Enchanting the Past: Neomedievalisms in Fantasy Literature

No Thumbnail Available
Carroll, Shiloh
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Twenty-first century people are fascinated with the Middle Ages for a variety of reasons and purposes, whether for a sense of nostalgia, a yearning for a simpler time, or the justification and foundation of contemporary politics and traditions. This fascination is perhaps most clear and evident in fantasy literature, which has a marked tendency to borrow heavily from the Middle Ages for settings, characters, themes, motifs, symbols, and ideas. Since the Victorian medievalist revival driven in part by authors such as William Morris and Lord Dunsany, medievalism in fantasy literature became commonplace and expected by the readership, especially after J.R.R. Tolkien's contributions to the genre.
This dissertation examines contemporary fantasy authors' use of medieval themes, tropes, and material to construct their worlds and characters. Focusing primarily on late fantasy novels, I examine the authors' visions and interpretations of the Middle Ages. Each author's view of and approach to the Middle Ages provides insight into recent views of the medieval period as well as contemporary ideas projected onto the Middle Ages in order to explore political, social, and psychological phenomena in a space removed from the present. Through the lenses of various literary theories, including feminism, queer theory, ecocriticism, ecofeminism, and postcolonialism, I examine the works of George R.R. Martin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Tamora Pierce in order to illustrate specific examples of neomedievalism and the intersection of contemporary and medieval ideas and traditions.
Fantasy literature, Medievalism