ACLA: The Medium Aevum is the Message: Appropriation, Reinvention, and Reception of the Middle Ages in Popular Culture

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA Annual Conference

Organizers: Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Katherine McLoone.

A panel at the annual ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) Conference at UCLA: March 29 - April 1, 2018.
Sponsored by the Cal State University Long Beach Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

From the Renaissance invention of the term medium aevum to modern colloquial usage of “medieval” as a pejorative, the era between the fourth and the fifteenth centuries has been a site of contention through which western culture defines both its fears and its ideals.

Contemporary popular culture is no exception. Some works—such as Game of Thrones or the latest King Arthur movie—explicitly engage medieval tropes. Others, including fantasy novels and superhero comic books, allude more obliquely to the long tradition of medievalism, or the representation of the Middle Ages, often while drawing on stereotypical medieval tropes of the knight, the damsel, and the monster. As we have recently seen with news coverage of various white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, these allusions and “medieval” references, tropes, and images are also often used to further extremist social and political agendas.

This panel will explore representations of, and engagements with, the Middle Ages in popular culture. Although papers on works such as Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings are welcome, we hope to expand the discussion of popular medievalism to include political and social reappropriations, the use of medieval tropes in works that are not ostensibly medieval, and even the challenges of overcoming medievalist confirmation bias in the classroom.

We invite you to submit a 250-300 word proposal to our panel through the ACLA portal by 9 AM EST on Sept 21, 2017 (portal open 12 PM EST Aug 31, 2017). Feel free to be in touch with us at any time: Ilan Mitchell-Smith ( and Katherine McLoone (