Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in English

First Advisor

Mary Hayes

Second Advisor

Gregory Heyworth

Third Advisor

Deborah Barker

Abstract

In his now canonical "Dreaming the Middle Ages," Umberto Eco famously quips that "it seems that people like the Middle Ages" (61). Eco's apt sentiment still strikes a resonant chord some twenty years after its publication; there is indeed something about the Middle Ages that continues to fascinate our postmodern society. One of the most tangible ways this interest manifests itself is through our media. This project explores some of the ways that representations of the medieval past function within present-day reimaginings in the media. More specifically, television's obvious visual textuality, widespread popularity, and virtually untapped scholarly potential offer an excellent medium through which to analyze pop culture medievalisms—the creative tensions that exists between medieval culture and the way it is reimagined, recreated, or reproduced in the present. By using medievalist studies of cinema as a model, I argue that many of the medievalist representations on television are similar to those found in film. At the same time, the serialized narrative structure of most television programs alters the viewer's experience of the past in a way that separates medievalist television from medievalist cinema. Incorporating the evaluative tools of medievalism studies and television narratology, this project explores the medievalisms of three narratively diverse television programs—The Pillars of the Earth (medievalist miniseries), True Blood (series with medievalist storyline), and Game of Thrones (fantastic neomedievalist series). Ultimately, these programs serve as case studies to demonstrate how the varied visual and narrative treatment of the Middle Ages on television can reveal cultural desires and anxieties about the medieval past and the postmodern present.

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