09 December, 2017

Manifesto reviewed in Lingua Americana

J.A. van Nahl writes: “Drawing particular awareness to the autobiographical element in any scholarship, the US-based medievalist fruitfully utilises his German background for the conflation of case studies from different cultural areas. Moving on from the reflection upon his own academic background, he compiles a variety of examples, both from the field of scholarship and popular culture, in order to demonstrate how intensified cooperation between these allegedly distinct spheres might eventually instigate deeper engagement with ‘the Middle Ages’ on any possible level.” Read the full review HERE.

29 November, 2017

Brown's Tricia Rose speaks at Georgia Tech

We had a thought-provoking afternoon with Brown University's Tricia Rose, author of Black Noise, who spoke on structural and systemic racism in society and the academy. My colleague, Joycelyn Wilson, introduced Dr. Rose.

20 November, 2017

10 November, 2017

Ryan Gravel shares his thoughts about: Where We Want to Live

Ryan Gravel, talking about his work on the Atlanta Beltline project and a brand new project he is developing on Atlanta City Design. Ryan's work on urban planning, the environment, and issues of mobility, social justice, and culture in design and development ties in with many of the topics we are discussing in class and links them wth issues related to development and urban culture in Atlanta. And all in the pilot class for our new MS degree in Global Media and Cultures. Narin Hassan and Anna Stenport for bringing Ryan to our students!

08 November, 2017

Manifesto reviewed in

Really glad see Medievalism: A Manifesto reviewed in, a publication that has done more than most to lower the drawbridge between the academic study of the Middle Ages and the broader extra-academic interest in medieval culture.

30 October, 2017

Winter has been coming, for the Humanities, for quite a long time

When preparing a presentation on the popularity on Game of Thrones, I chanced upon this MLA slide on the diminishing enrollments, since 1968, for the humanities. Winter's been a-coming for a while now.

28 October, 2017


Game of Thrones from a co-disciplinary perspective

Join us for a co-disciplinary event as part of LMC's "Digital Media Talks" on Monday, on GAME of THRONES, with Janet Murray, author of Hamlet on the Holodeck, and Richard Utz, author of Medievalism: A Manifesto.

When: Monday, October 30, 2017, 1:55pm to 2:45pm

Where: GVU Café (TSRB 2nd Floor) Georgia Tech

JM - Game of Thrones is an extended transmedia fiction based in an encyclopedically detailed storyworld that pushes the envelope on how much plot and how many characters reader/viewers can keep track of.  It is therefore a productive focus for thinking about the new multisequential story structures that digital media can make possible. I will show some examples from my Project Studio group and talk about related story abstraction work beginning in the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center.  

RU - Medievalists often consider GoT as an opportunity to attract additional students and identify the narrative's alleged sources and analogues. They disregard the neomedievalist aesthetics of the series, which has more to do with contemporary game worlds than medieval influence. In fact, had the author of the Morte d'Arthur (c. 1485) written his book in 2017, his compendious prose compilation of Arthurian stories may have found as enthusiastic a reception among contemporary TV audiences as the smart TV adaptation of the prosaic The Song of Ice and Fire

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?'”