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Tales After Tolkien: Medievalism and Twenty-First Century Fantasy Literature. IMC, Kalamazoo May 9-12, 2013
full name / name of organization:
Helen Young, University of Sydney
For a work of contemporary fantasy literature to be compared with those of J. R. R. Tolkien can be either compliment or condemnation; the juxtaposition might suggest a major, original contribution to the genre or imply a work is merely derivative. Yet if Tolkien had one of the first words on fantasy and medievalism he did not have the last. Author Steven Erikson recently described himself and other writers of epic fantasy as “post-Tolkien” in The New York Review of Science Fiction and lamented the tendency of some scholars to not realise that “we’ve moved on.” This panel seeks papers which explore the ways in which twenty-first century fantasy literature deploys ‘the medieval’ with all its relics, forms and incarnations. Papers may or may not directly contrast and compare with Tolkien’s practice. The panel asks, for example, how contemporary trends in technology, society, politics, and culture intersect with and influence contemporary writers, readers, and critics in their re-imaginings of medieval material. Are there shifts in the genre as a whole? Tolkien drew largely on the European Middle Ages as do his imitators; is this changing as Eurocentric views become increasingly problematic and the world is ever more globalised? How do technological developments and the explosion of multi-media fantasy products including film, television and video-gaming engage with literature? How do representations of race, gender, and class intersect with medievalism in contemporary fantasy? Is the idea of an ‘authentic’ Middle Ages important? How do writers research the past and approach their sources? Papers which address these or any other topic related to the theme of the panel are invited. They might address short stories, novels, comics and graphic novels, series, authors and/or their oeuvres, or the genre as a whole, as well as adaptations for or from film, tv, gaming, and fandoms including fan-fiction.