15 May, 2018

Sturtevant, The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination

I.B.Tauris is pleased to announce the publication of The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination: Memory, Film and Medievalism by Paul B. Sturtevant; £75, $110; UK release date: 30/05/18, US release date 30/05/18; ISBN: 9781788311397.

It is often assumed that those outside of academia know very little about the Middle Ages. But the truth is not so simple. Non-specialists in fact learn a great deal from the myriad medievalisms – post-medieval imaginings of the medieval world – that pervade our everyday culture. These, like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, offer compelling, if not necessarily accurate, visions of the medieval world. And more, they have an impact on the popular imagination, particularly since there are new medievalisms constantly being developed, synthesised and remade. 

But what does the public really know? How do the conflicting medievalisms they consume contribute to their knowledge? And why is this important?
In this book, the first evidence-based exploration of the wider public’s understanding of the Middle Ages, Paul B. Sturtevant adapts sociological methods to answer these important questions. Based on extensive focus groups, the book details the ways – both formal and informal – that people learn about the medieval past and the many other ways that this informs, and even distorts, our present. In the process, Sturtevant also sheds light, in more general terms, onto the ways non-specialists learn about the past, and why understanding this is so important. The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination will be of interest to anyone working on medieval studies, medievalism, memory studies, medieval film studies, informal learning or public history.

Praise for The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination

Traditional medievalists have only scratched the surface of the broad and influential cultural phenomenon of medievalism. Paul Sturtevant’s case study, instead of asking questions mainly important to professional historians, harnesses social-sciences theories and methodologies to help us comprehend how and why groups and individuals engage with representations of medieval culture around them. His book is an essential step toward providing scientifically valid information about the public’s understanding of the medieval past.    

Richard Utz, Chair & Professor, School of Literature, Media and Communication, Georgia Institute of Technology

Carefully researched and written in a lively and engaging style, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the use—and abuse—of the medieval past in contemporary popular culture. Sturtevant skillfully integrates cutting-edge quantitative methods for studying audience reception with insights from culturally-informed medievalism studies. This book demonstrates not only the broad significance of “the Middle Ages” for a wide public but also confronts its urgency in shaping present-day understandings of race, gender, religion, histories of violence, and geopolitics. Chapters examine how audience perceptions of the medieval past are influenced by Game of Thrones and fantasy fiction, Arthurian myths, Crusade themes in video games and films, and the varied afterlives of Beowulf and Robin Hood. This book is an invaluable resource for enthusiasts, educators, journalists, students, historians, and anyone who cares about what the medieval past means for us today.

Jonathan Hsy, Associate Professor of English at George Washington University and blogger at In The Middle

The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination reveals the preconceptions today’s students have about the Middle Ages thanks to their representation in popular film. Sturtevant takes a fresh approach to studying medievalism in a book that crosses disciplinary boundaries and interrogates the divide between academic and public medievalism.

Amy Kaufman, Director of Conferences, International Society for the Study of Medievalism

About the Author

Paul B. Sturtevant is an audience research specialist at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. He completed his PhD at the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds. He is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the very popular collaborative history blog 'The Public Medievalist' (

06 May, 2018

Medievalism Sessions at Kzoo 2018

Please consider attending one, several, or all of the following sessions at the Kalamazoo Congress. I hope to see many of you this coming week. For the sessions sponsored by our International Society of the Study of Medievalism (ISSM), hearty thanks to Usha Vishnuvajjala and Amy Kaufman!

Saturday 10am Session 348 FETZER 1005
Medievalism, Racism, and the Academy (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: International Society for the Study of Medievalism and the Medievalists of Color
Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Independent Scholar; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Wan-Chuan Kao, Washington and Lee Univ.
A roundtable discussion with Colleen C. Ho, Univ. of Maryland; Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, California State Univ.–Long Beach; Matthew Vernon, Univ. of California–Davis; Kavita Mudan Finn, Independent Scholar; and Pamela J. Clements, Siena College.

Saturday 1:30 Session 424 SCHNEIDER 1280
King Arthur 2017 (A Roundtable)
Sponsor: International Society for the Study of Medievalism
Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Independent Scholar; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Ann F. Howey, Brock Univ.
A roundtable discussion with Susan Aronstein, Univ. of Wyoming; Kathleen Kelly, Northeastern Univ.; Martin B. Shichtman, Eastern Michigan Univ.; Christine Neufeld, Eastern Michigan Univ.; Abby Ang, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington; and Ann Martinez, Kent State Univ.–Stark.

Saturday 3:30 p.m. session 476 SCHNEIDER 1280
The New “Dark Ages”
Sponsor: International Society for the Study of Medievalism
Organizer: Amy S. Kaufman, Independent Scholar; Usha Vishnuvajjala, American Univ.
Presider: Usha Vishnuvajjala
Religion, Science, and Conspiracy Theories: The Flat Earth in the Middle Ages and Today, Shiloh Carroll, Tennessee State Univ.
Not as Sexy as We Thought: Echoes of the Dark Ages in Modern Sexual Conduct for Women, Amy Burge, Cardiff Univ.
Medievalism, Medievalists, and Conditional Reproductive Justice, Rebecca Huffman, Univ. of Michigan–Ann Arbor
A Dark Stage for the Dark Ages: Medieval Theatre as Protest (Then and Now), Carol L. Robinson, Kent State Univ.–Trumbull

I also recommend, selfishly:

Friday, May 11, 7:30pm, Fetzer 1005
Juggling the Middle Ages (A Screening and Roundtable Discussion)
Sponsoring Organization(s)
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection; Medieval Institute, Western Michigan Univ.
Organizer: Jan M. Ziolkowski, Harvard Univ./Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
Presider: Jan M. Ziolkowski
Discussants: Elizabeth Emery (Montclair State U); Richard Utz (Georgia Tech)

This session features screenings of two versions of the juggler of Notre-Dame story dating from the early 1950s: R. O. Blechman’s animated “The Juggler of Our Lady” and a performance featuring Nadine Gae that aired on The Fred Waring Show, followed by a roundtable discussion on medievalism.

Sunday, May 13, 8:30, Valley III Eldridge 309
Medievalism: A Manifesto (A Panel Discussion)
Organizer & Presider: Daniel T. Kline (Univ. of Alaska-Anchorage)
Panelists: Michael Evans (Delta College); Usha Vishnuvajjala (American Univ.); Jane Glaubman (Cornell Univ.); Lauryn S. Mayer (Washington & Jefferson College); Richard Utz (Georgia Institute of Technology)

03 May, 2018

The Ramblin' Wreck From Georgia Tech, in German

I think I have finally found a way to create a lasting legacy: For this year's Distinguished Alumni celebration in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, which honored a donor to German studies, I collaborated on a German translation and arrangement of the Georgia Tech fight song, The Ramblin' Wreck, with Stephen C. Hall (Industrial Management, 1967), and Jerry A. Ulrich (School of Music). Here is our Glee Club's performance of this world premiere: LISTEN HERE

02 May, 2018

Including Russia in Medievalism Studies

Recently published in The Year's Work in Medievalism:

Medievalism is a Global Phenomenon: Including Russia

When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. [?]    @realDonaldTrump, 11 November, 2017

Once upon a time, as part of the political unrest on the European continent following the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the failed 1848 revolution in Germany, a large number of progressive or even revolutionary ism terms invaded the British Isles and the English language. Among these words were “republicanism,” “democratism,” “liberalism,” “feminism,” “socialism,” and “communism.”1 Soon thereafter, the English language responded to these continental coinages with words that can be seen as protective counter measures against these continental aggressors: Among these counter-revolutionary terms are “conservatism” and “medievalism,” two words that protect the strong umbilical cord between the premodern and the early nineteenth-century, preserve the “unique continuity” Britain felt it had (for its political, social, and cultural heritage) between its medieval and early modern past on the one hand and its contemporaneity on the other.... 


13 April, 2018

Loving the Middle Ages in a Flat World

Just found out that my proposal for the University of Leeds The Future of Medieval Studies Symposium has been accepted. Please join me, if you can, on Friday, May 31, in Leeds:

Session title: Loving the Middle Ages in a Flat World
Participants: Richard Utz

Abstract: Some of the most exciting developments in recent medieval studies have centered on the reevaluation of the traditional distinctions between so-called amateurs and specialists, the demarcation lines between the academic and non-academic endeavors to engage with medieval culture and its numerous reincarnations, reinventions, and reenactments. In the wake of Carolyn Dynshaw’s How Soon Is Now?: Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (2012), which flattened such easy distinctions, and Andrew Elliot’s Medievalism, Politics and Mass Media: Appropriating the Middle Ages in the Twenty-First Century (2017), which demonstrates that medievalist memes and tropes now spread at the speed of a tweet without input from academic specialists or connections to the historical Middle Ages, we need new ways of practicing the work of the medievalist.

I would like to propose a seminar style discussion in which participants would explore innovative ways in which diverse ‘lovers’ of medieval culture redefine dated roles on either side of the ‘academic’ and ‘non-academic’ divide. The session would aim at featuring specific scenarios within which each side would be inclusive of the value each ‘amateur’ brings to the understanding of medieval culture and its receptions. On the basis of such an alliance of diverse public stakeholders in medieval studies, the session would attempt to propose powerful digital methods which challenge the dissemination of medievalist memes and tropes in the new media landscape. Current efforts for producing research that reaches out (articles in the media, public lectures, teaching, etc.) are insufficient for keeping medieval studies relevant as a cultural force.

The session will suggest skills and competencies from mass media, public relations, and public medievalism to all those who recognize the necessity to adapt to a radically new way of being an impactful medievalist in an increasingly ‘flat world’.

Provisional scheduling (subject to change): 11:00-11:55, Friday 31 May.

12 April, 2018

The Year's Work in Medievalism 32 (2017) TOC

Forthcoming in early May, 2018


The Year's Work in Medievalism 32 (2017) 

Ed. by Richard Utz


  • Nancy Ciccone, Now and Then: Ishiguro’s Medievalism in The Buried Giant
  • Karl Fugelso, The Medieval(ism) in British Library MS Yates Thompson 36 
  • Paul Hardwick, Arthurising the Wife of Bath: Two Chaucer Adaptations
  • Teresa P. Rupp, From Ivanhoe to Ironclad: Excavating Layers of Tradition in a Medieval Film
  • James L. Smith, Disturbing the Ant-Hill: Misanthropy and Cosmic Indifference in Clark Ashton Smith’s Medieval Averoigne
  • Usha Vishnuvajjala, The Future We—and the Middle Ages—Want

FORUM:  Medievalism and Russia
  • Richard Utz, (Neo)Medievalism is a Global Phenomenon: The Case for Including Russia
  • Dina Khapaeva, Neomedievalism and the Re-Stalinization of Russia

08 April, 2018

Reviewed Andrew Elliot's Medievalism, Politicis and Mass Media for TMR

Review of Elliott, Andrew B. R. Medievalism, Politics and Mass Media: Appropriating the Middle Ages in the Twenty-First Century, D.S. Brewer, 2017:

While researched, written, and published before most of last year's momentous discussions about the role of race, gender, politics, and ideology in medieval studies and medievalism, Andrew Elliott's study is a timely and relevant contribution to the field. It continues the work begun by Louise D'Arcens and Andrew Lynch (eds., <i>International Medievalism and Popular Culture</i>, 2014), Tommaso Carpegna di Falconieri (<i>Medioevo militante: La politica di oggi alle prese con barbari e crociati</i>, 2011), David M. Marshall (ed., <i>Mass Market Medieval: Essays on the Middle Ages in Popular Culture</i>, 2007), and Bruce Holsinger (<i>Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror</i>, 2007), but deepens their insights with a focus on the roles of contemporary media and communication, specifically online medievalisms. It also offers an original theoretical framework for future investigations.  Aware of the often visceral reactions of medieval historians to the public (mis)use of the Middle Ages by non-academic voices, Elliott is careful to prepare a secure theoretical foundation.... Read full text HERE 

07 April, 2018

Дивные новые медиевализмы? / Brave New Medievalism?

My first essay in Russia(n): Ричард Утц. Дивные новые медиевализмы? ("Brave New Medievalisms?"), published in the 1/2018 issue of The New Literary Observer. Thanks to my wonderful colleague, Dina Khapaeva (author, most recently of The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture, U of Michigan Press)!