Thursday, September 12, 2019

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 1.2, "The Sword: Part 2"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry soon!

The series begins to establish patterns, and some medieval parallels become evident.

1.2, "The Sword: Part 2"

Written by Noelle Stevenson and James Krieg
Directed by Jen Bennett

Synopsis

It makes sense to be surprised at such a thing.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Proceeding directly from the previous episode, She-Ra quiets the aggressive megafauna to the astonishment of Glimmer and Bow--and herself. Adora falls out of the She-Ra state, and a brief fracas ensues until the megafauna resumes its attack. Bow returns the sword to Adora, and the three flee, arriving at a site that seems to correspond to the sword and that Adora is able to open in time for them to escape the megafauna.

Within the structure, Glimmer and Bow continue to grill Adora about her surprising knowledge. Adora retaliates, and Bow tries to make peace for the moment. They proceed towards finding an exit and heading to Bright Moon, and strange gaps in Adora's knowledge are noted; Bow offers exposition to fill them.

The red lighting is a clear indication of trouble.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Exploration continues, if with some complaint, and the connection to She-Ra becomes more evident. Systems in the structure activate, which soon becomes a problem, as Adora, Glimmer, and Bow are ignorant of their operation and trigger security protocols they must then avoid.

They do so only at great risk, but they manage to extricate themselves. Adora's continued presence with them occasions comment from Glimmer; she notes that Adora could easily have left at most any time, and Adora asserts a need for information to correct the deficiencies of her prior education. Bow notes that Angela will have answers, and Adora continues along with him and Glimmer towards Bright Moon.

The lighting seems backwards here, yes?
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
In the Fright Zone, Shadow Weaver interrogates Catra about Adora. Catra's answers are unsatisfactory, and Shadow Weaver tasks her with retrieving Adora.

Adora, Glimmer, and Bow happen upon a village in the midst of a festival. Upon realizing that Adora has no real concept of such things, Bow takes her into the celebration, to Glimmer's chagrin. Their revelry is interrupted by an attack by the Horde--led by Catra amid her assigned search for Adora. Adora tries to convince Catra to leave off the attack; Catra tries to persuade Adora to return to the Fright Zone with her. Neither can bring the other over, and a melee breaks out, with Adora resuming her She-Ra persona and defeating the Horde contingent. Catra withdraws in anger and disgust.

In the wake of the battle, Adora realizes she has committed treason against the Horde and turns to the putative rebellion.

Discussion

As noted above, several patterns for the series emerge in the present episode. The title theme and sequence is one. The transformation sequence through which Adora becomes She-Ra is another--and it, though echoing tropes from anime, is reminiscent of and parallel to a trope in medieval literature: the heraldic blazon. As is suggested elsewhere in this blog and as is attested in no shortage of other sources, a heraldic blazon is a detailed description of an identifying emblem, one often used in medieval chivalric literature to 1) buy time for the narrator and 2) impart a more detailed understanding both of the described object or character's appearance and inner state, given the strong symbolic overtones (or outright statements) usually identified in such works.

While visual media such as streaming service cartoons might not need to use such devices to convey appearance to the audience, transformation sequences such as She-Ra's can carry similar information about the inner statuses of those who transform; they accentuate particulars of the characters' physical appearances and accoutrements, and the details presented and attended to can be read no less fully for their overtones and implications than can the descriptions of panoply and escutcheon that pervade such works as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or those of ChrΓ©tien de Troyes. In effect, the transformation sequence serves the same function as the heraldic blazon in the different medium (while also linking the series to specific genres for reference, though that likely exceeds the scope of what the Society is apt to treat; comments about it would be welcome).

Applying the idea to the present episode, then, positions Adora as beginning with aggression; her sword is raised to begin the sequence, then turned to be edge-on to the viewer, a formal salute that portends violence. Her eyes remain clear, even if details of her form do not, calling attention to both (and responding to prevailing decency standards surrounding the release of the series; the show is aimed at younger audience, for whom nudity is generally seen as taboo, and Adora's evident age is such that rendering her nude would be potentially problematic). Her swelling in size makes sense; such heroes as She-Ra and her medieval(ist) parallels are larger-than-life figures (note, for example, the comments about the height of "historical" figures in Tolkien). The shorts--rather than the swimsuit-like attire of the 1980s She-Ra--tend to desexualize the character; her physical beauty is not emphasized, but rather what she can do is. The focus on long, flowing hair that follows would seem to belie that, however, even as the sequence ending with vambraces summoned by a fist striking into a palm and a return to the upraised-sword position reasserts the martial nature of the heroine. Or so a reading might assert.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 1.1, "The Sword: Part 1"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry here!

A new Netflix reboot of an older cartoon begins, and a new rewatch series with it.

1.1, "The Sword: Part 1"

Written by Noelle Stevenson
Directed by Adam Henry

Synopsis

Not an auspicious starting place, to be sure.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
A quiet opening moves towards a tortured-looking place, in which a young woman suits up and warms up in advance of a military training exercise. The young woman and her unit, from which a member--Catra--is absent, are to practice reaching and liberating a rebel stronghold. The practice is successful, and the young woman, Adora, acquits herself most ably.

After the exercise, Adora and Catra confer briefly before Adora is summoned by a hierarch, Shadow Weaver, and promoted to an officer's position. Shadow Weaver also tasks Adora with a mission against a prominent rebel stronghold, Bright Moon.

That looks a bit better.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In said stronghold, the princess Glimmer confronts her mother, the queen Angella, over her conduct in the field. In a fit of pique, Angella grounds Glimmer, and Glimmer storms off in an equal pique.

Adora and Catra confer about Adora's elevation and Catra's jealousy and angst. Adora takes Catra out on an illicit escapade outside their stronghold--the Fright Zone. Adora is lost along the way, finding a sword after waking from falling from her vehicle. Touching it sends her into a mystic-seeming vision, from which she wakes to find Catra anxiously tending her.

In Bright Moon, Glimmer angrily writes in her diary. Bow "surreptitiously" calls upon her, and the two confer about Glimmer's annoyance at Angella. They head out of the castle to pursue a strange reading Bow has received.

I can't get you out of my head...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Back in the Fright Zone, Adora wakes from a dream to find Catra sleeping at the foot of her bunk. She heads out to find the sword again, drawn to it. Bow and Glimmer are bound to the same place, as it happens, and a melee begins. Adora makes contact with the sword and has another vision, one that explicates the sword to some extent; she is chosen to be its wielder long since. It also allows Glimmer and Bow to take her captive, and they purport to take her to Bright Moon for interrogation.

Along the way, they confer about their circumstances until coming across the ruins of an attacked village, for which Glimmer upbraids Adora. They are also attacked by local megafauna. Adora defends them from the attack, transforming into She-Ra for the first time to do so.

The heroine of the day.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.


Discussion

I have to note that I do not have the nostalgic feelings for this series that I did for Voltron: Legendary Defender. I did not watch She-Ra: Princess of Power as a child, though I did watch He-Man (and several others); I had already had an experience being rebuked for watching a "girls'" show. (It might be said I was a brony before there was a word for it.) I am aware of the earlier series, certainly, and there are parts of the present series that make more explicit reference to the earlier series than others (or so I infer; the evidence suggests it, even without watching the earlier series). But I'll not be focusing much on callbacks and throwbacks.

There's enough to do with the present series's overall medievalism. Even in the first episode, much reads as Arthurian, though there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between characters in the series and antecedents in the romances; there's not a direct counterpart to Malory's Sir Dagonet, for example, or to the Gawain-poet's Gawain. But a chosen hero who is meant to draw a magic sword that is itself held in a restricted place evokes Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, and a seeming hero emerging from a morass of villainy seems somehow to call to mind Tristram and the Cornish in Malory, as well.

Another major point of discussion emerges, too. The names given to people and places are clearly emblematic: Catra is cat-like, Glimmer glimmers, Angella has an angelic form, Adora is clearly adored, and the Fright Zone is clearly frightening. It should be obvious which is the side of "good" and which "evil" to any who hear such names--yet Adora seems not to realize the perfidy of the Fright Zone and its inhabitants. Given Adora's appearance--pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes--she can be read as something of a stand-in for a great many people who enjoy privilege unaware of it and unaware of its foundations on structures of ignorance and hate. It is the kind of thing with which medieval studies, perhaps more than many other areas of inquiry, has had to grapple in recent years, with the execrable openness of ideologies that deserve all opprobrium and their proponents' empty-headed attempts to invoke the medieval to justify themselves to a world that is beginning to admit it might actually know better.

The medievalism in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is not "straight," of course, but it is no less "crooked" than that bruited about by groups and people who should be abjured in the strongest terms, and it does not purport to be "how it really was," either. It may be that the invocation of the medieval can be read as a rebuke to those who would (continue to) misuse the medieval to (continue to) justify their racist, colonialist ideas and practices. More such rebukes, and stronger, would be welcome.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A New Rewatch Series: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

𝔄s I've commented before, I have a vested interest in materials meant for children because I have a daughter, born in 2014, and I try to be interested and engaged in the media she consumes. I'm also the person I am, born when I am and shaped by the media available for my consumption when I was her age and in the following years. I remember the delightfully terrible cartoons of my childhood--such as Voltron and He-Man--and the much better work that came out during my adolescence--such as Avatar: The Last Airbender--with varying degrees of fondness, and I've applied my faculties to those things and others for my daughter and for this blog.
So, faced with more my daughter and I have been watching, and seeing so much that seems amenable to treatment by the Society, I put a question to some friends of mine as to which of two series we've recently watched (so far as they are out yet; neither is concluded as is Galavant, which I treated most recently, or Voltron: Legendary Defender, which actually got to end rather than simply stopping) they would like to see treated here: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power or The Dragon Prince. My daughter and I enjoyed both thoroughly, and I am given to understand the groups of friends to whom I put the question did, too.
In the end, though, there seemed to be a slight preference for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, at least in as long as I left the question open before putting together this post. I have every expectation that I will take up The Dragon Prince later on, perhaps after it gets another season added to it (and I hope it does!), but, for now, I will be turning my attentions to Etheria and the ways in which it pulls from and makes (sometimes awkward) use of the medieval.
I hope you'll begin to read the series here soon!
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018)
The promo poster seems fitting here, too.
I'm borrowing it from IMDB for purposes of reporting and commentary.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Few Comments about a Comic

“ My parents are pretty middle aged. “So? That’s pretty norm-” *two knights bust in* “CHILD, DOST THOU REQUEST REFRESHMENTS FROM THE TAVERN?”
— WILL RETURN 2014 (@plank_sinatra) August 23, 2013”
The cartoon in question, by Joseph Faill on A Pleasant Waste of Time.
Image used for commentary.
𝔄 while back, I ran across Joseph Faill's comic about having middle-aged parents (it's linked in the caption of the comic where I reproduce it for the sake of commentary). As might be expected of a four-panel piece, it relies on a pun, in this case multiple meanings of "middle aged": early- to mid-40s through -60s, per Cambridge, and pertaining to the period between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of the modern West, ambiguously defined. And as might be expected, there are some things that the comic gets wrong, though it can and probably should be argued that looking for too much historical accuracy in a short comic is not the best possible use of time.
That noted, it is important to look at such things. Jokes only work when their audiences understand the references being made, so what jokes play upon can be taken as a reflection of the knowledge-base from which the expected primary audience operates. Given the comic's original situation on a widely-accessible blog, it can be presumed that the expected audience of the piece is a broad one, rather than a targeted one; that is, the comic will play to popular conceptions of things, which are muddled through the oft-discussed-in-this-webspace (examples here, here, here, here, here, and here, among others) tendency of people to learn about the medieval through products of popular culture, which are concerned with marketable entertainment value rather than historical accuracy.
The comic seems very much to play into the popular conception of the pre- and early-modern past, which is typically compressed into a few "similar" ideas that elide much of the difference, nuance, detail, and glory of each. The wording in the final panel, making use of a now-obsolete -st ending and the "medieval" thou, as well as referencing a tavern, speaks to an idea of difficult-to-understand speech (though it seems to present no trouble in the event) and a fixation on common life centered on alcohol (which is hardly uniquely medieval; there are still quite a few taverns that advertise themselves as such). Similarly, the array of the parents in armor--without surcoat--that shows gendered characters--codpiece and boob-plate--and has the seeming mother wielding a flail (about which, see Sturtevant here and here) speaks to the same set of misconceptions. It indicates that those misconceptions are the prevailing ideas of the medieval, and that is a problem for reasons that have been amply attested in this webspace and many, many other places.
Again, though, I do not find fault with Faill for engaging those (wrong) ideas. The point is to get a laugh, and getting a laugh means making sure the presumed audience has access to the references being made. I'm not sure that getting more things "right" would have helped with that; putting the parents' words into even Chaucerian Middle English--let alone that of the Gawain-poet or the West Saxon of Beowulf--would have produced more confusion than amusement. Other clothes than plate armor would not have said "middle ages" as clearly, particularly given the art style. They would not have carried the joke, which would have defeated the purpose.
Even so, that the joke needs to be the way it is to land is unfortunate. It serves as a reminder that we, as scholars of the medieval and its appropriations, need to do more to teach people how things were and how they can be than we have yet done, particularly given all the misuses to which the medieval is being put.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thoughts about King Alice

King Alice
The cover of the book
Image taken from Macmillan, used for commentary
Read the previous piece in the series here.

𝔒ne of the things I try to do when I travel to the International Congress on Medieval Studies is come back with a gift for my daughter. Some years, it has been a piece of jewelry of one sort or another. This year, I picked up the gift not at the Congress itself, but on a sort of side-excursion on which I went after the formal events wrapped up. Part of it was Matthew Cordell's 2018 King Alice, a book that follows the adventures of Alice and her family as they make good use of a snow day (putting together a short story-book) that has them all--Alice, her younger sibling, and their parents--at home.
The book works well, or it did for my daughter; she enjoyed getting it and looking at it, and she has asked me to read it to her several times since I first gave it to her when I got back to the Texas Hill Country from Kalamazoo. The narrative action reads authentically to my eyes (the paternal reactions in the book line up with what has happened for me with my own daughter, for example), and the illustrations blend the consistency of mastery with the raw quality of childhood work--entirely appropriately for the genre, and not unexpectedly for a Caldecott winner.
My interest in the book is not only as a father looking for something to read to and share with his daughter, though. Even with me largely out of academia, with the Society being one of my few continuing engagements with that community, I remain interested in how the medieval is portrayed, how it is accurately and inaccurately presented. And there are things King Alice gets wrong, though many of them inhere in presenting materials as understood by a younger child to an audience of younger children (Macmillan reports that the expected target audience of the book is three- to five-year-olds). In the event, I am less concerned about what the book gets wrong than I am in what it gets right, and it gets some things surprisingly right.
Interior Image
One of the two-page spreads in the book, featuring a two-page spread in the making.
Image taken from Macmillan, used for commentary
To give one example, the opening of the story-book Alice and her father compile centers on King Alice and her knights gathered at a meal. Many chivalric romances center on such meals; the opening of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight comes to mind, when Arthur and his court are assembled before a waiting feast, and there are no few instances of the same in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, when the Round Table sits to dinner before an adventure begins. Indeed, a strange thing happens shortly after, with pirates intruding upon the whole affair. Aside from the prevailing association of pirates with the medievalist (about which I've commented here and here), the interruption reads as very much in keeping with the chivalric works from which the book works, however removed in practice it is from them. (The fart joke that intrudes into the narrative is also far from unknown to the medieval, as Chaucer's Miller's Tale and any number of other works attest.)
Something else that ends up reading as authentic or accurate to chilvaric forebears is the relative brevity of the chapters in the story-book Alice and her father work on. No few of Malory's chapters are short, indeed, and while it is a minor point of correspondence, it remains one.
Even the title of the book itself, King Alice, hearkens back to medieval antecedents. Early in the book, Alice introduces herself as "King Alice," and she rejects utterly the title of queen about which her father inquires. Both Tamar of Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Empress Matilda come to mind as antecedents; a less medieval example, but a neomedieval or proto-medievalist one, comes to mind in Elizabeth I. It is a somewhat subversive correspondence, particularly given the typical depiction of medieval monarchs as not only masculine but male, and it is a welcome corrective to at least some of the many, many misguided and wrongheaded assumptions about the medieval that populate popular culture and the misuses of the medieval by execrable groups towards despicable ends.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Thoughts about Good Times Travel Agency: Adventures in the Middle Ages

The cover, of course.
Image taken from Amazon.com, used for commentary
Read the previous piece in the series here.

β„‘t is no secret that I have an interest in children's literature for the simple reason that I have a child. And I think it no strange thing that I want to share what I do with my child. So, on a recent trip to our local library, I picked out a book to read with her from the children's stacks, one that talked about the kinds of things I do: Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin's Good Times Travel Agency: Adventures in the Middle Ages (Kids Can Press, 2000; ISBN 1-55074-538-7 or 1-55074-540-9).
The text is itself an entertaining enough read, at least enough to keep a five-year-old's attention through two nights of bedtime readings. The tone is accessible, with distinctions in voice between the focal characters--each of the Binkerton children sounds different--and others. (The snarkiness in Pettigrew's commentaries is delightful, honestly, occasioning laughter from my daughter and from my wife as she listened to me read to our child.) The illustrations are clear and engaging, splitting the difference between field guides, graphic novels, and short essays reasonably well. Small details contained in it contribute to the narrative presented by the words, helping to make the piece a more cohesive whole. My daughter enjoyed it, and I admit to having had a fair bit of fun reading it aloud to her. In that, then, the book is clearly successful.
Additionally, I appreciate that the book makes clear efforts to include contextual and historical information. The toil and drudgery of medieval life comes across clearly, as do concerns of hygiene and the possible perils of starvation--even in times of peace. Having the Disney-esque colors and cleanliness common to depictions of the medieval given to children offset is helpful. Children's works often shy away from unpleasantness out of an understandable desire to help kids be happy and to insulate them from the many things wrong in the world, but presenting some of those to them helps them to handle the problems they encounter. (The reminder that medieval children did not have easy times is also helpful.) And that the information is presented along the way, rather than being dumped on readers, eases its reception, which is to its benefit.
That all being said, there are problems with the text. Some of them result from the need to compress information for younger readers; the book does direct itself toward children--a note on the copyright page identifies it as a juvenile work in the Dewey decimal system, for example--and it is the case that minds with less experience need to have the information given them parsed somewhat. Even so, the reduction of the centuries and continents of the medieval to the "traditional" High Middle Ages in what is likely either France or England (judging by names given in the text) is somewhat vexatious; there is more to find following the fall of Western Rome than half-timber cottages and stone keeps. Related is the issue of the traditional framing of the medieval as being less than the preceding Classical and subsequent early-modern periods; it is not overt, perhaps, but children can pick up on subtle clues, as I have learned from experience. Too, while there is some passing mention of the influence of Christianity on the period, it is only passing mention, rather than situating it as one of the major cultural forces at play (for better and for worse, both). It's a remarkable oversight, really.
More problematically, the book follows the monochrome Middle Ages model that is being used to promote racism and fascism. There are few, if any, people of color depicted in the book at all, and certainly none in positions of power. While the publication date limits its direct engagement with the issue (i.e., Bailey and Slavin cannot have been responding to an argument that happened after the work was put into print), its presence and its direction at younger readers does not help with the just and appropriate opposition to that use.*
In the end, I am glad that such a work is available in a small-town local library. It's better than it could be, certainly, but I have to wonder if there isn't something better I could buy for the place--or if there isn't something better I could make for it.

*For some discussion of why this is particularly important, read Paul B. Sturtevant's The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination, of which the Society's review is here and my own is here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Invitations

𝔗he Society has a number of writing opportunities available to all interested parties; we invite you to submit ideas to them and to let others know about them so that they can send stuff along!

Of particular note is the Call for Papers for the 2020 International Congress on Medieval Studies, about which more is here: https://talesaftertolkien.blogspot.com/2019/07/doing-more-for-kzoo2020.html.

We're also happy to have guest posts like Chrissie Perella's, here: https://talesaftertolkien.blogspot.com/2019/05/guest-post-chrissie-perellas-marvels.html. We accept them on most any medievalist topic, and the papers are read and reviewed by Society membership before being posted for view and comment. (Yes, it's peer-reviewed.)

Finally, we invite pitches for new re/reading and re/watching series, such as Shiloh's towering Game of Thrones series (beginning here: http://talesaftertolkien.blogspot.com/2016/05/game-of-thrones-rewatch-i-winter-is.html) or Geoffrey's consideration of Galavant (beginning here: https://talesaftertolkien.blogspot.com/2019/03/a-new-rewatch-series-galavant.html).

For any, send your ideas along to talesaftertolkien@gmail.com. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Comment about Recent Events

If any of the Society's membership is in El Paso or Dayton, we hope you're safe and that those you love are, too.

The Society again affirms its condemnation of all such attacks and the execrable ideologies of hatred that inform them. The Society again affirms its opposition to the frequent misuses of history, particularly the histories of the medieval world, broadly conceived, that too-often undergird those ideologies, and it reaffirms its commitment to pulling out what gets done wrongly in medievalist properties in an ongoing effort to root out the thin and faulty justifications used to provide pseudo-intellectual cover to evil.

There should be no place for it in this world or any other.

What the Society can do, it will do, in the hopes of denying hate a place.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Galavant Rewatch 2.10, "The One True King (to Unite Them All)"

Read the previous entry here!

The final episode in the series thought it might well be the last. And there is something in that.

2.10, "The One True King (to Unite Them All)"

Written by Rick Wiener, Kenny Schwartz, Luan Thomas, Julia Grob, and Joe Piarulli
Directed by John Fortenberry

Synopsis

Some things seem not to change. Others very much do.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
A young Richard and Gareth proceed among other children, playing and commanding applause from the others. The child-king realizes his incompetence and privilege and muses on his possible futures; the future Richard intrudes upon the musing, answering the youth's questions and falling into his own introspection.

Richard rouses from his reverie to find the besieged Hortensian forces looking askance at him in advance of the renewed zombie onslaught. A strange sound reaches them, though, as another force arrives--one which Madalena and Wormwood mark, as well. It is Sid, armed and leading the forces encountered in Galavant's previous adventures.
Quite the striking image.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary

Sid forces his way through the undead army and reports on how he marshaled the army he brought to Galavant's aid in atonement for killing the knight. Galavant lays out a plan of attack, and battle is rejoined. Galavant and Gareth make themselves targets in the hopes of enabling a flanking maneuver on Madalena and Wormwood. Wormwood distracts Madalena so that he can more easily eliminate the two.

I'm sure I've seen this struggle before...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Isabella comes across Madalena while she is distracted. And Richard confronts Wormwood. Fights break out among them. Wormwood informs Richard of his sword's purpose before disarming him; Richard attempts to invoke his "dragon" against Wormwood, to no avail. Wormwood attempts to retrieve Richard's sword, also to no avail, before the erstwhile king attacks him in cold rage, breaking the spells that turned and enhanced Galavant's army.

The fight between the two attracts the attention of the other focal characters, and they recognize him as the foretold king. Too, the "dragon" is, in fact, alive; Richard had thought him killed. Galavant congratulates him, and Richard charges him with the care of his "dragon" while he rushes off.

Gareth tries to reconcile with Madalena, but she refuses him in favor of greater power. Isabella retrieves the crown of Valencia and reconciles with Galavant; he proposes marriage to her, and she agrees

She seems happy.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Richard rides to reconnect with Roberta, who is about to embark for another land. He intercepts her in time to stop her, and they reconcile.

Galavant and Isabella wed. Gwynne and Vincenzo, having survived the battle, resume their lives. The Valencian monarchs are restored and their palace put to rights. Gareth and Sid go on a quest to retrieve Madalena--who commits herself to the study of dark magics. Richard and Roberta enjoy their lives together--with what is, in fact, a real dragon.

Discussion

At this point, with the series having ended years ago, now, not much else needs saying about it in the present context. More learned work that can afford to take more time and that has more access to resources than an academic expatriate might well find more on which to comment, and in greater detail. Period dress, various social practices, deeper literary allusions could all take more bearing-out, certainly. And more "critical" criticism might happen, too, though I have tried in these short rewatch commentaries to ground what I say in what I have studied and what I know of the world in which I live. But I am as I am, trained as I am trained and farther away from that training than is perhaps comfortable for me to consider. I wonder if it is thus uncomfortable for others.

In any event, there is something that comes up at the end of the present episode, what ultimately is the end of the series as aired, that hearkens back meaningfully to the medieval (though to other sources, as well). In the Weird Al number near the end, in which he sings of the unlikelihood of another renewal for the series, there is something of the medieval memento mori, the recognition that all things in this imperfect world end and die. It does not mean, of course, that there is no looking ahead to more and better--the song does motion towards possible third-season plots that are never realized, but there was an idea that more would come. There is some comfort in such thoughts, certainly for people living in the world we now recognize as being medieval, as well as for people living in the still-flawed world that allows for such follies and worse things as continue to beset it--too many of which continue to invoke the medieval badly and inaccurately in the service of horrible, terrible agendas that would do better to be stomped out than to be celebrated as they now too often are.

And there is more to come in this webspace, as well. The medieval continues to be used, not always badly if too often so, and how it is used continues to merit consideration. And even if so easily accessible an example as Galavant is not immediately forthcoming, that does not mean there are not many to be found, or that the work of the Tales after Tolkien Society will not go on.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Doing More for #Kzoo2020

𝔄s a follow-up to "Starting for #Kzoo2020," expanded CFPs have been submitted to the UPenn CFP list. The text of them is below:

Legacies of Tolkien's Whiteness in Contemporary Medievalisms

A roundtable session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University (www.wmich.edu/medievalcongress) examining the continuing effects of Tolkien's depictions of race in medievalist works; Rachel Cooper will preside.

Much criticism directs itself towards racial studies and postcolonial readings of the works of JRR Tolkien, arguing whether his works should be regarded as racist and what attitudes contemporary readers would be well served to adopt in response to them. Much attention in popular media has directed itself towards the use of medieval and medievalist works such as Tolkien's by white supremacist groups to offer themselves pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-historical support for their execrable agendas. The session looks for ways in which contemporary medievalist work (hopefully) unintentionally supports such efforts and what can be done to oppose them as things deserving all opposition.

Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-Inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption

A paper session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University (www.wmich.edu/medievalcongress) examining depictions of what comes in the wake of war and death in works in the Tolkienian tradition; Carrie Pagels will preside.

Many of the "standard" fantasy works, ranging from the epics through Arthuriana into Tolkien and beyond, make much of grand wars fought on massive scales. They also, at times, look at what is left behind when the war is done, the graveyards filled and memorials erected. The session looks at how such things are constructed in works in the Tolkienian fantasy tradition and what functions they serve for readers in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

For both, short proposals are welcome; please send to talesaftertolkien@gmail.com on or before 15 September 2019. Proposals from graduate students, those outside traditional academe, and traditionally underrepresented groups are especially welcome.