Kalamazoo 2013: From Anglo-Norman to English Knight: Romance and Reality

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Durham University Department of English Studies
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From Anglo-Norman to English Knight: Romance and Reality

The Department of English Studies at Durham University's Kalamazoo 2013 Sponsored Session: From Anglo-Norman to English Knight: Romance and Reality is meant to provide a study of knighthood which transcends disciplinary lines in order to ascertain a fuller understanding of the insular knight. The focus on England and the Anglo-Norman knight takes advantage of an area with a rich tradition of romance, but also one that provides early and thorough empirical evidence of knighthood. At present, studies tend to focus their efforts on the knight as a reality of the records, a theological crusader, or a romanticized product of literature. Our session intends to combine these discussions on one of the foremost medieval cultural figures in order to ascertain a more holistic understanding of how the knight was viewed by contemporaries in the medieval period.

The fictional stories of romance typically portray how society viewed knights and knighthood through idealization of the figure. The question remains, however, which aspects of these constructed characters are mimesis and which are fantasy. Similarly, the archetypal Christian figure of the crusader knight is found in religious tracts from the period; yet it is questionable which aspects of these portrayals are accurate reflections, and which are simply tools for advancing the Church's objectives. Historical records and archaeological research suggest a number of realistic aspects of knighthood--but these historical facts often leave unanswered questions when pieced together. By viewing the knight through the lens of multiple disciplines, we hope that our session will provide a more cohesive narrative about this iconic medieval identity. Similar studies have been published with regards to medieval representations of castles (see Reyerson & Powe 1984) and current academic studies are being conducted on such juxtapositions and conversations with relation to medieval courts. To our knowledge, however, no such study has yet been published with regard to the figure of the knight. It is our intention that this session should not stand alone, but rather provide a useful building block for future research in this area.

The deadline for abstracts is SEPTEMBER 15, 2012 and should be sent to Meghan Glass at m.r.glass@durham.ac.uk