Adapting Middle English Literature

deadline for submissions: 
March 17, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
MLA Middle English Forum
contact email: 


Please send 250-word abstracts for roundtable presentations to be delivered at the 2024 MLA National Convention in Philadephia, PA (Jan 4-7, 2024) to Susie Nakley, and Ruen-chuan Ma, by March 17, 2023.



This session invites us to consider how contemporary adaptations of Middle English literature contribute to the projects of teaching medieval literature and bringing it into contemporary public consumption. How do writers, playwrights, and directors produce new afterlives for Middle English literature as part of their projects, whether by reimagining medieval styles and genres in contemporary contexts, re-centering and valorizing the experiences of marginalized groups, or generating cultural commentary? 


Recent adaptations produced in response to Middle English and other medieval literatures showcase a rich range of creative possibilities: Carol Ann Duffy’s Everyman, David Herd’s Refugee Tales, Robert Gluck's Margery Kempe, Lauren Groff’s Matrix, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's Everybody, Derek Jarman's The Garden, David Lowery's Green Knight, Alex Myers's Story of Silence, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, Zadie Smith’s Wife of Willesden, etc. These adaptations can help us rethink the interplay of critical methodologies and creative commentary in studying and teaching the past, especially since adaptations allow a wider range of audiences to identify with recurring themes in Middle English and other medieval literature and culture. What important generic, political or other differences do we see among the various adaptations, inspirations, translations and other contemporary medievalisms? What is at stake in taking or leaving old art as we make new meaning in the realm of arts and humanities now?