Thursday, March 21, 2019

We'll Return You to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming after This Message

𝔉or a while, now, there's been a weekly Thursday post noting progress through a cartoon series. In recent months, it's even been a regular thing. But that series is done, and a bit of a break is in order. If nothing else, I need to do a bit of cleanup on this blog and look into a few other things. So it may be a bit before there's another regular series popping up here.
Worry not, however; there are other series intended, as well as the occasional stand-alone piece. And we are always happy to have more contributors; if you've got an idea, please send it our way. We'd love to hear from you.
As always, thank you for reading!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 8.13, "The End Is the Beginning"

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

Voltron: Legendary Defender finds an end--and a promise of a new beginning.

8.13, "The End Is the Beginning"

Written by Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery
Directed by Michael Chang

Synopsis

The towering titans that are Voltron and Honerva's Robeast face off, resuming their melee from previous episodes. Recognizing the threat to the local population, the former tries to move the battle into the hinterlands. The effort is minimally successful.
Clearly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Honerva renews the ritual to pierce the bounds of reality, draining Voltron's energy to do so. Pursuit continues, though the reality left behind crumbles behind them, and Voltron emerges into a strangely liminal space between realities.
It is an odd place, if it is a place.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Honerva presses her attack upon Voltron--and upon entire realities. In her rage, Honerva purposes to unmake all, and Voltron is rebuffed by the effects of her attacks on the other existences, glimpsed in fleeting images as they are undone. At length, only one remains, a solitary chain of causality ripe for uncreation. It, Voltron is able to defend, rejoining melee with a renewed purpose.
 It does seem to be going badly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.


Honerva is driven back, along with the Paladins. The latter are able to convince Honerva to repent and work to restore the realities that were undone. Allura remains behind, as well, to the sadness of the other Paladins, and the universes are restored.
As expected, really.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary, as is the next one.

In the denouement, the Paladins and their allies take stock of what has happened. Altea is restored. The Galra Empire is pacified and incorporated into a federated government. Peace talks in Allura's name work to ease tensions. The Paladins go about their lives, and matters give every appearance of being well. The Lions depart of themselves, vanishing into the cosmos, Voltron's time having ended at last.


Discussion

The series finale, in addition to making several covert comments about social matters, returns to the Marian associations of Allura. As is noted elsewhere in the comments about the series, Allura is something of a stand-in for the Virgin Mary, whose efforts and experience lead to salvation in the Christian ideology of medieval Europe. As is typically conceived, Mary is a preferred if not necessary intercessor for Christian prayer and forgiveness, the agent through which mercy is achieved--and the episode puts Allura in the position of offering mercy to Honerva and acting to provide salvation to all. While the framing is not restricted to the medieval in its overtones and evocations, it makes its case at the end of a series long established as decidedly connected to the medieval, so the resonance with medieval notions sings out strongly.

On an entirely personal note, there is a strange combination of relief and sadness in writing up the final episode. This project has, admittedly, taken longer to complete than ought to have been the case, and the way it was handled early on leaves a fair bit to be desired. (I'm sure some will say that the way it has continued to be handled does, too.) But it is done, now, and while there is pride in getting it done and relief that no more needs doing on it, there is some sadness that there is not more to do with it--at least not here. My words will not be the last written on the topic, though, or I hope they will not, and I look forward to reading what others will have to say. I can hope that what I have said will prove useful to them as they take up their own parts of the work.

Friday, March 8, 2019

More about #Kzoo2019

t was noted in an earlier post that there would be a bit of a survey of members' planned attendance at the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. The promised survey is at the URL below:


The form asks after membership, planned attendance, plans to stay past the Congress's closure on Sunday, and thoughts about the time after that closure. Responses will determine whether the Society tries to reserve rooms at various places, so your reply is greatly appreciated.

We hope to see you at the 'zoo!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 8.12, "The Zenith"

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

The final confrontation of the series continues in the penultimate episode of Legendary Defender.

8.12, "The Zenith"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

Honerva continues to enact a ritual that will allow her to find a universe where she can live in love with Zarkon and Lotor--and that will destroy all other realities. The Paladins and the Atlas begin to rally in the attempt to stop her. Pidge figures out how Honerva's work is proceeding, and action resumes.

A final call to action?
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
It also resumes on the part of Honerva and her supporters. Honerva rallies her pilots against the Paladins, and battle is joined. Honerva's powers prove formidable amid the melee, which draws on with the help of one of the Altean Robeast pilots.

Amid the fight, Coran makes his way to counteract the destabilizing effects of Honerva's ritual, aided by others.

This does seem to come a bit out of nowhere.
Image taken from the final episode, used for commentary.
The efforts come too late, however, as Honerva effectively pierces the boundaries between realities and flees. Keith urges pursuit, and assistance comes in the form of several Balmera that arrive to render help. They empower Voltron and the Atlas, that they may give chase to Honerva across realities--and they do, uniting into a single, colossal construct of immense power.

Thus uplifted, they rejoin melee against Honerva, chasing her through realities as they begin to collapse in the wake of her passage. And Coran works with the Balmera to mute the effects of Honerva's predations, enjoying some success. They are joined, in turn, by Galra led by Krolia and the remaining Blade of Marmora; the combined efforts further stabilize reality as the fight between Voltron and Honerva continues.

It is a strangely warming sight.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The efforts do not suffice, however. The work of Coran and his company cannot be sustained, and Honerva leaves Voltron behind en route to her preferred reality. They continue to pursue, emerging after her into a reality where Altea and the Galra homeworld remain, where Zarkon lives at ease, and where Lotor is a boy at study. The reality's Zarkon accepts Honerva's appearance after an initial challenge. The reality's Lotor, however, is not deceived, and a final confrontation ensues as Voltron appears upon the reality's Altea.

Discussion

It makes sense that there would be little new material introduced by the current episode; it is the next-to-last, so it should be more concerned with ending things than with introducing new ones. And it is the case that more of what has pervaded the series appears in the present episode, including instances of the deus ex machina that have received comment. But, as is noted elsewhere, such things pervade the medieval inspirations of the series no less than the Manichean allegory that is almost abusively obvious in the depictions of Honerva and the ennobled Voltron in the episode. (It is a nice touch that the appearance of the towering white-and-gold figure of the enhanced Voltron inspires terror among the people in other realities; angelic beings such as Voltron is figured to be tend to prompt such responses, however benevolent their intent.) As such, the series remains rooted to its inspirations even as it comes almost to its finale, a sort of a return to its thesis in advance of moving forward one last time.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 8.11, "Uncharted Regions"

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

Matters begin to hasten towards an ending as the final season of Legendary Defender approaches its close.

8.11, "Uncharted Regions"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Rie Koga

Synopsis

Good morning.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Honerva rises to unpleasant consciousness as Oriande travels towards an unknown end. She directs the craft to a point in space to await the Paladins.

Aboard the Atlas, Coran upbraids the Paladins for not defending Allura more stridently before they are summoned to the bridge. Shiro notes the emergence of Oriande and the difficulty in reaching Honerva.

Meanwhile, Honerva begins to deploy her own Robeast, piloting it herself to enact her unholy rite on a massive scale and attempting to identify a reality in which she can be happy with her husband and son. Keith addresses the Atlas crew to that end, and Pidge notes the destructive nature of that attempt. Matters look grim, and the crew purposes to face her despite that grimness. Assignments are made and begin to be carried out.

The leader and the lancer
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
After, Keith and Lance confer. Their situation worries Lance, and Keith reassures Lance about matters. The two emerge from the talk with renewed purpose.

Preparations continue. Romelle confers with the Altean captives. They remind her of Honerva's hold on them. Pidge assists in the development and refinement of new weaponry. Smaller groups head out from the Atlas to reconnoiter--and it is remarked that Honerva remains in a single location, and that she cannot be reached, though reconnaissance can be and is conducted on her. The information reveals to the Atlas crew that Honerva is in the midst of enacting her reality-shattering plans. The scouts come under assault from one of Honerva's Robeasts and are son destroyed.

So begins the end.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the wake of that destruction, Honerva relocates to the site of the lost Altea and the Galra homeworld. Lance attends on Allura as she lies unconscious, and she wakes. Honerva is aware that they will be coming; the Atlas girds for the fight to come, and battle is joined. It does not go well for the Paladins and the Atlas, particularly after Honerva compels the Altean captives to work to sabotage the ship. Their efforts are spectacularly effective, and the Atlas is left depowered--with Honerva's might greatly increased by their sacrifice.

Only the sudden betrayal of one of Honerva's lieutenants hinders the enactment of the reality-ending rite. But that delay allows for aid to arrive, and the battle to defeat Honerva continues with decreasing hope as the barriers between realities begin to fall.
Image taken from the episode, used for illustration.


Discussion

For the final write-up of February 2019, there's more than a bit of the apocalyptic to be found. The multiverse in which Legendary Defender occurs is ending, and there are demonic figures (Lotor's Robeast, Honerva's Robeast, and the amalgamation of the two that emerges during the episode) presiding over the whole. And that focus on the apocalyptic offers a connection to the medieval. Richard K. Emmerson notes in "The Apocalypse in Medieval Culture" (in The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages) the extent to which medieval though considered the end-times: pervasively. Pieces written to "fill in the gaps" of Biblical accounts for European audiences are amply attested, and many speak to what Emmerson calls "the horrendous dissolution of nature" (pg. 305). That idea, that nature will collapse, seems to be at work in the present episode, if with a more "scientific" and less religious bent. (The earlier-noted cult-working of the suborned Alteans comes to mind, however.) And it is being brought about in the effort to achieve a paradise, if only by and for Honerva, so there remains a twisted parallel to Scriptural and popular accounts that suffuse the medieval.

There is also a related connection, though it reads as somewhat misogynistic. Biblical and medieval conceptions of the end of days feature prominently the putative Whore of Babylon; Emmerson remarks that the character "is the most memorable 'citizen' of Babylon" (pg. 320), for example. The current episode--indeed, the current season of the series--focuses largely upon Honerva; she is its most memorable participant. Given the depiction of the Babylonian as associated with the Antichrist--and Lotor does a decent impression thereof, prior to his death--and Honerva's own color motifs, the parallel can be drawn, reinforcing the medievalism of the present episode's eschatological overtones.

At the same time, Honerva continues to read as somewhat sympathetic; what she does, she does to restore her son. She is not dissimilar to Grendel's mother in Beowulf, who works to avenge a son slain justly; Lotor was clearly in the wrong, clearly evil in the perspective of the series, but he was still beloved by his mother, and it is hard to rage at the impetus of a mother to do all that can be done to preserve her child. But, as with the Anglo-Saxon antecedent, Honerva's means are execrable--and more.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 8.10, "Knights of Light, Part 2"

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

The Paladins' strangely dangerous sortie continues, and revelations emerge.

8.10, "Knights of Light, Part 2"

Written by Erik Bogh
Directed by Michael Chang

Synopsis

Their numbers have increased.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Continuing from the previous episode, the Paladins hurtle through Honerva's mindscape, finding themselves in a remembrance of the Galra homeworld. They confer about the implications before advancing. Allura leads them, though dark energies continue to afflict her, and the shade of Alfor warns her against it yet again; she explains her need for the added power.

Within the mindscape, the Paladins come under attack by an enhanced remembrance of one of their earliest foes. The fight is joined, and the Paladins find it a tougher battle than their previous encounter, but the power of their predecessors allows them to press ahead, following Allura's lead.
Allura seems to have a clear idea of what needs doing.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.


The Paladins find themselves suddenly in a remembrance of Oriande, and Pidge opines about the implications; they continue to encounter psychic traps protecting Honerva's inner being. And as they press on, they find themselves transported to a stormy landscape of her memories--many of which are unpleasant. Among others, the end of the first group of Paladins is detailed; Honerva killed them, consumed them. Allura reacts with rage, occasioning concern that has to be put aside int he hopes of progressing further. And that progress is made, allowing the Paladins to ransack Honerva's mind and memory.

Some of Honerva's recent memories are...unpleasant.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The Paladins enter another layer of Honerva's mind and are assailed by her raw presence. They soon find themselves on a remembered Altaea, where the shade of Zarkon assails them. Keith confronts the shade, opposing it mightily and summoning aid. After a struggle, the shade is released, and Allura inflicts upon him the memory of his misdeeds. In its wake, his contrition, though insufficient, is sincere, and he begins to make such efforts toward finding absolution as he can make.

Honerva's desires are revealed--along with her purpose. She means to find a reality in which her husband and son are alive and love her--at the cost of destroying all other realities. And Honerva becomes aware of the interlopers in her mind, working against them directly. The shade of Alfor and Keith unite the assembled sets of Paladins in the purpose of breaking Honerva's hold upon them all--and they succeed. The present Paladins are returned to physical reality, although Allura remains unconscious.

Discussion

The resonance with dream visions continues in the present episode from the previous, and there is something of a parallel to the Divine Comedy mentioned in the previous episode's write-up; the Paladins continue to progress through ever-deeper layers of Honerva's mind, finding strange and often terrifying wonders as they do. Additionally, the present episode engages what might be thought a decidedly medieval--though certainly not restricted to the medieval--preoccupation: the nature of forgiveness.

The case can be made that the shade of Zarkon, having been imprisoned and dominated by Honerva, is not culpable for the deeds of the corporeal Zarkon. (And, indeed, there is the worrisome implication of his shade being present; what animated the corporeal Zarkon?) Yet the assertion is made in the episode that he was, in fact, aware of his corporeal misdeeds, even if removed from them, and he appears to accept responsibility for them. If he is as responsible as he seems to suggest being, then there is a question of what absolution could actually be available to him; millennia of genocide would seem to stain a soul beyond any scrubbing. At the same time, it seems that Zarkon's fellow shades accept his efforts as contrition, offering forgiveness--and the present Paladins, after Allura's inflicting memory upon him, seem to, as well.

The question the episode poses in that regard, then, is if mindful efforts against an evil previously enabled actually enable forgiveness, or if forgiveness is a thing that can be earned. Again, it is something with which the medieval European mind, typically conceived, did occupy itself. Research such as Marc B. Cels's "Forgiveness in Late Medieval Sermons: On the Unforgiving Servant" speaks to that occupation, as do such works as Piers Plowman and Chaucer's Pardoner's Prologue and Tale. So, while such occupation does not restrict itself to the medieval mind, it does figure prominently in it, and the present episode's engagement with that occupation does just a bit more to connect the series to its medieval and medievalist forebears.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 8.9, "Knights of Light, Part 1"

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

The Paladins venture forth on a strangely dangerous sortie as the end of the eighth season of Legendary Defender approaches.

8.9, "Knights of Light, Part 1"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

It's not the most promising start.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Allura wakes in darkness, a voice whispering to her; the voice resolves into Honerva's, and she wakes again to find Coran and Lance watching over her. They confer with her about recent developments; she confirms that she took a dark energy into herself. The others' reactions as Allura explains are not happy.

Shiro and the Paladins confer about how to proceed, given Allura's embrace of the entity. They propose to assail Honerva psychically, noting that her threat justifies the risks involved. Shiro reluctantly agrees to support the plan, and Lance raises concerns; preparations to enact it begin.

The way to go seems clear.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The Paladins sally forth, and Allura is swiftly aware of Honerva. The Atlas moves to assist as Voltron is formed and the Paladins push forward into Honerva's mindspace. Strange interconnections are noted before Allura is again taken, painfully, by awareness of Honerva, and Lance again expresses concern about the plan. Keith proposes focusing on tracking Honerva through the link, and the Paladins make progress on that end. They eventually find themselves at the boundaries of Honerva's psychic presence.

This is an even worse sign than usual.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
There, the Paladins other than Keith are seized by souls Honerva has corrupted; Keith is left alone to struggle futilely to reach them. The rest, however, find themselves fighting, in isolation, spectral foes whose blows are all too forceful. Allura takes particular exception to the situation, employing dark powers against their dark attackers and revealing that they are, in fact, assailed by the Paladins of old. And the Lions reveal some of the shared histories of the Paladins old and new, leading to the resolution of the conflicts they face.

In the wake of the battle, the two sets of Paladins confer, with the older lauding their younger counterparts and advising them. And the eight are returned to Keith, who still seeks for them. But their joy at reunion portends far worse to come...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.


Discussion

For the Valentine's Day 2019 edition of the Tales after Tolkien Society blog, there is a bit of romantic love in the air; Lance's affection for Allura comes through clearly in the present episode.

Aside from that, though, there are some things that attract comment. One is the prevalence of deus ex machina in the present episode. The remarks in "A Few Comments Inspired by Voltron: Legendary Defender" apply, as might be expected, although it must be noted that the Lions that provide much of the deus ex machina qualities are noted repeatedly throughout the series to have additional powers yet unknown, so there is at least some ghost of foreshadowing of their sudden ability to link Paladins across millennia. Too, as noted, there is ample medieval precedent for such events, so having them happen yet again is yet one more link of the series back to its forebears and antecedents.

Too, as with earlier episodes of the series, there seems to be something of the dream vision about the present episode. Certainly, the artwork in the episode suggests psychedelia, and I have heard such works as The Land of Cokaygne described as medieval drug-trips. There are similar elements even in, say, Pearl, or in the more widely-known Divine Comedy. So, otherworldly as the episode is (as any in a space-opera seemingly must be), it also has another connection to medieval antecedents, helping to keep the series grounded as a medievalist production even as it approaches its end.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 8.8, "Clear Day"

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

A seeming excursion covers darker deeds as Voltron: Legendary Defender progresses towards its end.

8.8, "Clear Day"

Written by Erik Bogh
Directed by Rie Koga

Synopsis

It remains something bad to see...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Following up on the breakthrough of the previous episode, Allura interviews one of the suborned Alteans. He presses for haste against the possibility of Honerva's realization that he is offering information about her and her machinations--and, indeed, her power makes itself felt quickly. Allura is able to extract the mechanism of control from the other Altean, however, and it is contained at some cost and peril. Allura divines its purpose and devises uses for it quickly, though Sam Holt cautions her against invoking or exploiting it.

It's sweet. It clearly has to be doomed.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
On the bridge of the Atlas, unusual telemetry comes in from a world not necessarily friendly to the Coalition. The decision is made to provide security for the world's celebration, and the Coalition forces proceed thither. As they travel, Allura notes to Lance that she is not feeling well and will not be participating in festivities. Lance offers to remain with her; she tells him to have fun.

The Atlas arrives at the planet, and much of the crew draws light-duty security work that will allow them to enjoy the festivities while they work. Keith remains vigilant as the other Paladins engage in recreational activities; Shiro and Coran also make their way to the fun. Allura, however, is drawn towards the dark energy she pulled from the other Altean as she hallucinates Lotor and others, to her horror.

All the while, the other Paladins and Shiro enjoy themselves at the festivities. Shiro manages to find himself engaged (winningly, ultimately against the warden from an earlier episode) in an arm-wrestling contest, and Coran (also winningly) in an animal-calling competition, while Pidge, Hunk, and Lance eat and play. Keith embarrasses himself in his rigidity before being roped into taking a saccharine ride with Hunk--that soon breaks. And the usual carnival shenanigans ensue.

Allura struggles with the decision to take into herself the dark energy she had pulled from the suborned Altean, ultimately opting to do so. When, at length, the crew returns to the Atlas, they find her incapacitated.
This will not end well.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.


Discussion

In keeping with the present season's tendency to refer back to and close off thread from earlier episodes, the present episode refers back to "The Voltron Show," with its own extensive referentiality. It is an interesting bit of metanarrative and entertaining, as is much else about the episode.

Such is to the good, because the episode does not do much to add to the medievalism that has pervaded the series. Even the evilly inspired hallucinations, which suggest medieval dream-visions as antecedents, are reiterations of already-established tropes in the series. As has been noted with other, earlier episodes, though, it is not necessary that a work drawing from medieval and medievalist sources do so at all points; there are other references the series can and does make, and it is also the case that the present episode is late in what is remarked as being the final season of the series. It is a bit late to be introducing new materials to the show, although it remains a good time for it to refer back to itself, as it clearly does.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Some Notes about the Kerrville Renaissance Festival

𝔇uring the weekend just past, my family and I went to the Kerrville Renaissance Festival (@kerrrenfest on Twitter, also present on Facebook and Instagram), to which I had won a pair of free tickets some months back. A smallish Renaissance festival taking place in a smallish town in the Texas Hill Country, this year, the festival took place across two weekends (25-27 January 2019 and 2-3 February 2019), and it featured a number of vendors and entertainers that varied across the two weekends. And, as was the case for the earlier Oklahoma ScotFest I attended, it marked a decent enough day to be out with the family (though the weather was more cooperative  for the present topic than the previous).
An attentive audience at the field performance.
Photo my own
As we entered, we were greeted by banners and pennants proclaiming the event; along our way from the parking lot into the event, we saw a number of people dressing in "period" costume. Not long after we entered, we found our way to a performance of a group of belly dancers. The troupe--if that is the correct word for such a group--also had shows on a stage further into the event, in one of which my daughter participated.
Classically medieval, fried ravioli and pecan pie
Photo my own
Not long after, because we had gotten off to something of a late start that morning, hunger became an issue, so we made our way to one of the several sets of food vendors the event had on site. (It is one of the marks of a better event that it has many food options available, and accessible in more than one place.) Some of the traditional festival foods were on offer, but not so much medieval food as "medieval" food--such as turkey legs, fried potatoes, and the ever-present-in-Texas barbeque sandwich . But it tasted good, and it helped us to press on through our tour of the rest of the event.
One of the handlers with a fine feathered specimen
Photo my own.
Soon after eating, we found our way (via a face-painting stop for my daughter) to the display being put on by the Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy, which uses demonstrations of falconry and related arts to help fund its operations. The performing group, featuring beautiful animals, has appeared at a number of events in the Hill Country, and my wife had expressed a particular desire to see them. It was good to finally get to do so after hearing about them for years and missing out on many chances to see the large birds in flight or hear them discussed with such passion and fervor by the demonstration's head.
The dancers at their work
Photo my own.
Following the birds of prey demonstration, we toured a number of vendors' stalls and took a number of photographs. I missed getting pictures of the bawd who offered insults and chances to pitch fruit at his face for five dollars or the hawker handling hatchet hucking for the same rate. I did not, however, miss getting pictures of the dance troupe's stage show or of my daughter joining them on the stage when an audience participation number was called. (In the event, she was the only eager volunteer; another member of the audience joined after being pressured by her friends. She did well, though.)
The blower at his work
Photo my own.
We watched quite a bit of the dancers' show--my wife has studied belly dance, so it was something she wanted us to stick around for--and headed off into the rest of the festival. Most of our doing so saw us touring more vendors' booths with crafts of more and less connection to the period ostensibly being celebrated and the period more overtly so, but we did catch one more show. Of a sort, anyway; the demonstration was by a glassblower who had set up a small workshop on site. It was an informed discussion, certainly, and the work being done amid the narration was quite pretty.
The Dublin Harpers, a family musical group
Photo my own.
Though it may seem to be the case, and though I did very much enjoy having a day at a park with my family, I did not go to the festival solely to have a good time; I did so knowing that I would be ruminating on what I saw there--and what I have seen at other, similar festivals such as the Kerr County Celtic Festival and Highland Games that take place in neighboring Ingram, Texas, or the aforementioned Oklahoma ScotFest. I knew that I would not be able to help looking at what the festival got wrong--though I was surprised to find the things that it got right.
The sandwiches aren't exactly period-proper, either
Photo my own.
As is usual for such events, things were a mishmash of period and place at the event. While it is billed as a Renaissance festival, the tropes represented were predominantly medieval or "medieval" in form, even if the foodstuffs on offer--again, turkey legs and fried potatoes--are distinctly non-medieval. Vikings and Venetian-style glassblowers stood and strode side by side with high medieval archery and chivalric venery, so that centuries were compressed and presented alongside one another almost willy-nilly. This weekend was also the "time-travelers' weekend," overtly opening the already-anachronistic event to even broader a spread across time; the pseudo-Victorian steampunk aesthetic was on full display, as was no seventeenth-century piracy and eighteenth-century kiltwork. So, as far as remaining true to its name or to the earlier period it typically more fully portrays, the festival did poorly--but it is hardly unique in doing so. Indeed, most such festivals work with such compression and amalgamation; given their audience and its prevailing conceptions, they almost have to do so. (Others far more learned than I have treated those prevailing impressions at great length; I commend you, dear readers, to such as Paul Sturtevant and Helen Young.)
Some of the fair-goers, some in costume
Photo my own.
But the mishmash had one effect that helped the festival ring more truly medieval than many purportedly accurate presentations of that time; it overtly and openly incorporated persons of color into the events, and as active participants rather than as objectified subalterns, as they are too often presented. Perhaps it is an artifact of being in Central Texas, but many of the performers and vendors were people of color, enacting medievalisms that are typically associated only with white people, despite the overwhelming evidence and common-sense proposition that there were people of color throughout social strata, throughout Europe, throughout the period commonly described as medieval. Perhaps inadvertently, they got that part right.
My daughter on stage with the dancers,
because I am a proud poppa
Photo my own.
And there is one other thing, not necessarily medieval in itself, but certainly to the good that the amalgamation of times and places permits. For, although stereotypes overstate matters, there is some truth to the assertions that 1) small towns are suspicious of outsiders and 2) Central Texas does not reward being outside of certain social norms. But at the fair when we went, we saw a number of people openly enacting membership in non-medieval communities that their comfort in the enactment made clear that they belong to. And not only those groups which have been trying to appropriate the medieval (incorrectly) for heinous ends, either, but many groups such as are often overtly oppressed or covertly compelled to keep quiet who and what they are. On the day we went, the Kerrville Renaissance Festival was an open and welcoming place in which people felt at liberty to present themselves as they feel themselves to be.
If it is the case that some of the details are wrong--and it is; they are--it seems a far better correctness to help people enact themselves than to be sure all of the facts are right. As we move more toward informational accuracy, it will behoove us to keep that openness in mind.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Some Notes about #Kzoo2019

𝔗here's information up about the schedule of sessions for the International Congress on Medieval Studies. For the Society, important bits are these:


It seems we'll be spending a fair bit of time in Fetzer this go-around, which is not a problem. There are a few notes I need to make about activities:
  • The business meeting presently has two agenda items: elections and panel proposals for #Kzoo2020
    • Nominations for Vice-President (USA) and Social Media Officer can be emailed to me here. I am happy to invite the current holder of those posts, Luke Shelton, to stand for reelection to them, if he desires.
    • Proposals for the 2020 sessions will be taken on the floor at the meeting. Those unable to attend the meeting can make suggestions of panels to me here; they will be brought up during the meeting.
    • Other agenda items can be suggested here; they will be brought up at the meeting.
  • In Session 509, The Legacy of Tolkien's Medievalism in Contemporary Works, "The Two Eyes of the Dragon" will be presented by Isabella Aparecida Leite Nogueira.
  • In Session 539, Victoria L. Holtz Wodzak's "'Lead Kindly Light'" has been withdrawn.
A future post will inquire about expected attendance at #Kzoo2019 so that informal events can be planned and put together. In particular, Sunday afternoons tend to be lonely for those who travel on Mondays, so it might be nice to put something together then.
I hope to see you there!