Kalamazoo 2017: Report

The Tales after Tolkien Society continued its work at the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. One formal and one semi-formal event were on offer: a panel of papers and an off-program Annual General Meeting. Records of both appear below.

The Panel

The Society sponsored Session 190 at the Congress, Growing Up Medieval: The Middle Ages in Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The session featured three papers: William Racicot’s “The Dream Frame of Baum’s Wizard of Oz,” Rachel Cooper’s “Women Piercing through the Medieval Fantasy Genre: A Look at Tamora Pierce’s Influence on Women in Medieval Fantasy,” and Carrie Pagels’s “Heralds of the Queen: Upholding and Subverting the Medieval Ideal through Girl Power, Sexuality, and le Merveilleux in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar Series.” Geoffrey B. Elliott presided over the session.

Racicot holds a PhD from Duquesne and specializes in dream visions; he is also at work on a book for McFarland that assesses Victorian and Edwardian fiction as succeeding medieval dream visions. His paper reads Baum’s Wizard of Oz in that light, presenting it as a recapitulation of the traditional dream-vision narrative arc and connecting it in detail to Chaucer and the Pearl-poet. Racicot also highlights the allegorical nature of Oz and its inhabitants, ultimately offering a satisfying argument about the early work.

Cooper is a student at the University of Saskatchewan, focusing in medieval literature. A young scholar, she examines Pierce’s influence on readers and writers of medievalist fantasy. Her project surveyed a number of readers, noting a gender-biased response; no self-identified men answered her emails, something she posits may be due to the presence of other models for masculine readers to follow–and a relative dearth of such models for feminine readers. The project is promising, and future treatments are hoped for.

Pagels has been a member of the Society and works in French at Saint Mary’s College. After offering abundant context for a less-familiar cycle of works, her paper interrogates Lackey’s appropriation of the medieval and the merveilleux in her Valdemar novels, noting that the author works against popular but not scholarly conceptions of the Middle Ages in the corpus. A number of common archetypes find themselves subverted in the texts, and many in attendance found themselves desiring to read Lackey’s work.

Discussion following the papers was lively and engaging, marking another successful performance by the Society at the Congress.

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The AGM

Per §5.1 of the Society Constitution, an Annual General Meeting of the Tales after Tolkien Society was held during the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies; in the event, it occurred in the same room as had hosted the Tales after Tolkien panel, beginning at approximately 1130 on 12 May 2017. Geoffrey B. Elliott, Vice-President (USA), presided; Stephanie Amsel, Secretary, recorded minutes. Present (by signature) were Rachel Cooper, Sarah Jenkins, Julia Nephew, Carrie Pagels, Bill Racicot, and Stavros Stavroulias.

Initial agenda items were proposals for session topics for the 2018 Congress, the possibility of a new Society volume (and its topic, if desired), and collaboration with other organizations such as the Lone Medievalist.

It was determined that the Society will propose two sessions for the 2018 Congress. One, Reclaiming the Dead and the Undead, will focus on appropriations of medieval concepts of un/death in contemporary media, attending to how the medieval corporeal/spiritual divide is reinscribed and transgressed thereby. The second, Medievalism in Metal, will examine medievalism in contemporary music, both in songs and in groups’ iconography.

It was also determined that the Society will pursue another volume, since the first two (The Middle Ages in Popular Culture: Medievalism and Genre and Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones, both edited by Helen Young, and both Cambria P, 2015) were well received and informed the Society being a finalist for the 2016 World Fantasy Awards. After discussion, it was determined that the volume will be an edited collection focusing on religion in medievalist fiction.

Calls for papers are forthcoming.

Collaboration with other groups was noted as desirable, the principle generally agreed upon. Coordination will be determined on an individual basis, but it is encouraged as a matter of policy by the Society.

Agenda items concluded, the floor was opened to the discussion of other business. Upcoming elections were treated; four of the five offices in the Society (President, Vice President [At-large], Vice President [USA], and Secretary) will be open. Proposed was an amendment to the Society constitution to stagger officers’ positions to promote overlap and continuity. A draft amendment will be sent out to Society members for a brief commentary period, after which a meeting on ratification (required by §7 of the Society Constitution) will be conducted–likely online, as permitted by §5 of the Society Constitution).

Also noted was the possibility that the next AGM be held in similar circumstances to that conduced in 2017. Ease of access was cited as a cause.

The AGM adjourned at approximately 1230 on 12 May 2017.

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This information also appears on the Society blog, www.talesaftertolkien.blogspot.com.

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Kalamazoo 2017: Updates

With a sneak preview of the schedule for the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies up (here), I’m happy to note that our panel, Growing up Medieval: The Middle Ages in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, is Session 190, scheduled for Friday, 12 May 2017, at 10am in Schneider 1225. I’ll be presiding, and I hope y’all’ll all join us. We’ve got three excellent papers on deck for you.

Also, I need to see about scheduling the Annual General Meeting for the Society, per §5.1 of the Society Constitution (here). Since our session precedes lunch time, conducting the meeting immediately after the panel–and in the same room, which appears not to be hosting a lunchtime function–seems sensible enough. But I would welcome input on the matter; members, please leave comments below in support of the idea or with suggestions for alternate times/locations.

This post is copied from the Society blog.

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CFP: Tales after Tolkien at SWPCA

Our own Kris Swank notes the following:

Anyone interested in joining a proposed panel on Tales After Tolkien for the Southwest Popular Culture Association in Albuquerque, please let me know this weekend: Title, Brief Summary. We need 1 or 2 more. Our proposal is due on Tues.

http://talesaftertolkien.blogspot.com
http://southwestpca.org/conference/call-for-papers/

She can be messaged on Facebook, or she can be reached at Kris.Swank@yahoo.com.

The CFP above is adapted from the Society blog.

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Some News and Some Updates

There are a few things of interest to the Society that have been pointed out on the Facebook feed. They bear repeating…


Calls for Papers

The Society tries to remain active in conferences across the globe, particularly at Kalamazoo and Leeds. Thanks go to Kris Swank for pointing these up.

 

International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, 14-17 May 2017)

“Growing Up Medieval: The Middle Ages in Children’s and Young Adult Literature”
The generation which ‘grew up’ with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are now young scholars going into doctoral training and embarking on academic careers. The session explores the visions and versions of the Middle Ages which, like Rowling’s, can serve to spark interest in an era where students are increasingly unlikely to encounter the medieval period through their elementary and high school years. What kinds of medievalist texts are written for children and young people? How are decidedly adult Middle Ages-influenced texts like “Game of Thrones” impacting them? What ideas about the Middle Ages are taught to young people through popular fiction?

The session welcomes papers which engage in theoretically engaged readings of individual texts or author’s oeuvres.Please send a 200 word abstract with a Participant Information Form (available via https://wmich.edu/medievalcongress/submissions) and short biography to talesaftertolkien@gmail.com by September 15th.This is the formal announcement of the CFP mentioned here.

International Medieval Congress (Leeds, UK, 3-6 July 2017)

“Other Worlds: Speculative Medievalisms”
This session takes up this year’s conference theme “Others,” seeking papers which explore the ways that medievalism shapes the (currently) impossible worlds of speculative fiction. What are the tensions between history and the imagination? How ‘medieval’ can a science-fiction text set in the future be? What is the significance of signs of the Middle Ages? The session is open to papers addressing any text/s where speculative fictions and medievalisms meet.

Please send an abstract of 200-250 words and a short biography to talesaftertolkien@gmail.com by 30th August.

There is also the possibility of proposing the round table on “Unconventional Medievalisms” which has not been approved for Kalamazoo to the Leeds conference. [Information about a similar attempt is here.] The session would seek contributions which focus on either instances of medievalism which occur unexpectedly or unusually–such as in television advertising for the AirBnB accommodation service–or which do unconventional things in genres which are commonly medievalist. If you are interested in being part of this (you could do a full paper in the other session too in theory) drop us a few lines outlining what you’d like to talk about to let us know.

Other News

Pat Bracewell brings Medieval Science Fiction to the Society’s attention. She writes of it

From the science and fictions of Beowulf to the medieval and post-medieval appearances of the Green Children of Woolpit; from time travel in the legend of the Seven Sleepers to the medievalism of Star Trek; from manmade marvels in medieval manuscripts to the blurring of medieval magic and futuristic technology in tales of the dying earth, the chapters repeatedly rethink the simplistic divides that have been set up between modern and pre-modern texts.

More contributions and member news are always welcome. Please send them along!

This report is also posted to the Society blog.

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The Society Comes up for Awards!

Reposted from the Society blog:


A report from Tor.com notes that the 2016 World Fantasy Award nominees have been announced. The Tales after Tolkien Society is one such nominee; represented by founder and President Helen Young, the Society is up for a Special Award- Nonprofessional (by which I guess is meant that the Society does not produce fantasy, but studies is). The announcement is here: http://www.tor.com/2016/07/11/world-fantasy-award-nominees-2016/, and it is good news for the Society, indeed!

Thanks to Helen Young for calling this to attention!

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Kalamazoo 2017: Beginnings

As noted in a 14 May 2016 post to the Society blog, “Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2016: Introduction and Meeting,” the Society determined to ask for two sessions in the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies: a roundtable session on unconventional medievalisms and a traditional paper session on medievalism in children’s and young adult literature, particularly the works of JK Rowling. In an email, Helen Young, who submitted the appropriate paperwork to the Congress requesting those sessions, notes that one of them was approved: the traditional paper session.

A formal call for papers will be issued after the formal announcement comes from the Congress, but a preliminary version can be offered, deriving from the materials presented to the Congress in proposing the session. To wit:

Growing Up Medieval: The Middle Ages in Children’s and Young Adult Literature
The generation that “grew up” with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are now young scholars going into doctoral training and embarking on academic careers. The proposed session of papers explores the visions and versions of the Middle Ages that, like Rowling’s, can serve to spark interest in an era where students are increasingly unlikely to encounter the medieval period through their elementary and high school years. What kinds of medievalist texts are written for children and young people? How are decidedly adult Middle Ages-influenced texts like Game of Thrones impacting them? What ideas about the Middle Ages are taught to young people through popular fiction? The session will welcome papers that engage in theoretically grounded readings of individual texts or authors’ oeuvres. The session builds on significant foundational work in this area, notably Clare Bradford’s The Middle Ages in Children’s Literature (Palgrave, 2015), and chapters by Society members in The Middle Ages in Popular Culture (Cambria, 2015).

The idea is that having a preliminary version will help people get started on drafting abstracts; we’ll have submission information when the formal CFP arrives in the coming months. And, as last time, we hope to post abstracts of the accepted papers to this webspace as a means to help document what the Society is doing–and news of it is always welcome!

This information is cross-posted to the Society blog.

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Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2016: A Session of Ice and Fire

At 1330 EDT on Saturday, 14 May 2016, the Tales after Tolkien Society sponsored several talks in A Session of Ice and Fire: Medievalism in the Game of Thrones Franchise. Three excellent papers were presented to a full audience (of which thirty members signed up for inclusion in the Society). Abstracts for each appear below, listed with a brief blurb about the author and organized by order of presentation.

Alexandra Garner

Alexandra Garner holds master’s degrees in both medieval studies and popular culture. In Fall 2016, she begins work on a doctorate in English at the University of Oregon. Her ongoing work traces medievalism in popular culture. Describing her paper, “Forging and Reforging Valyrian Steel: The Role of Arthurian Sword Motifs in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire,” she writes

George R.R. Martin himself has characterized Valyrian steel as “a fantasy metal, which means it has magical characteristics, and magic plays a role in its forging.” While Valyrian steel weapons often have a mystical aura about them in the series, both on page and screen, they are marvels not only magical, but literary. The Valyrian steel weapons that are crucial to the narrative as has thus far been revealed all carry a genealogical relevance to Arthurian swords and their properties.

This presentation delves into a few weapons—especially swords—from Martin’s series and its HBO adaptation Game of Thrones that are reflections or deviations of Arthurian swords and sword motifs. In particular, I discuss Ice, the greatsword held by Ned Stark until his death, at which point Tywin Lannister has it re-forged into the longsword Oathkeeper and the shortsword Widow’s Wail, given to Jaime Lannister (and then Brienne of Tarth) and Joffrey Baratheon, respectively. Additionally, the Mormont house sword called Longclaw, repurposed and given to Jon Snow, bears some significance when compared to Arthurian swords.

Being weapons crucial to survival in Westeros and in the medieval period, swords feature prominently in the literature of both. Depictions of Valyrian steel swords, their owners, and the contexts in which they feature in the series reveal their deviance from and adherence to medieval sword motifs. I analyze the aforementioned examples and juxtapose these with Arthurian swords like Excalibur to argue that Martin’s Valyrian steel relies on and adapts these motifs and characteristics in particular ways for the series.

Carol Jamison

Carol Jamison, an eminent professor of medieval literature and linguistics at Armstrong State University, has taught and written on Martin, as well as on Gower, Rowling, and fabliaux, among many others. She is currently at work on a book on Martin’s chivalric codes. In the abstract of her paper, “Peaceweaving in Westeros,” she remarks

The female characters in A Song of Ice and Fire echo the freoβuwebbe, or peace weavers, of Anglo-Saxon literature who are married off in attempts to form political alliances. The peace weaver could become, in the best of situations, a sort of diplomat, participating actively in the politics of her husband’s kingdom. However, in a society that values warfare, especially one in which a game of thrones is underway, marrying off women as a means to gain power or ensure peace could turn out badly. Martin’s peace weaving exchanges are pervasive and numerous, and they vividly evoke the various situations of literary peace weavers in such works as Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon elegies “The Wife’s Lament” and “Wulf.” Like their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, peace weavers in Westeros have a number of possible responses to marital exchanges. While some are victimized by the exchanges, others find power within the system, either asserting their influence as mothers and diplomats in their new husbands’ homes, or exerting power as queens. My presentation explores several of the peace exchanges in Martin’s novels that illustrate the variety of possibilities that could occur when women (and men and children) are used to forge alliances. I emphasize Sansa Stark, who echoes the passive peace weavers of the Anglo-Saxon elegies, and Cersei Lannister, who causes destruction rather than using her status as queen to wield positive political power.

Shiloh Carroll

Shiloh Carroll, working at the Tennessee State University Writing Center, is working on a book on Martin’s medievalisms in A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation. Of her paper, “Dragons, Alliances, Power, and Gold: Disruptor Beam’s Game of Thrones Ascent,” she notes

This paper examines the structure, mechanics, and medievalism of Game of Thrones Ascent, the social media flash game based on HBO’s Game of Thrones. An examination of video game theory reveals that Ascent suffers from many of the problems usually seen in social media games, particularly Skinner box mechanics and micro-transactions. Likewise, the game also uses neomedieval trappings to enhance engagement and keep players involved with their Skinner-box mechanics and paying for neomedievally-themed gear and other perks. However, Ascent does provide some psychological satisfaction through meeting the player’s need for mastery, autonomy, and social relevance.

This post re-presents information from the Society blog, here.

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Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2016: Introduction and Meeting

As the current Society webpage notes (here), the Society emerges from paper sessions hosted at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it tends to privilege that conference. In keeping with the regard for the Congress, as well as §5.1 of the Society constitution, the Society Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at approximately 6pm EDT on 13 May 2016 in Kalamazoo, proximal to the Congress itself. Attending were Luke Baugher, Shiloh Carroll, Alex Garner, Jim Hard, Carol Jamison, Jewell Morow, and Kris Swank; Geoffrey B. Elliott presided. As announced on 19 April 2016, the stated agenda for the meeting included what sessions to propose for the 2017 Congress and what efforts should be made to expand Society activities to other conferences; some other new business also followed. Reports of each appear below.

Proposed Sessions for the 2017 Congress

The AGM suggested that the Society propose two sessions for the 2017 Congress. The first is something of an ongoing project, a roundtable session on Unconventional Medievalisms. Information about earlier attempts to offer such a session can be found here and here; it is expected that the session to be proposed will be of similar sort. The second session is a traditional paper session meant to treat medievalism in young adult and children’s literatures, emphasizing but not restricting itself to the works of JK Rowling. CFPs are expected to emerge after session proposals are made to the Congress; it is hoped that they will be approved.

Expansion to Other Conferences

The idea of expanding Society presence outside the International Congress on Medieval Studies and the International Medieval Congress at Leeds remains one the Society wishes to pursue. To that end, Kris Swank will be proposing a Society session at the 2017 Southwest Popular Culture/American Culture Association conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Shiloh Carroll will attempt to propose one at the upcoming Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association in the South conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

New Business

Two items of new business were discussed. One was informal and wholly welcome; the Society welcomed new members Luke Baugher and Jim Hart.

The other was more formally conducted. Kris Swank resigned her position as Social Media Officer for the Society. Upon her announced resignation, a call for nominations/volunteers to succeed her was offered. Discussion ensued, and Luke Baugher was acclaimed as the Social Media Officer for the Society, with a term to extend from the end of the 2016 meeting to the 2019 meeting, following the three-year term expressed in §4.2 of the Society Constitution.

This report also appears on the Society blog.

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About the 2016 Annual General Meeting

Per §5.1 of the Society Constitution, an Annual General Meeting of the Tales after Tolkien Society will be held during the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Because the Congress has not allotted the Society a time and location for the meeting during the regular schedule, it has been arranged to take place off-site at a local restaurant. (Response to a similar occurrence in 2015 was positive, encouraging repetition.) This post therefore serves as the formal announcement that the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the Tales after Tolkien Society will take place at 6pm (local time) on Friday, 13 May 2016, at Zooroona Mediterranean Grill (1701 West Main Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA 49006). Two items are already on the agenda: discussion of what session/s to propose for the 2017 Congress and whether efforts to arrange sessions at other conferences should continue (and, if so, in what form). Others may be added in advance of the meeting; email details to geoffrey.b.elliott@gmail.com with the subject line “TaT AGM Agenda.”

This announcement is also posted to the Society blog.

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Thoughts about Society Proceedings

It has been some time since the blog has updated; Society members seem to be busy people, which makes sense. Still, I apologize for not doing my part to get materials posted here; I shall continue to try to improve for the future. Contributions from others remain decidedly welcome; please email geoffrey.b.elliott@gmail.com with “Tales after Tolkien Society” in the subject line, and we’ll confer.

For the moment, though, there is some news to report:

Good News

The 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies is coming, and the Society has a panel. Your attendance will be appreciated at it; having more people in the room helps us to keep having such panels in the future, and we may, in time, be able to get another publication out of it. In light of the upcoming Congress, there is a member survey, here: http://goo.gl/forms/x0pqgFcV5h. Please fill it out and let us know your opinions; we always want to hear from you!

Bad News

Less pleasantly, the attempt to have a Tales after Tolkien Society special session at the 2016 South Central Modern Language Association conference in Dallas, Texas, has faltered. Not enough responses to the call for papers came in to construct the hoped-for “Unconventional Medievalisms” panel. We will likely try again for another conference; if you have ideas of where we can go, let us know.

Call for News

As ever, the Society is happy to publicize member interests and accolades. Let us know what’s going on with you; please email geoffrey.b.elliott@gmail.com with “Tales after Tolkien Society” in the subject line, and we’ll see about getting things posted.

This is posted to the Society blog, as well.

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