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)!

01 April, 2018


It's April, and I am reflecting on my old companion, Geoffrey Chaucer:


I gave you what some call
the best years of my life.
You proffered status, colleagues, jobs, 
and plenty sublimated pleasure; 
and you felt often like 
myn owne brother deere.

I fell in love with your alterity,
words such as aksenqueynte, and briddes,
and lines that spoke about my student friends and me,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye.

You seemed to know a lot of
yonge fresshe folkes, he or she,
asked with Criseyde: kan he wel speke of love?
You seemed to grasp what lovers feel,
how rumor spreads,
and even how to use an astrolabe
compowned for the latytude of Oxenforde.

I liked you less once I had heard
of Cecily Chaumpaigne,
and how you settled out of court.
Played down as ‘incident’
by the rapt fathers of the field,
I thought it rendered you
all too much with us.

Still: I do read and teach you,
though now you feel a good deal less congenial;
more a reminder of the matters
that still need chaunge, but
not alone in forme of speeche.

Ⓒ Richard Utz

01 January, 2018

Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages: 2017 essays in The Public Medievalist

2017 was a year of many changes in the engagement with medieval culture, and the series of essays on Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages in the The Public Medievalist was among the most notable engagements:

Introduction: Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages: Tearing Down the “Whites Only” Medieval World by Paul B. Sturtevant: Introducing a new Public Medievalist series: taking on the white-supremacist ideas of the medieval past, and exploring the stories of people of color in the Middle Ages.

Thread 1: Key Questions

Is “Race” Real? by Paul B. Sturtevant
Spoiler Alert: no. Everything you’ve been taught about “race” is completely made up. Here’s how we know…

Where were the Middle Ages? by Marianne O’Doherty
A whites-only view of the Middle Ages needs a Europe-only Middle Ages to exist. Let’s pull that apart, shall we?

We have explored the vile effects of the “whites-only” Middle Ages, but how did the Middle Ages get linked with racism?

Thread 2: Were Medieval People Racist?

Were Medieval People Racist? by Paul B. Sturtevant
Were medieval people racist? You might think the answer is a simple “yes!”, but it’s far more complicated than that…

Monsters with no heads, grey aliens, and morphing babies can tell us a lot about medieval racism.

Medieval Europe’s greatest travellers wrote avidly about hundreds of cultures across the world. What did they say about race?

Medieval European travel writers like Marco Polo were not what we could call textbook racists. But they were endlessly fascinated by the other religions they found around the world.

There are quite a few medieval European depictions of the Virgin Mary with dark skin: the “Black Madonnas.” Did some medieval Christians think of the mother of Christ as a woman of color?

Thread 3: Southern Italy: A case study in medieval multiculturalism

The greatest map possibly ever created was made by an Arab Muslim refugee working for a French-Norse king of Sicily on a giant silver disc in the twelfth century. It is one of the multicultural wonders of the world.

When Christians and Muslims often lived side-by-side, their cultures and religions sometimes blended into one another, even in their houses of worship.

Ibn Hamdis was one of the great poets of the Mediterranean: a Arab-Sicilian whose haunting, enchanting verses show the interconnectedness of the human experience.

Thread 4: Sub-Saharan Africans during the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, Africa wasn’t in a “dark age”; it was linked to an emerging global world. Special interview with African Anthropologist Chapurukha Kusimba, part I.

Who Built Africa? by Paul B. Sturtevant
Racist colonialists needed African civilizations not to have been built by Africans to justify their plunder of the continent. Continuing our special interview with Professor Chapurukha Kusimba.

How can we learn more about the long, long history of Africa? And what might it have to teach us? The final part of our interview with Professor Chapurukha Kusimba.

No Africans in medieval Europe? Tell that to the King of Nubia, who at the beginning of the 13th century took the most epic pilgrimage possible.

How common was it for Africans to live in medieval Europe? Apparently, very!

Thread 5: Jews, Anti-Semitism and the Middle Ages 

Introducing a topical thread in our series on all aspects of medieval anti-Jewish prejudice and violence.

Anti-Jewish hate didn’t begin with the Nazis, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or even the Middle Ages. Its roots are nearly 2000 years old.

Anti-Semitism was disturbingly common in the Middle Ages. But there were some places in the Middle Ages where Jews not only survived, but thrived.

Jewish life in the medieval world was not always dire. In fact, it featured long periods of multicultural cooperation that helped both Jews and non-Jews flourish.

Medieval Scandinavia was riddled with anti-Semitic imagery. Odd thing though: no Jews ever lived there.

It’s always easier to hate someone you’ve never met. That’s as true for medieval antisemitism as it is for contemporary British and US politics.

Did you know that the word “anti-Semitism” didn’t exist before 1879? If that’s true, how can we talk about anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages at all?

Simon of Trent: a medieval object lesson in how rumors and propaganda can spread hate like wildfire.

Resisting the Anti-Semitic Crusade by Paul B. Sturtevant
The First Crusade saw a wave of vicious anti-Semitic attacks engulf Europe. But there were some who stood up and said no.

Perfect Victims: 1096 and 2017 by Jeremy DeAngelo
The victims of oppression do not need to be “perfect” in order to deserve empathy, rights, and justice. As true in 1096 as it is today.

One sleepy German town has a dark secret that links medieval Jews, the Nazis, and Pope Benedict: a deeply anti-Semitic Catholic ritual only abandoned in 1993.
Thread 6: Race, Medievalism and Right-Wing Nationalism

We’ve been discussing Race, Racism and the Middle Ages for 9 months. It’s time to address the elephant in the room: the “Knights” of the Ku Klux Klan.

Hitler had a crack archaeology unit. Racist nationalists have used medieval archaeology to prop up their worldview—but modern scholars are knocking out their supports.

Right wing nationalists since Hitler have had a love affair with the Middle Ages. Why is their twisted version of the past on the rise again?

White supremacists promote a bizarre theory: that the Enlightenment was the real “Dark Ages”.

The “Pizzagate” conspiracy wasn’t a flash in the pan. It is part of a tradition of “nocturnal ritual fantasies” that seek to create a fundamentally persecuting society, a tradition that had origins in the medieval persecutions of heretics, Jews and Templars.

How “civilizational conservatives” want Trump and Putin to start a new Crusade.

A call to action in the wake of Charlottesville to re-enactors, LARPers, and all who enjoy the Middle Ages casually.

Schrödinger’s Medievalisms by Paul B. Sturtevant
Is that Thor’s hammer a symbol of hate or not? What about that Celtic tattoo? Or that flag? In a world gone mad, how do you keep your cool?

Thread 7: Race, Racism, and Everyday Medievalisms

Feeling ‘British’ by Eric Weiskott
What does “British” mean? Who gets to call themselves “British”? This conflict has roots leading back to King Arthur, Merlin, and some of the earliest inhabitants of this sceptered isle.

In Atlanta, you can get married in a beautiful, fairytale castle: Rhodes Hall. But the backdrop of all those wedding photos holds a complex, racist history.

Outdated ideas about race are built into the very fabric of the fantasy genre, which have been recycled from Lord of the Rings to Dungeons and Dragons and beyond. But a new crop of creators are trying to change the way we dream about the past.

Game of Thrones doesn’t just have a “diversity problem,” it has a racism problem.

George R.R. Martin wants to have his cake and eat it too: he claims his breakout hit fantasy series is based on real history, but hand-waves away criticism of his approach to issues of race.