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Critical Explorations of the Sword and Sandal Film
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Critical Explorations of the Sword and Sandal Film – Call for Papers
The sword and sandal film, or the peplum (as it is known in Italy, where the genre originated,) has been a part of movie lore since at least 1914, when the character of Maciste debuted in the Italian silent epic Cabiria. Pepla have remained a part of cinema ever since, with stories derived from barbarian and gladiator tales or Biblical and mythological origins. Most of these movies are infused with similar tropes: low technology warfare (hence the swords and sandals,) beautiful and scantily clad women, oppressive political states, a casual (yet oft interesting) relationship to history, and a surfeit of action and violence. Mostly, though, sword and sandal epics are known for their heroes, men with hyperstimulated musculature who tend to grunt and smash their way through much of the narrative. These films celebrate the excess of the masculine, reveling in depictions of male flesh and distinctly male aspects that distinguishes the genre from any other. Hundreds of these films have been produced in Italy alone, though the more famous incarnations to North American audiences have been produced since 1980, including the Conan the Barbarian series, the Beastmaster series, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy, and Zack Snyder’s 300. Currently, the genre is enjoying a renaissance, with numerous variations forthcoming: the remake of The Clash of the Titans, Centurion, and The Prince of Persia will all be released in theaters in 2010, and on television, Starz network has already renewed their original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
Despite the proliferation of these movies, however, little critical exploration has been done on these films, especially on the nature of the genre as a whole. This collection works to correct that oversight. This work hopes to examine the genre’s relationships to masculinity, sex and sexuality, women, and violence and explore critical issues that take seed in individual films, in series, or in the genre as a whole.
While articles may be written on any film that qualifies as a sword and sandal epic (if you are unsure about a particular movie or television series, please query,) the collection hopes to emphasize more recent works.
Works explored may include, but are certainly not limited to,
The Italian Hercules, Maciste, Samson, Goliath, or Ursus series of pepla
Editor Michael G. Cornelius is co-editor of Nancy Drew and Her Sister Sleuths: Essays on the Fiction of Girl Detectives (McFarland 2008), sole editor of The Boy Detectives: Essays on the Hardy Boys and Other Novels (McFarland 2010), and the author of numerous other works.
Dr. Michael G. Cornelius