05 October, 2017

Communicating across the Disciplines

Great time presenting on “Communication across the Disciplines: Humanistic Perspectives in a Technological World,” at the UVP Reinvention Collaborative, Annual Conference, at Georgia Tech, Oct., 2017. The Reinvention Collaborative is a national consortium of research universities dedicated to strengthening undergraduate education.

27 September, 2017

Tracing Residual Medievalisms now online

Happy to say that the audio of my 2016 paper on "Tracing Residual Medievalisms" is now available at the site for Sonderforschungsbereich 980, Episteme in Motion, German Research Foundation / FU Berlin. So are the papers by Kathleen Biddick, Carolyn Walker Bynum, and other great colleagues. Thanks to Andrew James Johnston and his colleagues in Berlin for a great experience.  

22 September, 2017

Manifesto reviewed in Arthuriana

I am so grateful for Andrew Elliot's review of Medievalism: A Manifesto for Arthuriana. I have wondered when the first review in a "print" journal would come in, and I am humbled by the engagement and encouragement I am receiving. That's the way to start a weekend. 

17 September, 2017

Resources for Teaching about Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages

A heartfelt kudos to Carol Robinson for compiling a great resource page on Race, Racism and the Middle Ages at the TEAMS pages. Please contact her if you have additional suggestions for inclusion.

15 September, 2017

See something, say something

Dr. Dorothy Kim (DK) of Vassar, a true public medievalist, doesn’t need a white knight like me to defend against innuendo and attacks. However, over the last year especially, she has shouldered a heavy burden on behalf of many of us: to help renew and expand the field of medieval studies, to make it inclusive or even accessible, to expose the many traditions, inside and outside the academy, that link the cultural phenomenon of medievalism (including academic medieval studies) with misguided masculinity, white supremacy, renascent nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and racism. Such engaged public activity and activism will not go unpunished, to be sure, and DK has had numerous altercations with those who disagree with her views, especially those gate-keeping individuals who feel comfortable with a narrow and exclusivist definition of our scholarly field. Most recently, a tenured historian at the University of Chicago, Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown (RFB), has lashed out at DK in a September 14, 2017, blog post entitled “Howto Signal You Are Not a White Supremacist.”

The post reminded me eerily of Ernst Robert Curtius’ 299-page review of a German colleague’s Habilitation in the 1930s. Curtius’ stated intent then was “to cleanse” his discipline, and RFB’s attack sounds as if she wants to do the same. Next to her blog post, RFB includes a picture of DK, to confirm her ad personam goals; she underlines DK’s rank of assistant professor, an implicit threat unworthy of any professionally minded tenured colleague; she clarifies that some of her best friends are famous medievalists, and there’s even an “esteemed” POC she likes (William Chester Jordan; he gets a picture, too); she quotes in Latin (translations, in case we don’t read Latin); she mentions, horribile dictu, that she has never seen DK at a meeting of the Medieval Academy (insinuating she isn’t part of the medievalist Valhalla), and that DK dabbles, horribile dictu 2.0, with the Digital; she then proceeds to claim that medieval Christians must be immune to racism because they like the (Jewish) Virgin Mary and often depict her as “black” (stained glass image evidence); she even manages to plug her own forthcoming book as part of her attack.  It’s hard not to feel cowed by so much auctoritas and apparatus. I thought I should speak up, because, let’s see: I am white; I am male; I am a tenured professor; I was educated in Europe; I have a degree in hardcore Philology; I hail from a region dedicated to the Virgin Mary; I was baptized in a church that features a “Black Madonna”; I am a Roman Catholic (albeit one who likes the spirit that informed the Second Vatican Council); and my father was a member of the Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani.

Insufficient credentials? Ok, so how about this: I have among my medievalist colleagues a brilliant Korean American who, a mere assistant professor, has already found the support of the Fulbright Commission, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Mellon Foundation.  She collaborates with me on the editorial board of a new ARC Humanities book series, Medieval Media Cultures, and I have been profiting from her Facebook posts as well as her scholarly work, and both have helped me learn how much more inclusive medieval studies could (and will) be. Her name is Dorothy Kim. And it is her inviting and embracing version of the field that will create the future of the study of the medieval past.

I appeal to my senior and tenured colleagues to step up and say something when they see something like the troubling attack just launched on Dorothy Kim. And RFB's ally, Milo Y., just summarized and repeated her attack on his website. It's time to act, medievalists. Here are some tips on how to support a harassed scholar.

Update: Please see here the response from our Canadian medievalist colleagues.

12 September, 2017

The Return to Medievalism

Just published an extended version of my plenary at the annual meeting of the society of German-speaking professors of English (Anglistentag) in their proceedings volume, expertly edited by Ute Berns and Jolene Mathieson (U of Hamburg): "The Return to Medievalism and the Future of Medieval Studies." Pp. 137-49.

31 August, 2017

Blaming the Jews, Then & Now

My most recent contribution to The Public Medievalist's series on "Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages." This one about the longue durée of a desecration of the host accusation in Deggendorf, Germany. It's called “Deggendorf, and the Long History of its Destructive Myth". I was born only about 70 miles away from Deggendorf, and went to university less than 50 miles away from it. Read the piece HERE.

18 August, 2017

Medievalists, including ISSM, respond to Charlottesville

Medievalists Respond to Charlottesville

In light of the recent events in the United States, most recently the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the undersigned community of medievalists condemns the appropriation of any item or idea or material in the service of white supremacy. In addition, we condemn the abuse of colleagues, particularly colleagues of color, who have spoken publicly against this misuse of history.

As scholars of the medieval world we are disturbed by the use of a nostalgic but inaccurate myth of the Middle Ages by racist movements in the United States. By using imagined medieval symbols, or names drawn from medieval terminology, they create a fantasy of a pure, white Europe that bears no relationship to reality. This fantasy not only hurts people in the present, it also distorts the past. Medieval Europe was diverse religiously, culturally, and ethnically, and medieval Europe was not the entire medieval world. Scholars disagree about the motivations of the Crusades—or, indeed, whether the idea of “crusade” is a medieval one or came later—but it is clear that racial purity was not primary among them.

Contemporary white nationalists are not the first Americans to have turned nostalgic views of the medieval period to racist purposes. It is, in fact, deeply ironic that the Klan’s ideas of medieval knighthood were used to harass immigrants who practiced the forms of Christianity most directly connected with the medieval church. Institutions of scholarship must acknowledge their own participation in the creation of interpretations of the Middle Ages (and other periods) that served these narratives. Where we do find bigotry, intolerance, hate, and fear of “the other” in the past—and the Middle Ages certainly had their share—we must recognize it for what it is and read it in its context, rather than replicating it.

The medieval Christian culture of Europe is indeed a worthy object of study, in fact a necessary one. Medieval Studies must be broader than just Europe and just Christianity, however, because to limit our object of study in such a way gives an arbitrary and false picture of the past. We see a medieval world that was as varied as the modern one. It included horrific violence, some of it committed in the name of religion; it included feats of bravery, justice, harmony, and love, some of them also in the name of religion. It included movement of people, goods, and ideas over long distances and across geographical, linguistic, and religious boundaries. There is much to be learned from studying the period, whether we choose to focus on one community and text or on wider interactions. What we will not find is the origin of a pure and supreme white race.

Every generation of scholars creates its own interpretations of the past. Such interpretations must be judged by how well they explain the writings, art, and artifacts that have come down to us. As a field we are dedicated to scholarly inquiry. As the new semester approaches at many institutions, we invite those of you who have the opportunity to join us. Take a class or attend a public lecture on medieval history, literature, art, music. Learn about this vibrant and varied world, instead of simply being appalled by some racist caricature of it. See for yourself what lessons it holds for the modern world.

The Medieval Academy of America
The Gender and Medieval Studies Group
The International Arthurian Society-North American Branch
The International Piers Plowman Society
The International Society of Anglo-Saxonists
The International Society for the Study of Medievalism
The New Chaucer Society
The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship

14 July, 2017

Featured in, on Game of Thrones

Olivia Waxman recently interviewed several medievalists (including yours truly) for on the role of Game of Thrones for the field of medieval studies:

“Most [institutions] would say that they don’t have to pay you $120,000 a year to talk about Game of Thrones," echoes Richard Utz, President of the International Society for the Study of Medievalism, who argued on Friday in an Inside Higher Ed op-ed that medieval studies departments should beware of relying too heavily on Game of Thrones (which is, after all, still just a work of fantasy) as a recruitment tool. Those within the field disagree over whether it's proper to contextualize the original medieval texts within anything but their own original medieval world, and traditionally the answer has been that it is not.
But that dynamic may be changing too, Utz notes, with scholars seeking new ways of doing their work. "My personal theory is that a certain way of doing scholarship had exhausted itself," he says. "Most of the major medieval texts had been edited. The question had been, 'What now?'”

Game of Thrones among the Medievalists

Recently published a short piece, "Game of Thrones Among the Medievalists," in Inside Higher Ed:

"In May, Olivia B. Waxman reported for Time magazine on a fall 2017 class to be taught at Harvard University. The class is called The Real Game of Thrones: From Modern Myths to Medieval Models and will be collaboratively taught by Sean Gilsdorf, a medieval historian, and Racha Kirakosian, a specialist in German studies and religion. Waxman’s short article is part of a veritable media avalanche readying us for the beginning of season seven of the successful HBO series July 16. After all, GoT airs in more than 170 countries, has won more Emmys than any other prime-time series and is simply “the world’s most popular show” ever.
With their field suffering from the significant downward drift in student interest for humanities disciplines in the last decade, some medievalists have been eager to embrace the exceptional popularity of GoT." ...

09 July, 2017

Game of Thrones Presentation Posters: Compare and Contrast

It's pretty clear that, in the process of researching and writing this presentation, I moved toward a position more critical of how medievalists latch on to Game of Thrones which, after all is "neomedievalist" at best, and perhaps even just "premodern".

30 June, 2017

Three new reviews in Medievally Speaking

Medievally Speaking recently published three reviews

Parker, Joanne, ed. The Harp and the Constitution: Myths of Celtic and Gothic Origin. Leiden: Brill, 2016. Reviewed by Máire Johnson; curated by Michael Evans.

and a double feature:

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, directed by Guy Ritchie, © Warner Brothers Entertainment, 2017.  Reviewed by Usha Vishnuvajjalaand also reviewed by Kevin J. Harty.

22 June, 2017

Manifesto reviewed in

Detailed response to Medievalism: A Manifesto, published in

"Darin liegt fraglos die Stärke dieses Beitrags: Einerseits hält Utz dem internationalen Kollegium den Spiegel vor, ohne sich selbst aus der Reflexion auszublenden, andererseits nimmt der unprätentiöse Blick über konstruierte Grenzen hinweg auch ein Laienpublikum ernst. Kuchenbuch sprach 2004 von einer „sublimierten Spiegelbildlichkeit von Mediävalismus und Mediävistik“, im Sinne der „Kopplung des gesellschaftlich relevanten ‚Forschungsinteresses‘ (Thema) mit der operativ angemessenen ‚Fragestellung‘ (Methode)“. David Matthews bezeichnete ‚medievalism‘ 2015 schlicht als „undiscipline“. Auch für Utz ist die „productive uncertainty“ des Zusammenspiels von Mittelalterstudien und Mediävalismus eine Kernidee – eine Unschärfe, die über alle Disziplin- und Kulturgrenzen hinweg wirkt, ohne die interessierte Öffentlichkeit einseitig zu bevormunden oder der Wissenschaft ihre Wissenschaftlichkeit zu nehmen. Nur zulassen muss man diese Unschärfe eben.

Dieses Zulassen und Einlassen zum gegenseitigen Nutzen von Fachwelt und Öffentlichkeit als Dokument persönlicher Überzeugung vorgelegt zu haben, ist Utz anzurechnen. Mag man sein Manifest als genuine Streitschrift verstehen oder als souveräne Zusammenfassung, einen weiteren Gedanken ist es fraglos wert. Denn Utz‘ Fallstudien streuen zwar räumlich und zeitlich, sein daran anknüpfendes Plädoyer lässt sich aber mühelos für das Hier und Jetzt aktualisieren. Die Stimme der deutschsprachigen Geschichtsspezialisten, die die gesellschaftliche Orientierungsfunktion ihres Tuns ja doch irgendwie stolz-schweigend voraussetzen, scheint mir angesichts der herausfordernden letzten Jahre doch meist sehr leise oder sehr verklausuliert gewesen zu sein. Utz‘ Manifest liefert nun all jenen etwas im wahrsten Sinne Handgreifliches, die auf ihre alten oder jungen Tage den Ausbruch aus erstarrten Denk- und Verhaltensmustern versuchen wollen. Bleibt zu hoffen, dass die deutschsprachige Mediävistik daran anzuknüpfen weiß."  To read the full review: CLICK HERE

04 May, 2017

DH & DESIGN Symposium hosted as part of LMC's DILAC

Our Digital Integrated Liberal Arts Center hosted fantastic Digital Humanities & Design Symposium, expertly organized by Carl DiSalvo and Lauren Klein (both LMC), and we heard keynotes by Tony Dunne (From Technological Futures to Alternative Worldviews) and Kelly Baker Josephs (Caribbean Considerations: Audience and Access in Digital Humanities); and by Anne Burdick (Digital Humanities Design Questions) and Jentery Sayers (Is Design Bad for Media History?); roundtables on 1) A design brief for the digital humanities, with Jessica Marie Johnson, Matt Ratto, Daniela Rosner, Rachel Sagner Buurma, Joycelyn Wilson; 2) The idea of speculation as theorized in DH and Design, with Ian Bogost, Susana Morris, Molly Wright Steenson, Whitney Trettien; and 3) The role of social justice in DH and Design, with Alexandrina Agloro, Mimi Onuoha, Miriam Posner, Juan Carlos Rodriguez; and various workshops including all participants. 

29 April, 2017

James Dean Young Memorial Awards Dinner

Some impressions from this year's James Dean Young Memorial Awards Dinner, during which LMC honors some of our best students and postdoctoral fellows. And all of it happened on the 25th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Midtown.

25 April, 2017

Digital Integrated Liberal Arts Center Showcase

Great projects today at the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center (DILAC) Showcase. These creative interdisciplinary projects show how the Digital Humanities and Digital Civics bring professors and undergraduate students together to answer complex research questions:
  • Understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis
  • VIP Project on Digital Deliberation
  • Sweet Auburn, The Birthplace of Ideas
  • Exploring Data and Documentary with the Latino Community in Buford Highway
  • GT TAP: Technical Arts Practicum at Georgia Tech
  • REUL Lab: Responsible End-User Licensing
  • Ivan Allen Archive Digitization Project