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ERIC Number: EJ771411
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jul-6
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Knights of the Faculty Lounge
Gravois, John
Chronicle of Higher Education, v53 n44 pA8 Jul 2007
Recent decades have produced millions of medieval re-enactors, role players, and fantasy buffs -- and billions of dollars for the industries that fuel them. However, writes Gravois, academic medievalists have viewed this engorged popular interest not as an embarrassment of riches, but as simply embarrassment. Yet those same re-enactors, role players, and fantasy buffs make some of the most natural candidates for academic study of the Middle Ages. Surely, thought Gravois, the two worlds must be mixing, as generations of gamers and fantasy buffs have matured into scholars. Gravois shares his thought from the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, the world's premier annual gathering of scholars who study the middle ages, where one attendant asked "When you say 'fantasy,'" she said, "you think 'medieval.' So: Why?" The simplest answer to that question, says Gravois, is John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, EverQuest: all of them derive from Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth, a world built from medieval languages, references, and literary conventions. Some scholars say Renaissance Faires and the Society for Creative Anachronism got their momentum from Tolkien's surge in popularity in the 1960s. At the same time, Tolkien is an immensely important figure in medieval studies. Modern medievalists credit him with being the first scholar to treat Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as texts with literary depth, instead of just as linguistic time capsules. It is thanks to him, many believe, that those poems have become canonical works rather than obscurities. Daniel T. Kline, a professor of medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Alaska at Anchorage offers another insight that far predates Tolkien. Kline, along with other scholars of the middle ages, has begun thinking about fantasy literature and role-playing games as actual revivals of medieval literary forms. Arthurian legends, he and others say, had a similar open-ended narrative structure, a similar relationship to an ahistorical imagined past and a similar kind of open authorship. Unlike more modern forms, the medieval approach to storytelling is one that lends itself perfectly to fantasy worlds that can be endlessly constructed, reconstructed, and traversed.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail: circulation@chronicle.com; Web site: http://chronicle.com/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Michigan