The society’s panel at Kalamazoo this year, entitled Growing up with the Middle Ages: The Influences upon Children’s Ideas about the Medieval World turned out to be a great success. I can’t entirely speak without bias, as one of the presenters myself, but I do think that we had some superior papers.
A great thank you to all of those who came to the panel. Part of the appeal of this year’s panel is that, without exception, all adults were children once, and for many medievalists there was something in our childhood which drew us to the study of the Middle Ages later in life. And so we discussed the impact of nostalgia, but also indulged a little in it ourselves.
Much of what we, the panelists, discussed, and the discussion generated after the presentations, focused on how teachers can use these preconceptions in a classroom and where children are actually learning about the Middle Ages.
A special thanks to my fellow panelists for such well thought out and insightful papers.
Many thanks to Whitney A.M. Leeson, from Roanoke College, for her paper “Jousting Knights and Tournament ladies: Children’s Understanding of Reconfigured Gender Relations in the Modern Sport of Jousting.” In fact, as often happens, her research actually took her out of the realm of jousting, as she analyzed, through interviews and freelisting, what a group of children involved in a special program about Middle Ages really thought about that time period. By examining what that group of children considered to be medieval movies, books or video games and through personal interviews she was able to perceive real differences between the way that boys and the way that girls perceive and interact with ‘medieval’ media and things.
Thanks also to Dawn Cunningham from St. Michael’s College and the University of Toronto, for her paper entitled “Kids and Castles: The Moat between Medieval Art and Contemporary Consumption.” Throughout her paper she was able to demonstrate the simplification of the Middle Ages for children by examining ‘medieval’ products aimed at children. By looking at the ‘medieval’ toy and looking at what medieval art was its inspiration we see the removal of much of what would be the medieval context and intention behind the original piece.
My paper was entitled “Saturday Morning Medieval: Medievalism and Children’s Television Programming.” I looked at the use of ‘medievalisms’ in cartoons shown on American television and tried to see how these animated programs constructed and then used ‘the medieval.’ I concluded that to create the ‘medieval’ animators draw on pop culture, literature, history and fantasy, so that when they use the signifiers of the medieval in the context of the cartoon it can simultaneously mean something historical, fantastic or something from literature or pop culture.
Thanks to everyone who attended the business meeting afterwards. The Society for the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages has sent out a call for papers for next years ICMS at Kalamazoo and IMC at Leeds. See below for that Call for Papers. If you have any ideas for blogs please submit them to us, we welcome all contributors.The Society for the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages will continue to bring together scholars, Public History professionals and interested people to discuss the ways that the public understands the Middle Ages and how and why they act on that understanding.