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Brock conference bridges medieval and neo-Victorian worlds

By Alison Innes

Steampunk meets Game of Thrones. That’s how two Brock University professors describe an upcoming conference on medievalism and neo-Victorian literature and culture.

Associate Professor Ann Howey and Professor Martin Danahay of the Department of English Language and Literature are co-organizing “Boundary Crossing: The 2018 International Conference on Medievalism,” to be held at Brock University, near Niagara Falls in Canada. The conference takes place October 12-13.

The conference is expected to bring around 60 international scholars from medievalism studies and neo-Victorian studies to discuss topics ranging from Beowulf to Brexit.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to compare approaches and methods with scholars in a parallel field,” says Danahay, whose research includes Victorian literature and culture and neo-Victorian studies such as steampunk. “This is the first conference to self-consciously try to create bridges between these two fields.”

Howey’s current research explores the use of two medieval Arthurian characters — the Lady of Shalott and Elaine of Astolat — in 19th and 20th century literature and culture.

“The study of medievalism involves analyzing the different ways in which people, after the medieval period ended, reconstructed ideas about the medieval or imagined the medieval,” says Howey.

Examples of medievalism range from works such as Lady of Shalott by the Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson to current comics, games, books and films and television series like Game of Thrones and Robin Hood.

“What struck the two of us is the similarity between the way the ‘Victorian’ and the ‘medieval’ are reconstructed and reimagined in popular culture and politics and elsewhere,” says Howey.

The conference will feature three plenary sessions on Friday, October 12 that will each bring together medievalism and neo-Victorian scholars to address disciplinary borders, material culture and politics.

A series of concurrent panels on Saturday, October 13 will discuss themes including fairytales and folklore, the political uses of medievalism, medievalism in gaming, teaching medievalism and medieval heritage sites.

Those interested in attending are invited to register online in advance. There is a special rate for students. This will be the 33rd annual International Conference on Medievalism, and only the third time it has been hosted in Canada.

Howey and Danahay hope to publish an edited collection of papers following the conference. For more details, please visit the International Conference on Medievalism website.

Top Photo: Courtesy Brock University

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