Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Kalamazoo Proposal 2013
Here is the text of our proposal to the Medieval Institute for next year's International Congress on Medieval Studies:
Arthurian Monster Quest: Investigating the Monsters of the Arthurian Tradition, Medieval through Modern (2)
Inspired by the pioneering work of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, teratology, the study of monsters, is experiencing a renaissance of late in Medieval Studies. Much of this new work has been conducted under the auspices of MEARCSTAPA (Monsters: the Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory and Practical Application), but there remain other avenues to explore, especially with regards to fields of interest, like Arthurian Studies, that stretch outside the medieval and into the various eras of post-medieval history. In sponsoring these sessions, The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain hopes to offer some much needed illumination into the darker parts of Arthur’s realm and provide some sense of the history of the monsters that dwell in these shadows.
In existence for nearly fifteen hundred years, the Matter of Britain, the body of myths and legends associated with King Arthur and his court, has long been linked with the supernatural, chiefly in Arthur’s own nebulous fate as the Once and Future King and in the wonder-workings of the incubus-spawned Merlin, the fairy women variously called the Lady of the Lake, and Arthur’s sibling Morgan le Fay, who is of human origin despite her otherworldly title. These characters have all received much attention from scholars, but the larger mass of Arthurian preternature has not. Besides these examples, the denizens of Camelot presented in medieval texts encounter many further mystical creatures, all of which we might consider as unnatural, or monstrous, today, including demons, dragons, the Fair Folk, figures we would now label as witches, giants, griffins, hellhounds, the restless dead, unicorns, werewolves, and, who can forget, the enigmatic Questing Beast. These monsters, although important features of their respective narratives, have all received little attention in modern scholarship. Their successors have received even less attention, despite the continuance of all of these preternatural beings in post-medieval Arthurian texts, including such extremes as the Blazing Dragons franchise, which recasts Arthurian figures as anthropomorphic dragons. In addition, as the corpus of Arthuriana has expanded exponentially following the close of the Middle Ages, this new Matter of Britain has also introduced additional creatures of the night (such as ogres, vampires, zombies, and a plethora of new creations featured in the Merlin television series) not found in medieval tales of Arthur’s court. Modern Arthurian texts, moreover, have expanded the provenance of the monstrous and transformed ordinary figures from the legend into monsters. It is this world of Arthurian monsters that we seek to explore in these sessions with the intent of opening up their realm for further discussion and appreciation.