Current discourse surrounding the appropriation of medieval material culture in contemporary political landscapes is abundant within the medieval field. This paper will unpack and analyse a series of medieval myths and the material objects they inspired to identify symbols and figures used by contemporary nationalistic movements and organisations in the United Kingdom, with an emphasis on the English Defense League (EDL). Through this comparison, we answer the question: how are medieval objects being used nostalgically to connect contemporary political challenges with an imagined, idealised past? We further discuss how these objects are used to establish a fear of lost ‘national purity’.
Contemporary Hindu Nationalism rallies under a Saffron banner, the Bhagwa Dhwaj, towards their objective of establishing a Hindu State over India. In the discourse of Hindu Nationalism, or ‘Hindutva’, the Saffron banner traces its genealogy to the Fire-sacrifice rituals of Vedic period, through the internecine and religio-political wars of the medieval subcontinent. From the ancient flames of sacred fire to the blood let on medieval battlefields, the saffron flag has emerged as a profane symbol of culture, sacrifice, and machismo. The paper explores how this object legitimizes the dogma of the ethnocultural Hindu Nation and the subsequent ‘Supreme Leaders’ that have controlled and popularized it in contemporary India.
In the early years of the 20th century the young Californian writer Frank Norris made a promising entrance into the American literary scene. A student of the new school of realism and Herbert Spencer’s philosophy, Norris depicted modern society as ruled by the infamous evolutionary mantra ‘survival of the fittest’. Yet Norris was also an unabashed medievalist who saw value in the Icelandic sagas as a source for both paradigms of Western masculinity and new world patriotism. In heroes such as the ill-fated outlaw Grettir Ásmundarson, his fellow countrymen could find inspiration and overturn the lacklustre national literature which had accompanied the continued spread of European culture to the Wild West. While numerous scholars have written of Norris’s patriotism and social Darwinism, there has been little attention drawn to the author’s interest in Old Norse literature. This paper will examine three aspects of Norris’s catalogue: his novelistic rewritings of Grettis saga; his use of Old Norse characteristics in his novels; and his plans for the future of American national literature and the place of Old Norse therein.