustrative of English history, it provided a new window on the medieval world.”24 Although the Roxburghe club in particular began as an exclusive club whereby owners of antiquities would meet to share them, it marked the beginning of formal means by which medieval texts could be accessed other than through direct requests to their owners. The more widespread publication project of the Camden Society made access to texts even less exclusive, so that scholars had no longer to rely on knowing someone who would grant them access to their personal collection. Its example was followed by other groups, such as the Early English Text Society (1864), which produces editions to this day. As published texts became more widely available, scholars relied more on methodology as a means of distinguishing themselves from casual readers, publishers, and collectors. As Lee Patterson notes, philology, the field with which Tolkien identified, in particular established an affinity for methodology that was pitted against the perceived lack of rigor of antiquarianism.25 Patterson cites scholars such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as adhering to methodology in the absence of consistent university appointments. Perhaps best remembered now for their Kinder- und Hausmärchen, the Grimms blended their recovery and recording of folklore with a highly regimented and documented dissection and study of the languages in which they were conveyed: a fact that lent validity to their work even when they were between university appointments. 23 See Woolf, “The Dawn of the Artifact,” 11–16. I am indebted to the art historian Rachel Dressler for kindly pointing me to the antiquarian and medieval historian William Dugdale, best known for The Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656), as a prime example of antiquaries who made the preservation of medieval artifacts their project as a reaction to the destructive impulses of the Puritan government of the Commonwealth towards any object seen as related to Catholicism. 24 Clare Simmons, introduction to Medievalism and the Quest for the “Real” Middle Ages (London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2001), 9. 25 Lee Patterson, Negotiating the Past: The Historical Understanding of Medieval Literature (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 12–13.

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In spite of its regimented methodologies, the actual subject matter of philology can be difficult to quantify outside of a general affiliation with language, literature, and the history of one or both. Tom Shippey has commented on the “elusive nature” of philology and points to an academic schism in Tolkien’s time between “lit & lang”: a schism that Tolkien saw as artificially separating the study of languages from literature.26 As far as Tolkien’s own knowledge of languages goes, as David Lyle Jeffrey notes, “He had extensive knowledge of the Romance languages and of Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Finnish, Old Norse, Old Icelandic, German (from Old High German to the modern), Gothic, Old Friesian, Afrikaans, and Dutch.”27 In short, Tolkien’s comprehension of languages was wide-ranging and prolific, even for a philologist. As Shippey suggests, by Tolkien’s time antiquarianism had fallen out of vogue, yet, as Tolkien’s elision of “The Monsters” and “The Critics” in his lecture suggests, the not necessarily learned “critic” now served as one of the foils against whom a philologist such as Tolkien might define himself, especially in terms of an ability to uncover an authentic medieval past through the tools of his profession. As Shippey notes of the two fields, “An associated difference was that philologists were more likely than critics to believe in what one might call ‘the reality of history.’”28 The concept of history as constituting a lost truth that could be uncovered – a concept that widely fell out of favor in the latter part of the twentieth century – was foundational to nineteenth-century medieval studies. In his excellent account of the historiography of the Middle Ages from the Enlightenment through the end of the twentieth century, Walter Kudrycz outlines how the work of Leopold van Ranke was particularly influential on the path of medieval studies.29 Ranke crystallized a positivist idea of a “scientific history” that could recount the past “as it really was” without subjective intrusion. Although Ranke’s historiographical concepts have since been heavily critiqued, they were nonetheless extremely influential on historians and scholars in related fields.30 As Clare Simmons notes:

26 Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, 6–13. 27 David Lyle Jeffrey, “Tolkien as Philologist,” in Tolkien and the Invention of Myth, ed. Jane Chance (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), 62. 28 Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, 29. 29 Walter Kudrycz, The Historical Present: Medievalism and Modernity (London and New York: Continuum Books, 2011), 105–40. 30 For critique, see Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1973; repr. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1987).

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Within medieval studies, a number of key questions recur, including the quest for origins; the relationship between religion and nationalism; and the model of an ordered, idyllic society. Yet although all of these present a challenge to the notion of an “authentic” Middle Ages, in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century, the quest for answers to these questions becomes subordinated to a desire for the real, the historical, the documented.31

Ergo, in the nineteenth century and during the years that formed Tolkien’s identity as a medievalist, the actuality of the Middle Ages was accepted as both real and recoverable through objective means. In retrospect, the reality of the Middle Ages became a powerful tool for justifying contemporary positions. As Lee Patterson observes: After all, much of the nineteenth-century historicism had been motivated by a desire to use the past, and specifically the medieval past, to prescribe a future, whether it was the restoration of the ancien regime in France, to the reunification of Germany, or the dismantling of industrial techniques of labor management in England.32

This made the matter of the Middle Ages important collateral, and one from which medieval studies further benefitted. As Clare Simmons has demonstrated, the study of Anglo-Saxon in particular was bolstered throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England by a growing association of Anglo-Saxon history and culture with English nationalism. This rhetoric constructed post-invasion Norman influences as a contrast to Anglo-Saxon culture; “Norman” was negatively associated with modern France, an association that only strengthened through the Napoleonic wars and into the Victorian era.33 Medievalism and the Medieval Revival The use of the Middle Ages for one rhetorical bent or another was not limited to medieval scholars, as reproducing the Middle Ages became a tool for various political movements and statements made outside 31 Simmons, Medievalism and the Quest for the “Real” Middle Ages, 1–2. 32 Patterson, Negotiating the Past, 16. 33 See Clare A. Simmons, Reversing the Conquest: History and Myth in Nineteenth-Century Literature (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990); and her “Iron-Worded Proof: Victorian Identity and the Old English Language,” Studies in Medievalism IV (1992): 202–14.

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the realm of scholarship. Although medieval studies excluded forms of popular medievalism as part of its disciplinary constitution, the rhetorical positioning of the Middle Ages was especially prevalent in the various forms of literary, artistic, and cultural medievalism that characterized the nineteenth-century medieval revival.34 Lee Paterson suggests that these instances of medievalism can be organized as follows: Popular medievalism in England divided into two major schools or attitudes, the most powerful representing the Middle Ages as universalist, institutional, and deeply conservative. Bishops Hurd and Percy, Sir Walter Scott, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Southey, Carlyle, Kenhelm Henry Digby, Disraeli and the Young Englanders – these enthusiasts of things medieval celebrated the Middle Ages as a time when a harmonious society was held together by bonds of common faith and unquestioned social order … In opposition to this conservative model the nineteenth century also saw the development of the Middle Ages as pluralist, primitivist, and above all else, individualist. This was the view made popular by Ruskin and Morris and, to a lesser extent, the Pre-Raphaelites …. For Ruskin and Morris, and for others like them, the Middle Ages were valuable not because of their powerful institutions of control and order but in spite of them.35

A comprehensive review of both “schools” and their relationship to each other has already been ably executed by scholars in medievalism studies and is outside the scope of this book.36 I instead read Walter Scott and William Morris as representative exempla of conservative and progressive

34 For an excellent and succinct summary of the exclusionary practices of medieval studies (and the consequences of these practices), see Kathleen Biddick, The Shock of Medievalism (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1998), 1–2. 35 Patterson, Negotiating the Past, 9–11. 36 See Alice Chandler, A Dream of Order: The Medieval Ideal in Nineteenth-Century Literature (London: Routledge, 1970). Chandler’s study provides a broad yet detailed overview of the nineteenth-century medieval revival and its contributing antecedents. As an excellent complement, Mark Girouard covers the same period with a focus on the role of chivalry in The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1981). For a more recent review of nineteenthcentury medievalism, see Michael Alexander, Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2007).

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medievalism, respectively; both have been selected as key figures of the medieval revival and because they both proved influential on Tolkien. As Alice Chandler observes, it is tempting to view the work of Walter Scott as the source of renewed popular interest in the Middle Ages that constituted the nineteenth-century medieval revival; and yet, as this chapter has shown and Chandler cautions, “Quite as much as Scott’s poems and novels had created much of the medievalism that followed, they were themselves the product of more than two centuries’ investigation of the feudal past.”37 Indeed, some of the earliest and most famous manifestations of non-scholarly medievalism date to Henry VII’s assumption of Arthurian lineage as a means of legitimating a crown won on the battlefield, and his son Henry VIII’s restyling of the Winchester “Round Table” in Tudor colors.38 Coinciding with the interest in gathering and studying objects from the past that drove various antiquarian movements and text societies, and bolstered by a renewed interest in and reproduction of Gothic architecture throughout the eighteenth century,39 popular interest in the Middle Ages arguably never died out; it is therefore common to hear medievalism of the nineteenth century characterized as a product of “survival and revival” by later writers.40 Initially aspiring to the then more respected art of poetry, Scott incorporated medieval themes into his work and had success with long narrative poems such as Marmion and the Lay of the Last Minstrel. The growing genre of the novel proved more lucrative, however, and Scott’s highly detailed reimagining of historic events and settings popularized 37 Chandler, A Dream of Order, 12. 38 Debra N. Mancoff, The Return of King Arthur: The Legend through Victorian Eyes (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995), 20. Initial construction of the Winchester Round Table is attributed to Edward I, who reigned England from 1272 to 1307. Like Henry VII and Henry VIII, Edward used Arthurian legend, which drew on an earlier period in English history and legend, to help legitimize and glorify his own reign. Medievalism, therefore, may be seen as a reinvention of earlier forms of rhetoric and propaganda (with some reinventions dating from the Middle Ages themselves) that make use of established tropes, legend, and traditions. Notably, the intersections of medievalism and Arthurian legend have produced many instances of literary medievalism aimed at royal patrons, such as Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (dedicated to Elizabeth I) and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (dedicated to Albert, the Prince Consort). 39 See Alexander, Medievalism, 1–23. 40 See Girouard, The Return to Camelot, 15–28; see also David Matthews, “From Mediaeval to Mediaevalism: A New Semantic History,” The Review of English Studies 62 (2011): 695–715.

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the genre that we now call the “historical novel.” While most of his written work displays a preoccupation with the past, whether the Scottish Rebellion of the previous century in his Waverly novels or the even more romanticized past of his earlier poetic works, Scott’s most successful and enduring work has proven to be Ivanhoe, published in 1819. This story of a fictional dispossessed Saxon knight set among the “historical” events of Richard I and the aftermath of the Crusades became an influential image of the Middle Ages for a number of readers, writers, and politicians in the decades to come. Arguably, one of the more appealing aspects of Ivanhoe to Scott’s contemporaries was its idealization of chivalry, which is associated most closely with the Saxon Ivanhoe. This idealization can be traced to Scott’s non-fiction work. In his 1818 “Essay on Chivalry,” Scott outlines the behavior and characteristics of the medieval knight, and also contemplates the relationship of the social standing of these knights to his own contemporary social strata. He writes: All, too, in the rank and station of gentlemen, are forcibly called upon to remember, that they must resent the imputation of a voluntary falsehood as the most gross injury; and that the rights of the weaker sex demand protection from every one who would hold a good character in society. In short, from the wild and overstrained courtesies of chivalry has been derived our present system of manners.41

Scott’s representation of medieval chivalry in Ivanhoe, then, is a vivid construction of what Scott saw as the roots of proper British society of the nineteenth century. As Mark Girouard has argued, Scott’s attempt to capture the chivalrous way of life through his writing is reflected in his attempts to construct a particular image of his own life as a gentleman of leisure in spite of his need to write to earn a living.42 Pointedly, part of this image involved a carefully constructed medieval-inspired setting; in 1811 Scott commissioned the construction of Abbotsford, a house built in the “Gothic” style that became popular in the previous century. As Girouard notes, the association between the rules that governed the aristocratic institutions of chivalry and the manners expected of the nineteenth-century British gentleman made medievalism an ideal tool for conservative Tory politics, a relationship perhaps best indicated by the dominant Tory attend 41 Walter Scott, “Essay on Chivalry,” 1818. Reprinted in Essays on Chivalry, Romance and Drama (London: Frederick Warne, 1887), 25. 42 Girouard, The Return to Camelot, 38.

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ance of the Eglinton Tournament in 1839.43 The Eglinton Tournament, which is often read as inspired by the tournament at Ashby from Scott’s Ivanhoe, was planned as a full-on joust. Complete with members of the aristocracy in armor and a Queen of Love and Beauty, the tournament was mostly rained out; nonetheless, the tournament’s appeal to an earlier age of chivalry – albeit most likely as interpreted by Walter Scott – is apparent, especially when considered in light of contemporary events. As indicated by the Reform Act of 1832, which extended voting rights to those who did not own land, the industrial development of Britain increasingly removed economic and political power from the landed aristocracy. Similar to Scott’s earlier “Essay on Chivalry,” which tied the contemporary aristocracy to a historically powerful feudal nobility, Thomas Carlyle’s 1843 treatise Past and Present worked to naturalize these identities so that they might withstand their dislocation by increasingly powerful bourgeois capitalists.44 By insisting that land and bloodlines were still the dominant criteria by which society should be ordered, and that the aristocracy had a responsibility to lead the nation, such tracts attempted in vain to maintain the status quo in an ever-evolving mode of capitalist production. Scott’s medievalesque pursuits were not, however, entirely tied up in conservative politics. Scott himself was an avid fan of Chaucer, and, as David Matthews indicates, his 1804 edition of Sir Tristem – where Scott, in a show of Scottish nationalism, argues for a Scottish origin of the text – can be seen as one of the earliest contributions towards the establishment of Middle English studies.45 Arguably, in addition to contributing to a widespread revival of interest in the Middle Ages, Scott’s most significant contribution to later ages was the popularization of the historical novel. As Alice Chandler observes, Scott’s employment of the historical novel capitalized on a growing popular fascination with the past: “Scott brought this interest to a focus by creating a completely believable medieval world, which he portrayed so vividly and attractively that many of his readers took it for historical truth rather than historical fiction.” 43 Ibid., 94. 44 Alice Chandler complicates Carlyle’s conservative medievalism in “Carlyle and the Medievalism of the North,” in Medievalism in the Modern World: Essays in Honor of Leslie J. Workman, ed. Richard Utz and Tom Shippey (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1998), 173–91. 45 David Matthews, “‘Quaint Inglis’: Walter Scott and the Rise of Middle English Studies,” Studies in Medievalism VII (1996): 46.

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Furthermore, his attention to detail led his readers to mistake his fictionalized reproduction of history for fact.46 As John Hunter has argued, Scott’s popularization of the historical novel genre was highly influential on Tolkien. Hunter points in particular to the detailed mythology and history that Tolkien creates around The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, a history that is clear through the appendices of The Lord of the Rings and which would be later expanded and solidified in The Silmarillion. Hunter states of Tolkien, “The history that this novel records is imagined rather than factual, but this has not in any way distracted readers from the linguistic and cultural ‘authenticity’ of Tolkien’s world or the pleasures of historical fiction that it provides.”47 This claim fits with Tolkien’s own description of his works as a matter of transcribing “found” events. In a letter to his publisher Tolkien famously writes of Middle-earth, “Always I had the sense of recording what was already ‘there,’ somewhere: not of ‘inventing.’”48 That the Middle-earth that Tolkien “found” subscribes to a somewhat conservative adaptation of the Middle Ages is also arguably attributable to Scott’s mark on the medieval revival: that Aragorn, the ranger who is eventually crowned King of Gondor, is hereditarily born to the position would fit nicely with Scott’s conservatively and medievally tinged view of the world. Tolkien was also heavily influenced by the products of the more activist, or progressive, side of the nineteenth-century medieval revival; this influence is most apparent via William Morris, the late nineteenth-century polymath. By all accounts, at a young age Morris already displayed a precocious propensity for both reading and history: a disposition that led him straight to the works of Walter Scott. As the Morris biographer Fiona MacCarthy recounts, “At the age of four the infant William Morris was deep in the Waverly novels, and he claimed that by the time he was seven he had read the entire œuvre of Walter Scott …. Scott, he used to say, meant more to him than Shakespeare.”49 Morris’s most direct entry into the activity of the medieval revival, however, came through his interaction with the Pre-Raphaelites. 46 Alice Chandler, A Dream of Order, 12. 47 John Hunter, “The Reanimation of Antiquity and the Resistance to History: Macpherson–Scott–Tolkien,” in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 62. 48 Letter 131 in Carpenter, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 145. 49 Fiona MacCarthy, William Morris: A Life for Our Time (New York: Knopf, 1995), 5–6.

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The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood officially formed in 1848 in common rebellion against the artistic techniques taught at the Royal Academy in the middle of the nineteenth century, which was strictly based in the work of the Italian Renaissance painters Raphael and Michelangelo. The Pre-Raphaelites sought a return to the artistic values demonstrated in paintings produced prior to Raphael – those of an earlier medieval period – ergo the name “Pre-Raphaelite” Brotherhood. In breaking away from the Academy, the Pre-Raphaelites established the concept of “truth to nature” as one of their guiding precepts. As art historian Tim Barringer notes, this precept is directly attributed to the writing of John Ruskin, the art critic best known for The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Stones of Venice, and most relevant in this context, Modern Painters, where Ruskin tasks artists to “go to nature” rather than “ape the execution of the masters.”50 The Pre-Raphaelites where thus committed to capturing images as truthful to “reality” as they could. In addition to viewing the precept of “truth to nature” as a specifically medieval aesthetic, the group tended to incorporate subject matter and narratives inspired by the Middle Ages into their work, although not all Pre-Raphaelite work focuses on medieval themes. The result: when painting a scene out of medieval legend or myth, the Pre-Raphaelites strove to paint it as close to nature as possible, or as close to nature as the event would have been if it had actually happened. John Everett Millais provides one of the clearest examples of this principle in his 1852 painting Ophelia.51 The subject of Millais’ painting is the character of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s medievally set tragedy Hamlet. Millais captures Ophelia just at the moment before she is pulled down under the water, as she floats surrounded by flowers with her face just above the surface. In painting this image, Millais intensively studied models for the flowers and foliage that surround Ophelia so as to capture 50 Tim Barringer, Reading the Pre-Raphaelites, rev. ed. (London: Yale University Press, 2012), 62. Barringer cites volume 1 of Ruskin’s Modern Painters (1843). 51 Millais is particularly interesting in that his work includes portraits of three of the key figures associated with the phenomena of the medieval revival: Ruskin (whose wife, Effie, left Ruskin for Millais), Tennyson (whose poems he painted), and Carlyle. Millais’ work, then, points to not only a fascination with an idealized Middle Ages, but also a fascination with the ongoing process of the medieval revival itself. One could argue that the appeal of the Middle Ages for Millais lies not only in the medieval, but also in the process of and figures associated with representing the medieval to the nineteenth century.

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both with botanical accuracy. In addition, the flowers he chose were either listed in Shakespeare’s play or else included for particular symbolic meaning.52 In painting the figure of Ophelia, Millais had his model (Elizabeth Siddall, who would later marry his fellow Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti), lie in a bathtub wearing Ophelia’s diaphanous blue dress. Millais engineered all of this in order to paint a “realistic” representation of the fictional medieval character of Ophelia, all in the name of returning to a medieval style of art that had allegedly existed before the artificial influences of the Renaissance. Morris was drawn into what is often called the “second wave” of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which primarily revolved around Morris himself, founding member Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Edmund BurneJones.53 Although Morris would later establish a reputation for the stained glass, wallpaper, and fabric designs he developed for the various incarnations of his design firm, Morris & Co., he was not an accomplished painter. His one known surviving painting, known alternately as Queen Guinevere and La Belle Iseult (1858), represents the efforts of Dante Gabriel Rossetti attempting to teach Morris how to paint.54 Although not a prolific painter, Morris was, during his initial interactions with the Pre-Raphaelites, already an established poet, as demonstrated by the 1858 publication of The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems. Some critics have argued that Morris’s earlier works point to an aesthetic medievalism that privileges a love of beauty for beauty’s sake, 52 For an excellent analysis of the plant life in the painting, see Barringer, Reading the Pre-Raphaelites, 63–5. 53 The “first wave” of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which formally lasted from 1848 to 1853, included Rossetti, his brother William Michael Rossetti, Millais, William Holman Hunt, James Collinson, and Thomas Woolner. Although the group focused primarily on painting, Woolner was a sculptor and other members, such as W. M. Rossetti, were primarily writers. 54 Rachel Barnes, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their World (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1998), 94. See also MacCarthy, William Morris: A Life for Our Time, 115–34, which recounts Morris’s effort to learn to paint in what he considered to be the Pre-Raphaelite style: an effort driven in part by Rossetti, who, as MacCarthy notes, “believed anyone could be a painter” (115). MacCarthy also provides biographical information surrounding the composition of Queen Guinevere / La Belle Iseult, including Morris’s relationship with Jane Burden, his future wife and the model for Guinevere/Iseult. That Burden would later model for Rossetti – with whom she conducted a long-running affair – helps illustrate the somewhat tangled and incestuous nature of the Pre-Raphaelites’ social and artistic circle.

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and, indeed, while his poetic works on Arthurian themes performed certain social critiques, Morris’s early medievalism does suggest a form of escapism.55 The Red House, which Morris commissioned from the architect Phillip Webb in 1859, for instance, constitutes an effort to reproduce a medieval space into which one could temporarily escape from the overly busy and crowded architecture and décor of mid-Victorian England. Built, according to Morris, in a thirteenth-century style, the house included a secondary side porch called “Pilgrim’s Rest”: a clear allusion to the carefully chosen location of the house on the route that Chaucer’s pilgrims would have taken on their way to Canterbury.56 It would be shortsighted, however, to reduce Morris’s early works to mere aesthetics or escapism. Morris was also deeply interested in the working of medieval craftsmen and tradesmen, and therefore evidenced as much concern for the construction and materials of his Red House as for the finished product. Morris’s interest in medieval craftsmanship led to his founding of Morris & Co., which produced cleanly designed and hand-crafted furniture and interior decorations based on medieval designs; while Morris hoped to make these products affordable alternatives to mass-produced items of more modern design, ironically, they cost far more than most people could afford. Morris’s later writing, influenced by interaction with the socialist movement, shows a clearly altered understanding of the revolutionary capacity of representations of the Middle Ages.57 Like Scott and his conservative contemporaries, Morris mourned the rise of the industrial revolution and the loss of a pastoral and structured society. However, while Scott’s nostalgia was for the paternal rule of an aristocracy, Morris looked to the Middle Ages as a time of ideal working conditions for craftsmen and artisans, coupled with a revolutionary spirit that eventually overturned the more oppressive aspects of feudalism. In The Dream of John Ball (1888), Morris’s Narrator dreams of a conversation with an 55 See Bradley J. MacDonald, William Morris and the Aesthetic Constitution of Politics (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 1999). 56 Marcus Waithe, William Morris’s Utopia of Strangers: Victorian Medievalism and the Ideal of Hospitality (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006), 43. See also the entirety of Waithe’s section on “The Pilgrim’s Rest: Privacy, Property and the Structures of Welcome in William Morris’s Red House” (34–50). 57 Morris joined the Social Democratic Federation in 1883, is known to have read Das Kapital “in its French translation,” and “made ample use of Marx’s historical chapters both in his lectures and his two visionary novels, A Dream of John Ball and News from Nowhere.” See Chandler, A Dream of Order, 219.

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English priest who would be hanged for inspiring the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, a dream from which he wakes to contemplate the imperfect results of this revolt evident in his own nineteenth-century conditions.58 Morris’s most revolutionary-minded work of fiction, however, is his News from Nowhere (1890). Morris’s utopia of Nowhere portrays an economically advanced future that has culturally reverted to the fashions and artistry of the Middle Ages. Morris writes, though the eyes of Christopher Guest, his time-travelling narrator from the nineteenth century, “Their dress was somewhat between that of the ancient classical costume and the simpler forms of the fourteenth-century garments, though it was clearly not an imitation of either.”59 Economically and socially, the residents of Nowhere have established a system that is clearly founded in socialism, as society functions with each member willingly performing labor according to his or her own inclination. Many critics, including Morris himself, have pointed out an overall child-like quality of Nowhere society. Michael Holzman argues that children play an important role in Morris’s layout of Nowhere in that they are the first to introduce Guest to the economic workings of Nowhere society. Of an incident in which Guest receives tobacco from a store run by children Holzman writes: It is not by chance that these first shopkeepers are children; it is an indication that in a quite significant way all the inhabitants in Morris’s dream-adventure enjoy a mode of existence only conceivable in Morris’s everyday world in terms of childhood; specifically, in terms of the school holidays of Morris’s own comfortable childhood. To show people who are not reduced to functions of the commercial economy, the only example available to

58 Alice Chandler attributes Morris’s interest in the fourteenth century directly to Marx. She writes, “One thing reading Marx probably did for Morris was to turn his attention to the latter part of the Middle Ages, particularly the fourteenth century, which Marx saw as the most prosperous period that labor has ever known and the dividing point between feudalism and capitalism.” Chandler, A Dream of Order, 220. For an excellent overview and analysis of the portrayal of medieval society in Marx and Engels’s work, see Stephen H. Rigby, “Historical Materialism: Social Structure and Social Change in the Middle Ages,” The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 34, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 473–522. 59 William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890; repr., London: Penguin, 1998), 53.

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him was that arising from the projection of an idealized nineteenth-century bourgeois childhood into an idealized Communist future.60

In portraying a privileged life in which people do not revert to laziness, Morris plays upon child-like exuberance for experience and occupation as part of the motivation to perform labor. He equates the experience of work with the experience of “child’s play,” thus making work itself an enjoyable and enviable task. In attempting to establish a thorough equality in Nowhere, Morris has elevated all its citizens to the privileged position of childhood in which work is play and all people may do as they wish; fortunately, what people wish to do in Nowhere is also what is good for them and for society.61 Arguably, when read through a Marxist lens, the child-like quality of the people of Nowhere also relates to their cultural affinity for the Middle Ages. In his discussion of Greek art, Marx employs a metaphor of childhood and adulthood to explain why people enjoy the art produced in earlier societies: But the difficulty lies not in understanding that Greek art and epic poetry are bound up with certain forms of social development. The difficulty is that they still give us aesthetic pleasure and are in certain respects regarded as a standard and an unattainable model. An adult cannot become a child again, or he becomes childish. But does not the naiveté of the child give him pleasure, and must he not himself endeavor to reproduce the child’s veracity on a higher level? Does not the specific character of every epoch come to life again in its natural veracity in the child’s nature? Why should not the historical childhood of humanity, where it attained its most beautiful form, exert an eternal charm that will never return? There are unbred children and precocious children. Many of the ancient peoples belong to this category. The Greeks were normal children. The charm their art has for us does not conflict with the immature stage of society on which it originated. On the contrary, that charm is a consequence of this and is, rather, inseparably linked with the

60 Michael Holzman, “The Pleasures of William Morris’s Twenty-Second Century,” The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 4, no. 1 (1983): 33. 61 The similarities between Morris’s Nowhere and the society imagined in Thomas More’s Utopia is no coincidence; Morris not only read More’s text, but composed the foreword to the 1893 edition of Utopia produced by the Kelmscott Press. See Morris, foreword to Utopia (Kelmscott Press, 1893).

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fact that the immature social conditions which gave rise, and which alone could give rise, to this art can never recur.62

Marx associates earlier “forms of social development,” such as that of the ancient Greeks, with childhood, and current social forms with adulthood. While Marx sees the appeal of such “childish” art to adults as stemming from its association with a period of economic development that did not involve the exploitation of capitalism, Morris borrows from this metaphor while turning it on its head. For Morris the art of “childhood” – the artistic simplicity of the Middle Ages – does not invoke a comforting memory of the simpler economic form of feudalism, but instead serves as a means to maintain and enjoy the more advanced economic system of socialism. Morris has taken the “unattainable ideal” of medieval culture and transformed it into the means through which an entire society happily participates in a deceptively complex economic system. In Nowhere people want to work communally, because work is a game that perpetuates childhood through the recreated simplicity of an idealized medieval culture. As critics such as Chester Scoville have noted, the prelapsarian quality of Tolkien’s Shire echoes the futurist utopia Morris creates in News from Nowhere.63 Similar to Morris’s Nowhere, Tolkien’s Shire incorporates elements of medieval culture as the backdrop for an idyllic society whose residential hobbits operate largely in ignorance of the dangers that lurk outside its borders in Middle-earth at large. This privileged innocence suggests childhood as it does in Nowhere, and is only reinforced by Tolkien’s association of the short stature of hobbits with children, describing them as “a little people, smaller than Dwarves” (The Lord of the Rings, 1); at one point they are described to a character unfamiliar with hobbits as “small, only children to your eyes” (The Lord of the Rings, 424). The residents of the Shire also resemble those of Nowhere in their general exuberance and generosity. Tolkien describes them as “a merry folk” and “hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted” (The Lord of the Rings, 2). Furthermore, as Brian Rosebury argues, hobbits in general reflect Tolkien’s propensity 62 Karl Marx, “Introduction” to Economic Manuscripts 1857–8 (Grundrisse), in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, vol. 28. (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 47–8. 63 Chester Scoville, “Pastoralia and Perfectability in William Morris and J. R. R. Tolkien,” in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 93–103.

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towards “an attitude to work which was close to John Ruskin’s, and not too remote from Marx’s. All the benign peoples in Tolkien have a distinctive kind of productive work.”64 Tolkien writes, of the hobbits’ response to the cleanup needed after Saruman is ousted from the Shire, “Hobbits can work like bees when the mood and the need comes on them. Now there were thousands of willing hands of all ages, from the small but nimble ones of the hobbit lads and lasses to the well-worn and horny ones of the gaffers and gammers” (The Lord of the Rings, 999). Like the people of Nowhere, hobbits are happily and willingly productive, even if their society is structured more closely to Scott’s paternalistic ideal than Morris’s socialist utopia.65 As indicated by Tolkien’s letters, Morris’s prose romances also influenced Tolkien.66 In 1889 Morris published The House of the Wolfings, followed the next year by The Roots of the Mountains. Based loosely on early medieval Gothic tribes, both romances are often considered part historical novel, part fantasy novel (a genre that some critics credit Morris with inventing).67 Morris followed these with a series of purely fantastic novels, including The Wood Beyond the World (1894), The Well at the World’s End (1896), and The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1897). In addition to providing Tolkien with models of fantasy writing that he admitted to imitating, these romances inspired many place and character names of Middle-earth (e.g., “Mirkwood” from The House of the Wolfings and “Gandolf ” from The Well at the World’s End). Although fantasy may seem out of place with Morris’s later socialist writing, critics have made links between Morris’s romances and his socialist politics.68 Furthermore, the ability of fantasy texts to do critical work has been long acknowledged, especially in socialist aesthetics. In an 1888 letter to Margaret Harkness, Friedrich Engels, describing the ability 64 Brian Rosebury, Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 161. 65 Bilbo and Frodo, for instance, both inherit wealth that allows them to function as “gentlemen,” while Sam, clearly from a different economic background, works as Frodo’s gardener. 66 See Letter 1 in Carpenter, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 7. 67 Scoville, “Pastoralia and Perfectability,” 93. 68 Anna Vaninskaya, William Morris and the Idea of Community: Romance, History and Propaganda, 1880–1914 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010). Notably, even Morris’s translations have been linked to his socialism; see Michael R. Kightley, “Socialism and Translation: The Folks of William Morris’s Beowulf,” Studies in Medievalism XXIII (2014): 167–88.

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of fantastic works by Honoré de Balzac to expose “real” conditions (for Engels this would have meant the conditions of production) of the world in which he wrote, notes: Realism, to my mind, implies, besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances …. The realism I allude to may crop out even in spite of the author’s opinions. Let me refer to an example. Balzac, whom I consider a far greater master of realism than all the Zolas passés, présents et a venir.69

Engels’s sentiments are later crystallized in the work of George Lukacs, who sees the goal of a true Marxist aesthetic as to reveal the essential “dynamic” or productive forces at work, even if that means employing the techniques of fantasy.70 The broader applicability of fantasy as critique has, as noted above, been ably stated by Tom Shippey, who reads Tolkien and his contemporary fantasists (including George Orwell, William Golding, Kurt Vonnegut, T. H. White, C. S. Lewis, and Ursula Le Guin) as writing in their fantasy about some of the most pressing issues of the twentieth century.71 Tolkien, as we will see below, stands out among his fellow fantasists both for the unique methods by which he incorporated medievalism into his fantasy, and for the influence he had on later fantasy writers. Medievalist to Middle-Earth Although Tolkien’s “creative” works – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings especially – have most obviously shaped the course of medievalism from the mid-twentieth century on, as Jane Chance has succinctly surmised, Tolkien’s creative writing is in truth inseparable from his “academic” writing. She states, “Tolkien did not compartmentalize the writing of his scholarly or philological essays and notes and the writing of his fiction (that is, his professional contribution to medieval studies from his personal and private creating, or vice versa).”72 This becomes apparent when reading some of the common themes that are prevalent 69 Friedrich Engels, “Letter to Margaret Harkness,” April 1888, repr. in On Literature and Art (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 90–1. 70 Georg Lukacs, “Marx and Engels on Aesthetics,” in Writer & Critic and Other Essays, ed. and trans. Arthur Kahn (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1971), 61–88; see esp. 78–80. 71 Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, xvii. 72 Jane Chance, Tolkien’s Art, vii–viii.

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in his professional and fictional work: the portrayal of dragons, the importance of language, and the role of culture in both constructing and reconstructing distinctly “medieval” worlds. In examining the ways in which Tolkien’s professional and creative writing intersect, it is perhaps best to start with a dragon: the impetus for Tolkien’s first known written endeavor. As noted above, Tolkien originally encountered dragons through an adaptation of Morris’s translation of the Völsunga Saga; he later, of course, read the text in its original Old Norse.73 In his famous lecture “On Fairy-Stories,” originally delivered at St. Andrews in 1939 and later revised for print, Tolkien writes of his impression of Fafnir, the “prince of all dragons”: But the land of Merlin and Arthur was better than these, and best of all the nameless North of Sigurd of the Völsungs, and the prince of all dragons. Such lands were pre-eminently desirable. I never imagined that the dragon was of the same order as the horse. And that was not solely because I saw horses daily, but never even the footprint of a worm. The dragon had the trade-mark Of Faërie written plainly on him. In whatever world he had his being it was an Otherworld. Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie. I desired dragons with a profound desire.74

Tolkien’s affinity for dragons manifests elsewhere in his professional writing, but it is most evident in “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” Although Tolkien discusses Grendel,75 his analysis of the dragon in Beowulf proves far more extensive as he lauds the poem’s characterization of the creature. Although dragons have a long literary and mythological history in the Middle Ages,76 as Tolkien observes, the poem Beowulf itself provides a 73 Tolkien was later critical of some of Morris’s translation work, especially as regards his 1895 translation of Beowulf. See J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Translating Beowulf,” in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, ed. Christopher Tolkien (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983), 56. 74 Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” 135. 75 Tolkien pointedly omits an analysis of Grendel’s mother. See Jane Chance, “The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel’s Mother,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 22, no. 3 (1980): 287–303. 76 As Gwyyn Jones has noted, “That a man fights a dragon is a commonplace of story, and appears in medieval literature as myth, folktale, heroic legend, saint’s life, onomastic anecdote, romance, and quasi-history. So many heroes over so many centuries killed so many dragons, from Frotho and Fridlevus to Ragnar Hairybreeks, and from Sigurd to St George, that the

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legendary history for dragons and a heroic exemplum of slaying them. After the Geat hero Beowulf defeats the monster Grendel at the Danish court of Heorot, a scop tells the story of Sigemund at the celebratory feast.77 Sigemund’s story foreshadows much of what Beowulf will do later in the poem, as he kills a dragon, recovers a treasure, and eventually dies fighting against impossible odds. Of this sub-narrative within the poem, Tolkien writes: Although there is plainly considerable difference between the later Norse and the ancient English form of the story alluded to in Beowulf, already there it had these two primary features: the dragon, and the slaying of him as the chief deed of the greatest of heroes – he wæs wreccena wide mærost. A dragon is no idle fancy.78

Tolkien goes on to argue that the Sigemund legend elevates the status of the dragon that Beowulf later slays, establishing it as an enemy of hero lore and not simply another “monster” that Beowulf must eradicate. Furthermore, as the stuff of heroic legend within the poem, the dragon serves as a suitable end to Beowulf, who dies from wounds incurred while killing it. In regards to Beowulf ’s death, Tolkien states, “For the universal significance which is given to the fortunes of its hero it is an enhancement and not a detraction, in fact it is necessary, that his final foe should be not some Swedish prince, or treacherous friend, but a dragon.”79 The legendary status of the dragon, then, justifies Beowulf ’s actions, furthers his reputation, and allows him to preserve his reputation even in death. Notably, Tolkien reads the dragon’s legendary status within the poem as one of the linguistic and cultural details that the poem uses to emulate an era that was, at the time of the poem’s composition, already part of the distant past. Tolkien, writing of the Beowulf poet, states: He cast his time into the long-ago, because already the long-ago had a special poetic attraction. He knew much about the old days, and though his knowledge – of such things as sea-burial and the funeral pyre, for instance – was rich and poetical rather than accurate with the accuracy presence of one, or even two, dragons in a poem inclined to monsters is no surprise.” See Jones, Kings, Beasts, and Heroes (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 15–16. 77 “Scop” is an Old English word for a poet who would compose, learn, and perform material from memory. 78 Tolkien, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” 16. 79 Ibid., 31.

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of modern archaeology (such as that is), one thing he knew clearly: those days were heathen – heathen, noble, and hopeless.80

As part of his argument that Beowulf should be read “as a poem” and not as a mere historic artifact, Tolkien attributes what he sees as the conscious construction of the poem’s setting in the past as the result of the skill and intention of the poet. He argues, “The illusion of historical truth and perspective, that has made Beowulf seem such an attractive quarry, is largely a product of art.”81 In Beowulf, then, we have a medieval poem that recreates an even earlier era of the Middle Ages: a distinction that is missed if the poem is read merely as “history,” “mythology,” “folklore,” or even “archeology.” Tolkien’s commendation of the anonymous Beowulf poet for so skillfully practicing his “art,” especially in the representation of the dragon, extends to a suggestion that the combination of subject matter and artistic execution has proven inspirational for modern poets:82 “More than one poem in recent years (since Beowulf escaped somewhat from the dominion of the students of origins to the students of poetry) has been inspired by the dragon of Beowulf, but none that I know of by Ingeld son of Froda.”83 Tolkien may well have been speaking about himself; as Tom Shippey has argued, both Tolkien’s 1923 poem “Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden”84 and his characterization of Smaug in The Hobbit are indebted to the Beowulf dragon.85 Tolkien’s borrowing of events from Beowulf is clear: Bilbo awakens Smaug by stealing a cup from his hoard of gold, as does a thief in Beowulf. I would argue, however, that Tolkien’s debt to Beowulf goes further: in Smaug, Tolkien creates a dragon who is part of a larger dragon-lore of Middle-earth as indicated by cues within The Hobbit and the dragons included in The Silmarillion; the similarity to the Beowulf dragon’s foreshadowing by Fafnir is obvious. Indeed, the casting of the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in a setting 80 Ibid., 22. 81 Ibid., 7. 82 Through his use of masculine pronouns when describing the Beowulf poet, Tolkien implies his assumption that the poet was a man. 83 Tolkien, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” 16. 84 Shippey translates the title as “the gold of ancient men, wound round with magic.” The Road to Middle-Earth, 87. 85 Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, 86–7. For additional studies on the role of medieval literature in Tolkien’s fiction, see Chance, Tolkien’s Art; the remainder of Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth; and Jane Chance, ed. and intro., Tolkien the Medievalist (New York and London: Routledge, 2003).

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that is inspired by the Middle Ages and complete with its own historical, legendary, and mythological past is both an example of Tolkien’s own art and a nod to the art of the Beowulf poet. This immersive quality of Middle-earth serves an example of what Tolkien calls a “Secondary World” in his famous lecture and essay “On Fairy-Stories.” Tolkien writes of the term, which is widely used in studies of both medievalism and fantasy: What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again.86

In Middle-earth, then, Tolkien creates a Secondary World according to the premises he lays out in his scholarly work. Notably, Tolkien imagines Middle-earth as located thousands of years ago in the space that now constitutes England. Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien’s biographer, famously ascribes part of Tolkien’s motivation for writing about Middle-earth to “a desire to create a mythology for England,” as to Tolkien’s eyes England lacked the mythological riches of Old Norse, Greek, or even Finnish tradition.87 As a result, Middle-earth is constructed through the tropes of a medievalist: Tolkien casts himself as a translator/scholar who has found the texts that constitute both The Hobbit (renamed There and Back Again, and written by Bilbo) and The Lord of the Rings (written by Frodo and Sam). Both texts were purportedly found in the fictional Red Book of Westmarch (The Lord of the Rings, 1), a manuscript for which Tolkien provides its own history (The Lord of the Rings, 13–15). The language of this found manuscript is named “Westron” or “the Common Speech,” which Tolkien’s narrator claims to translate into modern English (The Lord of the Rings, 1101); he furthermore provides detailed notes on the translation and how he chose to represent the other languages of Middle-earth (The Lord of the Rings, 1107–12). Many other languages of Middle-earth are therefore represented by “Primary World” languages and their relationship to modern English. The language of the Rohirrim, for instance, is largely Anglo-Saxon, and is meant to represent 86 J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” 132. 87 Carpenter, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, 97.

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a more archaic version of Westron; the elder language of Dale, which lies to the north, is largely represented by Old Norse. In addition to the incorporation of known languages into Middleearth, Tolkien also used his knowledge as a philologist to create languages that were modeled after the medieval languages he studied.88 The most fully formed (and generally well-known) are the elven languages Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya, also called “High-elven” at the time in which most of the action of The Lord of the Rings takes place, functions as a formal, older language (a sort of “elven Latin”). It has its roots in Finnish, the language of the Kalevala: the national poem of Finland that is often cited as an influence on Tolkien’s Middle-earth.89 Sindarin, which is also known as “Grey-elven” and is the primary spoken language of the elves in The Lord of the Rings, was based heavily on both Welsh and Latin.90 Notably, Tolkien developed both languages to the extent that he gave each its own history in relation to the events of the earlier ages of Middle-earth depicted in The Silmarillion, including etymologies and sound shifts. Tolkien’s use and creation of language have played a key role in casting Middle-earth as a fully realized Secondary World; for Tolkien, however, the invention of languages was the impetus for creating Middle-earth in the first place. In replying to an interviewer’s attempt to split his philological and fictional work Tolkien writes: The authorities of the university might well consider it an aberration of an elderly professor of philology to write and publish fairy stories and romances, and call it a “hobby,” pardonable because it has been (surprising to me as anyone) successful. But it is not a “hobby,” in the sense of something quite different from one’s work, taken up as a relief-outlet. The invention of languages is the foundation. The “stories” were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.91 88 See Jeffrey, “Tolkien as Philologist,” 64. Depending on how one defines “language,” Tolkien arguably created at least ten languages for Middle-earth. 89 Richard C. West, “Setting the Rocket Off in Story: The Kalevala as the Germ of Tolkien’s Legendarium,” in Tolkien and the Invention of Myth, ed. Jane Chance (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), 285–94 (see esp. 286–7). 90 Deidre Dawson, “English, Welsh, and Elvish: Language, Loss, and Cultural Recovery in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 105–20. 91 Letter 165 in Carpenter, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 219.

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Indeed, Tolkien is known to have been working on languages as early as World War I, even before he began developing the mythology that would later be published in The Silmarillion.92 Even the origins of The Hobbit and its follow-up, The Lord of the Rings, lie in an act of naming. As Tolkien recounts in a footnote to the above letter: “I once scribbled ‘hobbit’ on a blank page of some boring school exam paper in the early 1930’s. It was some time before I discovered what it referred to!”93 Even hobbits had a name before Tolkien had imagined any other of their characteristics or the narratives in which they would play a tremendous part. Although Tolkien freely admitted to the role that real and invented languages played in the shaping of Middle-earth, he was resistant to attributions of other aspects of his fictional work to specific sources.94 As a particularly pertinent example, Tolkien directly disavows any connection between the fictional Rohirrim and historic Anglo-Saxons outside of the obvious and acknowledged linguistic one whereby the Anglo-Saxon language was selected to represent Rohirric as a more archaic form of Westron. In Appendix F to The Lord of the Rings he writes: This linguistic procedure does not imply that the Rohirrim closely resembled the ancient English otherwise, in culture or art, in weapons or modes of warfare, except in a general way due to their circumstances: a simpler and more primitive people living in contact with a higher and more venerable culture, and occupying lands that had once been part of its domain. (The Lord of the Rings, 1110)

In spite of such protestations, many of the customs and actions of the Rohirrim, including the drinking hall of Medusheld at Edoras (The Lord of the Rings, 495–6), Eowyn’s offering of the guest cup (The Lord of the Rings, 511), and the general characterization of battle and death, are 92 John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of MiddleEarth (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003), 60–3. Garth’s study, which is part biography and part literary analysis, provides an excellent overview of how the Great War was influential on both the languages and mythology of Middle-earth. 93 Carpenter also recounts this story, yet credits the event with producing not just the word “hobbit” but the complete initial sentence of what would be The Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” See J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, 175. 94 Jason Fisher, “Tolkien and Source Criticism: Remarking and Remaking,” in Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, ed. Jason Fisher (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011), 29–44.

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clearly similar to those attributed to the Anglo-Saxons. In his argument that the Rohirrim are very much indebted to the Anglo-Saxons, Thomas Honegger cites authorities no less than Tom Shippey and Christopher Tolkien, concluding that “Both agree that the Rohirrim are basically Anglo-Saxons – though with some differences.”95 One such difference: the Rohirrim’s skill with horses, for which Honegger suggests inspiration in the Goths.96 In spite of Tolkien’s assertions to the contrary, such cultural references to medieval sources abound in Middle-earth. The kingdom of Gondor, for instance, which is represented at the time of The Lord of the Rings as having fallen into decay following an earlier period of expansion and prosperity, has been read as invoking the Byzantine empire.97 The feudal allegiance that many of the smaller realms of Middle-earth owe to Gondor (e.g., Rohan and Dol Amroth) again mimics social structures of medieval Europe. Even the courtly culture of Galadriel’s dwelling at Lothlórien has antecedents in the culture of the high Middle Ages: the arrangement and décor of the halls and pavilions, the announcement and treatment of guests, and Galadriel’s practice of surrounding herself with ladies as attendants with whom she weaves (The Lord of the Rings, 345–61). Therefore, while Tolkien may cite language alone as his impetus for writing The Lord of the Rings, he also relied on his extensive knowledge of medieval history, literature, and culture to create the history, language, and mythology of Middle-earth. Tolkien created in The Lord of the Rings a book that consistently tops various “best books” lists;98 he furthermore founded the popular fantasy genre that arose in the late twentieth century.99 In an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Middle-earth, of the fantastic world constructed through The Lord of the Rings, The 95 Thomas Honegger, “The Rohirrim: ‘Anglo-Saxons on Horseback’? An Inquiry into Tolkien’s Use of Sources,” in Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, ed. Jason Fisher (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2011), 121. 96 Ibid., 123. 97 Miryam Librán-Moreno, “‘Byzantium, New Rome!’ Goths, Langobards, and Byzantium in The Lord of the Rings,” in Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, ed. Jason Fisher (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2011), 84–115. 98 For a sampling and analysis of such lists see Tom Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), xx–xxiv. 99 David G. Hartwell “The Making of the Fantasy Genre,” in The Secret History of Fantasy, ed. Peter S. Beagle (San Francisco: Tachyon, 2010), 367–79.

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Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, publishers looked to satiate readers’ hunger for “not more fantasy but more Tolkien.”100 Notably, they specifically sought out texts that imitated Tolkien’s emphasis on medievalism in their own world-building, resulting in the production of a flood of what can be termed medievalist fantasy that continues well into the twenty-first century with such neomedieval texts as Robert B. Jordan’s Wheel of Time books and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.101 While direct adaptations of Tolkien’s texts into films, video games, and even action figures would provide meat enough for their own study, the larger medievalist fantasy genre that he helped invent has also resulted in the film and television production of other medievalist fantasy writing, such as the popular Game of Thrones adaptation of Martin’s books, as well as texts that are created primarily as film or other digital media. As Tom Shippey notes, “Tolkien furthermore provided much of the inspiration, the personnel and the material, for early fantasy games and for role-playing games of the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ type …. Spin-offs from these into computer games are still developing and multiplying.”102 In short, a large number of the texts that shape the way the world sees the Middle Ages are a direct result of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which began with such a modest sentence: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”103 Middle-Earth: Tolkien and the Critics In his analysis of political critique in the fantasy writings of Tolkien and his fellow Inkling C. S. Lewis, Lee Rossi writes:

100 Ibid., 375. 101 I follow the practice of such scholars as Helen Young and Shiloh Carroll in using the term “medievalist fantasy” to refer to fantasy fiction that relies on medieval tropes. Young uses the term in much of her public and academic writing; see especially Young, Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness (New York and London: Routledge, 2016), 81–3. Carroll uses “medievalist fantasy” (and, when appropriate, “neomedieval fantasy”) throughout Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2018); see especially Carroll’s introduction on “Martin and Medievalist Fantasy.” I analyze these concepts further in Chapters 4 and 5. 102 Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, xxv. 103 J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937; repr., New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

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Tolkien and Lewis are two of the more recent heirs of a long tradition of culturally reactionary fantasists that goes back to at least Scott and includes such figures as George MacDonald, John Ruskin, William Morris, Lord Dunsany, and E. R. Eddison. Taken together, these authors constitute a cultural rearguard of the Middle Ages.104

Fantasy in general and medievalist fantasy in particular thus have a storied history throughout the nineteenth century as critical tools. Tolkien and his nineteenth-century medieval fantasist forebears, then, exemplify the various ways in which representations of the “medieval” could reflect, represent, translate, critique, and idealize not only the Middle Ages, but also contemporary society. Although Tolkien himself disavowed any connection between his creative work and the events of the twentieth century,105 his incorporation of these themes (consciously or otherwise) into his fictional rather than professionally critical work meant that his ideas reached a readership much wider than the formal field of medieval studies. As Tom Shippey observes: On some subjects Tolkien simply knew more, and had thought more deeply, than anyone else in the world. Some have felt (and said) that he should have written his results up in academic treatises instead of fantasy fiction. He might then have been taken more seriously by a limited academic audience. On the other hand, all through his lifetime that academic audience was shrinking, and has now all but vanished.106

Regardless of Tolkien’s intentions, and in spite of what may have seemed an appropriate critical venue during the time in which it was created, Tolkien’s “mythology for England” is nevertheless read as using medievalism to critique the conditions of the twentieth century, as critic after critic has read Middle-earth as a site of commentary on everything from industrialization to ecological irresponsibility to modern warfare. Tolkien’s hobbits, his original creation, are in particular read as both a critique against industrialization and a product of Tolkien’s nostalgia for the rural England of his childhood. As Tom Shippey notes, the hobbits and their comfortable home in the Shire are themselves somewhat out of place in the otherwise medievalesque realm of Middle-earth. He writes, 104 Lee D. Rossi, The Politics of Fantasy: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1984), 2. 105 Ibid., 89. 106 Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, ix.

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“I consider in particular the literary function of hobbits, and of Bilbo Baggins, their representative. I argue that they are above all anachronism, creatures of the early modern world of Tolkien’s youth drawn, like Bilbo, into the far more archaic and heroic world of dwarves and dragons, wargs and were-bears.”107 Although largely absent from the earlier mythology of The Silmarillion, hobbits serve as the narrative entry and exit points to both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The reader thus starts with Bilbo in The Hobbit, and with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, in the nostalgic, pre-industrial, yet somewhat familiar Shire, a place that espouses a love for “peace and quiet and good tilled earth,” and a complementary distrust of “machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom” (The Lord of the Rings, 1). It is a space where tea, pipe-weed, and the neighborhood pub mimic the familiar comforts of a typical English village, yet where the factories, colonial practices, and technological advances responsible for bringing such comforts to England are noticeably absent. As the hobbits venture out from the Shire, Tolkien brings with them a viewpoint that, like many of Tolkien’s readers, finds the medievalist fantasy elements of Middle-earth partly alien and yet also partly familiar: for the hobbits, this familiarity comes through the myth-lore prevalent in the Shire, while for the readers it comes through the aspects of adapted medievalism and medieval material proper that Tolkien incorporates into his own legendarium.108 As the hobbits negotiate these elements, the Shire remains an idealized and safe place to which they long to return throughout their adventures; however, in “The Scouring of the Shire,” the penultimate chapter of The Lord of the Rings, their return is marred by the industrializing infestation of the wizard Saruman and his cronies. Having earlier converted the fortress of Isengard into a production zone for both his army of Uruk-hai (orc–goblin hybrids who are bred in the ground) and the weapons that they wield, Saruman had already been associated with machinery, industrialism, and technology.109 After 107 Ibid., xxvii. In Tolkien “wargs” are large wolf-like creatures. 108 In addition to the dragons, languages, and cultural representations that are discussed above, Tolkien’s Middle-earth incorporates elves (present in Morris), dwarves (Old Norse myth), powerful wizards (Arthurian legend, the Finnish Kalevala, and Morris again), and grand fortresses (evident throughout the landscape of a post-Romanized and post-Norman-invasion Britain). 109 As Tom Shippey has pointed out, Saruman’s very name may be derived from a Mercian word for “device, design, contrivance, art.” See Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, 170. Saruman’s earlier workings at Isengard can be

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his defeat by the hobbits’ allies at Helmsdeep, Saruman fled north, where he was able to seize control of an unsuspecting Shire and implement a regime by which the hobbits of the Shire are forced to labor for Saruman’s gain in a noticeably changed landscape. When Frodo and Sam return to the Shire, they note: Many of the houses that they had known were missing. Some seemed to have been burned down. The pleasant row of old hobbit-holes in the bank on the north side of the Pool were deserted, and their little gardens that used to run down bright to the water’s edge were rank with weeds. Worse, there was a whole line of ugly new houses all along Pool Side, where the Hobbiton Road ran close to the bank. An avenue of trees had stood there. They were all gone. And looking with dismay up the road towards Bag End they saw a tall chimney of brick in the distance. It was pouring out black smoke into the evening air. (The Lord of the Rings, 981)

Having experienced sieges, battle, and other horrendous events outside the Shire, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin organize the other hobbits and drive out Saruman and his accomplices (the “Scouring” of the chapter title), thus starting the Shire on a restorative path to its prior idyllic state. The characterization of Saruman, both at Isengard and during his tenure of the Shire, makes a clear statement against industrialization, exploitation of labor, and greed. The pre-Saruman (and post-Scouring) Shire, in contrast, exemplifies a seemingly perfect balance of craft (in the artisanal sense that produces good ale and pipe-weed), a desire for order, and an implicit assertion that most people, if left to their own devices, will be able and willing to labor enough to provide for themselves. The ease with which the Shire is overrun by Saruman, however, suggests that its very existence is one of privileged innocence that is not sustainable without external intervention. That Frodo and company, having learned the workings of the “far more archaic and heroic world” outside the Shire so easily dispatch Saruman upon their return suggests that the survival summed up as follows: “The plain, too, was bored and delved. Shafts were driven deep into the ground; their upper ends were covered by low mounds and domes of stone, so that in the moonlight the Ring of Isengard looked like a graveyard of unquiet dead. For the ground trembled. The shafts ran down by many slopes and spiral stairs to caverns far under; there Saruman had treasuries, store-houses, armouries, smithies, and great furnaces. Iron wheels revolved there endlessly, and hammers thudded” (The Lord of the Rings, 541).

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of an idyllic place like the Shire is dependent upon the values of a more medievalesque landscape. As Alfred K. Siewers notes, Tolkien’s negative portrayal of industrialization is often also read as a “green” or ecologically minded critique of the twentieth century. Such readings of Tolkien have been more prevalent in recent years, partly due to the increasing interest in green studies and eco-critical theoretical approaches, and partly due to the visual representations of Saruman’s destruction of nature in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings.110 Siewers writes, “Green/antimodernist popular readings of Tolkien … are stronger than ever in the wake of recent film portrayals of Saruman’s Isengard as a forest-consuming industrial hellhole engaged in genetic engineering.”111 Although the films may visually highlight Saruman’s handiwork, Tolkien’s writing makes it very clear that felling the trees of Fangorn Forest is part of Saruman’s project. The reader learns of Saruman’s activity through words of the ent Treebeard:112 “Down on the border they are felling trees – good trees. Some of the trees they just cut down and leave to rot – orc-mischief that; but most are hewn up and carried off to feed the fires of Orthanc. There is always a smoke rising from Isengard these days” (The Lord of the Rings, 462). That control of Isengard is wrested from Saruman by Treebeard and his fellow ents as a response to Saruman’s felling of the forests initially appears to be a clear eco-statement that forwards tree protection; because of their hybridity, the tree-like yet anthropomorphic ents have also been read as a personification of nature taking revenge on Isengard.113 As Verilyn Flieger points out, however, the felling of trees is also performed by hobbits in the Old Forest without any kind of negative consequences, suggesting that any “green” messages in Tolkien’s fiction

110 Jackson’s films include The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). He has followed these with a threepart adaptation of The Hobbit. 111 Alfred K. Siewers, “Tolkien’s Cosmic-Christian Ecology: The Medieval Underpinnings,” in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 141. 112 In Middle-earth an ent is a tree-herd, or shepherd of the trees, who can walk, talk, and go to war. Ents appear to be Tolkien’s invention. 113 Siewers argues that Tolkien drew this personified view of nature from early Celtic mythology and presents it as a critique of a modern propensity to view nature as a mere object. See Siewers, “Tolkien’s Cosmic-Christian Ecology,” 139–41.

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come across as somewhat mixed.114 Tolkien’s judgment on both technology and ecology should never be read in an oversimplified, cut-anddried manner; just as he allows for instances where trees may be felled for good reason, he makes clear distinctions between the “skill” of the elves and dwarves or the “craft” of hobbits, and the mindless technological developments associated with Saruman and Sauron. Indeed, while Saruman’s activities at both Isengard and the Shire are widely read as reflecting the ecological consequences of industrialization, as Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans observe, it is Mordor, Sauron’s base of operations and the location where the One Ring was created, that is the ultimate casualty of ecological abuse.115 As Dickerson and Evans argue, the ash-ridden slopes and barren plains of Mordor prove most ecologically troublesome because of the long duration of the land’s misuse; whereas Isengard and the Shire are recovered and healed within the timeframe of The Lord of the Rings, they argue that “In Mordor, the only hope for restoration of life would be something on the order of a cataclysmic flood.”116 Green readings of Tolkien often coincide with readings of The Lord of the Rings as a critique of war. In addition to Tolkien’s careful descriptions of the short-term ecological aftermath of various battles (burial mounds, burning bodies, slaughtered horses), the “Dead Marshes” point to the long-term effects of war on nature. Frodo and Sam, led by Gollum, traverse the Dead Marshes on their way to the Black Gate of Mordor and initially note the barren state of the landscape, which is devoid of birds and benevolent plant life (The Lord of the Rings, 612). As night descends on them Frodo and Sam are both struck by eerie lights in the marsh, “some like dimly shining smoke, some like misty flames flickering slowly above unseen candles” (The Lord of the Rings, 613). Frodo then sees the faces of the dead illuminated in the water: “They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under the dark water. I saw them: grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad. Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their 114 Verilyn Flieger, “Taking the Part of Trees: Eco-conflict in MiddleEarth,” in Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2012), 262–74. For an excellent and more general ecological reading of forests in (neo)medievalist texts, see Valerie B. Johnson, “Ecomedievalism: Applying Ecotheory to Medievalism and Neomedievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XXIV (2015): 31–8. 115 Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans, Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J. R. R. Tolkien (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2006), 185–92. 116 Ibid., 186–7.

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silver hair. But all foul, all rotting, all dead. A fell light is in them” (The Lord of the Rings, 612). As Gollum explains, the Dead Marshes are the result of a largely forgotten battle between Sauron and an alliance of elves and men that ended the Second Age of Middle-earth. This battle, which occurred over 3,000 years before the main events of The Lord of the Rings, sets into motion the events by which the One Ring is lost and eventually recovered by Bilbo in The Hobbit and then passed on to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. While the Dead Marshes clearly mark the scarring of the landscape of Middle-earth by war, as Rebekah Long has argued, they also serve as an enduring war memorial. The representation of the casualties of battle as pale, ghostly faces in the pools, rather than through more heroic modes, is particularly significant in this regard: Long characterizes the marshes as “a textual actualization of the process of memory, in which the dead refuse to be resolved into statuelike icons, idealized narratives of victory or defeat traced across their frozen surfaces.”117 In his account of Tolkien’s experiences as an officer in the Great War, John Garth recounts how Tolkien himself, although reluctant to link the events of Middle-earth with those of his own life, admitted that the Dead Marshes echo scenes he witnessed in the Battle of the Somme.118 Although critics have debated whether The Lord of the Rings glorifies war or, on the contrary, argues for pacifism,119 the most convincing interpretations of Tolkien’s representation of war in Middle-earth are those that do not reduce it to one extreme or the other. Janet Brennan Croft’s reading of Tolkien as espousing “just war doctrine,” for instance, argues that while Tolkien did not glorify war, he believed it was one’s duty to fight when circumstances required it.120 Clearly, however, Tolkien forwards a heavy critique of modern warfare, which he characterized

117 Rebekah Long, “Fantastic Medievalism and the Great War in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 128. 118 John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War, 310–11. 119 For an excellent summary of both positions, see Janet Brennan Croft, War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), esp. 6–8. Croft further analyzes Frodo’s refusal to physically fight during the scouring of the Shire as both an act of pacifism and a potential manifestation of shellshock or PTSD (133–8). 120 Ibid., 138–47.

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in his correspondence as “the War of the Machines.”121 As Croft notes, Tolkien’s dislike of airplanes in particular “may have been a symbol of all that was worst about modern warfare: the ability to kill from a distance without even seeing the face of your enemy, the lack of discrimination between combatant and noncombatant, and above all a thing being done simply because it could be done – not because it should be done.”122 This attitude toward war is aptly demonstrated in the battles of The Lord of the Rings, where Saruman and Sauron’s armies raid villages, kill innocent people, and attack the structures of Helmsdeep and Minas Tirith (which shield the non-military citizenry of Rohan and Gondor, respectively) with advanced siege weapons, gunpowder, and the aid of flying beasts commanded by Sauron’s servants, the Nazgûl. The elves, men, and dwarves of Middle-earth, in contrast, adhere to methods of warfare more closely linked to a heroic version of the Middle Ages: swords, bows, and axes wielded with skill by trained warriors. Although much of Tolkien’s medievalism can be read as critique, the texts referenced above have also been read as naturalizing nineteenthand early twentieth-century assumptions about gender, class, and race that would now be considered obsolete. As Candice Frederick and Sam McBride have argued, there is a dearth of women in Tolkien’s major works, and those who are present are often either characterized as passive or punished should they exhibit any agency.123 They cite Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings, as a particularly apt example. Éowyn must disguise herself as a man so that she can participate in the battles that will shape the future of Rohan and Middle-earth. Although Tolkien characterizes her as a successful warrior – indeed, she slays the Witch-King, the head of Sauron’s Nazgûl – afterwards, after recovering from her injuries from the battle, she suddenly renounces her former life and pursuits to marry the Steward of Gondor, stating “I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are 121 Letter 96 in Carpenter, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 111; quoted in Croft, War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien, 129. 122 Croft, War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien, 129–30. 123 Candice Frederick and Sam McBride, Women among the Inklings: Gender, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams (London: Greenwood Press, 2001). See also Faye Ringel, “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring,” in J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth, ed. George Clark and Daniel Timmons (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 159–71.

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not barren” (The Lord of the Rings, 943). As Frederick and McBride scathingly surmise, “Tolkien’s choice for a would-be female warrior: submit to your allotted role as wife, or die.”124 The lack of agency for women in Middle-earth (when they appear at all) is not original to Tolkien. Éowyn’s narrative arc embodies what Clare Simmons sees as a long-standing use for medievalism, one that she attributes partly to Edmund Burke, who “drew larger gender implications from the medieval than before, encouraging nostalgia for an age when women were not political beings, but treated with chivalric respect.”125 It is an impulse that elevates women to the point of adoration and at the same time strips them of agency, all in the name of chivalry, custom, or a general appeal to the past as validation of such practices. As Tolkien scholarship has shown, the conservative representation of the Middle Ages through which Tolkien promotes particular constructions of gender in Middle-earth have been read as perpetuating other outmoded ideas, such as racial stereotypes and class structures.126 Pointedly, Tolkien’s Middle-earth constitutes a traditional form of medievalism that is rooted in the impulse that the Middle Ages were real and that they can be accurately recovered, understood, and incorporated properly into a Secondary World. By linking constructions of gender, race, and class to a world that is characterized by forms of medievalism rooted in the languages and culture of the European Middle Ages, Tolkien demonstrates the extent to which such constructions can be seemingly naturalized even in a work of fantasy. Portraying women as passive, heroes as hereditarily born to lead, and enemies as racially “other” thereby becomes part and parcel not only of Middle-earth, but also of the Middle Ages that Tolkien has reproduced. As I demonstrate at length in in the chapters that follow, the use of the Middle Ages to naturalize such constructions neither originated from, nor is limited to, Tolkien. Indeed, while rhetorically bent constructions 124 Frederick and McBride, Women among the Inklings, 113. 125 Simmons, Medievalism and the Quest for the “Real” Middle Ages, 5. 126 See Brian McFadden’s critique of Tolkien’s portrayal of race in “Fear of Difference, Fear of Death: The Sigelwara, Tolkien’s Swertings, and Racial Difference,” in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, ed. Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 155–69; Helen Young’s reading of race in Middle-earth in Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness; and Jane Chance’s Foucauldian reading of power in Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001).

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of the Middle Ages may have their roots in earlier forms of medievalism, they appear frequently in more recent forms of (neo)medievalism as well. Recognizing such rhetoric becomes all the more important in light of the fact that forms of medievalism can, as is the case with Tolkien’s Middle-earth, become artifacts that are held up as forms of authority per se. Case in point: when Peter Jackson’s 2001 film adaptation The Fellowship of the Ring dropped the character of Glorfindel and assigned some of his actions in the novel to the elf Arwen – a reconfiguration that recasts the beautiful and courtly but passive Arwen as an accomplished rider, tracker, and armed warrior – Jackson was heavily criticized for straying too far from the book.127 While Tolkien’s adherence to female passivity is one thing, using Tolkien to continually perpetuate such ideas is another thing entirely and, arguably, a move that contradicts the principles that make Tolkien’s medievalism so powerful. Even with his vast knowledge of the Middle Ages, in order to create Middle-earth, Tolkien moved beyond the matter he inherited from the Middle Ages and from earlier forms of medievalism; if he had not, there would be no hobbits, no Quenya, no Gandalf. Likewise, Tolkien moved beyond the critical practices of his day to help shape the course of medieval studies; if he had not, it is likely that many an Anglo-Saxonist would have missed their calling. Above all, Tolkien exemplifies why we must insist on a critical assessment of the medievalisms (scholarly and otherwise) that we have inherited. He is a reminder that medievalism studies must be vigilant of the ways in which forms of medievalism establish relationships to the medieval and how these relationships are rhetorically employed.

127 See Victoria Gaydosik “‘Crimes against the Book’? The Transformation of Tolkien’s Arwen from Page to Screen and the Abandonment of the Psyche Archetype,” in Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Janet Brennan (Altadena, CA: Mythopoeic, 2004), 215–30.

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II SHAPING NEOMEDIEVALISM

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3 Hollywood Genders the Neomedieval: Sleeping Beauty, Beowulf, Maleficent

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n Robert Zemeckis’s 2007 adaptation of the Old English poem Beowulf, the eponymous hero, having pinned Grendel’s arm between the door and doorjamb of the great hall Heorot, growls the following: “I am Ripper … Tearer … Slasher … Gouger. I am the Teeth in the Darkness, the Talons in the Night. Mine is Strength … and Lust … and Power! I AM BEOWULF!”1 This line, added by the film’s writers, marks a departure from the poem’s characterization of Beowulf. Such a departure, however, fits with director Robert Zemeckis’s promise that “This has nothing to do with the Beowulf that you were forced to read in junior high school. It’s all about eating, drinking, killing, and fornicating.”2 Zemeckis makes use of the film’s CGI (computer-generated imagery) format to live up to his promise in many ways, yet nowhere does his film depart more from its source material than in its portrayal of Grendel’s mother, who, along with the troll-like Grendel, a number of sea monsters, and the infamous dragon, serve as the “monsters” Beowulf must face as he builds his reputation as a hero. This change in the characterization of Grendel’s mother is a deliberate one, as the filmmakers note that, although Grendel’s mother is traditionally portrayed as a “demon,” they chose to complicate this by portraying her as a “siren”3 and “the ideal embodiment of womanly beauty.”4 Notably, this ideal very much captures

1 Beowulf, directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary (2007; Paramount, 2008), director’s cut DVD. All references to the film are taken from this edition. 2 “A Hero’s Journey: The Making of Beowulf,” included in Beowulf, director’s cut DVD. 3 Roger Avary in “Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf,” included in Beowulf, director’s cut DVD. 4 Doug Chiang in “Beasts of Burden.” It should be noted that this concept is not original to the filmmakers. As I discuss at length below, scholars of the poem Beowulf have noted sexualized elements in its characterization of

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twenty-first-century standards of beauty despite the film’s purported sixth-century CE setting. The film’s importation of anachronistic ideals of feminine beauty and behavior into its carefully constructed “medieval” setting, along with its complex relationship to its stated source text, make it an ideal example of neomedievalism. It is not, however, merely a departure from what one might call historical or literary “accuracy” that marks Beowulf as neomedieval, as numerous other examples of cinematic medievalism make such departures, yet would be classified as more traditional forms of medievalism. One such film is Disney’s 1959 animation Sleeping Beauty, which shares a number of similarities with Zemeckis’s Beowulf in spite of the almost fifty-year gap between the release dates of the two films.5 Like Beowulf, Sleeping Beauty constructs a medieval setting while implementing numerous changes to its stated source.6 For example, although Sleeping Beauty lists the seventeenth-century French writer Charles Perrault as its source, the film departs from Perrault through its construction of a late medieval setting, its addition of traditional medieval tropes such as dragon slaying, and the expansion of Perrault’s briefly appearing “old fairy” into the far more significant and diabolical character of Maleficent. Like Beowulf, which uses CGI to construct its twenty-first-century “ideal embodiment of womanly beauty,” Sleeping Beauty employs animation to construct Aurora, the “Sleeping Beauty” of the title, as a clear ideal of twentieth-century femininity in spite of its stated use of a seventeenth-century source and actual use of a constructed medieval setting. By reading the similarities between the two films, this chapter explores how each film relies on its own form of medievalism to naturalize gender constructs rooted in the time and place in which the film was produced. In examining the differences between the stated use of Grendel’s mother. See Jane Chance, Woman as Hero in Old English Literature (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986); Stacy Klein, Ruling Women: Queenship and Gender in Anglo-Saxon Literature (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006); and Renée R. Trilling, “Beyond Abjection: The Problem with Grendel’s Mother Again,” Parergon 24, no. 1 (2007): 1–20. 5 I use the term “Disney” throughout this chapter to refer to Disney Studios. Where appropriate, I refer to the studio’s founder as “Walt Disney” as a means of differentiating from the studio. Walt Disney was personally involved with the making of Sleeping Beauty, and it was the last fairy-tale adaptation he oversaw before his death in 1966. 6 All references to the film are taken from Sleeping Beauty (1959; Walt Disney Studios, 2008), 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD.

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source text and narrative in the two films, it furthermore differentiates the forms of neomedievalism in Beowulf from more traditional forms of medievalism in Sleeping Beauty. Drawing the Middle Ages Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is perhaps the most widely recognized form of the “classic” fairy tale in which a beautiful princess, cursed at birth, pricks her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday, falls into a deep sleep, and is awakened by a prince. The film states in its opening credits that it is adapted from “the Charles Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty,” referring to Perrault’s 1697 “La belle au bois dormant.” Perrault, however, is not the tale’s originator. An earlier recognizable printed version of the Sleeping Beauty tale dates to the early seventeenth century, with Giambattista Basile’s “Sun, Moon, and Talia” in his 1634 Pentamerone.7 Basile’s version contains most of the elements included in Perrault’s, such as the cursed princess, the spindle, the location of the sleeping princess in a castle in the woods, and the breaking of the sleeping spell by the actions of a prince or king.8 Even earlier written variants contain more skeletal elements of the tale,9 and the sleeping princess story type has long been studied as part of folklore tradition.10 While the film consciously chooses Perrault as its stated source, Disney did not set the film in the seventeenth century, which would correlate to 7 Although it is more commonly known as The Pentamerone, Basile’s collection of stories is also known as The Tale of Tales; it provides a framing narrative where tales are told over a period of five days. 8 Notably, in Basile’s version the princess, here named Talia, is raped and impregnated by the prince figure (here a king) and awakens only when one of her twin infants, to whom she gives birth while still asleep, sucks the splinter of the spindle from her finger; the king eventually returns and weds her. Perrault’s version omits any kind of contact between the princess and the prince, as she is awoken when the prince kneels besides her. In the Disney film, the prince awakens her with a kiss. 9 See the fourteenth-century romance Perceforest for an earlier example of the prince figure raping the princess figure while she is in an enchanted sleep. 10 The Aarne-Thompson index, which is used to group and classify common folk and fairy tales into “types,” lists the Sleeping Beauty narrative as type 410. In recent decades, the study of fairy tales and folklore has expanded remarkably. Older works, like Bruno Bettleheim’s The Use of Enchantment (New York: Knopf / Random House, 1976) provided the groundwork for scholars like Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, and Marina Warner, who have made careers out of writing about patterns in various fairy tales. These patterns include everything

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the time in which Perrault published the story and the setting suggested by his story’s references to clothing styles. After Perrault’s princess has slept for 100 years (a passage of time Disney omits), his prince’s preoccupation with fashion results in the following reaction to the recently awoken princess: “The princess was already fully dressed, and in most magnificent style. As he helped her to rise, the prince refrained from telling her that her clothes, with the straight collar which she wore, were like those to which his grandmother had been accustomed.”11 Perrault, writing at the French court, could not help critiquing the fashion of the century before his own; the collar of the princess’s dress, alternatively translated from the French collet monté as “a point band peeping over a high collar,”12 may reflect any number of fashions in French women’s attire of the mid-to-late sixteenth century, all of which would have been considered out of date by the late seventeenth century. Sleeping Beauty departs from Perrault in that it clearly establishes its setting in the late Middle Ages. Although the precise date is not given, in one scene the film’s hero, Prince Phillip, chides his father for pressing him into an arranged marriage and exclaims “Now, father, you’re living in the past. This is the fourteenth century!” Interviews with various animators and artists working on the film indicate that a specifically “medieval” setting was selected in order to differentiate Sleeping Beauty from Disney’s previous two animated fairy tales, Snow White (1939) and Cinderella (1954), yet allow the film to retain the “fairy tale feel” associated with the pre-industrial past.13 Although the film may at times stray outside its stated fourteenth-century setting, with certain glaring exceptions (that I will address below), it successfully borrows visually and culturally from the late Middle Ages. Disney’s background artist Eyvind Earle was tasked with unifying and developing the visual medieval style of the film. As production information on Sleeping Beauty reveals, “Under Earle’s influence, the film took on the look of a rich medieval tapestry, fulfilling Walt Disney’s decree that from the figure of the evil step-mother to discussions of the tendency of the Brothers Grimm to eradicate sexual references in some stories while heightening violent content in others. 11 Charles Perrault, “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” 1697, in Perrault’s Complete Fairy Tales, trans. A. E. Johnson (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1961), 10. 12 Andrew Lang, ed., “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” in The Blue Fairy Book (1889; repr., New York: Dover, 1965), 59. 13 “Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty,” in Sleeping Beauty, 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD.

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Sleeping Beauty be a ‘moving illustration.’”14 Beyond allowing Earle merely to create a background that relied on medieval tropes – a castle rather than skyscrapers, forest rather than subways or townhouses – Earle’s study of medieval artwork inspired the style in which the background of the film is drawn. Among the numerous examples of late medieval painting and tapestry Earle is purported to have studied, the Très riches heures of Jean Duc de Berry (c. 1410) and the Unicorn Tapestries (c. 1495–1505) are most often mentioned by animation historians and in documentaries about the film;15 Earle also specifically cites Albrecht Dürer, Pieter Breughel the Elder, and Jan Van Eyck as influences.16 The transition to the stylized, medieval world of the film is emphasized by its opening scene, which pans to a closed live-action book of “Sleeping Beauty.” The book itself is gold, encrusted with jewels, and surrounded by “medieval” objects: tapestries, candles, tracery. As the book opens, a narrator begins reading the modern English words written in vaguely antique script on the pages of what appears to be an illustrated manuscript; the illustrations eventually fade into the film’s animation. While the technique of transitioning to animation through an open story book appears in earlier Disney films and numerous films since,17 it is particularly appropriate for Sleeping Beauty, as the illustrations mimic those used as the basis for the visual style of the entire film. As animation historian Charles Solomon notes, Earle had, in essence, “painted his own version of a book of hours.”18 As the live-action book transitions to Disney’s stylized late medieval setting, the narrator describes the longawaited birth of the Princess Aurora and the viewer is presented with a 14 “Sleeping Beauty: Commemorative Booklet.” Disney Inc., c. 1997. Packaged with the 1997 VHS recording of the film. 15 “Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty”; see also Charles Solomon, Once Upon a Dream: From Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty to Disney’s Maleficent (New York and Los Angeles: Disney Editions, 2014), 30–45. 16 Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 30. 17 Earlier uses of a camera panning into a book as a framing technique appear in Snow White, Cinderella, and Pinocchio (1940). Since Sleeping Beauty, the technique has been used so often that it has become, as Kathleen Coyne Kelly notes, “a cliché of movie medievalism.” Its ubiquity, however, is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that the technique becomes the subject of parody in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). See Kelly, “Disney’s Medievalized Ecologies in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty,” in The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, ed. Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 191. 18 Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 27.

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magnificent castle that resembles the structures in the Très riches heures, particularly the renderings of the Château de Saumur (September) and the Louvre (October).19 The scene shows sweeping congregations of Aurora’s rejoicing subjects in front of and surrounding the distant castle. In close-range shots of the same structure, the perspective creates skewed angles from which viewers can glance under a low, narrow arch and see the rooftops of entire turrets. While the visual style and content of these images are neither natural nor fitting with styles of animation contemporary to the film, they are common characteristics of late medieval art. The action then moves inside the castle, where the high, vaulted ceiling of the castle’s interior suggests a Gothic cathedral and demonstrates Earle’s use of the Perpendicular style particular to the phase of Gothic prominent in fourteenth-century English architecture. As the court gathers for Aurora’s christening, we see that the film does not rely merely on background styling for its medievalism, as the animators also achieve a medievalesque effect through the characters’ clothing styles. Men are drawn in appropriate leggings and tunics, while women, with the exception of Aurora,20 don requisite period gowns, veils, and wimples. The stated fourteenth-century setting is particularly accurately realized in the headdresses worn by various background characters and by Maleficent, the film’s villainess, who appears at the christening to pronounce the curse upon Aurora that will trigger the remaining action in the film. The style is especially suitable for Maleficent; Marc Davis, the animator responsible for designing both Aurora and Maleficent, noted that he based Maleficent’s stylized dual-columned headdress on a picture he found in a medieval art book and styled it to give the impression of demonic horns.21 In an attempt to hide Aurora from Maleficent and thwart the curse, the film’s “good fairies,” Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, take her to a woodcutter’s cottage to be raised in secret. As the action jumps forward to the day of Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, we see her, under the assumed name of Briar Rose, walk through the forest, sing with Disney’s signature friendly 19 Kelly, “Disney’s Medievalized Ecologies,” 196; see also Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 30–1. 20 Although in this scene Aurora is an infant, Aurora’s costuming later in the film, as discussed below, departs from the general use of costuming inspired by fourteenth-century styles. 21 Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 64; see also the featurette “Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty,” c. 1996, included with the 1997 VHS recording of the film.

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woodland creatures, and meet Prince Phillip, her betrothed, incognito. The forest backgrounds in this scene further showcase Earle’s use of the Perpendicular style, as the trees, bushes, and other landscaping all fall on vertical or horizontal lines with an emphasis on height. The forest scenes also afford Earle the opportunity to draw carefully varied species of flora, intentionally unnatural perspectives, and painstaking details reminiscent of sylvan scenes in both medieval tapestry and Pre-Raphaelite painting.22 In spite of the effort of the good fairies, Maleficent’s curse is carried out when Aurora returns to her parents’ castle and is magically drawn to a hidden spinning wheel. There, she pricks her finger on the spindle and falls into an enchanted sleep. At this point in Perrault, the sleeping princess must wait 100 years for the spell to be broken; the film, however, departs from Perrault by eschewing this passage of time and instead introducing the medieval tropes of dragon and dragon slayer.23 While Aurora lies sleeping and the good fairies have proven incompetent against Maleficent’s schemes, Maleficent all but triumphs until Phillip, who has been imprisoned in her castle, breaks free and threatens to break the curse on Aurora. At this point Maleficent takes on the form of a demonic and terrifying dragon that bars Phillip’s path to Aurora and threatens to kill him outright. Armed by the good fairies with the “sword of truth” and “shield of virtue,” Phillip ultimately slays Maleficent with the sword. The film thus reconfigures the “Sleeping Beauty” narrative as the iconic “knight slays dragon, rescues princess” trope often recognized as an inherently “medieval” theme by the general populace and, indeed, codified as part of medieval legend per se through figures such as St. George.24 By doing so, the film further reinforces the dichotomy between the passive female and the active male, by rewarding Aurora for simply being beautiful, punishing Maleficent for asserting any sort of agency,

22 Kelly, “Disney’s Medievalized Ecologies,” 196–200. 23 Disney also omits the ending of Perrault’s tale, in which the title character and her prince return to his kingdom only to face his cannibalistic mother, who attempts to cook and eat the princess and her children but is prevented from doing so by her son just in the nick of time. In this sense, the film more closely follows the 1811 Briar Rose published by the Brothers Grimm, as they, too, omit the superfluous traditional ending in their version of the tale (but the Grimms did not add a dragon). 24 See, for instance, the version of the St. George legend in William Caxton’s 1483 The Golden Legend, a translation of Jacobus de Voragine’s thirteenth-century collection of saints’ lives.

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and ultimately establishing Phillip as the primary effective actor in the narrative. At first glance this gendered dichotomy is also suggested in Zemeckis’s Beowulf, which begins with a similarly blond, beautiful, genteel, and passive figure who will serve as a counterpart to Beowulf ’s active hero. The opening shot, set in Heorot, the mead hall of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, first directs the viewer’s eye to a golden dragon horn being filled with mead as the words “Denmark, AD 507” indicate the time and place. The shot then pans out to reveal the horn in the hands of Wealtheow, Hrothgar’s queen (who fulfills a traditional role as bearer of the guest cup in the film).25 Notably, the scene visually associates Wealtheow with the golden horn, a conflation that will be invoked later in the film as both are positioned as objects that can be won, rescued, and transferred among the film’s more active agents. As general merriment ensues, the film shows Hrothgar encouraging his people to fulfill the hall’s purpose of “eating, drinking, and fornication,” directives which both his male and female subjects follow willingly.26 The demure Wealtheow, however, does not participate in the debauchery and, while visibly displaying her distaste for the scene, is denied the agency to absent herself from the festivities. It is at this moment that the monster Grendel appears, disrupting the feast and killing many of Hrothgar’s people. This event triggers the eventual arrival of Beowulf the Geat in Denmark to aid Hrothgar in eradicating Grendel. Notably, Zemeckis’s choice of “AD 507,” an early but clearly medieval date for his film’s opening, makes sense in relation to the dating and content of the Beowulf poem, as scholars believe that the poem recorded in the c. 1000 CE Cotton manuscript was composed significantly earlier.27 The visual and cultural version of the Middle Ages Zemeckis constructs for 25 The spelling of “Wealtheow” is taken from promotional and end-credit information for the film. 26 David W. Marshall, in his excellent reading of Grendel’s mother in recent film adaptations of Beowulf, aptly describes the “fraternity party atmosphere” of the scene. See “Grendel’s Mother: Abject Maternal and Social Critique,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 144. 27 The poem exists in written form in a single manuscript, Cotton Vitellius A.xv, dating from c. 1000 CE. The poem itself was likely composed much earlier as part of Anglo-Saxon oral tradition, and would have been performed by a scop (a poet who would compose, learn, and perform material from memory). In the absence of widespread literacy, works such as Beowulf originated in the oral tradition of performed poetry, and would only later have been recorded in manuscript form by a member of the educated elite, most likely someone

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507 CE, however, proves rather eclectic.28 The film’s rendering of Heorot, for instance, serves as a very grand but otherwise plausible version of the mead hall described in the poem and is representative of structures built in Anglo-Saxon era Britain. This contrasts greatly with Hrothgar’s massive stone castle that sits beyond the mead hall, as such structures would not have appeared in Britain or Denmark for at least a half millennium after the film’s stated setting. Likewise, the drinking horn itself fits the poem and setting conceptually, yet in terms of design resembles what one critic has termed “a Wagner tuba.”29 Even the film’s costuming ranges from Hrothgar’s drinking party “toga” to Wealtheow and Unferth’s late medieval clothing to Beowulf ’s loincloth-and-headband combination that invokes the twentieth-century character of Conan the Barbarian. Most pointedly, the plot sees characters such as Unferth and Wealtheow convert to Christianity by the end of the film; while this plays interestingly on the Christian influences found in the poem, it comes centuries earlier than the recorded Christianization of Denmark. Although the film’s setting proves to be something of a medieval pastiche, the main events, up to and including Beowulf ’s fight with Grendel, follow a streamlined version of the Beowulf poem fairly closely in spite of Zemeckis’s promise to do otherwise. In both poem and film, after properly receiving Beowulf at Heorot, Hrothgar and his retainers withdraw from the hall, leaving Beowulf and his men to await Grendel’s attack. When Grendel arrives, Beowulf chooses to take him on with his bare hands, which proves sensible, as the poem explicitly states that no forged weapon can kill Grendel,30 and the film shows Beowulf ’s men ineffectively slashing at Grendel’s head and attempting to stab him in the groin with their swords. This scene in the film portrays Grendel, who carries no weapon and can be touched with no sword, as sexless.31 associated with the Christian church. Ergo, a date of 507 CE is reasonable for events that may have inspired a poem that may then have undergone considerable change before being written down centuries later. 28 For an excellent analysis of the film’s eclectic use of the medieval, see M. J. Toswell, “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 44–57; see esp. 50–3. 29 Toswell, “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism,” 52. 30 Friedrich Klaeber, ed., Beowulf, in Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd ed. (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1950), lines 794b–805a. All subsequent in-text references to Beowulf are from this edition. 31 Wiglaf, Beowulf ’s retainer, yells “He has no pintel!” as he futilely attempts to stab Grendel in the groin.

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Simultaneously, swords connect conceptually with the phallus via visuals in which a sword vertically embedded in a wooden bench serves as one of the many ways the filmmakers cover up Beowulf ’s naked body. Although Grendel escapes, Beowulf makes use of a nearby chain and the heavy front door to Heorot to deal him a mortal wound when he tears Grendel’s arm from his body, signifying Beowulf ’s status as the pre-eminent warrior of the group; thus, the film’s visual use of swords supplements the action of the poem to simultaneously emasculate the monstrous Grendel and hyper-masculinize the successful Beowulf. After Grendel’s death there is much celebration at Heorot, and Hrothgar awards Beowulf the golden dragon horn with which the film opens. The celebration is short-lived, however, as Grendel’s mother attacks that night to avenge the death of her son. Now a proven monsterslayer, Beowulf sets out to rid Hrothgar of this second monster. Although Beowulf successfully dispatches Grendel with his bare hands, he does not attempt the same approach with Grendel’s mother. In both poem and film, he approaches her mere armed with the sword Hrunting, which is given to him by Hrothgar’s retainer, Unferth, and in the poem Beowulf takes the further precaution of wearing armor. As regards this element of the poem, critics such as Renée Trilling have read Beowulf ’s recourse to weapons and armor here as indicative of the higher stakes involved in Beowulf ’s facing a female combatant. She notes: His masculinity was not in doubt when he fought Grendel, but his new adversary’s very existence qua adversary brings categories of identity into question, and the masculine performance of donning armour reassures us as much as it does Beowulf and the Danes. He needs the weapons as well. He cannot afford to take any chances with Grendel’s mother – he must make sure that she is dead, severing her head as proof positive that she cannot return to further disrupt the group’s stability.32

Whereas failure against a foe, such as Grendel or the dragon that eventually takes Beowulf ’s life in old age, could be interpreted as an acceptable, though unsuccessful, outcome of battle, failure against a woman would threaten the practices and procedures by which Anglo-Saxon warrior culture operates. Beowulf, therefore, must do all he can to prevent such an occurrence. However, in the poem, we are told, the sword Hrunting fails: 32 Trilling, “Beyond Abjection,” 18.

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Sleeping Beauty, Beowulf, Maleficent Ongeat þa se goda  grundwyrgenne, merewif mihtig;  mægenræs forgeaf hildebille,  hond sweng ne ofteah, þæt hire on hafelan  hringmæl agol grædig guðleoð.  Ða se gist onfand, þæt se beadoleoma  bitan nolde, aldre sceþðan,  ac seo ecg geswac ðeodne æt þearfe;  ðolode ær fela hondgemota,  helm oft gescær, fæges fyrdhrægl;  ða wæs forma sið deorum madme,  þæt his dom alæg.

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(1518–28)

[Then the good man saw the accursed dweller in the deep, the mighty merewoman. He gave a great thrust to his sword – his hand did not withhold the stroke – so that the etched blade sang at her head a fierce war-song. Then the stranger found that the battle lightning would not bite, harm her life, but the edge failed the prince in his need: many a hand-battle had it endured before, often sheared helmet, war-coat of man fated to die: this was the first time for the rare treasure that its glory had failed.]33

The poem indicates here that Beowulf ’s aim is true and his arm strong; it is the blade itself that cannot harm Grendel’s mother, and so he grabs her by the hair and throws her to the floor. At first she fights back and pulls Beowulf to the floor with her “claws,” but then the poem tells us: Ofsæt þa þone selegyst  ond hyre seax geteah, brad ond brunecg (1545–1546a) [Then she sat upon the hall-guest and drew her knife, broad and brightedged.]34

Although scholars have long debated the translation of these lines, for my purposes the importance lies in the fact that Beowulf ’s sword has failed; he and Grendel’s mother are both somewhere on the ground, and

33 E. Talbot Donaldson, Beowulf: A New Prose Translation (New York and London: Norton, 1966), 27. 34 Ibid.

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Grendel’s mother has drawn her “seax,” or knife, with which to attack him.35 As Jane Chance has pointed out, this scenario is highly suggestive sexually, with the metaphor of sword and knife as phalluses.36 This struggle for dominance further complicates the interpretive problem Grendel’s mother has constituted for numerous critics over the years, as the poem presents her alternately as woman and monster, mother and murderer, masculine and feminine. Her ability to engage in combat at all, let alone wield a weapon as phallic as a knife, destabilizes both her gender, and the gender roles that are clearly established earlier in the poem. This confusion in the poem, however, is short lived; as Beowulf struggles with Grendel’s mother, the armor that he so presciently decided to don prevents her knife from reaching its target and saves his life, thus validating his decision to approach Grendel’s mother with more caution and resources than he did her son. Beowulf is then able to kill Grendel’s mother by means of a “victory blessed blade” that he spies amongst her treasures, which he uses to slice through her neck. Beowulf ’s victory both reinstates the effectiveness of swords after Hrunting’s failing, and re-establishes the expected gender roles of Anglo-Saxon warrior culture. As Stacey Klein notes: The battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother becomes at once a means of policing gender transgression, and of reinscribing clear boundaries of sexual difference and reliable criteria for its determination. Beowulf ’s triumphant emergence from the mere signals that the threat of female transgression is vanquished, and it proves, at the same time, that the comparative war-terror of the wæpnedmon is definitely superior to that of the wif. Physical warfare is restored as the rightful provenance of men (in concert with God), as is the reliability of martial strength as a determinant of sexual difference.37

35 While E. Talbot Donaldson, whose translation I quote here, reads “ofsæt” as “sat upon,” other translators have been uncomfortable with the idea of Grendel’s mother unceremoniously “sitting” on the poem’s hero, instead positing that Grendel’s mother “knelt upon,” “bestrode,” “straddled,” or “threw herself upon” Beowulf. For more background on this debate, see Fred C. Robinson, “Did Grendel’s Mother Sit on Beowulf?,” in From Anglo-Saxon to Early Middle English: Studies Presented to E. G. Stanley, ed. Malcolm Godden, Douglas Gray, and Terry Hoad (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 2. 36 Chance, Woman as Hero in Old English Literature, 102. 37 Stacy Klein, Ruling Women, 109–10.

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The poem, then, is very careful to uphold the mores of Anglo-Saxon warrior culture, along with the effectiveness of swords – when wielded by a proper male hero, of course – and Beowulf ’s position of pre-eminence among the warriors in the poem. Had the film followed the poem, we would end up with the a similarly complex yet clear “hero slays monster” narrative, perhaps supplemented with the “saves (blond) damsel” theme suggested by his innocent flirtation with Wealtheow; the film, however, takes a decidedly different approach to this event. As in the poem, Beowulf tracks Grendel’s mother to her mere, or lake, where she resides. The film, however, drastically alters the episode with Grendel’s mother, and destabilizes the gendered power structure invoked in the film’s earlier depiction of warrior culture. Rather than approach Grendel’s mother fully armed as he does in the poem, in this interpretation Beowulf takes with him only the golden dragon horn, given to him as a gift by Hrothgar upon his defeat of Grendel, and the sword Hrunting. Beowulf, thus prepared to face what he understands to be a “water demon,” travels through the mere into Grendel’s mother’s cave. Once he finds her, the only way in which the film continues to resemble the poem is that the sword Hrunting proves ineffective. Indeed, Grendel’s mother does not attempt to fight Beowulf in any martial way; in place of physical combat, the sexual implications latent in the poem drive the film’s interaction between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf as she engages him in a two-part seduction. As they first meet, Grendel’s mother rises naked from the water of her mere and presents herself to Beowulf as a sexually desirable figure, even though the brief glimpses shown to the audience earlier revealed isolated claws, scales and a reptilian eye. Beowulf initially lunges at her with Hrunting, only to have the blade appear to pass through her without harming her, as if it – or she – were a mere apparition. As she suggestively draws closer to him, indicating her intent to seduce him sexually, she also seduces him with fame: “A man like you could own the greatest tale ever sung. Your story would live on when everything now alive is dust.” As she draws within striking distance, she offers him a deal: if he gives her the golden dragon horn awarded to him by Hrothgar, and provides her with a son to replace the one he has killed, she will ensure that he achieves the fame and glory that he seeks: “Give me a son, brave thane. Stay with me. Love me. Love me, and I shall weave you riches beyond your imagination. I shall make you the greatest king that ever lived.” Beowulf agrees to this bargain, and here we see Beowulf ’s sexual lust, which to this point has manifested rather chastely in his longing for Wealtheow, and his lust

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for fame converge and prevail in a place where he has failed to defeat the “monster”; this failure is reiterated by the film’s portrayal of Hrunting failing as a weapon of war and melting away in Grendel’s mother’s grasp. Although Beowulf has thus succumbed to Grendel’s mother, this is not the version of the story he tells upon returning to Heorot with Grendel’s head. Here he explains the loss of Hrunting by claiming that it must remain imbedded in Grendel’s mother lest she “spring back to life,” and relies on his word and the presence of Grendel’s head as proof of his narrative. All the denizens of Heorot, including Wiglaf and Unferth, at first appear to accept Beowulf ’s narrative of the events surrounding Grendel’s mother. Hrothgar, however, reveals that he does not believe this tale, and asks Beowulf why he did not bring back the head of the mother. When Beowulf asks Hrothgar if he doubts that he has killed the “hag,” Hrothgar replies “Come now. We both know she is no hag.” As Beowulf asks how he could have escaped from Grendel’s mother if he had not killed her, Hrothgar smiles knowingly at him, and Beowulf (along with the audience) is led to understand that Hrothgar had struck a similar deal with Grendel’s mother, and, in fact, fathered Grendel in return for riches and power.38 The film then connects this bargain with Hrothgar’s lack of a legitimate heir, as it shifts to a scene in which Hrothgar declares to the people in Heorot that Beowulf will, upon Hrothgar’s death, inherit the kingdom and the beautiful young Wealtheow. Hrothgar promptly jumps to his death, immediately instating Beowulf as king of the Danes. In this way, Grendel’s mother’s promise to make Beowulf a king is fulfilled, and the only person who suspected that he struck such a deal is dead. Only Beowulf and the film’s audience are aware of the cultural transgressions that have taken place and that Grendel’s mother has established the upper hand over the film’s hero. An Ideal Image of Beauty By the time Beowulf returns to Heorot, then, Grendel’s mother has clearly established herself as a force to be reckoned with, even though, as Unferth notes in a deleted scene from the film, she does not even appear to have a name of her own. This namelessness – this lack of a fixed identity – complements her status as a shapeshifter in the film, as 38 This mirrors a similar event from the 1999 science-fiction film Beowulf starring Christopher Lambert.

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her encounter with Beowulf, which shows her as beautiful and clearly attractive to him, contrasts with earlier hints at her physical monstrosity. While the ambiguity of Grendel’s mother’s appearance may seem original to the film, a quick look at recent scholarship on the topic reveals that the poem itself is unclear in terms of what Grendel’s mother looks like. As M. Wendy Hennequin has argued, despite the common assumption, by casual readers and scholars alike, that Grendel’s mother is as monstrous as Grendel, there is no linguistic proof of this in the poem: Nor is Grendel’s mother constructed as a monster or demon physically: and while she is “micle” (“large”) (1348a), the poem does not call her a giant, and she has “idese onlicnes” (“the likeness of a powerful lady”) (1351a), a description which may imply beauty. Certainly, she is “atol” (“dire”, “terrible”) and a “wælgæst” (“slaughter-guest” or “slaughter-spirit”), and she is “sinnigne” (“guilty”) of Æschere’s death, but these are the strongest words used against her (1332a; 1331a; 1379a).39

While Hennequin makes a powerful case against the assumption that Grendel’s mother has a monstrous appearance, her assertion that the descriptor “idese onlicnes” (“the likeness of a powerful lady”) “may imply beauty” could itself prove an assumption. One study of the poetic terms for “beauty” in the poem explicitly excludes Grendel’s mother from this category,40 and, while other aspects of the poem reinforce the idea of Grendel’s mother as royal or queenly, this does not necessarily impart beauty. Andy Orchard has pointed out that Grendel’s mother is said to have reigned for fifty years, and that Hrothgar and Beowulf both reign for the same period (as king of the Danes and king of the Geats, respectively);41 her status as a “powerful lady,” then, is more fittingly categorized with the active rule of male sovereigns than with the beautiful but relatively passive queens and noblewomen described throughout the poem. Indeed, a number of critics have read Grendel’s mother as an inversion of, or counter to, appropriate Anglo-Saxon womanhood as established 39 M. Wendy Hennequin, “We’ve Created a Monster: The Strange Case of Grendel’s Mother,” English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature 89, no. 5 (2008): 514–15. 40 Paul Beekman Taylor, “The Old English Poetic Vocabulary of Beauty,” in New Readings on Women in Old English Literature, ed. Helen Damico and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 216. 41 Andy Orchard, Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript (Cambridge and Rochester, NY: D. S. Brewer, 1995), 30.

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elsewhere in the poem. Jane Chance describes Grendel’s mother as an “inversion of the Anglo-Saxon ideal of woman,” and, in comparing her to the other “monsters” in the poem, states that she “differs from Grendel and the dragon in that she is used as a parodic inversion both of the Anglo-Saxon queen and mother.”42 Where figures such as Wealtheow function as peaceweavers, keepers of the guest cup, treasure-givers, and guardians of their sons’ legacies, Grendel’s mother engages in outright combat, offers no hospitality in her hall, hoards treasure and war gear, and has failed utterly to protect her son from an untimely death. It is this failure to adhere to Anglo-Saxon gender roles, in addition to her proclivity for roles associated with male warriors and kings, that Hennequin argues have prompted generations of Beowulfiana to characterize Grendel’s mother as monstrous.43 However, as I have argued above, it is not just our characterization of Grendel’s mother that is at stake when we read her as transgressing gender roles, just as it is not only Beowulf ’s status that she threatens when she nearly penetrates him with her knife in the poem. As Paul Acker notes, “Grendel’s mother threatens not just an individual man’s dominance but the whole system of male dominance.”44 Male-dominated warrior culture is itself threatened when Grendel’s mother “sits upon” Beowulf with her knife, and this is enough to make her monstrous in Anglo-Saxon culture, regardless of her appearance. The film carries through on the poem’s threat of an inversion of power; however, because this inversion is achieved through seduction rather than battle, much of it rests on the film’s interpretation of Grendel’s mother’s appearance as beautiful rather than monstrous. As the production designer Doug Chiang notes of Grendel’s mother, “In the moment when she actually seduces Beowulf she becomes the ideal image of beauty.”45 Although the monstrous aspects of Grendel’s mother’s appearance are slyly hinted at, it is her appearance as a sexually alluring temptress that overcomes Beowulf and allows her to negotiate and direct the events that follow. Notably, the process by which the film was shot allowed the filmmakers very strict control over this “ideal image of beauty.” The process, known as “performance capture,” means that an actor provides the voice and movements of a character, but filmmakers can 42 Chance, Woman as Hero in Old English Literature, 95, 97. 43 Hennequin, “We’ve Created a Monster,” 518–20. 44 Paul Acker, “Horror and the Maternal in Beowulf,” PMLA 121, no. 3 (2006): 708. 45 Doug Chiang in “Beasts of Burden.”

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impose whatever CGI they like over the recorded movements.46 This proved useful in rendering Grendel almost entirely via computer, while allowing actor Crispin Glover to generate Grendel’s movements so precisely that the image captures the expressions of his forehead.47 In the case of Beowulf, the performance capture process allowed one actor to serve as the model for the image of Beowulf ’s face and body, while another performed all the action and voice work. In designing the character of Grendel’s mother, then, filmmakers had the technology at their disposal to render her image in any way they saw fit. At first they thought that the “ideal image of beauty” required for Grendel’s mother would necessitate a process similar to that used for Beowulf: the imposition of a constructed image over the movements of an actress chosen for her performative abilities. However, as producer Steve Starkey recalls, “We first thought we were going to have to create this perfect siren that possibly didn’t even exist and blend that with just a really fine actress. And then, Angelina Jolie’s name came up, and we thought, ‘My god, here’s somebody in real life that embodies both!’”48 Angelina Jolie, then, served as the basis of the very controlled and constructed “ideal image of beauty” that the filmmakers were trying to achieve. Although less technologically advanced than Zemeckis’s film, Disney likewise had very precise control over what constituted “beauty” in Sleeping Beauty. For Aurora, this meant that dancer Helene Stanley, who had also provided live-action references for Cinderella, recorded much of Aurora’s dancing, walking, and sleeping motions while dressed in whatever costume the scene required so that animators could draw Aurora’s movements more realistically.49 A second actress, soprano Mary Costa, provided Aurora’s voice and set it against the film’s adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet score. Even Aurora’s hair was modeled after a specific “art nouveau” aesthetic that required a full page of instructions for her team of animators.50 Notably, Aurora’s facial features and graceful, willowy build were modeled, like Grendel’s mother, after an actress who

46 Bettina Bildhauer has described the resultant characters as “cyborgs” and “hybrids of filmed biological bodies and technical intervention.” See Bildhauer, Filming the Middle Ages (London: Reaktion Books, 2011), 192. 47 “A Hero’s Journey: The Making of Beowulf.” 48 Steve Starkey in “Beasts of Burden.” 49 “Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty”; see also Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 48–52. 50 Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 55.

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represented an ideal of beauty contemporary to the film; in Aurora’s case, the actress was Audrey Hepburn.51 The association with Hepburn is not limited to an adaptation of her physical features into the animated Aurora; it appears that Disney’s animators looked to costume choices from Hepburn’s first major film, Roman Holiday (1953), as inspiration for Aurora’s wardrobe as well. The clothing drawn for Aurora, both in her role as princess and while in hiding as Briar Rose, is arguably the most drastic departure from the late medieval period “costuming” maintained throughout the rest of the film. With her tightly buttoned collared shirt, mid-calf-length skirt, black headband and immaculately groomed golden locks, Aurora strikes one more as a twentieth-century Barbie doll (sans the outrageous proportions) than anything out of the late Middle Ages. Although Hepburn is not blonde, in a number of scenes as the Princess Ann in Roman Holiday she dons a similar mid-calf-length skirt, collared white shirt, and long tresses; indeed, all that is missing is the dirndl Walt Disney insisted costume designer Alice Davis add to Briar Rose’s costuming in order to suggest a “peasant” look.52 When Aurora dons a blue gown later in Sleeping Beauty, the gown proves just as anachronistic to the fourteenth century, and is again similar to Hepburn’s costuming. Cut off the shoulder with fitted sleeves, daringly angled neckline, tightly fitted bodice, and flaring skirt, Aurora’s dress strongly resembles the ball gown Hepburn’s Princess Ann wears early in Roman Holiday, although Hepburn sports full-length gloves in place of long sleeves. The addition of a crown and matching necklace to Aurora’s ensemble further strengthens the resemblance to the costuming from Roman Holiday. While the comparison with Hepburn reveals the anachronism of Aurora’s costuming, its anomalousness is most evident at the end of the film as she dances with Phillip in the blue ball gown against a background of characters including veiled, wimpled, ladies drawn in more accurate period attire. Aurora, then, is as exceptional in her sartorial anachronisms as she is in her beauty, and both characterize her as unabashedly “modern” in a film that strives very hard to represent the late Middle Ages. As Clare Bradford has pointed out in her study of Disney princesses, “One of the principal strategies deployed by Disney is that of exceptionalism – that is, medieval figures are shown to be different from their peers, possessing desires and expectations that mark them out as 51 Ibid., 52–4. 52 “Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty.”

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proleptically modern.”53 While this practice of modernization makes figures like Aurora more identifiable to the films’ audience, it creates a rather complicated dichotomy of modern and medieval. On the one hand, the medieval represents pre-industrial society in an idyllic, romantic, and nostalgic way; in this version of the medieval, Phillip and Aurora can meet in Earle’s stylized forest, Phillip can defeat Maleficent with the sword of truth, and the prince and princess can waltz happily-ever-after in their opulent castle. On the other hand, the medieval can represent backwards, ignorant, and at times dangerous possibilities that must be kept in check by the hero and heroine’s post-Enlightenment thinking. The betrothal of Aurora to Prince Phillip at her christening provides an excellent example of the film’s portrayal of certain “medieval” customs as backward. When Aurora (as Briar Rose) and Phillip (incognito) later meet and instantly fall in love in the forest, neither knows that the other is their betrothed. Phillip is outraged when his father will not release him from his arranged marriage to Aurora in order to marry Briar Rose, thereby cueing the audience to sympathize with him and his modern values. When Briar Rose and Aurora turn out to be one and the same, it is implied that the arranged marriage will be carried out, yet has been subverted and modernized by the romance plot. The film’s ambiguous portrayal of magic further exemplifies the potential dangers of this medieval world. At first, it appears that magic follows a simple dichotomy: magic wielded by the good fairies is helpful and that performed by Maleficent is dangerous. At Aurora’s christening (prior to Maleficent’s intrusion) Flora and Fauna gift her with beauty and song, respectively, and Merryweather’s intervention alters Maleficent’s original curse (that Aurora will die when she touches the spindle) to the curse that is realized (that she will sleep until woken by love’s first kiss). As a present for her sixteenth birthday, all three fairies take part in the magical production of the ball gown. Based on a picture in a rather curious medieval fashion book, the gown is magically conjured after Flora’s efforts at manually sewing a dress fail miserably; in the same scene the fairies also use magic to make Aurora a birthday cake and clean their cottage after non-magical efforts at labor have failed.

53 Clare Bradford, “’Where Happily Ever After Happens Every Day’: The Medievalisms of Disney’s Princesses,” in The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, ed. Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 176.

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Notably, both Aurora’s beauty and her ball gown are products of magic wielded by the good fairies; the fairies are also able to grow to the size of humans or shrink to minute fairy size at will. As such, magic functions within the Secondary World of Sleeping Beauty as the agent by which women may construct their own appearances.54 This relationship between magic and beauty renders even Aurora’s passive beauty suspect, as it is produced through artifice. A dispute throughout the film where Flora and Merryweather change Aurora’s ball gown back and forth from pink to blue in order to suit their respective tastes suggests that this artificial beauty is changeable and subject to the whims of those who create it. Transformative magic’s dangerous potential plays out most fully, of course, through Maleficent’s ability to transform herself from her intimidating yet regal human-like fairy form into that of a dragon. Like Grendel’s mother, whose magic allows her to shift her appearance from monstrous lizard-woman to siren, and even to appear in the form of Wealtheow, Maleficent’s magic is always coded as demonic. Perhaps nowhere in the film does Maleficent’s magic become more dangerous than when she recognizes herself as located within a fairy-tale plot and attempts to subvert it. After Maleficent captures Phillip in her castle, she promises to release him after 100 years have passed. Against images of Phillip at an advanced age slowly leaving the castle, Maleficent’s voice narrates the following: Oh come now Prince Phillip. Why so melancholy? A wondrous future lies before you – you, the destined hero of a charming fairy tale come true. Behold – King Stefan’s castle. And in yonder topmost tower, dreaming of her true love, the Princess Aurora. But see the gracious whim of fate – why, ’tis the self-same peasant maid, who won the heart of our noble prince but yesterday. She is indeed, most wondrous fair. Gold of sunshine in her hair, lips that shame the red, red rose. In ageless sleep, she finds repose. The years roll by, but a hundred years to a steadfast heart, are but a day. And now, the gates of a dungeon part, and our prince is free to go his way. Off he rides, on his noble steed, a valiant figure, straight and tall! To wake his love with “love’s first kiss”! And prove that “true love” conquers all!

In this scene Maleficent asserts control over future events just as she has manipulated the events of the film so far. Her version of the future 54 The term “Secondary World,” which is widely used in studies of both medievalism and fantasy, comes from J. R. R Tolkien. I discuss this concept in Chapter 2 of this book.

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twists both Aurora’s gift of beauty and the terms of the curse by cruelly and mockingly envisioning an elderly Phillip as the “destined hero of a charming fairy tale come true.” When Phillip instead escapes and slays Maleficent in her dragon form, he not only rewrites Maleficent’s mockery of a fairy-tale narrative into the standard medieval/fairy-tale trope where the dragon is slain and the hero prevails; he also becomes the exceptional modern hero slaying the dangerous aspects of the medieval past. The medieval is thereby rendered into a sanitized version of itself, one fit for consumption by a modern Disney audience that has been conditioned to view the past through the lens of the exceptional – and always triumphant – modern hero and heroine. Markedly, the film’s exceptional modern heroine sleeps through all of the trope-slaying, as she does through most of the film; Aurora is present and awake for all of eighteen minutes of the film, in which she speaks about eighteen lines of dialogue.55 Therefore, while Aurora may be the ideal of beauty within the film, she is also the final word in passivity. Nor does the film offer up an alternative acceptable feminine ideal, as among the tapestry-like backgrounds there is no character that provides an alternative to Aurora’s beauty. Even Aurora’s mother is merely a paler, even more passive version of Aurora’s blond beauty, who all but fades into the background of silent, veiled, medieval women.56 The exceptional twentieth-century heroine in a fourteenth-century world thus looks like Audrey Hepburn, dresses like a Hollywood version of a twentieth-century princess, sings and dances flawlessly, and literally sleeps through the majority of her own story, waiting to be rescued by a prince. Disney, of course, adapted rather than invented the Sleeping Beauty narrative, which is certainly not unique in its construction of gender. As Jack Zipes keenly points out, “Almost all the major classical fairy tales that have achieved prominence and are to be enjoyed in the United States can be considered as products that reinforce a patriarchal and middle-class social code.”57 Disney not only reinforces this code through the details of its adaptation – and here the addition of Maleficent comes to mind – but also refigures it as somehow both historical and transcendent. As Tison 55 Aurora is second only to Dumbo as the Disney title character with the least spoken lines (excluding singing). 56 Like Grendel’s mother, Aurora’s mother is never given a name in the film and is known only as King Stefan’s “fair Queen.” 57 Jack Zipes, Fairy Tale as Myth / Myth as Fairy Tale (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994), 141.

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Pugh has noted, “Timelessness in time: such is the allure and the paradox of Disney’s medievalisms.”58 Thus, Aurora and Phillip’s exceptionalism works beyond the promotion of specific twentieth-century ideals of gendered behavior. By locating those ideals in a medieval setting, it solidifies them as historical; at the same time, it characterizes them as essential or natural, portraying them as applicable to any time and place. The Greatest Tale Ever Sung: Narrative and Neomedievalism Whereas Sleeping Beauty offers Aurora as the only feminine ideal in the film, Beowulf suggests a split between the “ideal embodiment of womanly beauty” represented by Grendel’s mother and the feminine ideal of the Secondary World represented in the film. Through its careful contrast of Wealtheow’s passive blond beauty with Grendel’s mother’s seductive power, the film figures Wealtheow as the ideal woman in regard to the warrior culture within the film.59 Wealtheow’s initial position as Hrothgar’s queen suggests that she is a desirable bride for him, just as her status as the object of Beowulf ’s adoration and his subsequent war-prize indicates that she is to be valued above all other women at Heorot. When she grows old at the end of the film, she is replaced by an equally blond and passive mistress, Ursula, who like Wealtheow represents an acceptable standard of beauty that does not threaten the status quo. Conversely, while Grendel’s mother is seductive and seemingly ageless, her beauty comes with a few transgressive modifications. As Doug Chiang notes: We had to create … the ideal embodiment of womanly beauty, which is Angelina, but then still give her a little bit of weird touches: her tail-like hair, and also her feet. And those little subtleties, taken in its entirety with this beauty kind of gives you this very uneasy quality.60

58 Tison Pugh, “Introduction: Disney’s Retroprogressive Medievalisms: Where Yesterday is Today is Tomorrow,” in The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, ed. Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 16. 59 Robin Wright, the actress who provided the movements and model for Wealtheow in Zemeckis’s film, notably starred as Buttercup in the 1987 film The Princess Bride, where she served as the passive, beautiful princess in need of rescue. The intertextual reference would no doubt be recognized by viewers who have seen both films. 60 Doug Chiang in “Beasts of Burden.”

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While one might be surprised to learn that any culture’s “ideal embodiment of womanly beauty” has hair that moves and acts like a tail or snake, this element at least has one clear analogue in the monstrous Gorgon sisters of Greco-Roman mythology, who were characterized by their snake-like hair and linked to Old English representations of women through the Old Norse Valkyrie tradition, as shown by Helen Damico.61 What, however, are we to do with Angelina’s heels? While cloven hooves would clearly invoke demonic images, and have some kind of literary or historic precedent, the filmmakers instead chose to shape Grendel’s mother’s feet into the likeness of modern-day high heels. While this clearly supports the argument that the “ideal of womanly beauty” that Grendel’s mother embodies stems from a twenty-first-century notion of sexual desirability, the heels themselves carry with them numerous connotations. In shape the heels resemble what we would call “stiletto” heels, which are named after the Italian word for a long, thin knife. The heels thus create a linguistic reference to the phallic knife that Grendel’s mother wields in the poem, but reimagined as a weapon based in seduction rather than force. Indeed, it is no longer a knife, but her sexual desirability, that Grendel’s mother wields over Beowulf, thereby inverting the power structures dictated by the warrior culture from which he hails. Notably, the nature of stiletto heels themselves requires an inversion of the knife form. Grendel’s mother has not only inverted the gendered power structure of Beowulf ’s warrior culture; she is literally walking on phallic symbols that have been turned upside down. However, it is important to remember that it is not just ideal twenty-first-century beauty that entices Beowulf; Grendel’s mother’s success in seducing him depends also on her promise to make him the “greatest king that ever lived.” That Beowulf should be seduced by the promise of narrative fame is not surprising, as the film establishes the importance of what scops sing before he even arrives in Denmark.62 In the opening scenes, Hrothgar’s scop recounts his past successes; after Grendel attacks, Hrothgar worries that the story of Grendel’s terrorization of his people is being sung “from 61 Helen Damico, “The Valkyrie Reflex in Old English Literature,” in New Readings on Women in Old English Literature, ed. Helen Damico and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 177. 62 An Old English word for poets who would compose, learn, and perform material from memory.

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the high seas and the snow barriers, to the great island kingdom.” As the film advances a number of years and shows Beowulf as an older king of the Danes, the importance of narrative becomes even more pointed. As Beowulf watches his army defeat an invading force of Frisians, his scop is present and is told to spread word of the victory. When a particularly persistent Frisian challenges Beowulf to single combat, Beowulf strips off his armor and offers himself up to the Frisian’s ax. The Frisian refuses to attack the unarmed king, and Beowulf sends him off with a gold piece, observing that “now he has a story to tell.” The most extensive display of the performance of such stories appears a scant day later, as Beowulf ’s people gather to celebrate the anniversary of his defeat of Grendel by listening to his scop recount the story – for which the filmmakers incorporate parts of the poem in Old English – while actors mimic the deeds recounted. In establishing the importance of narrative to warrior culture in the film, it is made clear that the construction and recitation of such narrative is also gendered. The only example we are given of a woman singing or performing is Wealtheow’s lyrical singing when Beowulf first arrives at Heorot. These songs contain neither narrative nor news, but instead seem to have been included in the film to give Beowulf an opportunity to stare longingly at her; indeed, if Wealtheow is Beowulf’s cultural ideal of femininity, it is an ideal of passive beauty. In contrast to Wealtheow’s passivity, Grendel’s mother not only actively engages with the stories of heroes, but also engineers the events that make them. Although her connection to Beowulf ’s establishment as king of the Danes and his success in warfare is suggested but uncertain, she very clearly directs the events in which Beowulf faces his third and final foe: the dragon. In the poem, Beowulf, after killing Grendel’s mother, returns to Geatland, where he eventually inherits the crown and, fifty years after the Denmark episodes, encounters a dragon that plagues his people. Beowulf, armed with the sword Naegling, leads a band of retainers to confront the creature. When Beowulf engages the dragon, however, he sees Naegling fail in a fashion similar to Hrunting’s failure half a century before (2677b–2684b). In order to defeat the dragon, Beowulf ’s retainer Wiglaf intervenes with his sword, which allows Beowulf to make the killing strike with his knife. Beowulf suffers a mortal wound during the battle, yet, in his ultimate victory over the dragon, achieves a death worthy of a hero of his stature. The film, by transferring the dragon episode and Beowulf ’s death from Geatland to Denmark, ties these events more securely to the earlier

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segments of the story: just as Grendel was the result of Hrothgar’s dalliance with Grendel’s mother, so the “dragon” is revealed to be Beowulf ’s son. Unlike Hrothgar, who was content to let Beowulf destroy Grendel for him, Beowulf decides that he must face the dragon on his own. Even though he has advanced considerably in years, he refuses Wealtheow’s pleas to step aside and “Live out your remaining years in peace. Let some young hero save us.” Rather than allow someone else to slay the dragon and save his people, Beowulf arms himself to the hilt and sets out to deal with the consequences of his interaction with Grendel’s mother all those years ago. However, as Beowulf pursues the dragon he inadvertently loses his sword. After a heated chase, Beowulf then finds himself hanging from the dragon by a chain wrapped around his left arm (invoking the earlier scene in which he had ensnared Grendel), and, in the absence of his sword, attempts to use his knife to strike the beast on the vulnerable spot on his neck. However, with his arm restricted, Beowulf ’s knife proves too short to reach the dragon’s heart. To remedy this, he cuts off the left arm from which he hangs (again reminiscent of Grendel), and makes another pass at the dragon’s heart while dangling from the remnants of the arm of his chain mail. The knife again fails, as he drops it before it hits its target. As the dragon closes in on Wealtheow and Ursula, Beowulf makes one more pass at the dragon’s heart – this time with his bare hand – and is successful. As with Grendel, he has defeated the dragon without any weapon, and has once more saved the kingdom, yet he has also assured that his reputation as a “hero” will transcend his death and live on in legend. In seducing Beowulf and destroying Hrunting, Grendel’s mother thereby orchestrates the conception of the “monster” that dominates the third act of the film and cements Beowulf ’s place in legend. As such, by the end of the film, Grendel’s mother has delivered on what she had promised: she has given Beowulf the “greatest tale ever sung,” as evident in the film by the words spoken at Beowulf ’s funeral. Wiglaf, now king, states, “He was the bravest of us. He was the prince of all warriors. His name will live forever.” Wealtheow reiterates this in a modified form that hints at the composition and survival of the poem itself, as she states, “His song shall be sung forever.” The film further implies that Beowulf ’s name has successfully made its way from Anglo-Saxon oral tradition to Old English manuscript to American film. The transition of Beowulf ’s narrative from one medium to the next is not, however, without complications, as the narrative of the film, despite being the most recently produced, sets itself up as an origins

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story for the poem. By claiming to depict the events in which Beowulf ’s story becomes “the greatest tale ever sung,” and reinforcing Beowulf ’s entrance into legend via his scop’s annual performance of his fight with Grendel (which incorporates parts of the extant written poem), the film asserts itself as portraying the events that led to the composition of the poem. As shown by the examples above involving Grendel’s mother, the film and poem diverge in a number of ways; yet, by claiming itself as an origin story, the film, rather than serving as a mere artistic interpretation of the poem, suggests that it is tells the “true” story that the written poem has either left out, got wrong, or otherwise failed to convey. It is tempting, then, to see Angelina’s heels not only as an inversion of a knife, the mark of failed swords, but also as an inversion of the pen, as the film’s privileging of performance (oral poetry, cinema) over writing (written poems) serves as a self-reflexive nod to its own medium. Beowulf ’s assertion that it presents the origins of the poem plays on the gap between the poem’s assumed oral composition and the version recorded in the Cotton manuscript. As M. J. Toswell notes in her reading of the film: Zemeckis makes it clear that the translation he read in high school was not the real text, whereas the screenplay by Gaiman and Avary reflects a deeper reality, one that takes into account the editing and changing the monks must have done to the text when they reworked it and wrote it down.63

As Toswell surmises, this aspect of the film is a prime example of neomedievalism at work; indeed, it very much adheres to MEMO’s definition that “Neomedievalist stories are contemporary ‘medieval’ narratives that purport to merge (or even replace) reality as much as possible.”64 Clearly, Zemeckis’s project is not an attempt to replace the poem with a scholarly reconstruction of events in a Rankian sense, but one of his own making. This is evidenced by his screenwriter’s free and open incorporation of elements from other adaptations of the poem. As Toswell writes: Zemeckis is perfectly honest; he wants to tell his story of Beowulf, not the one he was forced to read – the one that he can create based on another 63 Toswell, “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism,” 51. 64 I have included the definitions constructed by MEMO in full in Chapter 1 of this book.

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story that is based on a combination of a DC comic version, the Christopher Lambert version, and other versions that Gaiman and Avary enjoyed. The movie copies an original that does not exist.65

Zemeckis’s cut-and-paste bricolage Beowulf, then, creates a vision of the medieval using not simply a creative rendering of the poem, but a unique interlacement of the poem, its adaptations, and even texts that are not directly connected to the Beowulf narrative.66 The result is a Beowulf that uses cutting-edge technology to splice together movements, characters, and backgrounds to create a vision of a Middle Ages that never existed.67 It is a Middle Ages that includes an Old English poem recited in 507 CE Denmark by characters who otherwise speak perfect modern English. It is a film that attempts to replace a medieval artifact with a simulacrum of the medieval that would have produced the medieval artifact. While Sleeping Beauty also draws on various sources in addition to Perrault, it in no way attempts to displace an imagined existing source and is, in fact, openly concerned with portraying a well-received version of what it calls a “classic story.” Indeed, promotional material for the film shows Walt Disney discussing the challenge of “bringing a great story classic to the screen” as one of adapting and visualizing a well-known oral or written narrative for the medium of film.68 That Sleeping Beauty incorporates elements from the Grimm’s “Briar Rose,” adds a dragon, and finishes with a Tchaikovsky waltz means that it deviates from Perrault’s plot – the right of any adaptation – yet, while it is clearly a form of medievalism in its reimagining of the Middle Ages, it is not neomedieval. The distinction between Beowulf’s neomedievalism and Disney’s more traditional form of medievalism is also evident in the method by which each film creates its respective vision of the Middle Ages. While Sleeping Beauty is also drawn, albeit by hand, the film attempts to merely copy the late Middle Ages through the use of medieval art, architecture, and clothing styles in its animation. Therefore, while it mimics medieval 65 Toswell, “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism,” 53. 66 The film’s overall style recalls those used in early twentieth- and twentyfirst-century video games, partly due to its use of performance capture and CGI. The action in the film’s fight sequences in particular mimics a number of movements and perspective changes used in games. 67 Toswell has argued that the performance capture and CGI used to create Beowulf would on its own constitute the film as neomedieval through its ideal example of Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality. See Toswell, “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism,” 52. 68 “Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty.”

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artifacts and translates them into new forms, the film makes no claims to displace what it considers to be the authentic Middle Ages that it takes as its model; this contrasts with a neomedieval text like the Beowulf film, which disrupts the very possibility of an authentic medieval by both rejecting any claims to fidelity to its sources and suggesting the possibility of several alternatives to the existence of an authentic medieval past. Ironically, although Disney’s Sleeping Beauty does not overtly attempt to displace its sources or rewrite accepted ideas of the Middle Ages, it, along with many other fairy-tale adaptations produced by Disney, has for many people become the de facto authoritative version of the story. As Jack Zipes observes: It was not once upon a time, but in a certain time in history, before anyone knew what was happening, Walt Disney cast a spell on the fairy tale. He did not use a magic wand or demonic powers. On the contrary, Disney employed the most up-to-date technological means and used his own American “grit” and ingenuity to appropriate European fairy tales. His technical skills and ideological proclivities were so consummate that his signature obfuscated the names of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Collodi. If children or adults think of the great classical fairy tales today, be it Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella, they will think Walt Disney.69

As Zipes correctly observes, Disney has a monopoly on the fairy tale, although one could debate whether the examples Zipes gives (Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) were recognized as particularly “classical” fairy tales by Disney and appropriated accordingly, or whether the tales are today so popular only because of Disney’s films. Furthermore, because any pre-industrial fairy-tale setting tends to be conflated with the “medieval,” Disney is often credited in part with shaping the way its viewers understand the Middle Ages. As a recent study reports, “Disney films” is a popular response to the question of “Where do you feel you learned about the Middle Ages?” When asked about which films in particular, participants’ responses included Sleeping Beauty but also fairy-tale adaptations that do not have particularly medieval settings, including Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast.70 Disney, 69 Jack Zipes, Fairy Tale as Myth / Myth as Fairy Tale, 72. 70 Paul B. Sturtevant, “‘You Don’t Learn Deliberately, But You Just Know From What You’ve Seen’: British Understandings of the Medieval Past Gleaned from Disney’s Fairy Tales,” in The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy

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then, has certainly succeeded in supplanting earlier versions of the fairy tale, and has arguably helped shape popular conceptions of the Middle Ages even through texts that do not even attempt to represent the medieval. Indeed, recent Disney films have taken to displacing earlier ones in the same way that Zemeckis’s Beowulf attempts to displace the poem, resulting in a new restructuring of fairy tale and medieval tropes.71 In the case of Sleeping Beauty, Disney rewrote the 1959 plot in the 2014 live-action film Maleficent.72 The setting is unquestionably neomedieval in its eclectic use of costuming from different periods and from the Sleeping Beauty film. As one reviewer notes, “The cross-cultural multitemporal setting is at once familiar and ambiguous, referring the audience to a time long ago that eludes any coherent spatiotemporal location.”73 The plot, however, provides the most striking revision of the original film. By creating a sympathetic backstory and motivations for the character of Maleficent, it (as the narrator states) “tells an old story anew,” recounting the events that gave rise to the Sleeping Beauty story. The film opens with Maleficent as a young “fairy” who serves as protector of a magical land called “the moors,” envisioned as “Celtic” and inspired by Scotland.74 The moors, visually representative of the medieval as natural and magical, is at odds with a nearby kingdom that boasts postNorman structures, a patriarchal society headed by a king, and armies of soldiers ready to enforce the seemingly ordered version of the medieval represented by the kingdom. Although the film maintains the action of Maleficent cursing Aurora as an infant, her deed is explained to be the Past, ed. Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 79–81. See also Sturtevant’s larger study, The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination: Memory, Film and Medievalism (New York and London: I. B. Tauris, 2018). 71 For an excellent reading of the 2007 film Enchanted, see Maria Sachiko Cecire, “Reality Remixed: Neomedieval Princess Culture in Disney’s Enchanted,” in The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, ed. Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 243–59. 72 Maleficent, directed by Robert Stromberg, written by Linda Woolverton and Charles Perrault (Disney, 2014), DVD. 73 Elan Justice Pavlinich, “Maleficent (Review),” Medievally Speaking, July 25, 2014, accessed December 2, 2014, http://medievallyspeaking.blogspot. com/2014/07/stromberg-dir-maleficent.html. 74 Screenwriter Linda Woolverton notes that this is an attempt to differentiate the story from that of the 1959 film, which she associates with France. See Solomon, Once Upon a Dream, 118–19.

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result of Aurora’s father, Stefan, having betrayed Maleficent in order to become king. After Maleficent pronounces the curse, which plays upon the 1959 film by making the curse breakable only by “true love’s kiss,” the film ultimately develops the relationship between Aurora and Maleficent as maternal. Even though Prince Phillip appears as a minor character, it is Maleficent who breaks the curse and establishes Aurora as queen of both her father’s kingdom and the moors, thereby uniting both visions of the medieval represented in the film. Thus Maleficent greatly revises the constructions both of the medieval and of gender posited by Sleeping Beauty. Magic, for instance, is ultimately characterized as both positive and conflated with nature, as Maleficent’s curse serves as the film’s single vilified example of magic (and one that even Maleficent herself attempts to reverse). The dragon, which the 1959 film conflates with Maleficent and envisions as the ultimate representation of the dangerous medieval, is refigured as one of the many forms taken by Maleficent’s shapeshifting companion, Diaval, in an attempt to free both Aurora and Maleficent from Stefan’s castle. Even the arranged marriage of the 1959 film is completely done away with, and the romance plot is sidelined by the development of both Aurora and Maleficent’s relationship with each other and the neomedieval world around them. Aurora, pointedly, is given adequate time for character development, and sleeps for no more than ten minutes through the entire film; at the film’s end, it is even revealed that Aurora, the “Sleeping Beauty” who in 1959 had less than eighteen lines of dialogue, has been narrating the entire “true story.” Maleficent, then, applies the revisionist impulses of a film like Zemeckis’s Beowulf to create a neomedieval space where patriarchal codes of the mid-twentieth century can be rewritten as an imagined reality that could give rise to the “classical story” that inspired the 1959 Sleeping Beauty film. As such, it represents the potential of neomedievalism as a means of harnessing perceptions of the Middle Ages to transform centuries of so-called “post-Enlightenment” thinking into a vehicle for post-feminist discourse. As for Maleficent, this means that the stately yet terrifying figure of the 1959 film is refigured as a strong, complex, active, female title character who serves as both villain and hero. In this neomedieval Secondary World, this hero-villain version of Maleficent is also envisioned as beautiful, as the title role is filled by none other than Angelina Jolie.

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4 Game of Thrones: Neomedievalism and the Myths of Inheritance

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aenerys Targaryen is one of the main protagonists in George R. R. Martin’s series of neomedieval fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire and its HBO television series adaption Game of Thrones.1 Daenerys appears at the beginning of both series as one of the last known legitimate members of house Targaryen, a noble family from the continent of Essos who had conquered the Seven Kingdoms of the continent of Westeros 300 years earlier. The conquest was purportedly achieved with the aid of dragons, which the Targaryen family could ride into battle and harness as powerful weapons; at the start of the series, however, dragons are extinct, the Targaryens have lost the throne in an uprising over a decade earlier, and Daenerys lives in exile in Essos. Dragons have faded almost into myth until Daenerys, ostensibly through magic tied to fire, blood, and her own inherited abilities, hatches three fossilized dragon eggs and raises the hatchlings into full-size dragons that become key in her own bid to take back the Seven Kingdoms. The above example illustrates the complex relationship between inheritance and myth in the A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones series, suggesting a world in which myth may not always stay myth and where blood inheritance is important. It is also a useful starting point for examining how neomedieval fantasy relies on versions of the medieval that it has inherited from sources including medieval history, medieval myth, and later medievalist and neomedieval interpretations. For instance, dragons in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones – and, as we saw in the last chapter, Maleficent – are aligned with a series protagonist and are thus a far cry from the dragons-as-antagonist trope that we see in Tolkien’s The Hobbit or Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, a trope with roots 1 The HBO series, which debuted in 2011, is named after the first novel in Martin’s series, A Game of Thrones (1996).

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tracing back to medieval myth and literature itself, as we saw in both the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf and its interpretations.2 As Rikke Schubart observes: Dragons are heavily invested in meaning. In Western mythology, they are monsters to be slain. Ancient Rome used them as a sigil on banners, claiming the strength of dragons at war. In Norse mythology, they were bestial adversaries slain by the hero Beowulf. And to medieval Christianity, the dragon symbolized the devil as slain by Saint George. Campbell reads dragons as symbols of internal fears and desires relating to the father that the hero must kill. In a reversal of tropes, however, dragons have become friends and pets, as viewed in such movies as Dragonheart (1996), How to Train Your Dragon (2010), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014; in the last title women even get to ride dragons, too).3

In incorporating dragons into his neomedieval fantasy, then, Martin draws not only on medieval myth, but also on later trends in fantasy that refigure the inherited Western medieval concept of the dragon into a useful tool, weapon, and/or ally.4 This relationship is complicated by the internal history of Martin’s series, where these dragons/allies are thought to be extinct but are then brought back by blood magic and controlled by the scion of a noble house that made and lost its fortune on a hereditary ability to ride and deploy dragons. The central role of dragons – which, while part of medieval myth and literature are not accepted as lived history – also serves as reminder that A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones are indeed neomedieval fantasy and not medieval history. While such a designation might seem self-evident, it is necessary to emphasize the designation in light of Martin’s own claims that A Song of Ice and Fire more closely represents history than other forms of fantasy have done. These claims have also been offered as a defense against what some critics see as the superfluous and gratuitous 2 The use and meaning of dragons do, of course, vary across different cultures. 3 Rikke Schubart, “Woman with Dragons: Daenerys, Pride, and Postfeminist Possibilities,” in Women of Ice and Fire: Gender, Game of Thrones, and Multiple Media Engagements, ed. Anne Gjelsvik and Rikke Schubart (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 119–20. 4 For additional examples of this trend, see Anny McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, including her 1968 novel Dragonflight; the film Shrek (2001) and its sequels; the film The Neverending Story (1984) and the 1979 novel by Michael Ende on which it is based; and the 1977 Disney film Pete’s Dragon.

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use of sex, nudity, and sexual violence in both A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, and have been mirrored in audience responses to both series as somehow representing an “accurate” version of the Middle Ages. Whereas my previous chapter analyzes medievalism as a tool for naturalization, this chapter uses Game of Thrones (and, to a lesser extent, A Song of Ice and Fire) to examine how medievalism can also work as a tool of historicization. I first look at how both the books and the television series rely on the relationship between late medieval Europe and its understanding of its own history to create a complex system of intra-textual medievalisms upon which the series’ narrative relies. These iterations of the history and myth of Westeros further highlight a split between the histories of the aristocratic elite and other narratives, such as folk stories, which are dismissed as “old wives’ tales” yet continue to thrive among the common people of Westeros. I then examine how the series use medievalism to historicize a glorification of martial and sexual violence because “that’s how it really was in medieval times.” As much as the books and television series attempt to historicize Westeros with the trappings of late medieval culture and intra-textual myth, they nonetheless essentialize the class divide between nobility and common folk by characterizing certain abilities – like the right to rule a kingdom or the ability to walk through dragon fire unscathed – as determined by blood inheritance. I conclude with an examination of the coexistence of political and magical manifestations of such inheritance and Game of Thrones’s attempt to rewrite both as neomedieval tools of socio-political liberation.5

5 At the time of this chapter’s composition, Martin has published five of seven planned novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Game of Thrones (1996), A Clash of Kings (1998), A Storm of Swords (2000), A Feast for Crows (2005), and A Dance with Dragons (2011); the HBO Game of Thrones series has aired seven complete seasons and the eighth is currently airing. Notably, some strands of the HBO Game of Thrones narrative began to move beyond Martin’s novels in the fifth season, with the majority of the content in seasons 6 and 7 being well outside the scope of the published novels. As per a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair, show producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss obtained from Martin a blueprint of the complete narrative for use in later seasons. See Jim Windolf, “The Gathering Storm,” Vanity Fair, April 2014, https://www.vanityfair. com/hollywood/2014/04/game-of-thrones-season-4.

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Martin’s Medievalism and History in Westeros In building Westeros and Essos, two fictional continents featured in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin draws on sources as varied as medieval history, historical fiction, fantasy fiction, and classical architecture. Part of Martin’s world-building includes the creation of long-spanning history, myths, and legends for both Westeros and Essos. In Westeros, some of these narratives, such as the courtly tales of Valyria (once part of the often exoticized and nostalgia-tinged Essos), are known best to the noble elite, particularly those educated enough to know High Valyrian, a language that serves as the “Latin” of Westeros.6 Other narratives, such as the folk stories told at the fireside by old nurses, are dismissed as “old wives’ tales,” yet have enduring currency among the general populace. Both strains of narrative – considered high and low within Westeros – rely heavily on Martin’s interpretation and appropriation of medieval European geography, history, literature, and culture. On this first point, it is worth noting that even the maps of Martin’s Known World echo those of our own, with Westeros serving as an approximation of Great Britain (on a larger scale). Martin’s Narrow Sea (English Channel) separates Westeros from the closest parts of Essos (Europe), which transitions into increasingly more exotic locales as one moves east. This Western/ European-centric geography is also reflected in Martin’s use of pointof-view (POV) characters of only Westerosi/European descent, thereby also privileging Westerosi culture and its Eurocentric (neo)medieval/ist roots. This privileging of Western culture is not unique to Martin. As Mat Hardy writes: Martin is certainly not alone in using these standard geographies and cultures in his fictional universe. Fantasy authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan, and Robert E. Howard have all used such east–west dichotomies. The eastern world in those sagas is invariably separated by mountains, deserts, or steppes and is often the location of some evil, or at least home to smaller, slyer, and more alien peoples. Generally this eastern setting is nothing more than a backdrop for culturally western

6 Valyria was destroyed in a catastrophic event known as the “Doom of Valyria”; see George R. R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia Jr., and Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (New York: Bantam, 2014), 26–7.

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characters to progress across. This is also the case with Essos, which is exposed only through the adventures of Daenerys, Tyrion, and others.7

Tolkien in particular – the author to whom Martin is most often compared – reimagines European geographies in his creation of Middleearth, even going so far as to posit his narrative as a sort of mythology or prehistory for England. In addition to geography, Martin also borrows much from European history and politics. As Kavita Mudan Finn writes: Game of Thrones makes no secret of its medieval roots – it’s a short step, after all, from York to Stark and from Lancaster to Lannister. Even though the series includes direwolves, firebreathing dragons, and the walking dead, its complicated plot hinges on a quintessentially medieval problem: a disputed succession that leads to civil war.8

The “game of thrones” alluded to in the title of the first novel and the television series begins when multiple houses either lay claim to kingship of the entire Seven Kingdoms or declare sovereignty of and independence for one of these Seven Kingdoms. The game begins in earnest when Robert Baratheon, the noble who took the throne after raising a successful rebellion against the Targaryens, is killed while hunting. Amidst complex political intrigue, House Stark (in the north) contends with the Lannisters, the house from which Robert’s queen, Cersei, and therefore his recognized legitimate children hail. When questions about the legitimacy of Cersei’s children arise, both of Robert’s brothers also lay claim to the throne. This is all supplemented by the latent Targaryen threat from Essos. The above summary, although a simplified version of Martin’s plot, demonstrates how easy it is to draw connections between A Song of Ice and Fire and events in medieval European history. In addition to the Lannister/Lancaster and Stark/York similarities,9 the series echoes a 7 Mat Hardy, “The Eastern Question,” in Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 98. Tyrion Lannister, a fan favorite, is a Westerosi noble who escapes to Essos to avoid execution for a crime he did not commit. 8 Kavita Mudan Finn, “High and Mighty Queens of Westeros,” in Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 20. 9 For additional analysis on the role history plays in the naming conventions in Game of Thrones, see Sarah L. Uckelman, Sonia Murphy, and Joseph Percer, “What’s in a Name? History and Fantasy in Game of Thrones,” in

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number of aspects of the Wars of the Roses, which Martin directly cites as one of his sources.10 This connection figures heavily in “The Real History Behind Game of Thrones,” a bonus feature included with the DVD set of the fifth season of the television series. The feature traces out a number of connections between Game of Thrones and some of the historic details of the Wars of the Roses, with historian Dan Jones terming the series “an homage to England in the Wars of the Roses” and “an alternative history of the Wars of the Roses [with] all the other best bits of history kind of chucked in and given a stir.”11 Sources for the “other best bits of history” vary, as Carolyne Larrington demonstrates in her excellent study of the parallels between the “historical medieval world” and A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones, for which she draws connections to sources as varied as Beowulf, medieval Cathars, and the writings of Sir John Mandeville.12 Martin also points to historical fiction as an influence on his writing. In a 2013 blog post on “Reading Recommendations,” Martin suggests a number of historical fiction authors including Sir Walter Scott, Nigel Tranter, Rosemary Hawley Jarman, Cecilia Holland, and Bernard Cornwall.13 Martin particularly recommends Maurice Druon’s Accursed Kings series, which is based on medieval French history. The first book in the series, The Iron King (1955), begins in the reign of Philip IV (also known as Philip the Fair) and follows the intrigue and power struggles that ensue at Philip’s death. In Martin’s foreword to a recent English edition of The Iron King he writes, “This was the original game of thrones.”14 While one can see shades of the related historical events and Druon’s interpretation of them in A Song of Ice and Fire, the titles of Druon’s novels also appear to have influenced Martin’s writing. The Iron King suggests the Iron Throne, which is both an actual throne used by the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 241–50. 10 Martin in “The Real History behind Game of Thrones,” included in Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season (HBO, 2016), DVD. 11 Dan Jones in “The Real History Behind Game of Thrones.” 12 Carolyne Larrington, Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones (London & New York: I. B. Tauris, 2016), xiii. 13 George R. R. Martin, “Reading Recommendations,” Not a Blog, March 13, 2013; accessed September 15, 2018, http://georgerrmartin.com/ notablog/2013/03/13/reading-recommendations/. 14 George R. R. Martin, foreword to The Iron King, by Maurice Druon (Harper Collins, 2013).

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and shorthand for the monarchy itself. The phrasing and content of the rest of Druon’s series also have parallels in the book titles Martin uses for A Song of Ice and Fire.15 As I demonstrate in my examination of Tolkien, Scott, and William Morris in Chapter 2, Martin is not the only fantasy writer to look to history or historical fiction for inspiration. It is striking, then, that Martin has used his interest in both history and historical fiction as a means to separate his work from that of other authors working in medievalist fantasy. In a 2011 interview he notes: I read a lot of different things, not just science fiction/fantasy. One of the things I read a lot of is history and historical fiction. I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I did read fantasy as well. As I read that, I sort of had a problem with a lot of the fantasy I was reading, because it seemed to me that the middle ages or some version of the quasi middle ages was the preferred setting of a vast majority of the fantasy novels that I was reading by Tolkien imitators and other fantasists, yet they were getting it all wrong. It was a sort of Disneyland middle ages, where they had castles and princesses and all that. The trappings of a class system, but they didn’t seem to understand what a class system actually meant.16

Martin distances his writing from medievalist fantasy that he sees as based in an idealized or “Disneyland” version of the medieval, while also suggesting his own approach to fantasy, which he aligns more closely with history and historical fiction, as a counter to the Disneyland medieval.17 Such a move also implies that drawing more closely from a historic Middle Ages serves as correction to “getting it all wrong” in medievalist fantasy fiction. Martin further suggests that specific details – such as a class system that goes beyond “trappings” – may further aid in creating a more palatable vision of medievalist fantasy.

15 The titles of Druon’s series (in translation) include The Strangled Queen (1955), The Poisoned Crown (1956), The She-Wolf of France (1959), and The Lily and the Lion (1960). 16 John Hodgeman, “George R. R. Martin, Author of A Song of Ice and Fire,” Bullseye, September 19, 2011, http://www.maximumfun.org/sound-youngamerica/george-r-r-martin-author-song-ice-and-fire-series-interview-soundyoung-america. 17 See Helen Young’s discussion of Martin’s use of historical fiction in Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness (New York & London: Routledge, 2016), 68–9.

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In keeping with this prescription, Martin characterizes A Song of Ice and Fire as based on a modified version of feudalism, noting “I did not go full feudal. But I have a quasi-feudal system where there are landed knights and lords who have castles who swear fealty to the king. So there’s this network of obligation.”18 This manifests most clearly in that each of the lesser noble houses in Westeros has a historical affiliation to a greater noble house, all of which swear fealty to the king. These relationships are periodically renewed through oaths of fealty, and a greater house can then call on their “bannermen” in times of war.19 As I discuss more thoroughly in Chapter 5, such pre-capitalist economic and class systems are often used to help characterize settings as medievalist or neomedieval. While A Song of Ice and Fire does touch on issues of economics – most directly around how the crown funds events such as tournaments or the details of paying for military campaigns – most class markers are cultural and closely tied to medievalist components. Each house, for instance, has a sigil, motto, and associated colors, which visually translate well into the television series. The concept of “houses” as a way to characterize the noble families of Westeros further emphasizes the roles that inheritance and bloodlines play, as does the practice of primogeniture, which also results in a system of relatively conservative gender roles. These medievalisms are themselves based on history and traditions internal to the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. As Carol Jamison notes, “Martin’s work is distinguished by the comprehensiveness of his medievalism,” providing “meticulous details about governance, historical background, and even the literature of Westeros, creating a comprehensive pseudo-medieval world.”20 This history is itself tightly controlled, in large part by monk-like figures called “maesters.” Although similar to monks in that they preserve and control knowledge, maesters are secular and not affiliated to the predominant religion, which involves seven gods, and refers to churches as “septs,” and to priests and nuns as “septons” and “septas.” However, as an order the maesters share characteristics 18 Martin in “The Real History Behind Game of Thrones.” 19 For instance, House Frey, bannerman to the Tullys of Riverrun, are infamous for arriving at the Battle of the Trident, a decisive battle in the successful rebellion of Robert Baratheon, after the battle had already been decided. 20 Carol Jamison, “Reading Westeros,” Studies in Medievalism XXVI (2017): 134. See also Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros: The Knightly Code of A Song of Ice and Fire (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018), which provides an excellent analysis of the narrative structure and neomedieval nature of Martin’s work.

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with medieval Christian monastic communities. First, it is an order that requires vows and dictates that its members abstain from marriage or procreation. Whereas the European Middle Ages saw monastic communities for men and women (and used those binaries), the maesters do not allow women, nor is there an equivalent order for women. The maesters do, however, serve as the keepers and seekers of knowledge in Westeros: they record history and preserve historical records, mark the passage of time and the change of seasons, manage the ravens used for communication over great distances, and attempt to advance medical knowledge. Like priests, they are granted certain authority by their order, and this authority is represented by wearable symbols: in this case, a chain made of links of various metals, with each metal representing a field of knowledge the wearer has mastered. Each noble house would have a maester in residence, as does the Night’s Watch, a group dedicated to guarding the Wall that marks the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, and a maester would fulfill numerous functions typical of medieval household personnel. As Kris Swank observes, “The maesters are actually an amalgamation of several retainers common in the noble houses of medieval Europe: tutor, political advisor, scribe, lawyer, astrologer, and physician. Every lord who could afford it would have employed not one, but an entire retinue.”21 Maesters, then, are primarily accessible to and aligned with the Westerosi nobility, a fact to keep in mind when assessing the version of history and accepted knowledge that maesters collectively keep. The historical authority of maesters is perhaps most clearly illustrated through the role they play in the accredited authorship of two prequels to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The first of these, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, is a history of Westeros as told by the fictional Maester Yandel. The snippets of history – themselves often invoking scenes from medieval history and literature – are presented and attributed as found sources that Yandel himself weighs and measures. Carol Jamison characterizes the composition as: a vast assemblage of learning that he is compiling in the fashion of medieval writers. Like medieval writers, he refers to his sources to lend authority to his work. He also questions the untrustworthy nature of storytelling, espe 21 Kris Swank, “‘I Shall Take No Wife’: Celibate Societies in Westeros and Western Civilization,” in Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 217.

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cially as tales transition from oral to written and, in some cases, to oral again, through song.22

Thus the process of presenting the history of Westeros both follows medievalist patterns of narration and authority, and posits a maester like Yandel as an authority on that history. Notably, a maester’s authority on history can itself come into question, as demonstrated by Yandel’s dismissal of earlier “historic” sources authored by his fellow maesters. In one of many asides he speaks of “Archmaester Fomas’s Lies of the Ancients – though little regarded these days for its erroneous claims regarding the founding of Valyria and certain lineal claims in the Reach and westerlands,”23 and in doing so implicitly asserts that even archmaesters may be wrong and fall out of the collective regard of accepted history. Martin repeats the use of a maester as narrator in the 2018 prequel Fire and Blood, in which Archmaester Gyldayn recounts the history of the Targaryens in far more detail than is included in The World of Ice and Fire (although in this case there is no debate over sources).24 Fire and Blood also reveals the high regard in which Aegon the Conqueror held history and the maesters. We learn that Aegon, determined to understand the people he had conquered, had six maesters travel with him at all times to keep him informed; he even establishes the position of Grand Maester, who serves the king, to grant their knowledge a tangible authority in the kingdom.25 Notably, both prequels depart from the narrative structure of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, where chapters switch between the POV of different characters; this use of a single narrator in the prequels further emphasizes the authority of the maesters who narrate them. The authority of history nevertheless pervades A Song of Ice and Fire, and Martin’s use of history in this way – much like his use of geography – has roots in Tolkien. As Jamison notes:

22 Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 50. 23 Martin, Garcia, and Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire, 12. The rhetoric here may be familiar to academics. Notably, The World of Ice and Fire grew out of materials in A Wiki of Ice and Fire hosted on the website Westeros. org, which curates a strong A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones online community. See https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Main_Page. 24 George R. R. Martin, Fire and Blood (New York: Bantam Books, 2018). “Fire and Blood” is the motto of House Targaryen. 25 Martin, Fire and Blood, 42–6.

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Martin’s medieval work is vaster and more detailed than Tolkien’s. Both writers, however, create pseudo-histories that serve to authenticate and lend authority to their fictional worlds. Gwendolyn Morgan explains how Tolkien created “his own auctoritee” through the posthumously published The Silmarillion, which “provides a medieval history to his medieval world.” Although The Silmarillion is fiction, Morgan explains that this “in no way diminishes it as an auctoritee.” Martin’s pseudo-history is detailed in The World of Ice and Fire, but more so than Tolkien, he also creates pseudo-authority within the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire through numerous references to the lore that undergirds Westeros.26

As Jamison correctly observes, both history and lore play a role in Martin’s neomedieval world-building, yet it is clear that within A Song of Ice and Fire (and Game of Thrones) history is privileged over lore and heavily influenced by the maesters, who are in turn closely affiliated to the Westerosi nobility.27 Likewise, Martin – also following Tolkien in this regard – uses language as both a marker of class and a way to link the nobility and the maesters to a nostalgic vision of their own history. In A Song of Ice and Fire this is accomplished most clearly through the use of High Valyrian – the language of Old Valyria – which serves as the “Latin of Westeros” in that it is studied primarily by maesters, yet is also taught to the children of the nobility as a sign of a proper upbringing (its actual use among the nobility appears to be limited to the well-lettered or nostalgic).28 Within the history of Westeros, the use of Valyrian was consolidated with Aegon Targaryen’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, and it is most pointedly used in the series by his descendant Daenerys Targaryen to train her three dragons. The use of High Valyrian mirrors the use of Latin both in the medieval Christian church and as a common language used among the educated elite. Likewise, the nostalgia in Westeros for the fallen 26 Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 25. Jamison cites Gwendolyn Morgan, “Medievalism, Authority, and the Academy,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 28. 27 The World of Ice and Fire implies a patron-like relationship between maester-authors and the nobility. The dedication page, constructed as a page that presents handwriting rather than print, indicates that Yandel dedicated his history initially to King Robert Baratheon and then, upon his death, scratched out Robert’s name and replaced it with that of his son, Joffrey. Joffrey’s name is also scratched out (although, like Robert’s, a trace remains) and replaced with that of his brother Tommen, who assumes the throne after Joffrey is murdered. 28 See Larrington, Winter is Coming, 214–16.

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Valyrian empire has often been compared to European nostalgia for the Roman Empire; both are seen as a once great but since fallen power that continues to hold sway in language, history, legend.29 The role of High Valyrian in Westeros demonstrates how the medievalisms prevalent in Westeros at the beginning of A Song of Ice and Fire are themselves rooted in an internal past, and Martin’s invocation of Rome provides a suitably classical precursor for medievalist fantasy. These classical references are also translated visually to Game of Thrones in the representation of Oldtown, a city in the south of Westeros that once served as its capital. As Carolyne Larrington has noted, Oldtown functions as a medieval “university city” much like Oxford, as it is home to the maesters’ seat of power, called the Citadel.30 The Citadel serves as the site of the maesters’ acolyte training and their largest store of historical records and books. Oldtown also houses the Hightower, the architecture of which as represented in Game of Thrones suggests a giant classical lighthouse. This architectural nod, together with the maesters’ library at the Citadel, renders Oldtown closer to Alexandria in Egypt, which was famed in antiquity for its lighthouse and library, both of which were already lost and legendary before Oxford was even founded.31 High and Low Medievalisms and the Myths of Westeros That these elements of Oldtown, unlike High Valyrian, have survived demonstrates how Westeros incorporates classical elements not just as remnants but as part of a more complex neomedieval landscape. The complexity of this landscape is further demonstrated in the Known World by the inclusion of elements such as globalized informational and trade relationships that could be considered early modern rather than medieval.32 Such complexity is increased in the HBO series by the introduction of additional visual elements, such as by adding weapons and armor that echo feudal-era Japan into the mix of chainmail and broadswords; the result is what Dan Jones has called “Really mashed up history.”33 This mix of medievalist and non-medievalist references has led scholars such 29 See ibid., 210–14. 30 Ibid., 138–9. 31 See Game of Thrones, season 6, episode 10, “The Winds of Winter,” directed by Miguel Sapochnik, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired June 26, 2016, on HBO. 32 See Mat Hardy, “The Eastern Question,” 99–100. 33 Dan Jones, “The Real History Behind Game of Thrones.”

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as Richard Utz to suggest that we think of Martin’s world as “premodern” rather than strictly medieval. In writing of Game of Thrones Utz notes, “Rather than creating traditional kinds of historical authenticity and authority, it engages in a myriad of cultural references that have a vaguely medieval feel (by the way, I think it’s a premodern feel, because the show also echoes the Wars of the Roses and imperial Rome).”34 A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones mix these external cultural references that span the classical through the premodern with an internal logic that both draws on official history and hierarchies of knowledge (controlled by the maesters and the nobility) and relies on the oral lore maintained by the smallfolk, or common people.35 Both history and lore depend on sets of internal medievalisms (much like Arthurian legend in Malory’s time) that, when combined with the external cultural references, result in the sense that the structures of history, knowledge, and power of the Westerosi nobility are themselves crumbling into a state of decay. In some cases this decay is physical, as can be seen in the scarred architecture of Westeros. Whereas standing castles – yet another medievalism – still abound, including the Starks’ stronghold of Winterfell in the north, the Red Keep at King’s Landing in the east, and the opulent Sunspear to the south in Dorne, some strongholds are in ruins.36 The most prominent of these can be found at Harrenhal, the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, which was burned by dragon fire during Aegon Targaryen’s conquest 300 years earlier. Although Harrenhal is used as a strategic fortification during military campaigns, it has remained a ruin since the conquest. While Harrenhal serves as a reminder of the 34 Richard Utz, “‘Game of Thrones’ among the Medievalists,” Inside Higher Ed. July 14, 2017, accessed July 14, 2017, https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/07/14/ why-game-thrones-shouldnt-be-used-effort-recruit-future-medievalists-essay. 35 At times these external references invoke other medievalist and neomedieval texts. As Jamison notes, “Embedded within Martin’s novels, however, are ‘inside jokes’ that could only be appreciated by contemporary audiences well-versed in contemporary works of medievalism.” Jamison goes on to list specific references to Tolkien, the 1986 film The Princess Bride, the Harry Potter series, and Monty Python. See Jamison, “Reading Westeros,” 135. 36 In some cases extant medieval structures were used to film these locations (e.g., the Alcázar of Seville, Spain, stood in for Sunspear). See Laura Dannen Redman and Meredith Carey, “‘Game of Thrones’ Filming Locations around the World,” Condé Nast Traveler, August 28, 2017, https://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-04-10/ virtual-tour-filming-locations-game-of-thrones-season-5.

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destructive power of war (and dragons), structures such as those that guard the 600-foot Wall are crumbling due to neglect. The Wall itself, built thousands of years ago by Brandon the Builder (a Stark), marks the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms much as Hadrian’s Wall marked the northern limit of Roman control in Great Britain. Made of ice, the Wall spans the continent from west coast to east and is itself structurally intact; however, of the nineteen castles built to guard it, only three are maintained at the start of A Song of Ice and Fire (the Shadow Tower, Castle Black, and Eastwatch), and these three are themselves in various states of disrepair. The neglected state of the fortifications at the Wall points to a decline in regard for the Night’s Watch, the order sworn to protect the Wall and staff its keeps. Once strong enough to staff nineteen castles in spite of its requisite vows of poverty and chastity, at the opening of A Song of Ice and Fire joining the Night’s Watch, or “taking the black,” is mostly used to place a younger son or as a form of banishment for members of the nobility who have fallen out of favor; it supplements its numbers by offering convicted criminals a place as an alternative to execution or imprisonment. The decline in the esteem of the Night’s Watch is mirrored by a larger decline in Westerosi chivalry in general.37 As Steven Muhlberger notes, “In fact chivalry is losing its hold on many of the inhabitants of Westeros, commoners and nobles alike. One gets the impression that too many people have seen too much bad behavior from knights.”38 Indeed, such “bad behavior” is hinted at early on in the series at a tournament held to celebrate the appointment of Eddard (Ned) Stark as Robert Baratheon’s chief advisor, or “Hand of the King.” The tournament – which Ned also has to plan and figure out how to pay for – is won by Ser Loras Tyrell, the “Knight of the Flowers,” who seems to represent the image of chivalry that Ned’s daughter Sansa learned about from songs and poetry.39 The image of a triumphant Ser Loras, however, is marred by the reaction of his final opponent, Ser Gregor Clegane, to losing, as Ser Gregor violently 37 For more on the decline of the Night’s Watch, see Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 81–3, where Jamison also discusses the similar decline of the Kingsguard, a group of seven knights who forego land, titles, and heirs to serve as bodyguards to the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. 38 Steven Muhlberger, “Chivalry in Westeros,” in Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 52. 39 For an excellent analysis of Martin’s use of the honorific “Ser” instead of “Sir,” see Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 22.

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beheads his own horse while Sansa and rest of the royal court look on in horror.40 This characterization of Ser Gregor is further complicated by the fact that Ser Gregor maintains his knightly status in spite of having committed numerous acts of murder and rape during Robert’s rebellion years earlier; presumably he was forgiven because he fought for the winning side. When Robert is killed and the war for the Iron Throne begins, Clegane is ordered to take his particular brand of chivalry to the countryside, where he terrorizes the common folk; his character (and Westerosi chivalry in general) is perhaps most thoroughly realized later in the series when Ser Gregor, having been killed in a duel, is raised from the dead as a zombie-knight in the service of Cersei Lannister. The perceived decline in chivalry invites the question of whether noble institutions were ever quite as pristine as Sansa’s songs claim, yet the events in A Song of Ice and Fire suggest that even the histories and hierarchies of knowledge maintained by the maesters and enforced by the nobility are in danger of failing Westeros. The possibility of raising the dead, for instance, is beyond the knowledge of the maesters, yet it is Qyburn, a former maester defrocked and dechained over ethics concerns, who raises Ser Gregor from the dead. In later seasons of Game of Thrones we also see archmaesters of the Citadel refuse to properly utilize the knowledge in their own library when faced with problems that they do not already know how to solve. This manifests most clearly in season 7, when Samwell Tarly, a member of the Night’s Watch in training to become a maester, cures a victim suffering from a fatal disease called “greyscale” using a method he found in the book On Rare Diseases by Archmaester Pylos. Sam performs the operation secretly, as the archmaesters at the Citadel refuse to even try it and instead encourage greyscale victims to take their own lives. It is unclear how many greyscale victims have done so, all because an effective cure did not come from a source that the maesters in charge deemed worthy.41 Similarly, the maesters and the nobility fail to take the oral folklore of Westeros into consideration when interpreting events, as the knowledge behind such stories is associated with the smallfolk, or common people, and is not considered proper history. In both A Song of Ice and Fire and 40 See Game of Thrones, season 1, episode 4, “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things,” directed by Brian Kirk, written by Brian Cogman, aired May 8, 2011, on HBO; see also Martin, A Game of Thrones, 291–316. 41 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 2, “Stormborn,” directed by Mark Mylod, written by Brian Cogman, aired July 23, 2017, on HBO.

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Game of Thrones, this lore is conveyed most directly by Old Nan, nurse to the Stark children at Winterfell. Among her stories, Old Nan describes the “children of the forest,” elf-like creatures who supposedly inhabited Westeros before the arrival of the “First Men” thousands of years earlier.42 While the children of the forest play a part in the foundational myths of Westeros, they are not part of accepted history; events later in the series reveal that the children of the forest are real. Old Nan also serves as a key source of information about the Others (in the books), or White Walkers (in the HBO series), a group of undead soldiers who can turn the dead into zombies, or wights. In particular Old Nan speaks of the “Long Night,” when an unusually long Westerosi winter saw the sun disappear “for a generation” and the Others / White Walkers roamed the land.43 After defeat at the hands of an alliance of the children of the forest and humans, the Others / White Walkers were driven north; one of the reasons the Wall was built was to help keep them out. The disrepair of the Wall’s fortifications and the neglected state of the Night’s Watch indicate how little the nobility in the Seven Kingdoms regard the legends of the White Walkers; indeed, most consider the only threat from beyond the Wall to be the “wildlings,” or tribes of northern people who occasionally raid the lands south of the Wall. In spite of the beliefs of the Westerosi nobility, Martin establishes the existence and danger of the Others in the opening pages of A Game of Thrones, which introduce three members of the Night’s Watch. Gared, a forty-year veteran, and Will, a member for four years, are, in spite of their experience, bound to follow the orders of six-month rookie Waymar Royce, who comes from one of the noble families of Westeros. As the group ventures north of the Wall in pursuit of a group of wildlings (a group who always strike me as modeled after the Celts), Will returns from scouting to report that he has found the wildlings dead. Although Gared wants to return to the Wall, Waymar Royce disagrees. When asked his opinion, Will states, “My mother told me that dead men sing no 42 As Larrington notes, although the children of the forest suggest elves, they are not the cultured, wise elves found in Tolkien. Instead she suggests inspiration in the huldufólf of Icelandic legend. See Larrington, Winter is Coming, 94–5. 43 Game of Thrones, season 1, episode 3, “Lord Snow,” directed by Brian Kirk, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired May 1, 2011, on HBO; see also Martin, A Game of Thrones, 240–1. It is fitting that Old Nan is associated with the Starks; as Jamison notes, the Stark family history originates in oral lore. Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 27.

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songs,” to which Royce replies, “My wet nurse said the same thing, Will … Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit.”44 Royce and Will are attacked and killed by the Others, who turn out to be very real. Gared, left to escape, deserts the Night’s Watch and travels south of the Wall, where he is captured and beheaded by the noble Ned Stark for deserting because nobody believes the story about what he saw. The dialogue is different in the HBO series, but the opening scene is the same: the nobleman refuses to heed his fellow Night’s Watchmen’s call to return to the Wall, and they – and the audience – learn that the White Walkers are real. As the introduction of the Others / White Walkers demonstrates, from the very beginning A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones set up a dichotomy between the accepted history and knowledge structures of the Westerosi nobility and the practical knowledge and oft-derided folklore – or old wives’ tales – of the common people. Indeed, while the members of the Night’s Watch – including Jon Snow, a main protagonist thought to be Ned Stark’s bastard – accept the existence of the Others / White Walkers early on, it is not until season 7 of the HBO series that the nobility south of the Wall acknowledge them as a legitimate threat. As Tyrion Lannister says to Jon Snow, “It was nonsense. Everybody knew it. But then Mormont saw them. You saw them. And I trust the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows.”45 Pointedly, it is the eye witness of a figure like Jon Snow – now named “King in the North” – that results in the acceptance that these myths are real, yet by the end of season 7 it seems that neither the nobility nor the maesters have a feasible plan for dealing with the White Walkers as they begin to march their army of wights south of the Wall. As Valerie Frankel suggests, “The White Walkers, vanished for a thousand years, are now returning, and Old Nan’s stories may be the key to the world’s salvation.”46 Game of Thrones, then, has nicely fractured the knowledge structures upon which the internal pseudo-history of its neomedieval world is based, thereby opening the path for the inherited knowledge of smallfolk to play an important part in the narrative.

44 Martin, A Game of Thrones, 1. 45 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice,” directed by Mark Mylod, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired July 30, 2017, on HBO. 46 Valerie Estelle Frankel, Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014), 125.

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“How It Really Was”: Medievalism and Historicization As we have seen above, A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones are set in a neomedieval world where history is unreliable, institutions such as chivalry are failing, and where mythical concepts such as dragons, wights, and magic are real. It is also a violent place, even more so when the throne is in question, and especially for women. The result can feel somewhat bleak at times, an interpretation that Martin himself has defended. In a 2014 interview he notes: I have to take issue with the notion that Westeros is a ‘dark and depraved place.’ It’s not the Disneyland Middle Ages, no, and that was quite deliberate … but it is no darker nor more depraved than our own world. History is written in blood. The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.47

Again, Martin attempts to align his work with a version of medievalism that is explicitly written against an idealized and romanticized image of the Middle Ages. This approach to fantasy, often called “grimdark” or “gritty” fantasy, is not exclusive to Martin, nor is its association with the concept of historical accuracy. As Shiloh Carroll has argued, Martin’s use of the “grimdark” approach may serve as a partial attempt to legitimize medievalist fantasy in spaces where more traditional, romanticized medievalist fantasy tropes are frowned upon, not least in the academy, where medievalism studies is seen as the “lesser cousin” of medieval studies.48 This approach relies on what it claims to be a more realistic representation of the Middle Ages than has appeared in past medievalist fantasy, a Middle Ages in which violence, death, unhappy resolutions, and actual dirt – or grit – are forefront. The association of grit with realism has additional ties to cinematic representations of the Middle Ages. In their study of the Middle Ages on film, Laurie Finke and Martin Shichtman articulate how cinematic audiences, most of whom are not scholars of medieval history, nevertheless must rely on their own “historical capital” – stores of historical 47 George R. R. Martin, “George R. R. Martin on ‘Game of Thrones’ and Sexual Violence,” interview by Dave Itzkoff, ArtsBeat, New York Times Blog, May 2, 2014, https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/ george-r-r-martin-on-game-of-thrones-and-sexual-violence/. 48 Shiloh Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2018), 181.

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knowledge – to interpret cinematic representations of the medieval. Because the Middle Ages are seen as so different from the present, they argue, films rely on “stock features” that “locate the viewer within the medieval framework of the film,” although often “these signs relate to nothing whatsoever except other films about the Middle Ages.”49 They further observe that “Perhaps the icon that functions most vividly to call up the Middle Ages for the popular viewer … is filth.”50 Through both a contrast to the cleanliness of idealized representations of the Middle Ages and the past use of filth as a marker of historic difference in onscreen versions of the medieval, grit has become a shorthand for realistic representations of the Middle Ages. This shorthand is employed strategically by grimdark/gritty fantasy authors for whom a conscious break with earlier medievalist fantasy works is important. As Helen Young observes: The idea that Gritty Fantasy represents “the real Middle Ages” in ways that earlier medievalist texts do not is central to its existence as a sub-genre. It further suggests that the works which fall under its umbrella, and the authors who create them, have access to medieval reality as part of the creative process.51

Claims of authorial access to the medieval certainly apply to Martin, who is on record arguing that his fantasy novels adhere to both truth and history, especially in their representation of sexual violence. He states: An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too).52

49 Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Shichtman, Cinematic Illuminations: The Middle Ages on Film (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 36 50 Ibid., 48. 51 Young, Race and Fantasy Literature, 83. 52 Martin, “George R. R. Martin on ‘Game of Thrones’ and Sexual Violence.”

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In other words, Martin goes beyond suggesting that he has access to the “truth” about history, and reports feeling compelled to convey that truth in his medievalist fantasy novels, even – or perhaps especially – as regards sexual violence. Martin’s arguments feel convincing at times because his Known World incorporates so many details that reflect our broader understanding of the past. As Helen Young writes: The history which inspires specific features of Westeros and the wider world is not the sole focus of Martin’s comments; he invokes a much more generalised historicity with his assertions that his work represents “what it was like in the Middle Ages.” These broader claims are authorised by the specifics – like Hadrian’s Wall – to which he attaches his world and stories, and are often made in defensive ways against, for example, criticisms of gender relations or the treatment of women.53

The incorporation of medieval cultural references and details, together with the grittiness that we have been taught signifies a realistic Middle Ages, create a strong claim to historical accuracy, which claim can in turn be used to justify certain representations of gender and violence as themselves historically accurate, or just another component of “how it really was.” Ironically, in some ways the portrayal of women in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones is fairly consistent with those in the types of medievalist fantasy from which Martin tries to separate his work, which are themselves linked to some strands of medieval literature. As Finn notes, “The cultural standards in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones hew closely to traditional fantasy tropes, themselves a product of J. R. R. Tolkien’s training as a medieval literature scholar.”54 These standards manifest most clearly in the lack of agency afforded women as a group in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. In Westeros women rarely inherit seats of power or own their own property. Noblewomen are often exchanged in marriage to solidify alliances or transfer wealth, which is how Cersei Lannister finds herself married to Robert Baratheon and becomes queen. Sansa Stark is initially betrothed to Cersei’s son Joffrey to solidify the loyalty of the north, but she is then married off to Tyrion Lannister when the Starks fall out of favor and a more lucrative match is found for Joffrey. Even Daenerys Targaryen is traded by her

53 Young, Race and Popular Fantasy Literature, 69. 54 Finn, “High and Mighty Queens,” 19.

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brother Viserys to a Dothraki khal, or warlord, for the promise of an army to help Viserys conquer the Seven Kingdoms. In spite of his rather conservative approach to situating women, Martin has been credited with portraying women in more complex ways than other writers, Tolkien among them.55 Characters like Brienne of Tarth (a noblewoman who, while not a knight, makes her way through the world as an armed warrior), Arya Stark (Sansa’s sister, who rejects the trappings of a typical Westerosi noblewoman and becomes a highly skilled assassin), and even Cersei Lannister (by the end of season 6 she has proclaimed herself queen of the Seven Kingdoms in her own right) all emerge as counters to the women-as-passive status quo. Daenerys herself is perhaps the strongest counter, as she grows from a child-bride who is treated like chattel to the leader of a vast army that includes the Dothraki warriors for whom she was initially traded. Ultimately, however, the society in A Song of Ice and Fire remains repressive while also portraying women as sexual objects and the victims of sexual violence. This aspect of A Song of Ice and Fire is magnified in Game of Thrones, where prostitution and brothels often become a casual backdrop for conveying unrelated information to the audience. As Valerie Frankel concludes, “The prostitutes are probably the most criticized aspect of the television adaptation. TV writer and academic Myles McNutt of Cultural Learnings invented the word ‘sexposition’ to describe the show’s frequent expository speeches delivered by or to naked women who otherwise have no effect on the plot.”56 Frankel also points out that these scenes are designed to appeal to heterosexual men, presenting nude female bodies to an onscreen male gaze.57 The preponderance of 55 See Finn, “High and Mighty Queens of Westeros,” 19, where she credits Martin for including women among the POV characters. For an excellent analysis of gender roles in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, see Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire, “Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender Relations,” 54–84. 56 Frankel, Women in Game of Thrones, 7. See also Myles McNutt, “You Win or You Die,” Cultural Learnings, May 29, 2011, https://cultural-learnings. com/2011/05/29/game-of-thrones-you-win-or-you-die/. 57 Frankel, Women in Game of Thrones, 16. Frankel states, “The Game of Thrones sex scenes are biased towards men and do not appear designed to appeal to women. The Saturday Night Live sketch where a teenage boy is humorously revealed as the co-producer seems far more fitting. It isn’t that more female body parts are shown than male body parts (though they are). It’s that the men are treated as characters and controllers of the scene, while the women range from exploited to ignored barely-people.”

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prostitutes is complemented by the almost constant threat of rape under which the women of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones live. Caroline Spector observes that these threats come both from domestic relationships and from the world at large: Rape and sexual violence, both from “protectors” and from strangers, are persistent threats to all the female characters. Robert Baratheon drunkenly rapes Cersei; when she tells him he’s hurt her, he blames it on alcohol. Sansa, Arya, and Brienne all experience verbal threats of sexual violence from a wide variety of men. This omnipresent threat in these women’s lives creates what amounts to an environment of sexual oppression. That this circumstance is rarely remarked upon by the characters shows just how entrenched it is in the culture.58

With rape an ever-present possibility that shapes the lives of the women of Westeros and Essos, it is worth noting that non-marital rape, at least, is considered a crime in Westeros, as convicted rapists are usually imprisoned (or sent to the Wall). Exceptions seem to be made for members of the nobility, such as Ser Gregor Clegane, especially when rape occurs as part of warfare, yet in Ser Gregor’s case it serves as one of the markers that he is a particularly brutal character, even in wartime. In her analysis of rape in Game of Thrones, Alyssa Rosenberg observes, “In Westeros in particular, where the ability to kill is a sign of manhood and even of honor, it’s sexual misconduct that signifies monstrosity.”59 That Ser Gregor later becomes a monstrous zombie-knight therefore seems fitting. As with the portrayal of prostitutes, Game of Thrones is often criticized for making the sexual violence of A Song of Ice and Fire even more intense and gratuitous. In her comparison of how the book and series portray sexual violence, Anne Gjelsvik notes that “Some of the most controversial changes in HBO’s adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire are scenes featuring

58 Caroline Spector, “Power and Feminism in Westeros,” in Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons, ed. James Lowder (Dallas: BenBella Books, 2012), 185. Notably, Spector concludes that A Song of Ice and Fire is “a subversively feminist tale” in that its brutality demonstrates what happens as result of disempowering women (187). 59 Alyssa Rosenberg, “Men and Monsters: Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire,” in Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons, ed. James Lowder (Dallas: BenBella Books, 2012), 17.

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rape or sexual assaults that are not in Martin’s novels.”60 Of these the most well-known is a plotline added to Game of Thrones in which Sansa Stark is married to and then brutally raped by Ramsey Bolton, the son of her father’s former bannerman.61 In response to criticism that the show goes too far in its portrayal of sexual violence, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss often shift the blame to the books: Benioff and Weiss have, of course, frequently been asked to talk about the amount and type of sex on the show. Again, they frequently gesture back to the books or the Middle Ages as justification for both the sex and sexual violence. … Weiss claims that reducing either would have done a “disservice to the reality and groundedness of George’s vision.” Both showrunners claim that the books have more gratuitous sex than the show.62

Whereas Martin points to history to justify his portrayal of sexual violence, the Game of Thrones showrunners point to Martin and the “reality” of his work, thereby demonstrating how powerful a tool such claims of historicization can be. There are, of course, numerous arguments against Martin’s claims to truth and historical accuracy. First and foremost is that our access to the Middle Ages specifically and to history in general is always limited. Martin’s argument (and Benioff and Weiss’s support for his argument) that his work faithfully captures history implicitly considers history itself to be accessible; yet, as Shiloh Carroll neatly summarizes: As many scholars of medievalism have demonstrated, it is impossible to truly know the Middle Ages and thus to judge the authenticity of any medievalist text. As David Matthews argues, all postmedieval versions of the Middle Ages are invented, and the link between medieval studies and medievalism is often fluid and blurred.63

60 Anne Gjelsvik, “Unspeakable Acts of (Sexual) Terror As/In Quality Television,” in Women of Ice and Fire: Gender, Game of Thrones, and Multiple Media Engagements, ed. Anne Gjelsvik and Rikke Schubart (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 60. 61 Game of Thrones, season 5, episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” directed by Jeremy Podeswa, written by Bryan Cogman, aired May 17, 2015, on HBO. 62 Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire, 170. 63 Ibid., 182. Carroll refers to David Matthews, Medievalism: A Critical History (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2015), 168. See also Chapter 1 of this book.

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If even medievalists question the possibility of accessing the Middle Ages, we should perhaps hesitate before taking Martin at his word that he himself can not only access them, but also translate them cleanly into fantasy fiction. Indeed, even if one were to accept history as something that can be unproblematically accessed, there are nevertheless issues with the logistics of Martin’s world. As historian Gillian Polack writes: Looking at Game of Thrones with a historian’s gaze is quite different from seeing it through a fan’s eyes. To a historian, Martin’s world is not believable. It is in fact preposterous in places. Why does the Great Hall in a castle that is heated by natural hot springs need a fire so big and bellowing that one cannot breathe? How can an economy operate on gold and iron coinage? The standard in the Middle Ages was in fact silver. Where does the knowledge of platinum come from, when its existence and use were not common in Europe until well after the Middle Ages? How does Cersei’s double‐decker wheelhouse, too big to get through castle gates, move over narrow and badly kept roads? Why are artistic representations of human faces dependent on non‐medieval conventions of realism?64

While these details might seem small, they are important to consider when evaluating claims of historical accuracy based partly on the idea that the more detailed the social structures, the more closely those structures resemble truth and history. Most importantly, it is vital to remember that A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, for all of their medievalist cultural references and allusions to history, are fantasy. As Helen Young suggests, the work at hand is to address “the question of historical authenticity as it pertains to representations of the Middle Ages, not to examine whether or not any such claim is true, but to interrogate why they are so significant to authors and readers of a genre which by definition creates imagined worlds.”65 As regards A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, the question then shifts from “Is this work historically accurate?” to “What is at stake in claiming that this work of neomedieval fantasy is historically accurate?” In some ways such claims are part and parcel of the nature of medievalist texts that skew towards the neomedieval, which are – as we saw in Chapter 3 – characterized by a propensity to displace or replace 64 Gillian Polack, “Setting up Westeros: The Medievalesque World of Game of Thrones,” in Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 251–2. 65 Young, Race and Fantasy Literature, 63.

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reality.66 It is therefore no surprise that projects like A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, with their extensive intertextual world-building, should result in a simulacrum of the medieval that seems to some audiences to be more medieval than the Middle Ages themselves. And yet, there is much at stake when such claims of historicity carry with them the message that violence and rape are necessary components of authenticity. As purveyors of fantasy, Martin, Benioff, and Weiss have much freedom in what they choose to include in their neomedieval worlds; justifying every choice they make – especially those that perpetuate practices such as rape – as necessary for historical accuracy is simply a way to offload responsibility for what are in essence creative decisions. Furthermore, because audiences have been conditioned to interpret certain signs – such as grit – as reflecting historical accuracy, the repetition of certain signs alongside authorial claims of historicity compound themselves into a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. As Shiloh Carroll observes: These claims are circular – they influence the imaginations and medievalist thought patterns of the fans, who then argue that the Middle Ages was a time of gritty violence, which then influences popular culture to further use violence and rape as “markers of medieval authenticity.” Such claims allow the writers to avoid taking responsibility for the choices they make about the show and to continue without examining the reasons why they find violence, rape, and abuse just as important in creating a Middle Ages as are the tropes of feudalism, armor, and weapons.67

The categorization of actions such as violence and rape with established medievalist tropes such as armor and weapons may seem fitting – armor and weapons are, in fact, tools of war – yet one would argue that the potential effects of these two types of tropes are very different. Audiences who embrace medieval armor and weaponry may, for instance, take up blacksmithing or participate in cosplay or staged tournaments, but such armor and weapons are not used for present-day military action. Sexualized violence and rape, on the other hand, are contemporary problems as much as they might be medieval ones, and their normalization and perpetuation through fantasy fiction is not likely to help matters,

66 See, for instance, MEMO’s definition of neomedievalism, which I include in full in Chapter 1. 67 Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire, 180.

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and indeed has the potential to trigger painful memories for audience members who have survived such trauma. As I have noted above, Martin has claimed that A Song of Ice and Fire is based on the tenet that “The true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too).”68 And yet, for all his jibes at “orcs and Dark Lords” (ostensibly aimed at Tolkien) and claims that humans “are the monsters,” by the end of season 7 Game of Thrones has seen the human game of thrones severely disrupted by an incoming invasion of White Walkers. In place of a “Dark Lord,” the White Walkers are led by the “Night King,” who may at one time have been human but is now literally an Other.69 As we will see below, Martin’s claims that humans are “the heroes too” is also questionable, as it seems likely that one of the keys to defeating the monsters will be the nobility’s hereditary ability to control dragons: yet another kind of mythical – and medievalist – monster made real. The “Blood of the Dragon” and the Right to Rule As I note at the beginning of this chapter, dragons are found in both medieval literature and myth, and medievalist and neomedieval fantasy; at the beginning of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, they have also faded into myth in Westeros and Essos. Yet, by the end of season 6 of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen is crossing the Narrow Sea from Essos to Westeros with three grown dragons at her command, along with an army consisting of both the Dothraki and “the Unsullied,” or former enslaved warriors whom Daenerys has freed. Daenerys’s arrival is preceded by rumors about herself and her dragons. Regarding these rumors, Carol Jamison observes a multiplicity of narratives in Westeros:

68 Martin, “George R. R. Martin on ‘Game of Thrones’ and Sexual Violence.” 69 In Game of Thrones, season 6, episode 5, “The Door” (directed by Jack Bender, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired May 22, 2016, on HBO) it is revealed that the children of the forest inadvertently created the White Walkers / Others in an attempt gain an advantage in their skirmishes with the humans who had migrated to Westeros. It is unclear whether or not the Night King is this first White Walker. For an excellent take on the colonization of Westeros, see Shiloh Carroll, “Barbarian Colonizers and Postcolonialism in Westeros and Britain,” in Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, ed. Brian A. Pavlac (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 73–84.

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Novices at the Citadel discuss the rumors of dragons told by various sailors: ‘The tales are not the same,’ insists Armen. ‘Dragons in Asshai, dragons in Qarth, dragons in Mereen, Dothraki dragons, dragons freeing slaves … each telling differs from the last.’ Martin’s own narrative about Daenerys’ dragons is redoubled by the multi-layered fictional accounts of dragons that make their way across the Narrow Sea to Westeros.70

Daenerys is myth made real before she even arrives; however, as with the White Walkers, the rumors and myths about Daenerys’s dragons are not taken seriously until she lands in Westeros and demonstrates what her dragons and armies can do on a battlefield. Her arrival in season 7 roughly coincides with a wider acceptance of the threat of the White Walkers (largely due to the efforts of Jon Snow), leading Cersei Lannister to state “The monsters are real. The White Walkers, the dragons, the Dothraki screamers. All the frightening stories we heard when we were young.”71 In this way, many of the medievalist myths of Westeros are brought into the present, and through them the audience experiences reflections of our own history and myth – especially those that concern dragons – come to life. This revival is accomplished, however, through very specific mechanics of nobility and inheritance that allow a figure like Daenerys to transform herself from child bride to dragon queen, and which make her believe that it is her birthright – as the “blood of the dragon” – to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Some of these mechanics deal with recognizable concepts such as family identity and succession to a title; other mechanics of inheritance, however, take medievalist tropes such as nobility and heredity and reinscribe them with fantastic meaning beyond their function in actual medieval history. As a result, A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, in spite of their claims to history and “groundedness,” and regardless of the grittiness of their medievalism, nevertheless cling to the essentializing ideas of blood inheritance typical of both medieval romance and the types of medievalist fantasy Martin ostensibly eschews. With a class system roughly based on feudalism, lineage among the Westerosi nobility is important. Shiloh Carroll notes, “Concerns about 70 Jamison, “Reading Westeros,” 141. For more on the relationship between medieval and Westerosi ideas about dragons, see Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 40–3; see also Larrington, Winter is Coming, 49–53. 71 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” directed by Jeremy Podeswa, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired August 27, 2017, on HBO.

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dynastic stability and the true heritage of children, especially heirs, run deeply through A Song of Ice and Fire.”72 This concern plays out most clearly in the chaos that ensues when the legitimacy of Cersei’s children is questioned (they are, in fact, fathered by Cersei’s twin brother, Jaime, rather than by her husband and king, Robert Baratheon), thus beginning the series of wars for the Iron Throne. In some cases legitimacy seems less important, and it is notable that recognized noble bastards are given a special status in Westeros, along with a special surname corresponding to the area of Westeros in which they are born. Jon Snow, for instance, takes the surname of noble bastards of the North, as he is not allowed to use Ned Stark’s surname, although Ned is initially thought to be his father. In spite of his status as a bastard, in season 6 Jon is able to rally the North (with the aid of Sansa Stark) against Ramsey Bolton, and after a slim victory is proclaimed King in the North. As Lyanna Mormont, who has inherited the northern stronghold of Bear Island, argues on his behalf, “I don’t care if he’s a bastard. Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins.”73 The military victory, together with a blood connection to House Stark, are enough to secure Jon a title and an army. Blood connections to prominent houses even figure strongly for members of the Night’s Watch, in spite of the vows that they take to leave their family ties behind. When Maester Aemon passes away at Castle Black, Samwell Tarly’s eulogy reminds everyone that he was a Targaryen, the “blood of the dragon.”74 The nobility of Westeros do not just inherit lands and titles; almost all of the noble houses are identifiable by physical traits, many of which include extraordinary beauty. As Carol Jamison notes in her discussion of how the concept of “franchise,” or “greatness of blood,” translates to Westeros, “proper bloodline is manifested in the outstanding physical appearance and impeccable behavior that set the nobility above and apart.”75 Such use of beauty as a defining characteristic of the nobility is common in both medieval and fantasy literature, but even in a narrative where most of the main characters are noble (and beautiful), the appearance of members of some of the great houses of Westeros stand out. The Lannisters, for instance, are known for their golden hair, and the Baratheons 72 Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire, 34. 73 Game of Thrones, season 6, episode 10, “The Winds of Winter.” 74 Game of Thrones, season 5, episode 7, “The Gift,” directed by Miguel Sapochnik, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired May 17, 2015, on HBO. 75 Jamison, Chivalry in Westeros, 62.

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for their black hair; one of the clues that leads Ned Stark to discover that Cersei Lannister’s children are not also Robert Baratheon’s is that they are all blond, while Robert’s many bastards take after their father. The Targaryens are also known for their striking and unusual appearance. In A Song of Ice and Fire this includes silver-gold hair and violet eyes; Game of Thrones translates this to silver-white hair and blue eyes. Notably these traits in the Targaryens are the result of centuries of deliberate inbreeding in which brother married sister in order to preserve their inherited abilities with dragons. As Martin describes in Fire and Blood, the “Doctrine of Exceptionalism” was promoted by the septons in Westeros to explain why incest was allowed for the Targaryens only: Its basic tenet was simple … the Targaryens were different. Their roots were not in Andalos, but in Valyria of old, where different laws and traditions held sway. A man had only to look at them to know that they were not like other men; their eyes, their hair, their very bearing, all proclaimed their differences. And they flew dragons. They alone of all the men in the world had been given the power to tame those fearsome beasts, once the Doom had come to Valyria.76

Both their distinctive appearance and their ability to control dragons set the Targaryens apart from the people of Westeros; maintaining these qualities became a justification for the Targaryens to continue the separation from one generation to the next, resulting in the ongoing practice of brother–sister marriage. Although the practice was forbidden throughout the rest of Westeros, Cersei Lannister invokes this Targaryen practice in defense of her relationship with Jaime. While the inheritance of titles, lands, and physical traits (even beauty) fits with medievalist realism, A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones translate blood inheritance into destiny. In some cases the fate of characters is revealed or even changed through the use of blood. In a flashback scene in season 5 of Game of Thrones Cersei Lannister visits “Maggy the Frog” – a “maegi,” or witch – and demands that Maggy tell her future. Maggy asks for “Your blood. Give me a taste.” Cersei cuts her finger and lets Maggy taste the blood, resulting in the following prophetic exchange: CERSEI: I’ve been promised to the prince. When will we marry? MAGGY: You will never wed the prince. You’ll wed a king. CERSEI: But I will be queen. 76 Martin, Fire and Blood, 192–3.

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MAGGY: Oh yes. You’ll be queen. For a time. Then comes another. Younger. More beautiful. To cast you down and take all you hold dear. CERSEI: Will the king and I have children? MAGGY: The king will have twenty children. And you will have three. CERSEI: That doesn’t make sense. MAGGY: Gold will be their crowns. Gold, their shrouds.77

By the end of season 7, most of Maggy’s prophecies have come true, indicating that this blood-reading worked: Cersei becomes queen, shares no children with Robert, and sees all three of her golden-haired children die horrible deaths. Having assumed the throne in her own right, she finds herself eager to defend it against all rivals, including the much younger Daenerys Targaryen. The Targaryens see the right to rule as part of their birthright as the “blood of the dragon,” which is what allegedly gives them the ability to withstand fire and control dragons. These abilities are tested in both Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen early on in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Having married Daenerys to Khal Drogo in exchange for Drogo’s military support in his bid to conquer Westeros, Viserys becomes impatient. Drunk, he violates Dothraki custom, threatens the life of Daenerys and her unborn son, and demands the “golden crown” Drogo has promised him. As Drogo responds by preparing to give him an actual golden crown (by having molten gold poured on his head), Viserys cries, “You cannot touch me. I am the dragon. I am the dragon. I want my crown.” As the gold is poured over Viserys’s head, killing him, Daenerys concludes, “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”78 Viserys’s failure in both character and blood inheritance is reflected in Daenerys’s own triumph against both fire and death. Having lost her unborn child and Khal Drogo to treacherous “blood magic,” Daenerys sets her fossilized dragon eggs, the traitor, and herself upon Drogo’s funeral pyre. After the flames clear, Daenerys emerges unburnt, and some combination of

77 Game of Thrones, season 5, episode 1, “The Wars to Come,” directed by Michael Slovis, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired April 12, 2015, on HBO. 78 Game of Thrones, season 1, episode 6, “A Golden Crown,” directed by Daniel Minahan, written by Jane Espenson, David Benioff, and D. B. Weiss, aired May 22, 2011, on HBO.

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blood magic from the sacrificed traitor and her own inherited abilities has brought the fossilized dragons to life.79 If Daenerys’s demonstrated abilities serve as a Targaryen “litmus test,” they also mirror medieval(ist) narratives, such as those involving King Arthur and the sword in the stone, in which a noble’s true parentage and inheritance is revealed. In Daenerys’s case, her hatched dragons also become surrogates for her lost family, as she refers to them as “her children” and names them Rhaegal, Viserion, and Drogon: variations on the names of her deceased brothers, Rhaegar and Viserys, and her husband, Drogo. As they grow Daenerys trains them to use their dragon fire as a weapon (using the Valyrian word “dracarys” as the command to attack with dragon fire), and eventually learns to ride Drogon. These abilities put Daenerys on a par with the Targaryen queens of old, who, as Kavita Mudan Finn notes, drew power from their lineage and their dragons: The Targaryen queens held a great deal of power since, as blood relatives to the king, their bloodlines were equal to his. More importantly, they had dragons. Dragons are a gender equalizer, as queens and kings, princes, princesses, and royal bastards alike ride their fiery mounts to battle – more often than not to their deaths.80

The connection between Targaryens and dragons is so strong, in fact, that dragons can recognize Targaryen blood where humans do not. In season 7 of Game of Thrones, Daenerys, now in the midst of her war for the Seven Kingdoms and having tentatively allied with Jon Snow as King in the North, enters the scene riding Drogon, and lands on a cliff where Jon is waiting. Although there is no dialogue, we see Drogon approach Jon cautiously. Drogon growls and snarls at first, then appears to sniff or smell Jon, who removes his glove and offers his hand to Drogon. Drogon 79 Game of Thrones, season 1, episode 10, “Fire and Blood,” directed by Alan Taylor, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired June 19, 2011, on HBO. The Red Priestess Melisandre also practices blood magic, in one case requiring the blood of Robert Baratheon’s heirs, in another demanding the sacrifice of Stannis Baratheon’s daughter, Shireen. While the effectiveness of her magic is questionable, she does manage to bring Jon Snow back to life after he is betrayed and murdered by some members of the Night’s Watch. 80 Finn, “High and Mighty Queens,” 22. Although the plotline is omitted from Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire also sees Quentyn Martell, who claims some Targaryen blood, attempt to ride one of Daenerys’s dragons. He is fatally burned by dragon fire, indicating that he, like Viserys, “was no dragon.” See Martin, A Dance with Dragons, 972–84.

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approaches, and then allows Jon to caress him. It appears that he accepts/ recognizes that Jon is a Targaryen, a fact that is revealed through other means at the end of the season.81 Although Daenerys Targaryen considers the Iron Throne to be her birthright, she has a very negative view of the class system in Westeros. As Cersei Lannister observes, “From what I gather she considers herself more revolutionary than monarch.”82 Indeed, Daenerys herself, in a conversation with Tyrion Lannister (who supports Daenerys’s claim to the throne and becomes her Hand of the Queen), describes the Westerosi game of thrones as a wheel to be broken: DAENERYS: Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell: they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top and on and on it spins crushing those on the ground. TYRION: It’s a beautiful dream, stopping the wheel. You’re not the first person who’s ever dreamt it. DAENERYS: I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.83

The conversation reflects Daenerys’s propensity to disrupt social systems that she sees as unjust, and to do so, if necessary, with violence. For instance, in Essos she obtains her army of Unsullied soldiers after freeing them from slave masters who proposed to sell them to her in exchange for Drogon, one of her dragons. Their freedom is bought when, after making the exchange, Daenerys gives Drogon the command “dracarys,” thereby unleashing dragon fire on the slave masters; she simultaneously frees the Unsullied, who then swear allegiance to her and fight against their former captors.84 Daenerys comes by the majority of her Dothraki soldiers when she burns a gathering of their leaders who threaten to harm 81 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 5, “Eastwatch,” directed by Matt Shakman, written by Dave Hill, aired August 13, 2017, on HBO. In season 7, episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” it is revealed that Jon Snow is the legitimate son of Ned Stark’s sister, Lyanna, and Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s brother). Unaware of their blood relationship, Jon and Daenerys enter into a romantic relationship. 82 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice.” 83 Game of Thrones, season 5, episode 8, “Hardhome,” directed by Miguel Sapochnik, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired May 31, 2015, on HBO. 84 Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 4, “And Now His Watch Is Ended,” directed by Alex Graves, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired April 21, 2013, on HBO.

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her for refusing to behave in the way they expect from a khal’s widow. Similar to her emergence from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, she steps from the fire naked and unscathed, having freed herself and the other widowed khaleesis from the will of the khals.85 As Rikke Schubart has observed, there is a messianic dimension to the way the HBO series portrays Daenerys, especially in scenes where she has walked through fire or disrupted repressive social structures.86 This element is problematized, however, by Daenerys’s identity as a Westerosi noble attempting to liberate what she sees as an oppressive and backwards Essos; the casting in the HBO series further exacerbates the “white savior” dimension of Daenerys’s actions. Shiloh Carroll keenly explains: Perhaps the most notorious instance of racial portrayals is in “Mhysa” (3.10), in which Daenerys is lifted above a crowd of primarily non-white former slaves in celebration. While this can be (and has been) dismissed as a quirk of casting extras in Morocco, with the “white savior” overtones already present in the narrative, this caused much controversy. In the books, the slavery system is not racial, but based on conquest and poverty; people of all races and skin colors appear in slave pens, fighting pits, brothels, and slave-owning households of Slavers Bay and Pentos. In the show, the slavers are primarily lighter-skinned, whereas the slaves are primarily darker-skinned, and although there is no diegetic explanation for this tendency, it creates a troubling visual effect and carries connotations of the sort of racially based slavery that existed in the West from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.87

This framing of Daenerys and her socio-political agenda, while certainly not the only instance in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones where colonialist and racist characterizations come into play, demonstrates how easily oppressive practices external to a text can creep into medievalist narratives, thereby making claims of historical accuracy all the more dangerous.88 85 Game of Thrones, season 6, episode 4, “The Book of the Stranger,” directed by Daniel Sackheim, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired May 15, 2016, on HBO. 86 Schubart, “Woman with Dragons,” 120–2. 87 Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire, 174–5. See also ibid., 127–30, on “Daenerys as White Savior” in A Song of Ice and Fire. 88 For more on the representation of race and colonization in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, see Young, Race and Fantasy Literature, “The Real Middle Ages: Gritty Fantasy,” 63–87; Carroll, Medievalism in A Song of Ice and

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While Daenerys’s intentions for Westeros may be partially liberatory, her approach is one of conquest that mirrors that of her ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, who took Westeros 300 years before with the aid of three dragons. The dragons themselves are weapons unlike anything any living person in Westeros has ever seen; even Daenerys must learn first-hand about the complications they bring to a socio-political system. Although she uses them to help conquer places in Essos, for example the city of Mereen (and to free the Mereenese slaves), their nature leads them to fly about the countryside consuming livestock and even humans. While useful for conquest, dragons may be a liability for anyone attempting actual rule, in spite of the military power they represent.89 There are also ethical dilemmas that arise from the actual deployment of dragons for conquest, which are complicated by Daenerys’s Targaryen lineage. While Daenerys is descended from Aegon the Conqueror, she is more recently related to her father, Aerys II, called “the Mad King.” Posited as a possible result of the centuries of inbreeding meant to keep blood-based abilities strong, Aerys’s insanity manifested in autocratic executions of his subjects (including Ned Stark’s father and older brother). When Robert Baratheon’s rebellion threatened to prove successful, Aerys attempted to burn the capital city of King’s Landing and its inhabitants rather than surrender it. As Jaime Lannister, who earned the nickname “Kingslayer” for stopping this mass execution, recounts, “‘Burn them all he kept saying. Burn them all.’ I don’t think he expected to die. He meant to burn with the rest of us and rise again reborn as a dragon to turn his enemies to ash. I slit his throat to make sure that didn’t happen.”90 The manifestation of Aerys’s insanity, combined with the fact that he almost realized such terrible destruction even without the aid of dragons (as by his time they had died out), is taken up by Daenerys’s advisors as cause for concern regarding her own state of mind. The first test of how Daenerys will use her own power comes after she has been outmaneuvered by the Lannister armies and is considering an attack on King’s Landing. In a conversation with Jon Snow, she states, “I’m Fire, “Postcolonialism, Slavery, and the Great White Hope,” 107–30; and Hardy, “The Eastern Question,” 97–109. For an excellent discussion of race and racism in the Middle Ages, see Geraldine Heng, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018). 89 In this way dragons in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones resemble the One Ring in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. 90 Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 5, “Kissed by Fire,” directed by Alex Graves, written by Bryan Cogman, aired April 28, 2013, on HBO.

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at war. I’m losing. What do you think I should do?” His reply captures both his own faith in Daenerys’s inherited abilities and his argument that she should not take after her father: I never thought that dragons would exist again. No one did. The people who follow you know that you made something impossible happen. Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen. Build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known. But if you use them to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different. You’re just more of the same.91

Daenerys takes Jon’s advice, and instead of attacking Cersei at King’s Landing, she goes after the Lannister armies. The scene is a powerful one, as it reveals just how potent a weapon dragons can be in war. With the combination of Drogon’s dragon fire and her Dothraki warriors, Daenerys wins the day, and then offers her captives the option to “bend the knee” (swear allegiance to her) or be executed: I know what Cersei has told you. That I’ve come to destroy your cities, burn down your homes, murder you, and orphan your children. That’s Cersei Lannister, not me. I’m not here to murder. And all I want to destroy is the wheel that has rolled over rich and poor to the benefit of nobody but the Cersei Lannisters of the world. I offer you a choice. Bend the knee and join me. Together we will leave the world a better place than we found it. Or refuse and die.92

While most of the captives join Daenerys, she executes two nobles who refuse. While this causes additional concerns among her advisors about what the show posits as a potential inherited susceptibility to madness – and certainly complicates the liberatory part of her plans – her argument that such a display resulted in less bloodshed by encouraging the rest of the captives to bend the knee is logically sound. This spectacle of execution by dragon fire provides further proof that dragons are powerful tools both for destruction and for conversion. Part of their power, of course, lies in their exclusivity. So long as Daenerys controls the only dragons in the Known World, they are a distinct advantage; however, Daenerys unknowingly loses this advantage at the 91 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 4, “The Spoils of War,” directed by Matt Shakman, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, aired August 6, 2017, on HBO. 92 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 5, “Eastwatch.”

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end of season 7. Flying north of the Wall with her dragons to rescue Jon Snow, Daenerys at first has some success against the White Walkers and their wights, who can be killed by fire. The character of the battle changes, however, when the Night King kills Viserion with an ice spear – a feat that even the former maester Qyburn could not accomplish with spears of metal. Daenerys grieves for the loss of one of her “children,” but what she does not see – though the audience does – is that the Night King raises Viserion in ice-zombie form. Whether through his human ancestry or through the power afforded to him as a White Walker, the Night King is able to ride Viserion, and eventually uses the zombie dragon fire to bring down part of the Wall. In short, while Daenerys could hold the best weapons against the White Walkers – the primary threat to all human life in Westeros – she has, instead, handed them the means of crossing the Wall to begin their invasion. Daenerys, of course, has no way of knowing that one of her dragons could be used against her, though, as Martin suggests, a better understanding of history may have been useful. In an interview regarding the prequel Fire and Blood, which details the history of Targaryen conquest and rule in Westeros, Martin notes: This is a book that Daenerys might actually benefit from reading, but she has no access to Archmaester Gyldayn’s crumbling manuscripts. So she’s operating on her own there. Maybe if she understood a few things more about dragons and her own history, in Essos things would have gone a little differently.93

While she may not have access to the entirety of her family’s history, Daenerys knows enough to understand one of the reasons they lost power. Observing the “dragon pits” at King’s Landing, where earlier Targaryens penned up their dragons to keep them in check, and remembering the problems she had after letting her own dragons loose in Mereen, Daenerys observes, “A dragon is not a slave …. [They] were terrifying. Extraordinary. They filled people with wonder and awe, and we locked them in here. They wasted away. Grew very small. And we grew small as well. We weren’t extraordinary without them. We were just like everyone else.”94 93 Matt Miller, “George R. R. Martin Says His New Book Has Some Valuable Information for Daenerys,” Esquire.com, November 20, 2018, https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a25228296/ george-rr-martin-fire-and-blood-daenerys/. 94 Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf.”

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While she does seem to understand the dangers of wielding dragons as weapons, Daenerys also sees the inherited connection to dragons as the most important and defining characteristic of House Targaryen and the one that most strongly supports their right to rule. Whether or not a Targaryen – be it Daenerys or Jon Snow, newly revealed as her half-Targaryen, half-Stark nephew – assumes this rule will be telling, as will the role that dragons play as all the people of Westeros defend themselves against the no-longer-mythical Night King. In legitimating myths of inheritance – in asserting that the nobility really do have some special qualities that legitimize their rule – Martin reinscribes typical medievalist fantasy tropes even as he vows to reject them. As much as Martin tries to frame both Daenerys and Jon as potentially using their Targaryen blood for the good of humankind, he nevertheless falls back on the typical fantasy tropes in which lineage is everything, and where the right bloodline comes with the power to raise and control mythical beasts. To my mind this contradicts A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones’s “gritty fantasy medievalism as history” argument, as it harkens back to the romanticized iterations of medievalism that the allegedly realistic violence and rape is meant to counter. While there are members of the A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones audiences who may prefer the inclusion of such brutality, and still others who follow the series in spite of these elements, I suspect that Martin’s success may have less to do with the violence and grittiness of his neomedieval world, and more to do with the promise of a neomedieval world where, even if institutions like history and chivalry have failed, some force can bring magic and dragons back to life. The realities of Westeros place this power to wield magic and control dragons in the hands of the few, and this proves to be a deeply alluring subject position: indeed, Daenerys Targaryen is one of the “fan favorites” among A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones characters. The appeal of this position – to be the person who has the right to rule a neomedieval kingdom, the power to wield magic, and the ability to control dragons – will be explored more thoroughly in the next chapter.

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III PLAYING NEOMEDIEVALISM

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5 Magic: The Gathering and the Markets of Neomedievalism

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hile instances of medievalism are constructed through various media, some of the most intricate and complex manifestations of these constructions appear in the form of games that range from one-person video games designed for solitary entertainment to more traditional role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons (1974), which require a group of participants to work cooperatively towards a common goal. Among these games, Magic: The Gathering, first introduced in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, is a popular card game that incorporates medievalist tropes to create, through play, an imaginary socio-economic setting in which players are positioned as “planeswalkers,” or powerful mages, who draw upon the power of the land to summon creatures and conjure spells. Players use these creatures and spells to destroy their opponents and win when they are the “last wizard standing.”1 Each land, creature, and spell appears individually on a card that contains its name, an illustration, any relative information regarding play abilities or costs, and “flavor text” comprising snippets of descriptive or narrative text that further develop the entity depicted on the card.2 Players choose from among thousands of cards when constructing decks 1 For more information regarding the rules and game mechanics of Magic: The Gathering and its online version, see “Magic: The Gathering Rules,” Wizards of the Coast, accessed November 11, 2014, https://magic.wizards.com/ en/game-info/gameplay/rules-and-formats/rules. 2 Wizards of the Coast provides an online database of all cards (including images). See “Gatherer,” Wizards of the Coast, accessed November 30, 2018, http://gatherer.wizards.com/. All subsequent references to cards point to this database. For a basic land card, see “Forest,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/ Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=401682. For an exemplary creature card, see “Arcades Sabbath,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details. aspx?multiverseid=201177. For an exemplary spell card, see “Detainment Spell,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=116728.

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for gameplay, although the number of cards in a deck can be restricted in certain types of play. Introduced in 2001, Magic: Online is a computer version of the traditional Magic: The Gathering game that employs virtual cards and online forums for game and tournament play. Gameplay in Magic: Online works similarly to that of its paper-based counterpart, with the physical “gathering” of players and its requisite social component replaced by virtual online interactions among players. Although one could dismiss both forms of Magic as mere entertainment, an analysis of the game and its history reveals a dynamic blend of the modern and postmodern that have ultimately yielded a fantastic alternate reality that distinctly invokes the concept of neomedievalism that lies at the heart of this book. Magic furthermore reveals the unique relationship between such neomedieval forms and capitalism, as the game effectively creates a fantastic or magical setting through its ability to foster the illusion of a non-capitalist socio-economic situation. This chapter therefore begins with an overview of how Magic constructs its players as “wizards,” but also appears to imagine them as medieval lords whose ownership of land allows them to operate from positions of power within a feudal system.3 A closer look at the internal economy of the game, however, shows that the use of medievalism in Magic merely creates the illusion of the socio-economic conditions of feudalism in order to mask the game’s inherent capitalist values. I then argue that the real significance of this illusion lies in its translation to the external economy of the game, in which players become consumers of a highly fetishized commodity that appears to offer a reprieve from capitalist society. In creating and maintaining this illusion of a feudal society for commodity consumption, Magic’s designers have incorporated various 3 The precise nature of the term “feudalism” is contentious in both medieval studies and Marxian discourse, and is used here with the understanding that one cannot do so lightly. Most medievalists tentatively use the term as posited by Marc Bloch in his seminal study Feudal Society, trans. L. A. Manyon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961; the original French was published in two volumes between 1939 and 1940). Here I use it in the stricter Marixian sense to refer to the mode of production believed to have preceded capitalism in locations such as western Europe. For an excellent critical study of feudalism and its understanding of the medieval–modern divide, see Kathleen Davis, Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time (Philadelphia: University Press of Pennsylvania, 2008). For a summary of Marxian debates on the relationship of feudalism to capitalism, see Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origins of Capitalism: A Longer View (London and New York: Verso, 2002).

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medieval visual tropes and cultural markers, ranging throughout the game’s production from traditionally Eurocentric tokens of the Middle Ages to a more integrated and varied image of the medieval that embraces neomedieval impulses. Accordingly, this chapter concludes with an examination of this shift with a focus on the influences of both the introduction of the online medium and the spreading influence of globalization; by explicating the illusory potential and prospect of control offered by a game such as Magic, this chapter ultimately demonstrates how neomedievalist critique is key in analyzing the consumer-driven influences on a capitalist society’s understanding of the medieval itself. The Game and Its Economies: Medievalism as Escape For the purposes of this examination, it is useful to outline a rough definition of the genre in which Magic operates: a genre one could accurately call “medievalist fantasy” and which, as I discuss in Chapter 2, is heavily influenced by the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien. A primary characteristic of this genre is an overall technological limitation that mimics those perceived as premodern (e.g., lack of electricity, nuclear energy, and computers); compensation for these limitations emerge through the presence of “magic” that has the power to animate the inorganic and enact other such changes in the world. With concepts of progress grounded in magic rather than technology, medievalist fantasy typically bases its culture in constructs of the European Middle Ages, including social demarcations such as knights, artisans, peasants, and a nobility; physical settings such as castles, keeps, inns, rural villages, and thatch-roofed cities; and clothing, armor, war tactics, weapons, and customs perceived as “medieval.” With this, medievalist fantasy blends fictional elements from folklore, legend, mythology, literature, and religion; it is from here we see elves, trolls, angels, demons, dragons, wizards, and mages enter the picture, along with concepts and roles that have developed over this genre’s history. As we saw in Chapter 4, this history may have its roots in the medieval period it emulates, as Arthurian Legend has given us Merlin and even Beowulf battled a dragon, but other aspects, such as halflings and rogues, have become canonical through the contributions of later literary and cultural phenomena such as Tolkien’s Middle-earth and countless games of Dungeons & Dragons. While Magic draws on the medievalist fantasy genre for many of its conceptual structures and visual representations, the internal economy created through gameplay is unique to Magic. Each player nominally

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assumes the role of a powerful wizard, but the internal structure of Magic also appears to situate the player in a feudalistic society, as the game revolves around the ownership of land. Land cards provide each player with a combination of five basic colors of “mana,” a mystical substance that one must expend in order to “cast” creature or spell cards.4 Thus, a player cannot use any other type of card without first drawing and playing an adequate number of land cards from the player’s randomly shuffled deck comprising land, creature, and spell cards, and putting a sufficient number of land cards into play. As some spells require specific colors of mana that are produced only by certain types of land, a player must also accumulate the correct types of land in order to cast most spells. Furthermore, as game rules allow a player to place only one land card into play per turn, the availability of land cards, while ultimately reliant on the supply a player has in his or her deck, is, in the beginning of a game, regulated so as to allow all players a turn or two before potentially being overpowered by a player fortunate enough to draw an ideal combination of cards. Land ownership, indeed, proves so vital to the proper functioning of the game that if one does not draw a land card before one’s first turn, one may call a “mulligan,” reshuffle, and redraw. While magic serves as the explicit force under which the mechanics of the game function, this necessity of land to competitive play creates an illusion of participation in a feudal society, in which the player is a feudal lord retaining loyal vassals via landed property, as land becomes the basis for all economic relations in an implicitly medieval game world. The appeal of the illusion of feudalism created by the game is complemented by the placement of each player in a position of power within the game. All players assume the roles of wizards in full command of the land, creatures, and spell cards within their decks, and, within the illusion of feudalism, all players additionally appear to assume the roles of feudal lords. The game, then, creates not only the opportunity for each player to perform the role of powerful wizard and feudal lord, but also places all players in equally powerful roles, constructing a sense of equality within the internal economy of the game. 4 “Mana” is not to be confused with the biblical “manna from heaven.” While the OED defines “mana” as “Power, authority, or prestige; spec. (in Polynesian and Melanesian religions) an impersonal supernatural power which can be associated with people or with objects and which can be transmitted or inherited,” Magic takes the name more directly from fantasy fiction and gaming culture, which associates it with a quantity of expendable magic resources or, especially in the case of gaming, points.

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Both the construction of players as part of a powerful feudal ruling class, and their placement in positions of equality, contribute to the game’s appeal to the external capitalist world in which it is a commodity. In examining the appeal of feudalism to a player whose life external to the game is structured by a capitalist economy, it is first useful to explain some of the key differences in the ways class, labor, and social relations function and are represented in feudalism and capitalism. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels posit in The Communist Manifesto, one key difference between capitalism and earlier economic forms lies in the number of class positions. Of pre-capitalist class divisions they write: In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.5

Feudalism offers a range of class positions as well as the possibility of varying forms of class antagonism among its numerous classes. Capitalism, on the other hand, has “simplified class antagonisms,” through society’s division into only two classes: the “bourgeoisie,” or owners of the means of production, and the “proletariat,” or workers.6 This limits the class positions available to members of society, for every member of society who engages in capitalist production does so as either an owner or a worker. Likewise, capitalist class antagonism is concentrated in the conflict between these two classes.7 Although class divisions differ from feudalism to capitalism, both feudal and capitalist owners rely on exploitation in order to acquire wealth. In both systems time spent by the worker is two-fold: for part of the work day the worker performs what Marx calls “necessary labor,” producing value equal to that which is needed to survive. The remainder of the work day is consumed with “surplus labor,” by which the worker produces value in excess of that required for his or her own subsistence, 5 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848; in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, vol. 6 (New York: International Publishers, 1976), 482. 6 Ibid., 485. 7 For details on the differences between the multi-class characteristics of feudalism and the dual-class characteristics of capitalism, see Marx and Engels, Manifesto, ch. 1.

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and is, in effect, producing profit for the owner.8 Surplus labor is the very root of exploitation for Marx, as it is the basis through which owners profit via the labor of workers. The key differences in the role surplus labor plays in feudalism and capitalism lie in the level of transparency of this exploitation. Consider the feudal lord who owns land and serfs who work the land. For part of their time laboring, the serfs are allowed to farm a portion of the land in order to provide for their own subsistence: this time is spent in necessary labor. For the remainder of the time laboring, the serfs are required to work the land for the lord. All products of this labor go directly to the lord: this is surplus labor. Because the lord has the military means to physically force the serfs to perform surplus labor, the lord is able to exact what Robert Brenner calls “surplus extraction by means of extra-economic compulsion.”9 There is therefore a clear demarcation between labor performed to provide for the serfs’ subsistence and that performed in service of the lord, as methods of extra-economic compulsion rely on the known threat of violence as a consequence for failing to pay what the lord claims is his due. The unpaid surplus labor expended for the lord is no less exploitative than that in a capitalist system, but in the case of feudalism class difference is clear, social relations of labor are explicit, and though the exploitative nature of the system itself may be naturalized, idealized, or enforced by the threat of violence, it is not concealed. In capitalism, the role of surplus labor and exploitation, the sources of the owner’s profit, is not as clear and obvious to the worker or the owner, although it is essential to capitalism itself. Consider workers who, in order to obtain the materials they need for their own sustenance, exchange labor power for a set rate (a wage), and the owner who purchases said labor power, along with other materials required for the production of commodities. The workers spend a fraction of the working day performing necessary labor by which they deposit into the commodities they produce value equal to that necessary for their subsistence – in this case represented by the value of their daily wage. The remainder of the workday, after they have produced the value of their own daily wage, is spent in surplus labor, as the value deposited into the commodities is 8 For more on necessary labor and surplus labor, see Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, 1867; in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, vol. 35 (New York: International Publishers, 1996), 225–6. 9 Robert Brenner, “The Agrarian Roots of European Capitalism,” Past and Present 97 (1982): 17.

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uncompensated and translates to profit for the owner. Although there are no open systems of extra-economic compulsion in play, the surplus labor of the capitalist worker is just as exploited as that of the feudal serf, yet in capitalism the exploitative nature of this arrangement is not direct or clear. Instead, the nature of wage labor (the agreement by which workers exchange their labor power for a set wage) presents this exploitative arrangement as a fair one. Exploitation is masked under the guise of free exchange and, although capitalist workers experience exploitation, they are required not only to continue to sell their labor power to survive, but to accept it as part of a fair agreement into which they enter freely.10 This exploitative social relation between owner and worker is thereby concealed by the seemingly fair contract of wage labor. In effect, wage labor transforms labor power itself into a commodity, a product that can be exchanged and which fulfills some need or want. As labor power becomes a commodity, the social relations between those who buy and sell it disappear beneath commodity exchange, the exchange of objects that, in having the power to elide social relations, become themselves mystifying and mystified. Marx calls this “commodity fetishism”: A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses …. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things …. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.11

Although items were produced and exchanged in a feudal economy, Marx sees the commodity fetish as particular to capitalism due to its mystifying nature: its ability to present relationships among people as relationships among objects. If this happens, class differences, which are based on each 10 Marx sees the conditions under which workers enter into this agreement as a representation of freedom and equality that conceals the unequal positions from which owners and workers operate. See Capital, 186. 11 Ibid., 82–3.

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individual’s role in production as either owner or producer, are hidden, as relationships among people are hidden beneath relationships among the objects, the commodities they produce and consume. This is unnecessary in feudalism, as social relationships are clear and exploitation is direct.12 In creating the illusion of feudalism, Magic appears to afford all players a reprieve from the exploitative capitalist system in which most of them operate outside the game. It allows them to willingly participate as the privileged class in an economic system different from that they inhabit in their daily lives, which is, for the most part, dictated by capitalism and offers no choice as to mode of production or one’s class position. In creating this fantasy of escape, Magic provides a space in which players can actively select their particular socio-economic circumstances. As Marx points out, such selection is not possible in the “real” world: Is man free to choose this or that form of society? By no means. If you assume a given state of development of man’s productive faculties, you will have a corresponding form of commerce and consumption. If you assume given stages of development in production, commerce or consumption, you will have a corresponding form of social constitution, a corresponding organisation, whether of the family, of the estates or of the classes – in a word, a corresponding civil society …. Needless to say, man is not free to choose his productive forces – upon which his whole history is based – for every productive force is an acquired force, the produce of previous activity.13

In the “real” world external to the economy of the game, players do not have the option of operating within a feudal society or economy. Through the construction of its internal game world, however, Magic allows its players to participate in a fantasy of belonging to another time and another network of social and economic relations. Magic creates an economic world in which there is apparently no wage-working position, no exploitation at all to intrude upon this fantastic break from the “real” world. In playing the game, one chooses to perform the position of powerful wizard and, apparently, feudal lord, and chooses to enter a 12 For more on the relationship between the commodity fetish and capitalism, see Capital, ch. 4. Marx explicitly cites the “European middle ages” as a space in which commodity fetishism does not occur. 13 Karl Marx, “Letter to Annenkov,” December 28, 1846; in Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Collected Works, vol. 38 (New York: International Publishers, 1982), 96.

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fantasy world in which all participants appear to hold similarly privileged and powerful positions. This appeals to players who are externally either workers or owners, as workers may temporarily forget their exploited status while owners may temporarily forget that they accumulate wealth through exploiting their workers. Thus, the establishment of all players in equally powerful positions erases class distinctions among players within the game and further aids in creating the fantastic escape from the external capitalist world. This apparent break from capitalism, however, is itself a misrepresentation; despite the illusion of feudalism created by Magic’s use of medieval visual tropes and economic structures, the internal economy at work in Magic does not truly represent an economic or social system of feudalism. Instead, Magic functionally creates a two-class capitalistic system that is masked by the enigmatic generation and use of its currency, mana. During each turn-cycle a player magically acquires mana by “tapping” land cards, an act indicated by physically turning the card sideways. Each tapped land yields one unit of mana that must be used during the turn-cycle in which it is tapped, and a player may tap a land for mana only once each turn cycle. At the beginning of the next turn cycle, the player “untaps” all land cards by turning them back to their original position, indicating that the lands’ mana-producing capabilities have been renewed. Within the game world, there is no indication how mana is derived from the land, or how it renews itself over time. In this case “tapping” and “untapping” signify a “mystical” process by which mana, the “magical” currency that drives gameplay, can be derived from land, used as the player sees fit, and replenished on a regular basis. This mystification of the process by which players derive the game’s currency is far more similar to capitalist extraction of profit than to the direct exploitation employed in feudalism, and mana thus takes on the exploitative aspect of capitalist accumulation, an aspect that is concealed in part by the medievalist fantasy tropes that surround it. A closer look at these tropes, however, helps dispel the feudal/medieval illusion. Mana’s function as capitalist accumulation, for instance, becomes clearer when considering the relationship between players and the creatures they “summon” in order to attack and defend against other players and their creatures. Players can “summon” a creature when they have acquired the necessary “casting cost” of expendable mana as noted on the creature’s card. Although the game posits this process of acquiring and expending mana as magical, this merely masks the similarities between summoning practices and the expenditure of production costs

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by owners to workers via wages. In other words, summoning may appear to be a magical process made possible by the equally magical extraction of mana from the land, but it instead reproduces, through the specific “casting cost,” the circumstances by which capitalist owners exchange wages for labor power. Wages/casting cost, paid as a cost of production from capitalist accumulation/acquisition of mana, denote how much currency/mana am owner/player must expend in order to purchase the labor power of a particular worker/creature for a set period. Indeed, by viewing mana as a representation of capital, other details of casting practices make sense in ways they do not if mana were merely magical. For instance, some casting costs cover the entirety of a game, and workers/creatures summoned in this manner need no further wages/ mana once they have been summoned. Other workers/creatures come with set “upkeep” costs, or specific amounts of wages/mana paid to them at the beginning of their owner’s turns. If the process was purely magical “summoning,” creatures would not need further “mana” to remain once they have been summoned; however, upkeep costs make sense when seen as a representation of the regular distribution of wages. Still other workers/creatures come with “cumulative” upkeep costs; their upkeep costs increase with each successive turn, suspiciously resembling a system in which workers’ pay increases over time rather than one by which creatures are simply “summoned” via magic. Therefore, players in Magic, when selecting creatures from their hand to cast, must consider which creatures are most beneficial to “hire.” They must make a capitalist decision and consider the “cost of existence and propagation of the worker,” the price of which, as Marx notes, “constitutes wages.”14 One can make more sense of summoning and upkeep processes when one sees them as representations of capitalist practices, in which case creatures emerge as a distinct working or proletariat class. Each player, then, although still nominally a powerful wizard, finds herself positioned as a capitalist owner who thrives via the exploitation of hired workers. Therefore, while the game’s use of land and medieval tropes gives the illusion of escaping capitalism for a feudal economy within the game, in reality it reproduces the economic structures of capitalism. Players may think that they are engaging in a fantasy of feudal economy and assuming a position of a mage/feudal lord; in actuality, this fantasy itself masks a replication of capitalist economic practices that combine the mystical 14 Karl Marx, Wage Labour and Capital (1849; repr., New York: International Publishers, 1933), 27.

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qualities of the magical figure of the wizard with the mystified figure of the capitalist owner who implicitly benefits from masked exploitative practices and commodity fetishism. Magic, thereby, places all players in a capitalist position of power within the game while masking their involvement in an inherently exploitative process via the concept of magic and the illusion of feudalism. This allows players to experience capitalist power while, at the same time, feeling that they have escaped an exploitative capitalist system altogether. This aspect of “escape,” made possible in part by the game’s use of medieval visual tropes and cultural concepts, is key to understanding Magic’s function as a game, a form of leisure. This concept of leisure has further important ramifications in understanding why the internal economy of Magic is made to appear non-capitalist. Henri Lefebvre, in “Work and Leisure in Everyday Life,” sees the role of leisure in society as such: There is no doubt that today – in capitalist, bourgeois society, which has its own way of manipulating the needs arising from a specific level of civilization – the most striking imperative as far as the needs of leisure among the masses are concerned is that it must produce a break. Leisure must break with the everyday (or at least appear to do so) and not only as far as work is concerned, but also for day-to-day family life. Thus there is an increasing emphasis on leisure characterized as distraction: rather than bring any new worries, obligations, or necessities, leisure should offer liberation from worry and necessity.15

“Leisure,” as a “break,” must offer an alternative to “everyday” life, which is presumably fraught with the anxiety of maintaining a suitable existence through the buying and selling of labor power. In this sense of leisure as distraction one must try very hard to avoid that which reminds one of labor, or the thought that labor is an activity required of those who wish to obtain the necessary materials of survival. Even though leisure itself may constitute activities that require considerable time and effort – Magic players, for instance, may devote many hours to deck building and game playing – it is important that this time and effort differ from that devoted to wage labor. As Lefebvre further characterizes those who partake in leisure:

15 Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, trans. John Moore (London: Verso, 1991), 33.

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They mistrust anything which might appear to be educational and are more concerned with those aspects of leisure which might offer distraction, entertainment and repose, and which might compensate for the difficulties of everyday life. If we are to believe the subjective opinions revealed by surveys, this is as true for workers (proletarians) as it is for the other social classes.16

This “break” from work must not only “distract” one from the memory of one’s own labors, but must also, in a way, “compensate” for the necessity and unpleasantness of participating in a system by which one’s labor is exploited. As the internal economy of the game suggests, the use of the medieval in Magic allows players to feel that they are positioned in a magical pre-capitalist universe, thus creating a break from their external position in a capitalist system. This illusion of non-capitalism is dependent not only on a seemingly historical invocation of feudalism – that medieval must equal feudal – but also on the use of land-based magic to mask key capitalist elements, such as wage earning and exploitation of labor. The role of the medieval is also vital in creating the leisure space in which magic can presumably exist, especially in a game based in a medium that lacks the flashy special effects of films and video games. Magic cards are “everyday” objects in that they are physically present items that can be touched and moved and handled; they are not “imaginary” objects or immaterial concepts. The cards are, in essence, plastic-coated pieces of cardboard; indeed, their physicality is so important conceptually that even in the case of the virtual cards used in Magic: Online consumers have the option of exchanging their virtual cards for physical versions if they choose.17 Yet, Magic cards also contain the potential to be what Steven Connor calls “magical objects.” For Connor these are everyday objects that can remove us from our everyday lives: “The essence of a magical object is that it is more than an object. We can do whatever we like to objects; but magical objects are things that we allow and expect to do things back to us.”18 Magic cards ultimately are identified not as mere laminated paper, but rather as things that require active engagement in gameplay. Is not a game an object that requires we “do” something to it? 16 Ibid., 33. 17 For details on exchanging virtual for hard-copy cards, see “Magic Online: Redemption Policies,” Wizards of the Coast, accessed December 1, 2014, http://wizards.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/984. 18 Steven Connor, “Rough Magic: Bags,” in The Everyday Life Reader, ed. Ben Highmore (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 347.

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In allowing ourselves to be taken in by the world the game creates, do we not expect it to do something to us? One creates or obtains a game for the purpose of playing it, and expects, in return, for it to serve as a distraction from the non-game world. It becomes an everyday object that allows one to escape the everyday. Connor sees this ability as power, a power closely associated with the (in)consistencies of time. He writes: These objects have the powers to arouse, absorb, stabilise, seduce, disturb, soothe, succour and drug. They have a life of their own: a life we give them, and give back to ourselves through them, thereby giving rise anew to ourselves. Some of the magical objects about which I talk are ancient, some belong to the world of contemporary technology. All of them are strangely anachronistic.19

Magic is certainly an absorbing game, one with the ability to engage its players for hours and distract them from the passage of time; indeed, it is not unusual for play to continue into the wee hours of the morning. Engaging in the game allows one to forget life and enter into an imagined economy. Magic’s anachronistic character and use of a fantastic medievalism only strengthen its capacity to create the magic of the game itself, as well as the “magic” that serves as a key component within it. Players as Consumers: Medievalism as Commodity Connor’s understanding of “magical objects” as objects that do things to us as we do things to them does not necessarily dictate that each individual interacts with these objects in the same way. In the case of Magic cards, players approach the cards themselves – and the various forms of medievalism they incorporate – for different reasons, a fact long acknowledged by the game’s designers. In a piece written for his online column in 2002 the head Magic designer, Mark Rosewater, discusses the three main “psychographic profiles,” or player-types, used by Magic’s research and development team when designing cards and sets.20 The three player-types, named “Timmy, Johnny, and Spike,” play Magic for different reasons, although Rosewater and his design team acknowledge 19 Ibid., 347. 20 Mark Rosewater, “Timmy, Johnny and Spike,” Wizards of the Coast, March 11, 2002, accessed December 1, 2018, https://magic.wizards.com/en/ articles/archive/making-magic/timmy-johnny-and-spike-2002-03-08. All subsequent quotations from Rosewater are taken from this article.

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that most players best fit a combination of two or even all three types.21 “Spike,” the earliest of the three, is also known as the “tournament player,” or the player who enjoys winning the game he plays by any means necessary. As Rosewater explains, “Spike will play whatever the best deck is. Spike will copy decks off the Internet. Spike will borrow other player’s decks. To Spike, the thrill of Magic is the adrenalin rush of competition. Spike enjoys the stimulation of outplaying the opponent and the glory of victory.” For Spike, then, building decks and game playing are secondary to the potential for victory, for the external validation of the internal power position within the game. While all players experience an illusion of control over their lands, creatures, and spells that allows them to break from their social positions in the everyday world, for Spike it is the external validation of this control in the form of the acknowledgement that he can sustain a power position over the other players in the game that drives gameplay. This type of Magic player plays the cards to win, and, in acting on them in this way, awaits the fulfillment of the game’s transformative potential: victory. Rosewater’s second player profile, “Timmy,” is also motivated by the desire to win, but for a Timmy winning becomes secondary to enjoyment of the social and entertaining aspects of the game. When Timmy wins, he likes to win big and will thus stack his deck with impressive, mana-costly creatures and spells that may or may not be playable during a single game. For Timmy, the ability to draw the correct creatures and produce enough mana to cast them depends primarily on luck of the draw, and this uncertainty adds a potentially thrilling element to the game for this player-type. As Rosewater notes, “What sets Timmy apart from other profiles is that Timmy is motivated by fun. He plays Magic because it’s enjoyable. Timmy is very social. An important part of the game is sitting around with friends.” Rosewater’s analysis of the Timmy player-type highlights the social aspects of the game. The original Magic: The Gathering card game, like traditional role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, requires a “gathering,” a group of people who have amassed for the purpose of play. Pointedly, the interaction among players is requisitely orchestrated by their interactions within the game. Although players may engage in conversation or other social activity, their primary interactions are directed by the interaction of their cards and the progress of the 21 By the name choices, it seems that Rosewater has assumed that most players are also male: a telling insight into the target audience for Magic products.

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game. Just as external social relations can appear to be subverted during play by the equal power position of all players, so too can other intricate relationships and recognitions be constructed in the game, through the display of cards players have acquired as commodities and the decks they have constructed as consumers. If one looks again to Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism, in which relations among objects replace relations among people, one sees the social facilitation that Magic provides as inherent in its commodity status, for relationships among players are replaced by the interactions of their Magic cards. The more recent Magic: Online greatly complicates this aspect of the game, as social relationships are displaced by the interaction of virtual rather than physical objects. Players are no longer required to assemble in the same space, but can take their virtual cards and electronic gameplay to internet game rooms where they can compete with players from across the globe. Whereas play previously required knowing other Magic players, Magic: Online has the capacity to match individuals with other players, thus eliminating the need to interact with people one already knows. While this greatly reduces the social aspect of the game, Magic: Online has seen a rise in other types of social interaction: not only the assumption of a screen name as part of one’s online identity, but also the ability for players to adopt a pre-constructed avatar, or character identity, that they assume and which affects some of the their abilities during play. While these avatars were introduced to the original Magic: The Gathering game with the Vanguard set in 1997, they have not been popular in the hard-copy game, perhaps due to the ungainly size of the avatar cards and the face-to-face interaction of the players. However, with the introduction of the Vanguard format to Magic: Online in the spring of 2005, these avatars have become popular with some players. One can hypothesize that the loss of face-to-face social interaction inherent in the transition to online play fosters both the desire and the ability to create or assume another identity online.22 Pointedly, these identities are very much shaped by the medieval-fantasy aspect of the game’s design; players are no longer posited as mere wizards, but also become associated with 22 For examples and more detailed information on the function of the avatars in the Vanguard portion of the game, see “Magic Online Vanguard: FAQ,” Wizards of the Coast, Internet Archive, captured January 17, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20160117101151/http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/ tcg/article.aspx?x=magic/magiconline/vanguard. Although the functional components of these avatars were discontinued with the Zendikar block release in 2009, the function remains by which avatars represent players online.

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the more individualized medieval tropes that correspond to the description and imagery of their chosen avatar. While this further enhances the “break from the everyday” offered by Magic, the added fun of the roleplaying aspect has, perhaps, the potential to woo the Timmy player-types of the Magic world away from their immediate social groups and into a series of online games. According to Rosewater, “Johnny,” the player-type with whom Rosewater says he most readily identifies, is primarily interested in deck building. While winning and social interaction may play a part in Johnny’s enjoyment of the game, this player truly revels in the game’s ability to showcase a finely planned and crafted Magic deck. As Rosewater notes: It’s very important for Johnny to win on his own terms. As such, it’s important to Johnny that he’s using his own deck. Playing Magic is an opportunity for Johnny to show off his creativity. Johnny likes a challenge. Johnny enjoys winning with cards no one else wants to use. He likes making decks that win in innovative ways.

That Rosewater, who heads the research and development process that creates or produces new Magic cards, most closely aligns himself with the “Johnny” player-type that primarily enjoys deck building is no coincidence. It allows the productive process inherent in creating the cards to come through in his own game playing experiences. As Rosewater’s explanation of Johnny illustrates, Magic offers its players the ability to amass their own unique, individual combination of cards, thus creating a feeling of control and belief in the ability to express one’s individuality through the creation of decks. Arguably, part of the creative appeal to the “Johnny” player-type lies in the ability to construct an individual expression of the medievalist fantasy tropes that are captured among the many card choices. The power to shape an individualized medievalism through the careful procurement and arrangement of specific cards thereby offers, through Magic, the power to shape and create the medieval itself. This feeling of control and creativity nonetheless masks the fact that such an act of creation requires the consumption of Magic cards as a commodity. While this impulse towards consumption inherently supports capitalist commodity exchange, the masking of consumption under the guise of creativity or production (in this case, of particularly planned decks) further forwards a capitalist agenda by creating false perceptions of control and resistance, concepts long favored by poststructuralist theorists. Michel de Certeau, for instance, theorizes that consumption enables a symbolic production:

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To a rationalized, expansionist and at the same time centralized, clamorous, and spectacular production corresponds another production called “consumption.” The latter is devious, it is dispersed, but it insinuates itself everywhere, silently and almost invisibly, because it does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products imposed by a dominant social order.23

For de Certeau, unique and personalized ways of using and consuming products constitute a form of production and, furthermore, offer potential sites to invert social hierarchy when the consumer attempts to use these products in ways not overtly intended by their producers. Magic gives its consumers the perceived ability to take mass-market goods and make them their own as a form of resistance to their position in a capitalist system.24 This creates the illusion that they can take control of these neomedieval talismans, shape them, and order them to their own will. Playing Magic creates a potential site of resistance, a space where players like Johnny, who prefer creative and seemingly non-traditional methods of deck building, can play at subverting the system of the game as a substitute to subverting the social order in everyday life. The internet has allowed this sense of control to expand into the construction of the cards themselves. In revising the core set for its eighth (2003) and ninth (2005) editions, the website for Magic: The Gathering solicited consumer advice regarding card selection. The site retained this practice in developing the tenth edition of the core set (2007), offering consumers “the chance to play the role of R&D Developer, Art Director, flavor text judge, and even Brand Manager for Magic’s milestone tenth core set!”25 While voting choices were ultimately supplied by the game’s producers, viewers who had an account with the site’s message boards could vote on the inclusion or exclusion of various cards and sets of cards in the upcoming edition. This appearance of control and choice, however, is yet another aspect of the game that is designed to appeal to consumers 23 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Randall (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1984), xii–xiii. 24 Because capitalism operates largely through the concealment of exploitation, players/consumers are potentially unaware of what exactly they are resisting, yet find vague satisfaction in such safely subversive approaches to the game. 25 “Selecting Tenth Edition,” Wizards of the Coast, June 14, 2006, accessed December 4, 2014, http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/magazine/article. aspx?x=mtgcom/selecting10e/home.

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as a means of generating profit. Just as the existence of the “Johnny” player-type demonstrates that attempts to create new ways of deck building are anticipated and accommodated by the game makers themselves, the illusion of control over the game design becomes yet another part of the commodity that is Magic. This illusion fits with Theodor Adorno’s analysis of mass-market products: “The customer is not king, as the culture industry would have us believe, not its subject but its object.”26 Despite de Certeau’s theory that consumption entails a type of production, the consumer’s desire to build decks creatively, subversively, or even artistically is largely an anticipated component of the game’s ultimate goal of turning a profit. In other words, whether attempting to appeal to Spike, Timmy, Johnny or their various hybrids, those who manufacture Magic cards are quite aware of the varying attractions of building decks, and encourage this attraction through the wide variety of cards they offer. Acquiring particular cards, whether as Spike, Timmy, or Johnny, can be tricky in both their hard copy and virtual formats. Each card belongs to one or both of two basic production formats. Core sets, which initiated the Magic franchise with its Limited Alpha and Beta editions in 1993 and have been periodically reformatted and reissued over the years, contain a variety of useful creatures, lands, and spells. Limited-edition expansion sets, introduced in late 1993 with an Arabian Nights themed deck, contain cards organized around set tropes or story arcs. These cards are not usually reissued as sets, although some of them are worked into later editions of the core set. While a player new to the game may be able to purchase any number of packs of cards from the most recent core set and expansion sets, cards found exclusively in earlier sets cannot be purchased new; players who wish to obtain them must turn to other means, such as online marketplaces or trading in order to find the card they seek. Furthermore, as cards are not sold individually in either paper or virtual form, but instead must be purchased in pre-constructed decks or packs of set quantities, a consumer cannot always guarantee that a particular card is in any given pack. Players must therefore buy numerous packs of cards in order to obtain the cards they desire, spending more money and wasting many cards that they may never use. Notably, the most desirable cards, which are typically those that give a player an advantage in mana production, are specifically restricted 26 Theodor Adorno, “Culture Industry Reconsidered,” trans. Anson G. Rabinbach, 1975, in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. J. M. Bernstein (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 99.

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and difficult to obtain. The capitalist competition inherently built into Magic becomes apparent through this link between internal and external purchasing power. As an increasing number of players seek out the limited number of rare and restricted cards, their actual price in the real world mirrors their increased mana-producing utility in the game world. The Complete Encyclopedia of Magic: The Gathering, for instance, notes that cards such as the “Black Lotus” and “Mox Emerald,” which offer players a mana advantage early in the game, have sold for as much as $317.50. This is an extraordinarily high price considering that new cards average $3.69 for a “booster pack” of fourteen cards.27 The necessity of mana, then – the capital in a game that appears to work outside a capitalist system – transcends the bounds of the game to influence very specific consumptive practices of card purchase. In purchasing and playing Magic, one engages in a fantasy of guiltless capitalist power, masked as an escape from the difficulties of an everyday life marked by the exploitation of labor. By fusing a medievalist fantasy world of magic with seemingly unlimited resources that appear to be independent of labor, Magic, as a commodity, potentially fulfills a need of which its players/consumers may even be unaware. At the same time, it nurtures a hunger to become more powerful in this imagined world, thus inspiring increasingly consumptive practices in the commodity market external to the game. While such an illusion may seem harmless, especially in a mere card game, it invites a more widespread examination of Magic’s relationship to the neomedieval in current popular culture. Just as Rosewater’s insight into the three player-types used for card design confirms the effort placed into the design of individual cards, so a brief look at Magic’s production history reveals a concept of the medieval that has been produced, sold, and consumed over time. Indeed, while Magic’s internal economy and external deck building create an external desire to purchase cards and play the game, they also make the medieval itself into a commodity that is packaged and sold.

27 Beth Moursund et al., The Complete Encyclopedia of Magic: The Gathering (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002), 11. Notably, the makers of Magic took steps early on to discourage individual card trafficking so that the focus of Magic would be playing the game rather than hoarding cards for profit. See Quoctrun Bui and Robert Smith, “How Success Almost Killed a Game, and How Its Creators Saved It,” Planet Money, April 16, 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/04/16/400140583/ how-success-almost-killed-a-game-and-how-its-creators-saved-it?

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The Evolution of Magic’s Neomedievalism The forms of medievalism Magic has expressed can be traced through the release history of different sets of cards and their corresponding imagined settings.28 The initial release of Magic: The Gathering in 1993, as well as the bulk of the core set editions that followed, contained a variety of cards that, in true medievalist fantasy fashion, blended elements of medievalism, such as knights, crusaders, and castles, with popular fantasy elements such as wizards, dragons, elves, paladins, and, above all, magic.29 Early set illustrations reflect this mode of medievalism. For example, illustrations for the “Northern Paladin,” the “White Knight,” and the “Black Knight” advance fairly straightforward portraits of their namesakes in medieval armor;30 the more fantastic “Eastern Paladin” and “Western Paladin” incorporate fantasy elements while retaining a basic grounding through the use of dress, weapons, or armor.31 This adherence to basic medievalist fantasy visual tropes changed, however, with singularly themed “expansion sets” as well as later editions of the core set, which not only incorporated cards from the expansion sets, but also saw an overhaul of many of the earlier illustrations. The illustration for the “Northern Paladin,” for example, remained mostly static from the Alpha Limited edition through the fourth edition of the core set (1995), where it displayed a knight in chain mail holding a shield with a cross. While the portrait-like layout of this image invokes visions of the Crusades, the new illustration introduced for the “Northern Paladin” in the seventh edition

28 As I explain below, these settings are often created through the themes and flavor text of the cards themselves, but can also be supplemented through paraphernalia related to (but external to) the game, such as novels or explanatory websites. 29 For a more comprehensive history of the game through the Core Set Seventh Edition, see Moursund, The Complete Encyclopedia of Magic: The Gathering, 6–15. For access to information on later sets, see “Game Info/ Products: Card Set Archive,” Wizards of the Coast, accessed November 30, 2018, http://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/products/card-set-archive. 30 See “Northern Paladin” (4th Edition), http://gatherer.wizards.com/ Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=2352; “White Knight” (4th Edition), http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=2371; and “Black Knight” (4th Edition), http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details. aspx?multiverseid=2088. 31 See “Eastern Paladin” (7th Edition), http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/ Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=13138; and “Western Paladin” (7th Edition), http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=13137.

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of the core set (2001) presents a far less traditionally drawn soldier.32 In this image, the figure of the “Northern Paladin” appears to rush at the viewer, characterized by a more science-fiction or action-oriented style of the armor and weaponry than his predecessor, increasing the fantastic sense that the characters – rather than the players – are in charge of the action. As the changes in illustration instituted in later editions of the core set indicate a move away from a more traditional, what some might call “modernist,” medievalism, the introduction of themed expansion sets further removed the game from an implied generic medievalist fantasy setting and into more specialized and varied directions.33 In December 1993, mere months after the debut of the first Magic set, Wizards of the Coast released its first expansion set and based it on what it now refers to as “earth culture.” The Arabian Nights expansion incorporated characters and themes from the literary work of the same name, effectively bringing extant storylines from a world external to the game into the narratives of Magic gameplay. Therefore, while earlier creatures, spells, and lands borrowed conceptually and visually from a fantasy version of the European Middle Ages, the Arabian Nights expansion overtly borrowed from an extant contemporaneous Middle Eastern literary work. Afterwards, many of Magic’s expansion sets did not rely directly on “earth culture” but instead constructed a setting of various parallel realities known as a “multiverse.” At first the majority of narratives emerging from 32 See “Northern Paladin” (7th Edition), http://gatherer.wizards.com/ Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=13166. 33 Although the development of Magic does not necessarily follow the progression of medievalism suggested by the Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization (MEMO) and outlined in Chapter 1 of this book, the conceptualization of medievalism as progressing through three movements of modernist medievalism, postmodernist medievalism, and neomedievalism proves useful in analyzing Magic’s own tendency to eclectically select elements from a range of eras, locations, cultures, and narrative styles for its visual tropes, cultural references, and narrative representations. Nevertheless, the medieval visual tropes Magic employed in its initial core sets appropriately correspond to MEMO’s originary phase of medievalism, modernist medievalism, or “contemporary ‘medieval’ narratives containing stereotyped medieval characterizations and plots infused with an awareness, exploration and elevation of individual unconsciousness and consciousness: medieval romances, for example, with psychological depth. The values in such works are Modernist (full of angst and a sense of the futile) combated by an idealized ‘happy’ and/or more ‘simple life’ of the Middle Ages.”

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the expansion sets centered on a plane known as “Dominaria.”34 The Antiquities expansion (1994) and its immediate successors constructed Dominaria by establishing the summoned creatures as characters and conveying information about the world through specific characteristics of lands, spells, and creatures as well as through flavor text (the descriptive or narrative pieces of text used to help develop the entity depicted on each card). While flavor text existed prior to the Antiquities expansion, beginning with the Antiquities expansion the flavor text conveyed disjointed pieces of information about the Magic multiverse. Without a controlling metanarrative to join these pieces of information together, access to the multiverse existed primarily through the flavor text and the interaction of the cards themselves within the confines of gameplay. Ergo, while the initial Magic cards imported elements of a modernist medievalism, very early on the Magic multiverse blended modernist-medieval elements with extant medieval literature and a fantasy-driven storyline. Pointedly, this fantasy-driven storyline was not laid out for Magic players in the earlier incarnations of the expansion sets. Rather than establish a modernist meta-narrative, Wizards of the Coast left it up to consumers to string together the fragments of character and setting information they could glean from the cards they could access. This possibility for user-interpreted narratives that could be generated through the mechanics of individual games introduces a strikingly postmodern element to the medievalist fantasy themes inherent in the deck. Just as the ongoing gameplay allowed the possibility of a variety of outcomes and scenarios, so the conceptual and visual themes of the expansion decks provided limitless possibilities for constructing narratives. The authority of a meta-narrative was likewise as unlikely as a universal adherence to a single chain of Magic game events. For a brief period, then, one sees in Magic a tendency towards postmodernism both mechanically and conceptually. While novels emerged that followed one or two of the main characters introduced in the cards, these narratives were by no means all-inclusive and instead added to the suggested multitude of narratives made possible by the cards, rather than reducing them to a singular narrative. With its 1997 acquisition of Tactical Studies Rules, the company that until that point produced the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, Wizards of the Coast 34 For information on Dominaria and links to other planes of the Magic multiverse, see “Story/Planes: Dominaria,” Wizards of the Coast, accessed December 4, 2014, http://magic.wizards.com/en/story/planes/dominaria.

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obtained the means to publish the texts to accompany its release of new expansion sets. In 1998, the first coordinated novel and expansion set were released with the Urza’s Saga expansion and Jeff Grubb’s novel, Brothers’ War. Grubb’s novel detailed the conflict between the brothers Urza and Mishra on the plane of Dominaria, a theme suggested and outlined in earlier expansions sets, but now explained and solidified through the book. This set started the trend that dictated a close connection between expansion sets and novels, thereby challenging the unlimited narrative potential of the cards themselves. While gameplay continued in a realm of limitless possibility, the narratives behind the creatures and spells would henceforth always be haunted by the “authoritative” story of the novels. In this way, Magic moved effortlessly through a brief period of postmodernity (suggesting, perhaps, that the medievalism of its multiverse could not or should not be captured within a single narrative) only to migrate to a more authoritative method of structuring its multiverse through traditional fictional narrative rather than individually compiled narrative puzzles. Although this stabilized the Magic multiverse in some aspects, it also opened the door for more intricate and varied additions to the Dominaria multiverse. The Mirrodin (2003) and Ravnica (2005) blocks, each of which comprises one major and two minor expansion sets, further the medievalist fantasy elements prevalent in earlier core and expansion sets. The Mirrodin block introduced Magic consumers to a new plane in the Magic multiverse where everything is partly made of metal. While earlier sets, such as those of the Urza block, introduced technology too advanced for most traditional forms of narrative medievalism, the Mirrodin expansions and their corresponding novels blended traditional medievalist fantasy elements such as elves, monarchy, and sword play with elements that more closely invoke science fiction. The “planet” itself turned out to be a mechanical apparatus in the novels, and the Mirrodin gameplay sets incorporated various metallic artifact creatures, or “Myrs,” with mana-producing capabilities.35 In many ways, Mirrodin plays an important part in marking the anachronistic qualities of Magic as a whole. While the medievalist fantasy elements do not claim historical accuracy, they have the power to completely immerse those who engage them within their medievalist mythology; Mirrodin disturbs this immersion, a fact reinforced by its corresponding novels, which in the end reveal that Mirrodin, as an artificially constructed world, siphoned 35 See, for instance, “Copper Myr,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/ Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=194063; and “Gold Myr,” http://gatherer. wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=194384.

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souls from other more organic planes to populate itself. Mirrodin introduced new elements into the Magic multiverse, while both the concepts and the images presented on the cards proved jarring to traditional Magic gameplay. The artificial elements of Mirrodin do not necessarily prove inconsistent with the game’s overall employment of medievalism. While Magic does incorporate medievalism into its card design and gameplay, one does not see in Magic an extensive attempt to reflect medieval art, literature, or tradition. Magic is no more an historical interpretation of the Middle Ages than it is an actual artifact from the medieval period. Nor does Magic attempt to reflect any “real” conditions of persons living in the Middle Ages; most creatures and locations pictured are clean, idealized, and often utterly fantastical in that they include, for instance, angels and other ethereal figures. Magic is, instead, an easily digestible version of the Middle Ages, an idealistic construction of an historical era that has been carefully designed and created to please potential consumers. Magic is what Theodor Adorno would classify as a “mass-market” item geared for consumption, a product of the “culture industry” and not a form of “high art.” In this, Magic’s partial appropriation of the medieval seems fitting. As Adorno observes, “The culture industry fuses the old and familiar into a new quality. In all its branches, products which are tailored for consumption by masses, and which to a great extent determine the nature of that consumption, are manufactured more or less according to plan.”36 With numerous variations of gameplay available, players always have the option of building a deck within a particular edition or expansion set (for instance, using cards exclusively from the Mirrodin, Ravnica, or other blocks), or of combining creatures, spells, and mana sources from across the game’s production history. The latter approach often leads to neomedieval decks that include traditionally medieval images and concepts from earlier core sets combined with the futuristic themes of the Mirrodin block, the Japanese influences of the Kamigawa (2004) sets, and so on. As the production of Magic’s cards, storylines, and series adheres to the desires of its consumers, the blending of the medieval with other elements among and within decks grows, thereby potentially offering a space in which to expand the forms of medievalism itself. As the brief history above shows, Magic’s move from traditional medievalism to neomedievalism involved a number of disjointed leaps rather than a neat progression; however, the additive and heterogeneous nature 36 Adorno, “Culture Industry Reconsidered,” 98.

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of these leaps is what makes Magic such an excellent demonstration of neomedievalism itself. As the evolving Magic multiverse allows players to draw from the culturally diverse regions of science fiction, Japanese folklore, and medievalist fantasy, Magic pushes our understanding of medievalism farther away from reflecting any historical referent at all. Magic’s disparate sources are furthermore unified through deck building and gameplay, as well as through the concept of the Magic multiverse, which allows these elements to blend together through the figure of the player, or “planeswalker,” who can access all its polyvalances at will. The activities of deck building and gameplay in particular further the neomedieval aspect of Magic, as they inherently transform these fragments into a temporary unified entity that offers players the illusion of control. The manipulation of the cards during gameplay, the creation of decks, the manufacturer’s solicitation of player contributions in developing new products, and the seeming ability to shape a medievalist fantasy world where one can escape the realities of everyday life all serve as elements by which players are invited to not only shape the development of Magic, but also contribute to the ways in which medievalism is understood by a large segment of popular culture. Through Magic, medievalism’s illusory potential becomes openly entwined with the mystification of the commodity fetish and the exploitative processes of capitalism, thus revealing the link between contemporary forms of medievalism and the material conditions under which they are produced. As the economic and social processes of globalization continue to alter our understanding of current material conditions, the link between them and forms of medievalism continues to play out in Magic’s Ravnica (2005), Return to Ravnica (2012), and Guilds of Ravnica (2018) sets. A closer examination of the “plane” created in these sets suggests that, to our working definition of neomedievalism, we must add a clear consideration of neomedievalism’s relationship to contemporary economic conditions. The Ravnica expansions introduce the title city, Ravnica, a metropolis so expansive that it covers the entirety of the planet it occupies. The most strikingly medievalistic elements of the set are both visual and conceptual. The basic lands for this set (forests, lakes, mountains, swamps and plains) all exist within the boundaries of the city, and the city’s primary structures suggest both Gothic cathedrals and Romanesque ruins.37 37 See “Forest,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details. aspx?multiverseid=95097; and “Mountain,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/ Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=95109, both from the Ravnica: City of Guilds

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Conceptually, the creature design and arrangement revolve around ten major guilds vying for control of the city-planet. The guilds vary greatly in organization, membership, and leadership, yet they each have a signet, a mark unique to the guild. According to the cards themselves, the form and function of each signet also varies. Some, such as the “Orzhov Signet,” are used to designate both guildmembers and slaves.38 Other signets, such as that of the “Simic Combine,” are used to mark goods associated with that guild.39 The use of such markings to identify persons and objects has roots in a historical medievalism, as does the concept of, if not the particulars associated with, the Ravnica guilds. Indeed, the particulars reveal that, while Ravnica marks a return to the traditional medievalist fantasy genre in comparison to preceding expansion blocks, its strong grounding in neomedievalism allows for a complex introduction of other elements. Guildmembers, for instance, are not necessarily human or grounded in traditional medievalist fantasy culture, as demonstrated by the image depicted on the “Azorius Guildmage” creature card.40 The guildmage faces the viewer directly, displaying an elongated neck, iridescent blue skin, and stylized clothing: an image one would expect to represent a futuristic alien rather than a magical creature with medievalist foundations. The background of the card, however, establishes this figure within a stony chamber inhabited by a figure draped in a druid-style hood and wearing a Merlin-inspired beard, thus situating the seemingly out of place guildmage neatly into the cosmopolitan guildcity of Ravnica. Another example of this norming process can be seen in the artifact card “Pillory of the Sleepless.”41 Here, yet another humanoid creature appears, this one bound in an eerily glowing pillory. The pillory, a common device in the historic Middle Ages, effectively ties the creature to the other medieval elements of the set, just as it literally binds it in its supernatural glow. The spatial structure imagined for Ravnica further invokes unity among the disparate elements within its plotlines – the contesting guilds, Expansion. 38 See “Orzhov Signet,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details. aspx?multiverseid=247285. 39 See “Simic Signet,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details. aspx?multiverseid=376501. 40 See “Azorius Guildmage,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/ Details.aspx?multiverseid=247190. 41 See “Pillory of the Sleepless,” http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/ Details.aspx?multiverseid=96882.

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the tension between urban and rural – as well as a sense of cohesion among the anachronistic elements perceptible to the external observer. Indeed, the development of Ravnica into a single city-planet unites its disparate elements geographically, for the guilds are inextricably linked to each other just as the lands and city transcend each other’s boundaries. This image is particularly relevant to the communities forged both in relation to and separate from the Magic multiverse. When Magic: Online launched in 2001, it further transformed gameplay into a potentially global act, as online play required computer access rather than physical proximity to other players. Furthermore, the global city of Ravnica and the global community of Magic players are not singular phenomena but, instead, mirror the economic and social processes of globalization facilitated by technological advances in communication. This connection becomes all the more apparent when one considers that a key aspect of globalization has been the dissolution of the economic power of the nation-state in lieu of multi-national corporations;42 in Ravnica there are no nation-states, just one city in which ten powerful economic groups vie for power. Ravnica’s spatial structure functions both as a globalized city-marketplace and as a reflection of the economic trend external to the game by which globalization further advances the commodity status of Magic itself. The popularity of the Ravnica set, which is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by its reincarnation in the 2012 Return to Ravnica and the 2018 Guilds of Ravnica sets, demonstrates that neomedievalism is tied both to the consumerist market and to the ever-growing perception of the world as a global marketplace driven by consumer demands. Furthermore, it suggests that medievally inspired commodities do not merely reflect changing phases of medievalism, but in some part direct them as well. In this way, commodities such as Magic actively facilitate the expansion and development of representations of the medieval. As the consumerist market does not pause to ponder the “posts” and “neos” of critical theory, but instead constantly drives to produce commodities that will appeal to its consumers (for instance, the newest version of Magic for the Spikes, Timmys, and Johnnys of the world), it is 42 A transition that Hedley Bull would characterize as a form of neomedievalism per se. See Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); as cited in Bruce Holsinger, Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007), 56.

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imperative that some component of society endeavor to develop the critical apparatuses required to keep up. Acknowledging the illusory potential of neomedieval commodities is itself a powerful tool in questioning the uses of these very illusions, and it is only by remaining critically aware of the forms of medievalism produced by the commodity market that critics have the potential to expose these processes and insist upon a deliberate consideration of the economic, social, and even political forces at work. To my mind, this forms a significant part of what neomedievalist critique should do in the twenty-first century: articulate a careful consideration of the relationship between medievalism and economy in general, and neomedievalism and capitalism in particular. This does not mean that the world must stop playing games – and, indeed, games such as Magic: The Gathering or Magic: Online are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the medieval is played – but that, in looking critically at the games we play, the narratives we create, and the ways we interact socially, we may be able to make other aspects of our lives as vivid and appealing so as to render the escapist component of the neomedieval unessential to its very makeup.

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6 Digital Gaming: Coding a Connective Neomedievalism

A

number of years ago I taught a sophomore-level university English class on nineteenth- and twentieth-century medievalism. We read Scott and Tennyson, looked at paintings by the Pre-Raphaelites, read Tolkien, watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, talked about Dungeons & Dragons, and critiqued a sampling of neomedieval video games. As part of a final project, students were asked to identify and analyze an instance of medievalism in popular culture. Although the majority of the class turned in creative, high-quality work that dealt thoughtfully with the subject of medievalism as we had spent the semester constructing it, one student missed the point of the assignment – and the course – altogether and submitted a very detailed presentation on “Medieval Torture/Punishment.” I graded the project accordingly and thought no more of it until a few years later when a family member, describing a game called Castleville (2011), stated “It’s very medieval.” She went on to explain how she and a friend approached the game, noting, “[We] have spent a lot of time building our dungeons. The Rack and Sharp Guillotine were purchased as part of a quest … we’re trying to decide whether or not we want the Iron Maiden as decoration.”1 Needless to say, I was floored on many levels, yet the most pressing connection in my mind was that I had perhaps been too dismissive of my student’s identification of torture chambers as somehow appropriate for a class on medievalism. In a historic sense, of course, torture itself pre- and post-dates the medieval; however, along with more general themes of violence, the concept of the dungeon in particular is a prevalent trope of medievalism, from that of Torquilstone in Ivanhoe, to the pen-and-paper maps of Dungeons & Dragons, to the visually elaborate dungeons of games such as Gauntlet (1985), The Legend of Zelda (1986), or 1 Karen L. Fitzpatrick, in discussion with the author, April 2012.

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World of Warcraft (2004). I even found myself using the metaphor when presenting to an audience of software developers at my first technical conference, as “dungeons” became an easy metaphor for the popular medievalisms I addressed in my talk.2 This invites the question of what “counts” as “medieval” (or proper “medievalism” or even “medievalist fantasy”), and who gets to decide what counts? As the anecdote that began this chapter suggests, in my classroom, I get to decide what counts. I am positive that if I were to poll a room of medievalists, many of them of would insist that “they” – either in an individual or communal sense – get to say what counts, although some would disagree. As far as digital games go, it seems that this decision is made by the companies that produce them, yet in part they must keep in mind the satisfaction of the players who consume them. Indeed, while teachers may determine what information makes it into the classroom and academics debate what counts as proper history (or if history can count at all), it is often sizable corporations that determine how much “accuracy” goes into the way they represent the medieval: how much to take from history, how much from the history of their own medium, and how much they must strive for something completely new or original. Often it is an amalgam of such components created by these companies that drives the most wide-spread and recognizable forms of medievalism. And yet, instances of medievalism are also formed and influenced by the groups who play and consume them (often these groups include 2 I presented “Dungeons & Towers: Medievalism, Gaming, and the Academy” at the The Monktoberfest conference, October 4–5, 2015, in Portland, ME. The Monktoberfest bills itself as “the developer conference where social meets technology,” which meant that for the first time in my professional career, I was presenting my work on medievalism to an audience primarily composed of non-academics. As part of my talk addressed the table-top role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, “dungeons” became an easy metaphor for the other popular medievalisms I addressed in my talk. While most of my audience was familiar with these texts, academic medieval studies and all its trappings were unfamiliar to them; ergo the “ivory towers” of academia became a convenient touchstone for my explanation of the history and function of the disciplines that constitute medieval studies, and the “dungeons–towers” contrast became a useful shorthand for the remainder of my talk. To reduce the distinction between popular and academic to a metaphoric dungeons–towers dichotomy is, of course, an oversimplification that my talk and this book seek to productively complicate. For instance, literary towers abound in popular medievalisms, from Tolkien to Rapunzel, and even popular medievalisms see some forms privileged above others and accepted in the academy; conversely, academia has its own dungeons, as any adjunct relegated to a basement closet “office” can attest.

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medievalists); this is especially true for neomedieval texts such as online digital games known as MMORPGs, where player actions and interactions with each other determine a significant portion of the textual experience.3 Accordingly, this chapter briefly outlines the socially produced aspects of these neomedieval texts, including their evolution from the table-top role-playing game (RPG) Dungeons & Dragons and the ways in which neomedievalism is produced and consumed as a commodity both within and outside of the game. In returning to the initial question posed above – who decides what “counts” as medieval – I then posit the academy’s perceived authority over the medieval as itself a commodification of the medieval that relies on reproducing a divide between itself and the producers and consumers of texts such as neomedieval MMORPGs. In closing, I suggest the role neomedievalism and neomedievalist critique can and should play in addressing this divide. D&D to MMORPGs Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was created by Gary Gygax and David Arneson and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), a company formed by Gygax and others for the express purpose of producing and selling the game.4 Known as a “table-top” RPG, the initial edition consisted of three volumes that offered (according to the cover): Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures5

Although the rules have since been altered and expanded, the main premise of the game remains the same: a group of people meets to participate in 3 As noted in an article that I co-authored with Jil Hanifan, in a MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, players assume the role of characters (either pre-set or customized from among pre-set choices) through which they either follow or help construct the game’s narrative. The game is played online, where a substantial number of players inhabit and help construct a virtual environment and the events that occur within it. See KellyAnn Fitzpatrick and Jil Hanifan, “Medievalism and Representations of Corporate Identity,” Studies in Medievalism XXI (2012): 34. 4 For an excellent history and description of D&D, see David M. Ewalt, Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It (New York: Scribner, 2013). 5 Ewalt, Of Dice and Men, 72.

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the creation of a series of fictionalized events known as a “campaign.”6 Each player assumes a Player Character (PC) that they have constructed according to the rules of the game, which requires that they assume a race and class. Race options, which are heavily influenced by Tolkien, include dwarves, elves, and halflings, with room for further specificity in later editions. In the fifth edition of the game, for instance, elves may be drow (dark) elves, sea elves, sylvan (wood) elves, etc. Class options are also heavily indebted to Tolkien, with the fifth edition including classes such as rangers, wizards, fighters, and rogues, with additional rules that allow for variation.7 Gameplay itself is heavily structured by a member of the group who serves as the Dungeon Master (DM), who is responsible for designing the main events, spaces, and Non-Player Characters (NPCs) of the campaign. Although the DM has a certain level of narrative authority in creating dungeons and campaigns, players ultimately decide how to react to these circumstances. The outcomes of these decisions are determined by a complex set of rules that involve initial character attributes, dice rolling, and arbitration as needed from the DM.8 Manifestations of medievalism (some, but not all, traceable to Tolkien) serve as the most obvious link between D&D and later MMORPGs such as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (2004), yet the history of computer-based RPGs (CRPGs) indicates that they owe their relationship to D&D for

6 The game was initially reformatted to include more rules and then sold as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D). Although second editions of D&D and AD&D were released, the original D&D was then discontinued. AD&D was then renamed D&D for its third edition. The game has since been revised through the fifth edition of D&D, released in 2014 by Wizards of the Coast, which acquired D&D through the purchase of TSR in 1997. 7 A full listing of race and class options can be found in The Player’s Handbook (A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook), 5th ed. (Wizards of the Coast, 2014). Notably, the concepts of race and class defined by Dungeons & Dragons have been incorporated into the player creation process in digital games such as World of Warcraft, where they have been criticized for perpetuating essentialist ideas about race. See Melissa J. Monson, “Race-Based Fantasy Realm: Essentialism in the World of Warcraft,” Games and Culture 7, no. 1 (January 2012): 48–71. 8 Complete rules on gameplay can be found in The Dungeon Master’s Guide (A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook), 5th ed. (Wizards of the Coast, 2014). The set of core rules is completed by The Monster Manual (A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook), 5th ed. (Wizards of the Coast, 2014), which regulates the types of creatures PCs may encounter on campaigns.

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more than medievalism.9 The use of point systems for governing game mechanics, character values, and character “experience,” for instance, is widespread in games with no narrative or design references to medievalism. As Matt Barton notes, “The mathematics behind most CRPGs are derived (if not outright copied) from various editions of TSR’s rules, although developers have felt free to modify them. Most clearly derived from D&D are the player stats and experience point systems, attributes such as strength and intelligence, and hit and damage rolls.”10 Although the dice roles have been replaced by algorithms, the game engines of many CRPGs run on point systems similar to those established by D&D. Other aspects of the game, such as the tile-like mapping of dungeons, manifest in games like The Legend of Zelda (1986), which includes medievalist tropes even though its earlier manifestations do not strictly follow the gameplay of an RPG.11 As some critics have argued, even the act of creating a Player Character can be linked to other non-ludic but technologically advanced media, for instance the construction of a profile in social media such as Facebook.12 There are, of course, CRPGs that are more directly drawn from D&D. The Baldur’s Gate (1998) series, for instance, was directly licensed as an extension of the D&D universe and was very closely modeled on D&D. Although the DM was replaced by pre-scripted game narratives, character creation mimicked PC creation in D&D, including numeric values assigned for attributes such as strength and wisdom. Later versions even allowed multiple players to participate at once and play in a group, thereby simulating the social aspect of a D&D campaign. As access to the internet became more widespread, games that allowed multiple players to participate online became prevalent. The first of these were text-based games known as Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs).13 Often created and hosted by tech-savvy players rather than marketed as products, MUDs were nonetheless important precursors to graphic-based MMORPGs, which are generally recognized as originating with the release of Meridian 59 in 9 Matt Barton, Dungeons & Desktops: The History of Computer RolePlaying Games (Wellesley, MA: A. K. Peters, 2009). See esp. 13–24. 10 Ibid., 23. 11 Ibid., 209–12. 12 Chuk Moran, “The Generalization of Configurable Being: From RPGs to Facebook,” in Dungeons, Dragons, and Digital Denizens: The Digital RolePlaying Game, ed. Gerald Vorhees, Joshua Call, and Katie Whitlock (London: Continuum, 2012), 343–62. 13 Barton, Dungeons & Desktops, 37–43.

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1995, and were then popularized by Ultima: Online (1997) and EverQuest (1999).14 Notably, Ultima and EverQuest both incorporate neomedievalism into the online words they create, although medievalism is not required for MMORPGs to be successful. Arguably, part of the appeal of MMORPGs lies in the successful reception of the online worlds they create, for which the economist Edward Castronova has coined the term “synthetic world.” Defined as “crafted places inside computers that are designed to accommodate large numbers of people,”15 the concept of synthetic worlds echoes that of Tolkien’s “Secondary World,” yet does not necessarily have to differ from what Tolkien would consider the “Primary World” in terms of culture or characteristics.16 While neomedieval elements are not required to create a successful synthetic world or MMORPG, neomedievalism is nonetheless a prevalent feature of some of the more lucrative MMORPGs. World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG to date, was released in 2004 and boasted over 12 million subscribers as of 2010;17 the game continually maintains anywhere between 7 and 10 million subscribers depending on when new game content is released.18

14 Ibid., 398–405. 15 Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Gaming (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 4. 16 The synthetic worlds created in the games Second Life (2003) and the Sims: Online (2002), for instance, mimic contemporary culture, yet allow players to interact with said culture in different ways and via different perspectives from those they might experience in “real” life. 17 “World of Warcraft Subscriber Base Reaches 12 Million Worldwide,” press release, Blizzard Entertainment, October 7, 2010, accessed May 1, 2014, http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/press/pressreleases.html?id=2847881. 18 Mike Minotti, “World of Warcraft’s Subscribers Shrink to 7.1 Million,” VentureBeat, May 6, 2015, accessed June 1, 2014, http://venturebeat. com/2015/05/06/world-of-warcrafts-subscribers-shrink-to-7-1-million/. Other successful MMORPGs include Dungeons and Dragons Online (2006) and The Lord of the Rings Online (2007). While these numbers may seem impressive, more recent session-based games (which are less sustained than the MMORPG model) boast tens of millions of players for specific online events. Fortnite (2017), for instance, reported 78.3 million monthly players in August 2018. See “Fall Skirmish Details,” Epic Games, September 20, 2018, accessed October 1, 2018. https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/news/fall-skirmish-details.

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Notably, World of Warcraft is just a small part of a global gaming industry with an estimated worth of $137.9 billion in 2018.19 As a number of scholars have noted, the media forms (such as MMORPGs) that have been assumed by many neomedieval texts have contributed to the “dissolution” of individual authorship in favor of the creation of narratives and narrative experiences through collaborative participation. As Robinson and Clements note, “Electronic entertainments, from the loftiest art film to the simplest of video games, are the creation of multiple authors and creators. In terms of interactive gaming, the player also takes part as an ‘author,’ helping to create the narrative as the play progresses.”20 The dissolution of a single “author” into the creation of narratives by multiple participants (and even multiple groups of participants) has thus been read as itself a neomedieval reiteration of a particularly “medieval” attitude towards texts, one that pre-dates a more “modern” concern with authorship itself. This results in a multiplicity of authors as well as narrative forms that are far more fragile and fleeting than the hard-copy objects of the pre-digital age.21 Such narratives can be notoriously hard to record, dissect, and analyze, and, due to the circumstantial and performative ways in which they are produced, nearly impossible to reproduce.

19 Tom Wijman, “Mobile Revenues Account for More Than 50% of the Global Games Market as It Reaches $137.9 Billion in 2018,” Newzoo, April 30, 2018, accessed October 15, 2018, https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/ global-games-market-reaches-137-9-billion-in-2018-mobile-games-take-half/. 20 Carol L. Robinson and Pamela Clements, “Living with Neomedievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XVIII (2009): 68. See also Leslie Coote, “A Short Essay about Neo-Medievalism,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 27–8; and Lauren Mayer, “Dark Matters and Slippery Words: Grappling with Neomedievalism(s),” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 73–4. 21 Richard N. Katz and Paul B. Gandel, “The Tower, the Cloud, and Posterity,” in The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing, ed. Richard N. Katz (Boulder, CO: Educause, 2008), 180. Notably, many online games now rely on software components deployed in the cloud rather than installed locally on the personal computers or gaming consoles of individual players. Parts of Fortnite, for instance, run on Amazon Web Services, which allows Epic Games to scale instances of the components needed to run the game according to player demand; this also means that the game components themselves are designed to be fragmented, portable, and disposable. See Royal O’Brien, “How Would You Keep 125 Million Gamers Playing Smoothly Online? Epic Games Shares Its Fortnite Story,” Amazon Game Tech Blog, July 24, 2018, https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/gametech/epic-fortnite-all-in-on-aws-cloud/.

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At the same time, these narrative forms necessitate that their participants shift into positions of production even while they actively consume, which potentially entails what Robinson and Clements read as a false sense of control. They write: It suggests a movement from identity of narrative creator(s) through characterization (such as one seeks through the Gawain, Pearl, and Cleanliness poems) to identities of creators imposed upon the reader/player. The illusion of control seems to be on the end of the player as she develops her character and moves through the narrative structure of the game; however, just as is the case with most Hollywood studio films, the actual control is that of the corporation (the programmers, designers, marketers, …) that produces the film.22

Part of what a digital game sells is the illusion of control over the game itself: the perceived ability to shape the way the narrative will play out. However, while digital games ostensibly offer consumers more narrative control than a novel, most virtual worlds are nonetheless subject to certain narrative limitations. Most notably, the visual component of such worlds is bound by the spatial and representational limits of the hardline nuts-and-bolts code that constitutes the game. Players are still bound to the spaces created by the game – spaces that are often marked by impassable seas and wilderness that mark the boundaries of the programmed playable world – and narrative creation is limited to pre-defined actions and methods of visual personalization. Notably, the most successful digital games – often MMORPGs – are those that appear to offer additional avenues by which players can customize game narratives to suit their particular needs. Guilds, Gold, and Virtual Goods MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft expand the narrative possibilities of code-based online texts in two important ways: first, by means of social networking, which, in addition to positioning the player (however deceptively) as author of their own fate, necessitates variations on the gaming experience according to contact with other players; and second, through the commodification of a plethora of virtual objects that for some players drive the momentum of the game in more exciting ways than narrative creation or social networking alone. The intersections of 22 Robinson and Clements, “Living with Neomedievalism,” 68–9.

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social networking and virtual goods result in the establishment of entire economic systems designed to accommodate these phenomena, which in turn necessitates the creation of group structures, virtual currencies, and virtual markets. As Jil Hanifan and I have argued, the creation and naming of groups within neomedieval games may vary by game format (RPG vs. MMORPG) and by specific game, yet many neomedieval games incorporate the concept of a “guild” into gameplay.23 World of Warcraft, for example, which also allows players to choose one of two rival factions, the “Alliance” or “the Horde,” recasts the “guild” as a formalized but completely voluntary grouping of players within either of the two factions. As Hanifan and I have stated, guilds in World of Warcraft constitute “a support network for completing quests, pooling resources, or simply knowing that, among the thousands of players online, there is a set group that is familiar and welcoming.” As such, they may rely on a term that is associated with the Middle Ages, yet “make no pretensions toward accurate or historic depictions of the guilds and associations of a ‘real’ Middle Ages.”24 Instead, they “form a supportive system and hierarchical structure through which larger quests can occur, or even a means of smaller economic exchange away from the auction house.”25 23 Fitzpatrick and Hanifan, “Medievalism and Representations of Corporate Identity,” 31–3. 24 Ibid., 32. The term “guild” has become ubiquitous in popular culture due to its use in film (e.g., the “Lollipop Guild” in the Wizard of Oz), games such as World of Warcraft, and media that represents the culture of online gaming guilds, such as The Guild (see below). The term originates from the guilds of medieval Europe, which were constituted by groups of professional craftspeople and/or tradespeople in a given city, town, or parish. Guilds served as collective bargaining units that negotiated trading rights and pricing in specified locations; guilds furthermore often regulated formal training and membership for the professions with which they were associated, often instituting professional levels such as “apprentice,” “journeyman,” and “master.” For an excellent overview on medieval guilds, see Sheilagh Ogilvie, Institutions and European Trade: Merchant Guilds, 1000–1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); and Steven A. Epstein, Wage Labour and Guilds in Medieval Europe (Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). For a fascinating look at how guilds interacted within their larger cultural communities (often contributing to social and artistic projects), see Sarah Beckwith, Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Action in the York Corpus Christi Plays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 42–58. 25 Fitzpatrick and Hanifan, “Medievalism and Representations of Corporate Identity,” 32.

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Guilds in World of Warcraft, then, function as supportive, organizational units that both grant players an advantage in addressing the quest- and accumulation-based aspects of the game and facilitate the social aspect of MMORPG play. The social interactions governed by guilds significantly enhance the immersive quality of the synthetic worlds created in MMORPGs. Indeed, in some cases players are drawn to and captivated by gameplay specifically due to the structured roles offered by the better-organized guilds, where members may advance up the guild ladder and participate in scheduled activities. In addition to “raids” whereby as many as twenty-five players are required to conquer one of the game’s many dungeons, World of Warcraft guild members have been known to gather online for activities ranging from dance parties to intellectual conferences.26 Of course, the rules of gameplay do not guarantee that such events will be honored by other players. In an incident now famous in the World of Warcraft community, a guild met online to host an in-game funeral for a member who had passed away in “real” life; as the funeral was held in an unprotected space (and on a server where player vs. player combat was permitted), the participants were attacked by a rival faction and the funeral was disrupted.27 Indeed, the ubiquity of relatively static groups such as guilds, as neomedieval as they are in their reconfiguration of a medieval concept, has led to the creation of narratives around MMORPG guilds themselves. The Guild, a web series that ran for six seasons on YouTube during the height of World of Warcraft’s success, depicts a group of players who belong to the same in-game guild that has formed in a World of Warcraftlike, medieval-fantasy-based MMORPG; they then decide to interact with each other in “real” life.28 Intended as a comedy, the series portrays how the guild members attempt to stick to the social roles created in the game when they interact in real life, to the point that they refer to each other by their online names. Interestingly, the main character goes by the name of “Codex,” which is one of the few nods the series makes, albeit lexically, to anything historically “medieval.” While part of the humor 26 William Sims Bainbridge, The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010). See esp. 16–17 and 150–1. 27 Monica Evans, “You Can Kill Your Friends But You Can’t Save Gnomeregan,” in World of Warcraft and Philosophy, ed. Luke Cuddy and John Nordlinger (Chicago: Open Court, 2009), 3–4. 28 The Guild, web serial. Created by Felicia Day (YouTube, 2007–2013).

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arises from the seemingly contradictory nature of the players’ online and offline personas, the series also pinpoints the MMORPG tropes and conventions by which online interaction may at times be preferable to that of the “real” world. Games such as World of Warcraft, then, offer a unique combination of an immersive, synthetic world within which players can craft their own online personas and a set of structures by which they can interact with other players. As Edward Castronova notes, this combination is a key draw for MMORPGs. He writes, “Sociality I would argue is what makes digital games a transformative technology as well. The big difference here is not that people feel very immersed, it is that they feel immersed together.”29 Players may then choose to utilize their immersive experiences with other players as they see fit. They may reach out to other players and form new social circles, employ such games as a means of interacting with existing friends, form antagonistic relationships or even eschew online groupings altogether (which arguably becomes more satisfyingly anti-social when playing a game where there are other people that one can actively avoid). As Jane McGonigal argues, the “ambient sociability” of online games means that players often feel more connected to other players simply because they are playing the game together, regardless of whether they choose to interact with each other.30 As Hanifan and I have argued, social groups within neomedieval digital games are so important that even console RPGs that operate without a required multi-player component have become increasingly likely to emulate social interactions through the development of technologically advanced artificial intelligence (AI) components.31 In a competitive gaming market, such advances position console games to compete not only with MMORPGs, but also with online social games where roleplaying is downplayed or eschewed altogether for a focus on cooperative

29 Edward Castronova, Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun is Changing Reality (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007), 36. 30 Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (New York: Penguin, 2011), 89–94. McGonigal also cites Nicole Lazzaro’s research to argue that neomedieval MMORPGs like World of Warcraft may actually improve social skills external to the game, writing “In other words, games like WoW may make introverts feel more comfortable with social interaction in general” (91). 31 Fitzpatrick and Hanifan, “Medievalism and Representations of Corporate Identity,” 32–3.

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projects, crafting, and world-building.32 Likewise, MMORPGs, many of which work on a subscription model, must keep the interest of players through the regular addition of new content and the development of non-quest-based activities. Many, such as World of Warcraft, attempt to appeal to consumers by offering them the chance to produce and consume virtual neomedieval goods and participate in a game-specific economy. World of Warcraft, like many other virtual worlds such as Second Life or the social networking game Castleville, maintains its own virtual currency;33 in the case of World of Warcraft this is gold. While the accumulation of gold is in itself an attraction for some players, for the most part gold is useful in terms of what it can buy. In World of Warcraft this can range from traditional fantasy action-game fare such as armor and weapons to virtual items that have no foreseeable use-value in the game but that nevertheless become desirable commodities. The latter may include fashionable (and mostly neomedieval) clothing, flashy jewelry, or exotic pets, and while Non-Player Character (NPC) vendors sell some trendy items, players also have the choice of visiting an auction house where they can either bid for items they want or sell items they have acquired through questing, production, or other means.34 Players have the option of producing some of these virtual commodities, as each player may learn up to two “professions,” such as mining, tailoring, blacksmithing, or jewelcrafting. Just as a traditional action game allows one to “level up” one’s combat abilities, so a player can level up their character’s professional ability by extensive and often repetitive practice. As players become more skilled in a profession, they gain the ability to craft higher-level goods that can be traded or sold in order to buy other goods, including the raw materials required for further 32 Castleville and its differently themed counterparts Farmville (2009) and Cityville (2010), for instance, focus more on players developing their themespecific land through activities such as quest completion and crafting, which often rely on help from other players. 33 For more on virtual currencies, including the seemingly ubiquitous “Bitcoin,” see Edward Castronova, Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution is Transforming the Economy (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2014). 34 Such items provide players with what Pierre Bourdieu would call “cultural capital” within the game: owning them imbues players with a symbolic power recognizable to other players. See Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital,” in Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. J. F. Richardson (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 241–58.

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professional crafting. The services of the highest-level craftspeople are often sought out by other players who have not built up such abilities; while such services are often exchanged for gold, many will offer their services free of charge if a client provides the necessary materials, as this allows the craftsperson to build up their professional skill level without having to spend gold on raw materials. The system of professions, then, serves as yet another way that a game such as World of Warcraft allows its players to both participate in the process of production and interact with other players. Although these processes result in virtual goods that become the object of interest for some players, the participatory nature of these types of production suggests that the virtual acts of producing and exchange are somehow just as valuable as the resultant products.35 Indeed, players often have the option of migrating outside of a game in order to purchase auxiliary funds for use within the game. This is made possible by a practice known as “gold-farming,” in which the currency within the virtual world of a massively multiplayer online game is accumulated and then exchanged for “real” currency.36 This practice also extends to the buying and selling of high-level virtual goods, and players can even hire someone in the “real” world to “power-level” their characters, which allows them to outsource and thus skip the often tedious processes by which the game intends them to build up their characters’ abilities. Gold-farming, trading virtual objects, and power-leveling are, however, greatly discouraged by most MMORPG companies. For example, part of World of Warcraft’s Terms of Use agreement expressly forbids these practices: Blizzard owns, has licensed, or otherwise has rights to all of the content that appears in the Game. You agree that you have no right or title in or to any such content, including without limitation the virtual goods or currency appearing or originating in the Game, or any other attributes associated with any Account. Blizzard does not recognize any purported transfers of virtual property executed outside of the Game, or the purported sale, gift or trade in the “real world” of anything that appears or originates in the Game. Accordingly, you may not sell in-game items or currency for 35 Mike Molesworth and Janice Denegri-Knott, “Desire for Commodities and Fantastic Consumption in Digital Games,” in The Players’ Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming, ed. K. Patrick Williams and Jonas Heide Smith (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007), 255–75. 36 For a solid introduction to the relationship between “real” and virtual economies, see Castronova, Synthetic Worlds.

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“real” money, or exchange those items or currency for value outside of the Game.37

Despite these warnings, many players do engage in these activities, and some make a living from them; however, the majority of players are interested not only in the goods themselves but also in the processes that go into producing and exchanging them. Indeed, one could argue that although this is a virtual process in which virtual commodities are produced, it is the virtual production itself that is commodified and then consumed by those who engage with these types of neomedieval texts. The neomedieval, then, may at times produce commodities, but is equally capable of commodifying production as well. Professors and Programmers: Neomedieval Commodities The intertwined processes of producing, consuming, commodifying, and creating neomedieval artifacts result in a certain fetishizing of the labor process itself. Neomedievalist scholarship may endeavor to be cognizant of the processes of commodification and consumption in which it participates, but at times even neomedievalist scholars participate in processes of mystification. For example, in speaking of digital game designers and programmers, Amy Kaufman proposes a link between “programmers, whose own encoded language seems mysterious and inaccessible, and who act as the invisible yet omnipotent force behind a game” and the magic-wielding characters in the games they create.38 Robinson and Clements have, in response to Kaufman, argued that “it is clear that a strong bond exists between the culture of computers and the culture of medieval fantasy and that culture is conducive to juxtapositions of tropes between both worlds.”39 The seemingly obvious link between medievalism and programming obfuscates the overt business models that drive the development,

37 “World of Warcraft Terms of Use Agreement,” Blizzard Entertainment, last updated August 22, 2012, accessed May 1, 2015, http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/ company/legal/wow_tou.html. 38 Amy S. Kaufman, “Romancing the Game: Magic, Writing, and the Feminine in Neverwinter Nights,” Studies in Medievalism XVI (2008): 147. 39 Robinson and Clements, “Living with Neomedievalism,” 68.

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production, and distribution of the majority of digital games.40 Stephen O’Grady has convincingly argued that in some ways software developers have become “the New Kingmakers;41 yet, as Castronova notes, game development constitutes a “business of world-making” in which individual programmers, adept as they may be in the code that constitutes the games they produce, are rarely empowered to make decisions about the development of the synthetic worlds they create.42 As Nick Dyer-Witherford and Greig de Peuter have argued, with the exception of the rare “superstar” programmer who can command an exorbitant salary, many programmers in the video-game industry operate under an exploitative system in which long hours of “casual” overtime, stagnant salaries, and perceived expendability of workers reproduce a corporate culture that seems very far from mysterious or magical.43 The position of seemingly auxiliary staff, such as graphic artists, dialogue writers, and quality-assurance testers – all vital contributors to the creation and maintenance of synthetic worlds – is often even more precarious than that of programmers and developers, with a greater rate of itinerancy and turnover. As Dyer-Witherford and Peuter have noted, such conditions are often viewed as necessary and temporary steps toward a more lucrative career position. They write, “Many game development workers, however, tolerate bad or monotonous working conditions because they see a period of drudgery as a step to starting their own companies.”44 Rather than seeming mysterious, such sentiments are strikingly familiar 40 For a solid introduction to the gaming industry and the process by which digital games are made, see Aphra Kerr, The Business and Culture of Digital Games: Gamework/Gameplay (London: Sage, 2006), 43–101. 41 Stephen O’Grady, The New Kingmakers: How Developers Conquered the World (Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2013). 42 See Castronova, Synthetic Worlds, esp. “The Business of World-Making,” 126–46. 43 Nick Dyer-Witherford and Greig de Peuter, Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (Minneapolis and London: Minnesota University Press, 2009). See especially their overview of working conditions at EA games in “Cognitive Capitalism: Electronic Arts,” 35–68. A more recent example of exploitative labor practices in the video-game industry involves workers at Rockstar Games claiming to have worked 100-hour weeks during the production of Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018). See Keza MacDonald, “Rockstar Games Defends Itself Over Working Conditions Claims,” The Guardian, October 18, 2018, accessed November 15, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/ oct/18/rockstar-games-working-conditions-red-dead-redemption-2-rob-nelson. 44 Dyer-Witherford and de Peuter, Games of Empire, 64.

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to the adjunct or assistant professor who takes on more courses, more committee work, and more publication obligations with the hopes of one day securing tenure. Because the production of new media texts such as MMORPGs rely on skillsets that neomedievalist scholars are not always equipped to provide, and labor practices that they are not always equipped to perform, it is not surprising that academics in the humanities, the branch of the academy under which most (neo)medieval/ist scholarship falls, would be fascinated by them. With Tolkien as a model of the fantasist-scholar, there is always the suspicion that one could, if one wanted, turn one’s expertise into the self-aware text that “gets it right” either in its adherence to or laughing departure from some sort of cultural or linguistic medieval accuracy. However, while many humanities scholars are becoming more comfortable with writing code,45 I have come across no indication that the creation of digital worlds will become an established part of our job description any time soon; moreover, the increasingly complex platforms used to create and deliver digital games make them a difficult medium for a single author to navigate. It may be useful, however, to add to our understanding of the collaborative nature of neomedieval texts a more specialized insight into the process that gives us the initial iteration of these texts (digital games), the raw materials that allow so many authors to simultaneously create and consume neomedieval narrative. As it is, the fascination that neomedievalist scholars have with programmers, and our willing conflation of programming code with the magical and mystical, reveal our own susceptibility to the neomedievalist texts that we study, as well as a willingness to overlook the bottom-line circumstances in which neomedievalism is continually produced. Rather than feel defensive about this, I suggest we take it as sign that we should investigate not only what neomedievalism does, but also what we could do with it. For example, in addition to examining the history of our inherited disciplinary praxis, neomedievalist critique could also benefit from more careful self-examination of the width and breadth of scholarly practices that constitute not only our field, but a wider intellectual community as well. Indeed, the productive practices that determine the majority of our own labor conditions have been for some time in various states of crisis.

45 The field of the Digital Humanities, for instance, specifically addresses the intersections of the humanities and digital technologies.

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For instance, the tools of neomedievalist critique also offer insight into what has been termed the “corporatization of the university.” In a shift decried by a number of scholars, higher education increasingly models education as a job-training commodity, with students positioned as consumers. One critic of this trend has dejectedly surmised that “The selling and buying of higher education is going to intensify. Corporatization is here to stay.”46 Such declarations, of course, rely on a past image of the university that is somehow less corporatized and otherwise superior. As Gwendolyn Morgan surmises, the “golden age” point of contrast for this decline is often the medieval university. She writes: The created medieval past is our justification for the present, our invented authority. Our penchant for appealing to it echoes closely the medieval poets citing real and invented classical authorities for their own art, and thus represents a double practice of medievalism. However, whether scholars “pooh-pooh” popular misconceptions and adaptations or appreciate conscious manipulations of our medieval past, they tend to exude superiority in not having been taken in by them. Yet, the academy itself also practices medievalism, and to the same end: to gain authority for scholarly paradigms and ideological positions by asserting their origins in the golden Middle Ages.47

As Morgan observes, even medievalists (and scholars working in medievalism studies) may be susceptible to this nostalgia; however, when she consults studies on conditions in medieval universities, she finds that “The picture that emerges is frighteningly familiar: high student drop-out rates, untenured lectureships, marginal economic rewards: indeed, medieval teaching Masters received relatively lower salaries than those accorded to professors today.”48 Nostalgia for the medieval university as a golden-age ideal, then, relies on a gilded image of the Middle Ages that treats the past as a justifying 46 Marvin Lazerson, “The Making of Corporate U,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 22, 2010, B4-B6. Notably, responses to the idea of the corporatization of higher education vary, with one response to Lazerson calling such changes “realistic adjustments to societal change.” See Milton Greenberg, “The Corporatization of Academe, Revisited,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2010, B18. 47 Gwendolyn A. Morgan, “Medievalism, Authority, and the Academy,” Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009): 56–7; see also 59–61. 48 Ibid., 62. In particular, Morgan cites Alan Cobban’s English University Life in the Middle Ages (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999).

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authority: a medievalism worthy of Walter Scott himself, and one that Morgan cautions us against. She writes, “Among what Tom Shippey has termed ‘dangerous medievalisms,’ surely academic medievalism – inventing an authority to support our theories, using those theories to prove our invention, ultimately using both to perpetrate visions of the Middle Ages for others to employ in their particular self-justifications – is the most dangerous of all.”49 Arguably, Morgan’s warning against the dangers of academic medievalism is itself a form of neomedievalist critique that can be extended to the alternative “golden” age that has been posited for the university: the years following World War II through the 1970s. Once unhinged from a glorious medieval past, this period in the academy’s history becomes tied closely to the post-war economic prosperity that saw an uptick in everything from new home construction to new car manufacture to babies: a far cry from the self-sustaining and independent ideal of university life that is often held up as the antithesis to the “corporate university.” The negative connotations that have followed the term “corporate university” and “corporatization” when used in relation to higher education also point to the academy’s continued practice of separating itself from the very concept of consumption and profit; ironically, as I have demonstrated above, the drive for profit is often what produces the most widely recognizable constructions of the medieval. Notably, this parallels the ongoing struggle for the full acceptance of specializations such as neomedievalist scholarship within scholarly circles. The academy, with its institutionalized and historic understanding of the Middle Ages, medieval studies, and medievalism, is in a unique position to shape the future of neomedievalism, yet this effort is often curtailed by the limited acceptability of neomedievalist critique as regards the hiring and tenure decisions of the academic job market. This is then complicated by the need to fill course seats in an increasingly corporatized university – a goal that putting popular neomedievalist texts on syllabi may help accomplish. As Amy Kaufman has phrased it, “What medieval studies professor these days has not put Arthurian films on the syllabus (or even designed a whole course around them), passed around a medieval-themed graphic

49 Morgan, “Medievalism, Authority, and the Academy,” 65.

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novel, or let students do their homework on the Xbox in order to make their class more timely, more relevant, or more exciting?”50 The current values of the university, whether they can be accurately described as “corporatized” or not, place academics in the position of teaching neomedieval texts (often corporately produced) in order to maintain academic positions in which the study of such texts is still barely accepted. It is a reminder that regardless of the rhetoric used, neomedievalist professors nevertheless sell a version of the Middle Ages. Whether as intellectual labor that results in a tenure track job, or as knowledge commodified for student consumption, this version is as much a commodity as is a mass-marketed neomedieval video game. The divide between medieval studies and the (neo)medievalism that played a role in the formation of medieval studies is thereby continually reproduced to this very day, and linked in complex ways to constructed divides between the academic and the corporate, between constructions of medieval-as-knowledge and medieval-as-commodity. Some scholars have seen the continued divide between academic medieval(ism) studies and popular-culture medievalism as a result of what Richard Utz has described as an unwillingness in many medievalists to descend “what they considered a slippery slope toward a reunification of what academic custom’s rigid rings had set apart.”51 I would argue that “reunification,” or the instantaneous erasure of such divisions, should not necessarily be part of the neomedievalist project. Indeed, there is much to gain by continuing to acknowledge the history by which the constructed divisions between academy and corporation, medieval studies and (neo) medievalism studies, Middle Ages and Modernity have had real consequences. Therefore, while neomedievalism may deny the necessity of grounding representations of the medieval in a historic Middle Ages, neomedievalist scholarship undeniably benefits from understanding the exclusionary practices that have formed such histories and the disciplines that have grown up around them. The constant processes that produce and reproduce medievalism, then, not only invite us to produce meanings

50 Amy S. Kaufman, “Medieval Unmoored,” Studies in Medievalism XIX (2010): 5. Conversely, Richard Utz cautions against pushing neomedieval texts such as Game of Thrones as a “gateway drug” to medieval studies. See Utz, “‘Game of Thrones’ Among the Medievalists,” Inside Higher Ed, July 14, 2017. 51 Richard Utz, “Medievalitas Fugit: Medievalism and Temporality,” Studies in Medievalism XVIII (2010): 35.

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and commodities and narratives, but also to critically re-examine our own assumptions about where we belong in this process. “You are sitting in a tavern …”: Creating Neomedieval(ist) Communities When we read a novel, play a digital game, compose an essay, or teach a class, we produce our texts through ever more complicated patterns of consumption, play, authorship, and scholarship. For neomedievalist scholars, especially, this means forging connections across the complex divisions upon which constructions of our professional identities often rely. In bridging these divisions, some participants attempt to share their experiences through relatively traditional approaches, such as Bonnie A. Nardi in her anthropological account of her time as a Night Elf Hunter in World of Warcraft.52 Others have used the technologies of neomedieval texts to forge new scholarly communities that operate cooperatively and collaboratively within the virtual worlds they study.53 Still others choose to subvert the authority of the texts they study/produce/consume in an attempt to wrest control back from the corporations that produce them, often sharing their methods along the way.54 To my mind, the more collaborative these connective processes become, the better – and to that end neomedievalist scholarship stands to benefit from some of the mindsets, practices, and tools inherent in the neomedievalist texts it critiques. For instance, the cooperative nature of RPGs like D&D means that many campaigns begin with the phrase “You are sitting in a tavern ….” Likewise, in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, taverns serve as one of the few spaces where teams can safely meet without fear of attack, trade information, and plan the next move. Taverns serve as welcome meeting spaces in worlds both real and virtual, popular and academic; they are an apt metaphor, then – separate from 52 Bonnie A. Nardi My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010). See also Celia Pearce and Artemisia, Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009). 53 Scott Rettberg, “Corporate Ideology in World of Warcraft,” in Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader, ed. Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 19–38. 54 Daniel Gilbert and James Whitehead II, Hacking World of Warcraft (Indianapolis: Wiley, 2007).

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both digital dungeons and ivory towers – for spaces that can connect contributors of both neomedievalism and neomedievalist critique, and allow them to contemplate each other’s versions of the medieval.55 Such connections can be further facilitated by the increased use of various digital platforms and tools. Digital publishing, for instance, offers a potential solution to the problems inherent in more traditional hardcopy publication, an issue that has career implications for academics whose jobs rely on their producing monographs. While the expectation that academics will produce monographs has been deemed untenable by those who engage with it strictly as a commodity, many academic hiring, tenure, and promotion committees base their decisions on a candidate’s ability to publish monographs.56 This means that the livelihoods of many academics (medievalist and otherwise) become based not on the quality of their scholarship but on their ability to successfully engage in commodity production. As the physical book itself, and not just the hardcopy academic monograph, is in crisis, it would be wise for hiring and tenure committees to reconsider digital technologies, such as e-books, that are displacing it.57 Notably, professional organizations and academic publishers are increasingly supportive of electronic publishing, although at present hard-copy publication for monographs is still standard.58 55 In addition, taverns are one of the more prominent strands of medievalism that connect Tolkien to D&D and to digital games, as he famously met with his fellow Inklings at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford. 56 Lindsay Waters, “Rescue Tenure from the Tyranny of the Monograph,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 20, 2001, B7–10. 57 In July 2010 Amazon.com reported that it was now selling more virtual texts for its Kindle reader than hard-cover books. For details see “Kindle Device Unit Sales Accelerate Each Month in Second Quarter; New $189 Price Results in Tipping Point for Growth,” July 19, 2010, accessed May 1, 2015, http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix. zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1449176&highlight=>. 58 Although it remains to be seen how hiring and tenure committees will react, it is heartening to see some professional organizations profess support for electronic methods of publication. In February 2015, for instance, the executive council of the Modern Language Association (MLA) approved a new set of guidelines pertaining to electronic publishing. They note, “Electronically published journal articles, monographs, and long-form scholarship are viable and credible modes of scholarly publication. For the purposes of hiring, reappointment, tenure, and promotion, departments evaluating scholarly publications should judge journals, monographs, or other substantial scholarly works according to the same criteria, whether they are published in digital or print formats.” See MLA Committee on Information Technology, “Statement

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Digital publication also makes neomedievalist scholarship more easily available to wider audiences. Online magazines such as Medievalists.net and The Public Medievalist make both informational and critical pieces on the Middle Ages accessible to the entire online community. Indeed, the recent Public Medievalist series “Race, Racism and the Middle Ages” and “Gender, Sexism, and the Middle Ages” have provided timely and important perspectives on current perceptions of the medieval as well as critique of the way these perceptions have been used and misused in public discourse.59 As Richard Utz notes, projects like The Public Medievalist “fulfil the ethical obligation academic medievalists have to put their specialist education to serve the very public that makes that education possible.”60 Notably, as Sierra Lomuto’s post on “Public Medievalism and the Rigor of Anti-Racist Critique” aptly demonstrates, public medievalist on Electronic Publication,” accessed August 1, 2018, https://www.mla.org/ About-Us/Governance/Committees/Committee-Listings/Professional-Issues/ Committee-on-Information-Technology/Statement-on-Electronic-Publication. 59 See The Public Medievalist, accessed November 1, 2018, https://www. publicmedievalist.com/. The series “Race, Racism and the Middle Ages” is particularly crucial in light of the white-supremacist rally, counter-protest, and resultant violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA, in August 2017. The incident brought national attention to the appropriation of medievalist tropes by white-supremacist rhetoric, leading to productive critique of this rhetoric in forums both public and scholarly. For examples of immediate public responses, see Josephine Livingstone, “Racism, Medievalism, and the White Supremacists of Charlottesville,” The New Republic, August 15, 2015, https:// newrepublic.com/article/144320/racism-medievalism-white-supremacistscharlottesville; Paul B. Sturtevant, “Leaving ‘Medieval’ Charlottesville,” The Public Medievalist, August 17, 2017, https://www.publicmedievalist.com/leavingmedieval-charlottesville/; and “Medievalists Respond to Charlottesville,” The Medieval Academy Blog, August 18, 2017, http://www.themedievalacademyblog. org/medievalists-respond-to-charlottesville/. More recent responses include a session entitled “Nostalgia and Narrative after Charlottesville: Comparing Myths of Origins in the Middle Ages and the American Civil War,” presented jointly at the 2019 MLA Convention and the 2019 annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) with panelists Danielle Christmas, Kevin M. Gannon, Sierra Lomuto, and David Perry, and session chair Matthew Gabriele; see also Dorothy Kim, “Medieval Studies Since Charlottesville,” Inside Higher Ed, August 30, 2018, https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/08/30/ scholar-describes-being-conditionally-accepted-medieval-studies-opinion. 60 Utz makes this statement in his own Medievalism: A Manifesto, which is itself an important contribution to public-facing neomedievalist scholarship. See Richard Utz, Medievalism: A Manifesto (Kalamazoo, MI: ARC Humanities Press, 2017); see especially “Chapter 6, Manifesto: Six (Not So) Little Medievalisms.”

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discourse has also enabled important critique of both academic medieval studies and public medievalism per se.61 Digital social media platforms such as Twitter have also resulted in more social and public engagement of people interested in the medieval, medievalism, and neomedievalism. Twitter allows users to send out short posts of 280 characters or less to other users who choose to “follow” them. Users may also tag posts with “hashtags,” which result in the streaming of posts containing the same hashtag on a single page. Posts containing the hashtag #MedievalTwitter, for instance, are displayed at https://twitter. com/hashtag/medievaltwitter. This hashtag is one of the more popular medievalist tags among Twitter users, and the resultant feed, to which concepts of individual authorship are irrelevant, and to which any user can ostensibly contribute, is yet another example of collaborative neomedieval productive practices at work.62 While many neomedievalist scholars have begun to make use of the various digital platforms and tools available, still others have used multiple technologies in conjunction to create new collaborative projects. The “Lone Medievalist” project, for instance, is “designed to bring scholars together who are the only medievalist scholars within their campus or larger community.” In order to achieve this goal of connectivity, the project utilizes a webpage, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and an online forum, in addition to supporting various types of publication.63 Likewise, the group “Medievalists of Color” makes use of a listserv and a website that, among other objectives, creates “a space that centers the perspectives, experiences, and voices of scholars of color who work in Medieval Studies.”64 The UNICORN Virtual Museum, which includes both medieval studies and medievalism components, proposes a “virtual 61 Sierra Lomuto, “Public Medievalism and the Rigor of Anti-Racist Critique,” In the Middle, April 4, 2019, http://www.inthemedievalmiddle. com/2019/04/public-medievalism-and-rigor-of-anti.html. 62 While online platforms and communities can help make connections among people, they are also potential tools of abuse and harassment. In the gaming community this is best illustrated by what is often called the “Gamergate controversy,” which involved harassment and threats towards visible women in the game industry. For an overview of this series of incidents, see Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett, Toxic Geek Masculinity in Media: Sexism, Trolling, and Identity Policing (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 89–93. 63 See The Lone Medievalist, accessed November 15, 2018, https:// lonemedievalist.hcommons.org/. 64 “Public Discourse,” Medievalists of Color, accessed March 30, 2019, https://medievalistsofcolor.com/public-discourse/.

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museum that is also a library, that has a Great Hall for special exhibits and conferences, that provides classrooms and workrooms, including a ‘kitchen’ for creative working, and that even has a store. It would provide a three dimensional style environment for research, creative and pedagogical purposes.” While this platform is still in the works, the site currently relies on a combination of easily available Content Management (WordPress) and Learning Management (Moodle) systems.65 Neomedievalist scholarship may also benefit from taking advantage of other technologies, including those developed initially for gaming. In her chapter on “Collaborative Superpowers,” Jane McGonigal suggests the connective potential of both “real-time coordination tools” and “collaborative creation systems” in which “gamers get to create their own digital content, in order to build up their favorite worlds for the benefit of other players.”66 Such technologies could prove invaluable to creating online collaborative spaces in which both neomedievalism and neomedievalist scholarship might thrive. The increased availability of such spaces is an ever-present indication that the ways that we learn about and understand the medieval in all its manifestations are always socially produced regardless of whether such productions are accomplished through a book, degree program, film, game, or social media platform. They are also a constant reminder to be as self-reflexive and self-aware as possible when endeavoring both to engage with neomedieval texts and to produce neomedievalist scholarship. To that end, I must confess that I am fully aware of the irony of producing an understanding of neomedievalism that suggests that simple definitions are impossible, pushing to articulate the use of less-permanent media through the means of a traditional one, and urging a self-reflexive stance on both intellectual production and its relationship to academia even as this book serves as a potential part of the academic hire–tenure– promotion process. Yet these are precisely the types of contradiction at play in the current state of the academy, and those most productively reconciled by the ephemerality of neomedievalism and the resultant elasticity of neomedievalist critique. Neomedievalist critique must push us to be wary of the ways the past is presented to us, both from outside of and within our own discipline(s), whether we venture to dungeons, towers, or taverns. At the same time it should urge us to be open to new approaches 65 The UNICORN Virtual Museum. Accessed November 1, 2018, http:// unicornvirtualmedievalmuseum.org/. 66 McGonigal, Reality is Broken, 273; see also 266–95.

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to the Middle Ages even as our very proclivity for the medieval reminds us that “new” is not always “better.” Above all, neomedievalism demands that we question the medieval as it has been constructed and handed down to us, while neomedievalist critique reminds us to be careful with our own contributions to the making of the Middle Ages.67

67 I refer to R. W. Southern’s seminal study The Making of the Middle Ages (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1953).

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Toswell, M. J. “The Simulacrum of Neomedievalism.” Studies in Medievalism XIX: Defining Neomedievalism(s) (2010): 44–57. —. “The Tropes of Medievalism.” Studies in Medievalism XVII: Defining Medievalism(s) (2009): 68–76. Trilling, Renée R. “Beyond Abjection: The Problem with Grendel’s Mother Again.” Parergon 24, no. 1 (2007): 1–20. Uckelman, Sarah L., Sonia Murphy, and Joseph Percer. “What’s in a Name? History and Fantasy in Game of Thrones.” In Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, edited by Brian A. Pavlac, 241–50. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017. Utz, Richard. Medievalism: A Manifesto. Kalamazoo, MI: ARC Humanities Press, 2017. —. “Medievalitas Fugit: Medievalism and Temporality.” Studies in Medievalism XVIII: Defining Medievalism(s) II (2009): 31–42. Vaninskaya, Anne. William Morris and the Idea of Community: Romance, History and Propaganda, 1880–1914. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Verduin, Kathleen. “The Founding and the Founder: Medievalism and the Legacy of Leslie J. Workman.” Studies in Medievalism XVII: Defining Medievalism(s) (2009): 1–27. Vorhees, Gerald, Joshua Call, and Katie Whitlock, eds. Dungeons, Dragons, and Digital Denizens: The Digital Role-Playing Game. London: Continuum, 2012. Waithe, Marcus. William Morris’s Utopia of Strangers: Victorian Medievalism and the Ideal of Hospitality. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006. Walker, Alison Tara. “‘What’s in Your Wallet?’: How to Construct an ‘Authentic’ Middle Ages.” In Neomedievalism in the Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Electronic Games, edited by Carol L. Robinson and Pamela Clements, 149–64. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2012. Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. 1994. Reprint ed. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996. Waters, Lindsay. “Rescue Tenure from the Tyranny of the Monograph.” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 20, 2001. West, Richard C. “Setting the Rocket Off in Story: The Kalevala as the Germ of Tolkien’s Legendarium.” In Tolkien and the Invention of Myth, edited by Jane Chance, 285–94. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. White, Hayden. “Historical Text as Literary Artifact.” In The Writing of History, edited by Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki, 41–62. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978. —. Metahistory. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973. Williams, K. Patrick, and Jonas Heide Smith, eds. The Players’ Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007. Windolf, Jim. “The Gathering Storm.” Vanity Fair, April 2014. Accessed November 1, 2018. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2014/04/ game-of-thrones-season-4

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Wood, Ellen Meiksins. The Origins of Capitalism: A Longer View. London and New York: Verso, 2002. Woolf, D. R. “Dawn of the Artifact: The Antiquarian Impulse in England, 1500– 1730.” Studies in Medievalism IV: Medievalism in England (1992): 5–35. Workman, Leslie J. “The Future of Medievalism.” The Year’s Work in Medievalism 10 (1999): 7–18. Young, Helen. Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness. New York and London: Routledge, 2016. Zipes, Jack. Fairy Tale as Myth / Myth as Fairy Tale. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994. —. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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Index academy, the  xvii, xxi, 4–11, 14–16, 26–7, 186–90 corporatization of  187–90 hiring practices  27, 188, 191 labor conditions  186, 187, 188 Adorno, Theodor  160, 166 Aegon the Conqueror  112, 113, 115, 136 Alexander, Michael  10 n.22, 11 n.27, 40 n. 36 anachronisms  62, 74, 90 Anglo-Saxons  58–9, 81 Anglo-Saxon studies  31–2, 35–6, 39, 69 language  38, 39, 56–8 literature  74, 80 n.27, 97 warrior culture  82–5 animation  74, 76–8, 99 computer-generated imagery 73, 74, 89, 99 n.67 antiquarians  12, 36–8, 41 anti-racist critique  192–3 architecture  12, 33, 41, 45, 47, 78, 106, 114, 115 Arthurian legend  41, 47, 53, 115, 133, 145 avatars 157–8 Baldur’s Gate 175 Baggins, Bilbo  51 n.65, 55, 56, 62, 66 Baggins, Frodo  51 n.65, 56, 62, 63, 65–66 Baratheon, Joffrey  113 n.27, 122

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Baratheon, Robert  107, 113 n.27, 116, 122, 124, 130–2, 133 n. 79 rebellion against King Aerys II  110 n. 19, 117, 136 Basile, Giambattista “Sun, Moon, and Talia”  75 Baudrillard, Jean  24 Benioff, David and D.B Weiss  105 n.5, 125, 127 Beowulf (film)  xix, 73–5, 80–2, 85–7, 88–9, 94–9, 100, 102 Beowulf (poem)  34–5, 36, 53–6, 73, 81–5, 87–8, 96, 104, 108 “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”  see under Tolkien, J. R. R. Bettleheim, Bruno  75 n.10 Biddick, Kathleen  6–8, 11, 14, 40 n.34 Blizzard Entertainment  174, 183–4 Bloch, Marc  15, 144 n.3 blood inheritance  xx, 103, 105, 129–135, 136, 139 madness as  136–7 blood magic  104, 131–3 blood of the dragon  129, 130, 132–4 Bourdieu, Pierre  182 n.34 Brenner, Robert  148 Brienne of Tarth  123, 124 Brown, Harry  27 Bull, Hedley  xv–xvi, xviii, 18, 169 n.42 Cantor, Norman  5 n.6, 14

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Index

capitalism  xx, 22, 25, 50, 144–5, 147–154, 158–160, 161, 167, 169–70 Carlyle, Thomas  40, 43, 45 n.51 Carpenter, Humphrey  32–3, 56 The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien 33, 44, 51, 57, 58, 67 Carroll, Shiloh  60 n.101, 120, 125, 127, 129, 135 castles  xx, 17, 75, 77, 78, 81, 92, 109, 110, 115, 116, 126 Castleville  171, 182 Castronova, Edward  176, 181, 182 n.33, 183 n.36, 185 Certeau, Michel de  158–9, 160 Chance, Jane  52–3, 55 n. 85, 68 n.126, 84, 88 Chandler, Alice  40 n.36, 41, 43–4, 48 n.58 Charlottesville  192 n.59 Chaucer, Geoffrey  xiv, 43, 47 children of the forest 118, 128 n.69 chivalry  42–3, 68, 116–17, 120, 124, 139 Knights Who Say “Ni”  22–3 knights as medieval tropes  14, 79, 110, 162–3 Cinderella  76, 77 n.17, 89, 100 class  xix, xx, 67, 68, 93, 105, 109–10, 113, 129, 134, 147–8, 149–151, 152, 154 in RPGs  174 classroom  8–9, 28, 171, 172, 189, 190, 194 Clegane, Ser Gregor  116–17, 124 commodification  25, 173, 178–9, 184 commodities xx, 24–5, 27, 28, 173, 149–50, 157, 158, 160–1, 169–70, 182–90, 191 consumption of  144, 150, 158–9, 160, 166, 173, 184, 188, 189, 190 commodity fetishism  144, 149–50, 153, 157, 167 consumers  26, 144–5, 154, 157–60, 164, 165, 166, 169, 187

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Coote, Leslie  19, 24, 27–8, 30 n.86 corporate university  187–90 corporations  169, 172, 178, 189, 190 costume design  48, 76, 78, 81, 89–90 CRPGs 174–6 See also MMORPGs crusades  xiv–xv, 42, 162 currency  151–2, 182–4 Damico, Helen  35 n.19, 95 Danes  80–1, 82, 86, 87, 96 digital games see video games digital publishing  191–2 Dinshaw, Carolyn  xiv n.4, 3–4, 6, 8, 11 n.23, 16 direwolves 107 Disney Studios  74–9, 89–90, 93–4, 99–102 Disney, Walt  74 n.5, 76, 90, 99, 100 Disneyland  109, 120 Dothraki  123, 128, 129, 132, 134, 137 dragons in Beowulf 53–4, 73, 82, 96–7 dragon horn  80, 82, 85 Fafnir  33, 53, 55 in Game of Thrones  103–4, 107, 113, 116, 133, 136–9 Drogon  133–134, 137 Targaryen affinity for  128–9, 131, 132–4 Viserion  133, 138 in Magic: The Gathering  143 n. 2, 145, 162 in Maleficent  102, 103 in Sleeping Beauty  74, 79, 92, 93, 99 in Tolkien  33, 53–5, 62 as weapons  103, 116, 134, 136–9 Dream of John Ball, A  see under Morris, William Drogo, Khal  132, 133, 135 Druon, Maurice  108–9 dungeons  92, 171–2, 174, 175, 180, 191, 194

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Index Dungeons & Dragons  xx, 60, 143, 145, 156, 164, 171–2, 173–6 Dyer-Witherford, Nick and Greig de Peuter 185 Earle, Eyvind  76–9, 91 Early English Text Society  37 Eco, Umberto  xv, xviii, xxi, 17–18, 21 ecocriticism  61, 64–5 education  187–9, 192 See also classroom Eglinton Tournament  43 Elliot, Andrew  xiv n.5, elves  57, 62 n.108, 65, 66, 67, 118 n.42, 145, 162, 165, 174, Emery, Elizabeth  13–16, 29 Engels, Friedrich  51–2, 147 England  39–40, 47, 56, 62, 108 mythology for  56, 61, 107 Éowyn  58, 67–8 escapism  47, 150–1, 152–3, 154, 161, 167, 170 “Essay on Chivalry”  see under Scott, Sir Walter Essos  103, 106–7, 124, 128–9, 135–6 Mereen  129, 136, 138 Valyria  106, 112, 113, 114, 131 EverQuest 176 exploitation  50, 63, 147–51, 152–4, 154, 161, 185 extra-economic compulsion  148–9 fairy tales  14, 75–6, 92–4, 100–2 See also folklore fantasy  32, 53, 56, 129–30, 145–6, 150–2, 157–8, 161–8, 180, 182, 184 as critique  32, 51–2, 60–2 genre  xix, 51–2, 59–60, 103–4, 106–7, 109, 122, 130, 139 grimdark/gritty  xx, 120–2, 127, 139 use of history as authority in  104–8, 109–115,117–8, 120–2, 125–8, 139

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femininity, constructs of Anglo-Saxon womanhood  87–8 ideal images of beauty  73–4, 88–93, 94–5 and monstrosity  82, 84, 87–8, 92, 95, 97 and narrative authority  92–3, 96–7, 101–2 and passivity  42, 67–8, 69, 79–80, 87, 92–3, 94, 96, 123 feudalism  xvi, 12, 17, 41, 43, 47–8, 50, 59, 110, 129, 144, 146–54 Finke, Laurie and Martin B. Shichtman 120–1 Finn, Kavita Mudan  107, 122, 133 Fire and Blood  see under Martin, George R. R. Flieger, Verilyn  64–5 Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather  78–9, 91–2 folklore  35, 37, 55, 75, 117, 119, 167 Fortnite  176 n.18, 177 n.21 Frankel, Valerie Estelle  119, 123 Fugelso, Karl  26 Game of Thrones (HBO series)  xx, xxi, 60, 103, 104–5, 108, 114–5, 117–120, 122–139 Gamergate  193 n.62 Gamgee, Samwise  51 n.65, 56, 62, 63, 65 Gauntlet 171 Geats  53, 80, 87, 96 Girouard, Mark  40 n.36, 42–3 globalization  xv, 145, 167–9 gold  55, 80, 82, 85, 132 currency  96, 126, 182–4 as hair color  90, 92, 130, 131, 132 gold-farming 183–4 Gothic architecture  41, 42, 78, 167 Goths (tribes)  51, 59 Great War, The  58, 66 Grendel  53–4, 73, 80, 81–2, 85, 86, 89, 96, 97–8

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Index

Grendel’s mother  53 n.75, 73–4, 82–9, 92, 94–5, 96–8 heels  95, 98 as ideal image of beauty  88, 89, 94–5 as inversion of Anglo-Saxon womanhood  87–8, 95 knife  83–4, 88 Grewell, Lowell Cory  19, 26 grimdark see gritty fantasy under fantasy Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm  37, 79 n.23, 99, 100 guest cup  58, 80, 88 guilds  147, 167–9, 179–81 Gygax, Gary and David Arneson  173 Hanifan, Jil  173 n.3, 179, 181 Henry VIII  41 Heorot  54, 73, 80, 81–2, 86 Hepburn, Audrey  90–1, 93 Hobbit, The see under Tolkien, J. R. R. High Valyrian (language)  106, 113–14 dracarys  133, 134 historical fiction  41–2, 43–4, 51, 106, 108–9 Holsinger, Bruce  xiii–xvi, xvii–xviii, 4–5, 11 n.23, 16, 18 Hrothgar  80–1, 82, 85, 86, 87, 95–6, 97 humanities  8, 186 Digital Humanities  186 n.45 hyperreality  17, 24, 99 n.67 ice zombies see wights inheritance  51 n. 65, 86, 96, 103, 104, 110, 122, 129–31, 133, 137, 139 See also blood inheritance International Conference on Medievalism  10, 27 International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo)  9, 10, 20, 27

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International Medieval Congress (Leeds) 10 International Society for the Study of Medievalism 10, 26 Iron Throne  108, 117, 130, 134 Ivanhoe  see under Scott, Sir Walter Jackson, Peter  64, 69 Jameson, Frederic  22 n.58, 25, 28 Jamison, Carol  110, 111, 112–3, 115 n.35, 128–30 Jolie, Angelina  xix, 89, 102 jousting  25, 43, 116 Kaufman, Amy S.  29, 184, 188–9 Klein, Stacy  74 n.4, 84 knights see chivalry labor  48, 63, 91, 147–9, 152–153, 161, 184, 186, 189 labor power  148, 149, 152, 153 Lang, Andrew  32, 33 n.10 Lannister, Cersei  107, 117, 122, 123, 124, 129–30, 131–2, 134, 137 Lannister, Jaime  130, 131, 136 Lannister, Tyrion  107, 119, 122, 134 Larrington, Carolyne  108, 114 Lefebvre, Henri  153–4 Legend of Zelda  171, 175 lineage  41, 129, 133, 136, 139 Lomuto, Sierra  192–3 Lone Medievalist, The  193 Lord of the Rings, The  see under Tolkien, J. R. R. Lukacs, Georg  52 McGonigal, Jane  181, 194 maesters  110–14, 115, 117, 119, 138 magic  xx, 14, 56, 79, 91–3, 100, 101–2, 103, 120, 139, 144, 145, 151–3, 154–5, 162, 184, 185, 186 See also blood magic

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Index Magic: The Gathering  xx, 143–5, 150–1, 153–5, 156–7, 158–64, 165–70 cards  143–4, 151, 154–5, 156–7, 158, 159–161, 162, 164–5, 166–7 casting cost of  151–2 creatures  143, 146, 151–2, 156, 164, 165, 166, 168 flavor text in  143, 159, 162 n.28, 164 illustrations in  143, 162–3, 168 lands  146, 151 as commodity  144, 147, 157–8, 160–1, 169–7 core sets  159, 160, 162–3, 165, 166 deck building 153, 158, 159, 160, 161, 167 Dominaria 164–5 expansion sets  160, 162, 163–5 Arabian Nights  160, 163 Mirrodin 165–6 Ravnica  165, 166, 167–9 Magic: Online  xx, 144, 154, 157, 169–70 mana  146, 151–2, 156, 160–1, 165 multiverse  163–7, 169 player types  155–60 rules for gameplay 143–4, 145–6 Maleficent (character)  xix, 74, 78, 79, 91, 92–3, 101–2 Maleficent (film) 101–2 Marshall, David W.  19, 23, 25, 26 n.72 Martin, George R. R.  xx, 60, 103, 104, 106–10, 120–2, 125–8, 138–9 Fire and Blood  112, 131, 138 Song of Ice and Fire, A 103–11, 112–14, 115–19, 120–131, 132–3, 139 World of Ice and Fire, The  111–13 Marx, Karl  48 n.58, 49–50, 147–50, 152 masculinity, constructs of  79–80, 193 n.62

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and Anglo-Saxon warrior culture  82, 84–85, 87, 88, 95 Matthews, David  6 n.7, 10, 11 n.26, 12, 43, 125 Mayer, Lauren S.  29–30 Medieval Academy of America  192 n.59 Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization  20–2, 29, 98, 127 n.66, 163 n.33 medieval revival  xix, 32, 33–4, 39–48 medieval studies  xviii–xix, 4–8, 9, 11, 12–16, 19, 23, 27, 31, 33–6, 39–9, 40, 42, 69, 125, 172 n.2, 188–9, 193 medievalism, definitions  xvii, 4–5, 6–7, 11–30 modernist medievalism  20–1, 163 post-modern medievalism  21, 22 medievalism studies  5–6, 9–11, 12–6, 26–7, 28, 69, 120, 187–9 medievalists  xiii–xiv, 4–6, 8, 9, 10, 16, 31, 34, 125–6, 172–3, 187–8, 191–3 Medievalists of Color  193 MedievalTwitter hashtag  193 Meridian 59 175 Middle Ages  xiv–xvii, 4–5, 8, 11–26, 28–30, 32, 33, 35–6, 38–45, 47–8, 55–6, 60–1, 68–9, 76–7, 80, 99–101, 105, 109, 120–2, 125–7, 145, 147, 166, 179, 187–8, 189, 192 Middle-earth  31–2, 44, 50, 51, 55–60, 61–4, 66–9, 145 Dead Marshes  65–6 Gondor  44, 59, 67 Mordor 65 Rohan  59, 67 Shire  50–1, 61–5 Millais, John Everett  45–6 MMORPGs  173–84, 186, 190 Moberly, Brent and Kevin Moberly 24–5

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Index

Modern Language Association  191 n.58, 192 n.59 modernism  11, 20–2, 163, 164, 189 modernity 12, 20, 24, 90–1, 93, 177, 189 Monty Python and the Holy Grail 8, 22–3, 77 n.17, 115 n.35, 171 Morgan, Gwendolyn A.  16, 17, 113, 187–8 Morris, William  xvii, 25, 32–3, 40, 44, 46–51, 53, 61, 109 Dream of John Ball, The 47–8 News from Nowhere 48–51 Red House  47 romances 51 translations  32, 51 n.68, 53 Multi-User Dungeons  175 mystification  xx, 149, 151, 153, 167, 184 neomedievalism, definitions  xv–xvi, xviii, 17–30 neomedievalist critique  xix, xxi–xxii, 27–28, 145, 170, 173, 184, 186–95 neomedievalist scholarship  see neomedievalist critique News from Nowhere  see under Morris, William Night King  128, 138, 139 Night’s Watch  111, 116, 117, 118–19, 130 nobility  43, 104, 106, 110, 111, 113, 115, 117–19, 134, 122–3, 128, 129–30, 139, 145 Non-Player Character  174, 182 nostalgia  12, 16, 21, 47, 61–2, 68, 91, 106, 113–4, 187 O’Grady, Stephen  185 Old English  xvii n.14, 31, 95–96, 97, 99 see also language under Anglo-Saxons Old Nan  118, 119 “On Fairy-Stories”  see under Tolkien, J. R. R. Orchard, Andy  31 n.2, 87

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orcs  62, 64, 121, 128 Others see White Walkers Oxford University  xvii n. 14, 31, 35, 114 Patterson, Lee  5 n.6, 7–8, 14, 37, 39–40 Perrault, Charles  74, 75–6, 79, 99, 100 periodization, system of  11, 14, 20–4 Classical period  11, 12, 14, 20, 35 n.18, 114 See also Rome Modern period see modernity Medieval period see Middle Ages Philip IV (France)  108 Phillip, Prince (Disney character)  76, 79–80, 90–1, 92–4, 102 philology  35, 36, 37–8, 57 Player Character  174, 175 positivism  6–7, 38–9 postmodernism  17, 19, 20–5, 28, 29, 144, 164–5 post-postmodernism  17, 19, 23, 29 premodernity  xiv, 115, 145 Pre-Raphaelites  40, 44–6, 79, 171 Princess Bride, The 94 n.59, 115 n.35 princesses  14, 75, 79, 109, 133 Ann (Roman Holiday) 90 Aurora  74–5, 77–9, 89–94, 101–2 Disney  75, 79, 90–1 profit  148–9, 151, 160, 188 programmers  xx, 172, 178, 184–186 public discourse  192–3 Public Medievalist, The  192 Pugh, Tison  23, 94 Pulp Fiction 3 queens  43, 46, 80, 87–88, 93 n.56, 94, 102, 107, 122, 123, 131–3 quests  23, 171, 180 Qyburn  117, 138 race  67, 68 n.126, 135 n.88, 192–3 in RPGs  174

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Index rape see sexual violence Red Dead Redemption 2  185 n.43 Risden, E. L.  25 Robinson, Carol L. and Pamela Clements  18–20, 22–3, 29, 177–8, 184 Rohirrim  56–7, 58–9 Roman Holiday 90 Rome  xiv, 11, 12, 14, 35, 95, 104, 114, 115, 147 Rosenberg, Alyssa  124 Rosewater, Mark  155–6, 158, 161 Rossetti, Dante Gabriel  46 RPGs  60, 143, 156–7, 173–5, 179, 181, 190 See also CRPGs and MMORPGs round table  41 Ruskin, John  45, 51, 61 Saruman  51, 62–5, 67 Sauron  65, 66, 67 science fiction  109, 163, 165, 167 scops  54, 80 n.27, 95–6, 98 Scott, Sir Walter  40–4, 47, 51, 61, 108, 171, 188 Abbotsford 42 “Essay on Chivalry”  42–3 Ivanhoe  42–3, 171 Secondary World  56, 57, 68, 92, 94, 102, 176 sex  73, 75 n.10, 84–6, 105, 123–5 sexposition 123–4 sexual seduction  85–6, 88, 95 sexual violence  75 n.8, 105, 117, 121–2 123–5, 127–8, 139 Shakespeare, William  xiv, 44, 45–6 Shippey, Tom  xvi–xviii, 4–6, 16, 20, 28, 32, 38, 52, 55, 59, 60, 61–2, 188 Silmarillion, The  see under Tolkien, J. R. R. Simmons, Clare A.  37, 38–9, 68 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 3–4, 178

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Sleeping Beauty  xix, 74–80, 89–94, 99–102 Aarne-Thompson index classification  75 n.10 source material  75–6 Snow, Jon  119, 129, 130, 133, 134 n.81, 136–7, 138, 139 Snow White  76, 77 n.17, 100 social media  xxi, 175, 193, 194 socialism 47–51 software developers  see programmers Solomon, Charles  77–8 Song of Ice and Fire, A  see under Martin, George R. R. Spector, Caroline  124 Stark, Arya 123, 124 Stark, Lyanna  134 n.81 Stark, Ned  116, 119, 130, 131, 136 Stark, Sansa  116–7, 122, 124, 125, 130 Stefan, King  92, 102 Studies in Medievalism  xvii, 10, 16, 26–7 Sturtevant, Paul B.  100 n.70, 192 n.29 swords  67, 79, 96–8, 114, 133 and constructions of masculinity 81–5 Hrunting  82–4, 85–6, 96, 97 Naegling 96 Tactical Studies Rules  164, 173, 174 n.6, 175 Targaryen, Daenerys  103, 107, 113, 122–3, 128–9, 132–9 Targaryen, King Aerys II  136 Targaryen, Rhaegar  133, 134 n.81 Targaryen, Viserys  123, 132, 133 Tarly, Samwell  117, 130 Tatar, Maria  75 n.10 taverns  190–1, 194 Tolkien, Christopher  31 n.5, 59 Tolkien, J. R. R.  xviii–xix, xxi, 31–5, 38, 44, 51, 52–62, 64–9

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Index

Tolkien, J. R. R. (continued) academic work  xvii n.14, 31–2, 34–5, 36, 38–9, 52–5 “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”  xviii, 31 n.2, 34–5, 53–5 Hobbit, The  31–2, 44, 52, 55–6, 58, 60, 62, 66, 103 languages  38, 51, 56–9 Lord of the Rings, The xix, 31, 44, 50–1, 52, 55–60, 62–8, 69, 136 n.89, 176 n.18 “On Fairy-Stories”  53, 56 Silmarillion, The  32, 44,55, 57, 58, 60, 62, 113 torture  xv–xvi, xviii, 171 See also dungeons Toswell, M. J.  16, 24, 33, 81 n.28, 98–9 towers  17, 92, 114, 172 n.2, 191, 194 Twitter 193 See also social media Tyrell, Ser Loras  116 Ultima Online 176 Unferth  81, 82, 86 university, medieval  35, 187 Unsullied  128, 134 Utz, Richard  26, 115, 189, 192 Verduin, Kathleen  9 n.14, 9 n.15, 13 n.31 video games  25, 60, 143, 171–3, 175–86, 190–1, 194 labor conditions  184–6 narrative forms  175, 177–9, 180 Völsunga Saga  32–3, 53–4 wage labor  148–50, 152–4 Warner, Marina  75 n.10

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Wars of the Roses  108, 115 Wealtheow  80, 81, 85, 86, 88, 92, 94, 96–7 Weisl, Angela Jane  23 Westeros  103, 105, 106, 110–114, 117–8, 120, 122, 124, 128–30, 136, 138–9 Citadel  114, 117, 129 Dorne 115 Harrenhal 115 King’s Landing  115, 136–7, 138 Oldtown 114 Seven Kingdoms  103, 107, 108, 111, 113, 115–16, 118, 123, 129, 133 Wall, The  111, 116, 118, 119, 122, 124, 138 Winterfell  115, 118 White, Hayden  15, 38 n.30 White Walkers  118–9, 128, 129, 138 wights  118, 119, 120, 138 Wiglaf  81 n.31, 86, 96, 97 wildlings 118 wizards  143, 144, 145–6, 150, 152–3, 162, 174 Wizards of the Coast  143, 163, 164–5 Woolverton, Linda  101 n.74, Workman, Leslie J.  6 n.7, 9–10, 13–15, 18–19, 28–9 World of Ice and Fire, The  see under Martin, George R. R. World of Warcraft  xx, 172, 176–7, 178–81, 182–4, 190 World War II  188 Yandel, Maester  111–12, 113 n.27 Young, Helen  60 n.101, 68 n.126, 109 n.17, 121–2, 126 Zemeckis, Robert  73–4, 80–1, 98–9, 101 Zipes, Jack  75 n.10, 93, 100

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Medievalism I Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination edited by David Clark and Nicholas Perkins II Medievalist Enlightenment: From Charles Perrault to Jean-Jacques Rousseau Alicia C. Montoya III Memory and Myths of the Norman Conquest Siobhan Brownlie IV Comic Medievalism: Laughing at the Middle Ages Louise D’Arcens V Medievalism: Key Critical Terms edited by Elizabeth Emery and Richard Utz VI Medievalism: A Critical History David Matthews VII Chivalry and the Medieval Past edited by Katie Stevenson and Barbara Gribling VIII Georgian Gothic: Medievalist Architecture, Furniture and Interiors, 1730–1840 Peter N. Lindfield IX Petrarch and the Literary Culture of Nineteenth-Century France: Translation, Appropriation, Transformation Jennifer Rushworth X Medievalism, Politics and Mass Media: Appropriating the Middle Ages in the Twenty-First Century Andrew B.R. Elliott

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XI Translating Early Medieval Poetry: Transformation, Reception, Interpretation edited by Tom Birkett and Kirsty March-Lyons XII Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones Shiloh Carroll XIII William Morris and the Icelandic Sagas Ian Felce XIV Derek Jarman’s Medieval Modern Robert Mills XV François Villon in English Poetry: Translation and Influence Claire Pascolini-Campbell

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KELLYANN FITZPATRICK

This book examines recent evolutions of (neo)medievalism across multiple media, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to the film Beowulf and medieval gaming. These evolutions can take the form of what one might consider to be pop culture objects of critique (art, commodity, amusement park, video game) or academic tools of critique (monographs, articles, lectures, university seminars). It is by reconciling these seemingly disparate forms that we can better understand the continual, interconnected, and often politicized reinvention of the Middle Ages in both popular and academic culture. KELLYANN FITZPATRICK is an affiliated researcher at the Georgia

Institute of Technology. C O V E R D E S I G N : S I M O N LO X L E Y

An imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge IP12 3DF (GB) and 668 Mt Hope Ave, Rochester NY 14620–2731 (US)

NEOMEDIEVALISM, Popular CULTURE AND THE ACADEMY KELLYANN FITZPATRICK

edievalism – the ways in which post-medieval societies perceive, interpret, reimagine, or appropriate the Middle Ages – permeates popular culture. From Disney princesses to Game of Thrones, medieval fairs to World of Warcraft, contemporary culture keeps finding new ways to reinvent and repackage the period. Medievalism itself, then, continues to evolve while it is also subject to technological advances, prominent invocations in political discourse, and the changing priorities of the academy. This has led some scholars to adopt the term ‘neomedievalism’, a concept originating in part from the work of the late Umberto Eco, which calls for new avenues of inquiry into the ways we think about the medieval.

Popular culture and the academy FROM TOLKIEN TO GAME OF THRONES