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Medievalist Laughter: emotion and transformation

A symposium to be held at the University of Wollongong,
September 25-26, 2012

Sponsored by the ARC Centre for Excellence for the History of Emotions
Convened by Louise D'Arcens, University of Wollongong

Medievalism - the creative interpretation or recreation of the European Middle Ages - has had a major presence in the cultural memory of the modern West. The medieval period has long provided a reservoir of images and ideas that have been crucial to defining what it is to be 'modern'. For today's audiences viewing medievalism via the body of heroic and fantastic texts emerging out of the nineteenth-century tradition, it would seem that it is a very serious business. Yet from the earliest parodies of medieval chivalry through to the irreverent depictions of the Middle Ages in contemporary popular culture, it is clear that as long as there has been medievalism, people have been encouraged to laugh at, and with, the Middle Ages. Comic affective engagement with the Middle  Ages has had a vital role in the postmedieval imaginary of the Middle Ages, and thus warrants serious attention. Despite this, to date it has not received any sustained analysis.
This intensive symposium will map out a fertile new territory that expands current understandings of the modern world's emotional relationship with the medieval past, and bring a fresh new perspective to the significant question of what revisiting the Middle Ages reveals to later societies about their own aspirations, anxieties, and self-understanding. Illuminating the neglected affective tradition of humorous medievalism gives us a new way into comprehending what the present wants from the distant past, and why.
Professor Stephen Knight (Cardiff University / University of Melbourne)
Dr David Matthews (University of Manchester)
Professor Andrew Lynch (University of Western Australia)
Dr Kim Wilkins (University of Queensland)
Professor John Simons (Macquarie University)
Associate Professor Louise D'Arcens (University of Wollongong)

This is designed as an intensive seminar, but a small number of attendee places are also available. 
Please contact Louise D'Arcens (louised@uow.edu.au) if you are interested in attending.