Medieval Women on Film

Essays on Gender, Cinema and History


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About the Book

In this first ever book-length treatment, 11 scholars with a variety of backgrounds in medieval studies, film studies, and medievalism discuss how historical and fictional medieval women have been portrayed on film and their connections to the feminist movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. From detailed studies of the portrayal of female desire and sexuality, to explorations of how and when these women gain agency, these essays look at the different ways these women reinforce, defy, and complicate traditional gender roles. Individual essays discuss the complex and sometimes conflicting cinematic treatments of Guinevere, Morgan Le Fay, Isolde, Maid Marian, Lady Godiva, Heloise, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joan of Arc. Additional essays discuss the women in Fritz Lang’s The Nibelungen, Liv Ullmann’s Kristin Lavransdatter, and Bertrand Tavernier’s La Passion Béatrice.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Kevin J. Harty, professor and formerly chair of English and coordinator of the Undergraduate General Education Core at La Salle University in Philadelphia, is associate editor of Arthuriana, the official journal of the North American Branch of the International Arthurian Society (of which he is the former president). He has previously written or edited 14 books, including ground-breaking studies of depictions of the Middle Ages on film.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Kevin J. Harty

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: 26 photos, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6844-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3900-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Medieval Women on Film: An Introduction (Kevin J. Harty) 3

Liberating Guinevere: Female Desire on Film (Amy S. Kaufman) 19
Adversary, Sister, Scapegoat: Morgan le Fay on Film (Usha Vishnuvajjala) 33
Isolde on the Silver Screen: Enraptured, Resolute and Shrewd (Joan Tasker Grimbert) 50
Maid Marian: Neomedievalism and the Misogyny in the Reel (Valerie B. Johnson) 68
The Women of Fritz Lang’s Medieval Epic, The Nibelungen; or, Two Queens and a Nazi (Donald L. Hoffman) 86
Through a Woman’s Eyes: Liv Ullmann’s Kristin Lavransdatter (Joseph M. Sullivan) 103
Gender, Violence and Medievalism in La Passion Béatrice (Andrew B.R. Elliott) 116
Lady Godiva on Film: Icon of Faith, Icon of Feminism or Erotic
Simulacrum (Sandra Gorgievski) 132
Hidden in Plain Sight: Heloise in Clive Donner’s Stealing Heaven (Kristin L. Burr) 147
Catty Queen Consort, Lioness in Winter and Loyal Queen Mother:
Images of Eleanor of Aquitaine in Film (Fiona Tolhurst) 163
The Lady Is for Burning: The Cinematic Joan of Arc and Her Screen Avatars (Kevin J. Harty) 182

About the Contributors 199
Index 201

Book Reviews & Awards

• “This volume looks at portrayals in film of various medieval European female figures, both the legendary and the historical…Most of the contributors are scholars of medieval history or literature, but several have a research interest in film.”—Choice

• “Kevin J. Harty’s work on the ‘reel’ Middle Ages has been invaluable for the study of medieval cinema, and Medieval Women on Film is a welcome contribution to this work. …an insightful cross-disciplinary exploration of ‘the multiplicity of conuadicrory roles’ medieval women have played on film for over a century…an impressive collection…engagingly written essays are both scholarly and accessible…these essays provide readers an informative and thought-provoking cinematic history”—Arthuriana

• “A compendium of fascinating and often innovative case studies on medieval women in world cinema…The collection provides a sound basis for anyone interested in filmic medievalism…Harty sets out to show ‘just how multi-faceted medieval women’s screen lives can be’ and he succeeds, unpacking the long history of fictional and historical medieval women on film, in all their nuance…. Amy Kaufman’s chapter…is medievalism at its finest…Harty’s collection draws its strength from the diversity and expansiveness of its independently interesting essays but also from its overall invaluable contribution to the study of the ‘reel Middle Ages’ and to the field of Medievalism Studies as a whole.”—Parergon