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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 744: Medievalist Movies and Media: Robin Hood and Beowulf

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Andrew Elliott, Lincoln School of Film & Media, University of Lincoln
Paper 744-a'They hate us for our freedom': Robin Hood on Crusade
(Language: English)
Heather Blurton, Department of English UC Santa Barbara SANTA BARBARA CA 93106-3170
Index terms: Crusades, Language and Literature - Middle English, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 744-bBloody Sacrifices, Rune Reading, Rituals, and Mythology: Revisiting the Theme of Pagan Worship in Historical Fiction Inspired by Beowulf
(Language: English)
Katarzyna Myśliwiec, Wydział Neofilologii, Instytut Anglistyki, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Religious Life

Paper -a:
In the Spring of 1194, King Richard I went on a sightseeing trip to Sherwood Forest, the closest he would ever come to the legendary figure of Robin Hood. Nevertheless, the two figures are inextricably linked in literature and legend, as the Robin Hood story comes to centre around the theme of the struggle for justice in England in the absence of its crusader king. This paper will examine the ways in which, across contemporary Robin Hood movies, Richard the Lionheart's reputation as a crusading king becomes a cipher for contemporary concerns about American wars in the Middle East.

Richard the Lionheart does not appear in the earliest Robin Hood ballads, but his integration into the legend over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries speaks to the importance of the theme of sovereignty, and just rule, to the evolution of the tradition. In the popular imagination Robin Hood is the quintessential outlaw; but at the same time, in supporting the good King Richard over the villainous Prince John, he is also often a spokesperson for good governance. When Richard the Lionheart is introduced into the Robin Hood legends, it is as a good but absent king whose absence allows evil - and taxation - to thrive in his kingdom. Crusading here is presented as a problem only insofar as it is the cause of the king's absence. Richard tends to arrive at the end of the story as a deus-ex-machina who restores justice to Robin Hood and also to the English people for whom Robin stands in metonymically.

Some classic movie versions, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, dir. Michael Curtiz and William Keighley) simply repeat this narrative and present the problem as one of bad governance enabled by the absent king. Here, the story is framed by the absence and return of the king, whose simple presence unifies his subjects and restores justice to his kingdom. Increasingly, however, movies such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, dir. Kevin Reynolds), Robin Hood (2010, dir. Ridley Scott), and Robin Hood (2018, dir. Otto Bathhurst) use the representation of Richard's crusading to register more contemporary cultural concerns about Islamophobia, the First and Second Gulf Wars, and the war in Afghanistan. In these versions, this paper will argue, through the ambivalent representation of Richard's crusades alongside the representation of Robin Hood as a disenchanted crusader, these cinematic adaptations offer a limited critique of contemporary wars in the Middle East while at the same time underwriting the ideology that maintains them.

Paper -b:
Beowulf has been frequently appropriated across media in the 20th and 21st centuries. This paper is interested in the manner in which modern literary retellings of the poem, often well-informed by scholarly debates, depict Norse pre-Christian forms of worship and beliefs and the onset of Christianity with the practices and ethics associated with that religion. The appropriations examined within the scope of the paper will be read both as commentaries on the poem and the status quo represented by it and reflections on the modern era expressing contemporary cultural anxiety, need for tolerance and desire for greater role of spirituality.