Tradition or Myth?
The Reception of Medieval European Topics in the Anglo-American and European Spheres
The next annual conference of the International Society of Medievalism will take place at Bamberg University and is scheduled to take place 18-20 July 2016. It will be organised by the Society in collaboration with the chairs of Medieval German Studies, English Literary Studies, and the Centre for Medieval Studies (ZEMAS).
The reception of European topics from the Middle Ages plays a significant role not only in Europe itself but also in North America. A glance at the respective book and film market reveals the unabated popularity of Arthurian tales and of the Nibelungen, as well as other narratives. National boundaries do not (or hardly) seem to play a role, although many of these ‘stories’ are closely connected to certain regions – next to the aforementioned, one could name Robin Hood and in this context also Richard the Lionheart, Merlin from the Arthurian tales, as well as Jeanne d’Arc and recently also historical mythologising of the Celts and of the Vikings. Evidently, many of these medieval stories, persons and events belong to a (European-Western) ‘cultural memory’, naturally reaching very far back. Following the discussion surrounding the ‘culture of remembrance’, intensely led in the late 20th century and mostly in regard to events during National Socialist rule, the focus will be shifted, away from the emergence of the collective culture of remembrance within a few generations, towards century-old events and tales, which have become part of the (respectively contemporary) culture and (in the form of the reception produced, but also possibly through identity-establishing functions) beget culture, through ongoing reception and by being passed on. In contrast to the more recent historical, (more or less) tangible events, the past from several hundred years ago provides – according to one theory – a ‘potential for mythologising’ (myth conceived as the narration of persons or events [from a ‘prehistoric age’], depicting general anthropological experiences and serving as a(n) [religious, spiritual or socio-political] orientation in the world). At the same time, the European Middle Ages have laid the foundation for the modern era in Northern and Western Europe, and therefore also North America, and may thus also be stylised as the ‘founding period’ of the European world – despite or perhaps precisely because of the increased tendencies towards nationalism as of late.
In the light of this, recent and current phenomena of the reception of the Middle Ages and medievalism in their respective national, societal, cultural or also political contexts are to be examined during this international conference; one of the central aspects is the analysis of the adaption and (political and commercial) instrumentalisation of European medieval ‘myths’ in the
Anglo-American sphere, querying the role and function ‘the’ European Middle Ages play, e.g. for the ‘new world’ today and in the past. Possible topic areas and starting points are:
– Which topics are received in which national contexts?
– In which way are medieval topics instrumentalised for political purposes?
– Which role do medieval topics play for the cultural self-conception of a ‘nation’?
– Are there tendencies towards mythologisations?
– Which role does commercialisation play and why are medieval topics so useful in this regard?
The conference organisers are looking forward to receiving your short proposal until 15 March 2016. Please send your abstracts to Prof. Dr. Ingrid Bennewitz (ingrid.bennewitz@uni- bamberg.de).
Prof. Dr. Ingrid Bennewitz Prof. Dr. Christoph Houswitschka Martin Fischer, M.A.