By John Ganim
The Medieval Hero on Screen Representations from Beowulf to Buffy, Edited by Martha W. Driver and Sid Ray(MacFarland, 2004)
Introduction: From my students I have learned that teaching the medieval film hero is both an easy and di‡cult task, the reasons for which are, in fact, the theses for this essay. The medieval film often owes as much to other cinematic genres as it does to medieval texts. Among these genres and subgenres are Westerns, Hollywood and cinecitta costume dramas, and science fiction and fantasy films. The result is that students’ reactions to the medieval hero on the screen are mediated by their other expectations of medieval heroism or heroism in general. One aspect of these heroisms is the generally ironic treatment of heroism in modern populist cinema; an equal and opposite aspect is the often mythic treatment of the medieval hero on film. These smaller-than-life and larger-than-life qualities (often coexisting) in the medieval cinematic hero often have analogues in medieval texts, where conflicting sources and conflicting political and religious agendas produce similar e›ects. The challenge in teaching the medieval hero on screen, then, is to make students aware of this largely analogous and homologous quality.