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Marian Rewrites the Legend: The Temporality of Archaeological Remains in Richard Lester’s Robin and Marian

  • Andrew James Johnston
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Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Cinematic images of the Middle Ages are necessarily bound to medieval images. Modern films often betray a fascination not simply with visually imagining the Middle Ages but also with the visual sources for creating their fictional medieval worlds. Frequently, this results in medieval films employing references to well-known medieval artworks as markers of authenticity, but even more so as a reflection on how the Middle Ages and its different media cultures were themselves engaged in complex processes of image-making and tale-telling, processes which often combined different forms of art at the same time because medieval media refused to be separated into neat modern binaries such as the visual versus the verbal, the oral versus the literate, or music versus poetry. It is the contention of this book that, through its penchant for aesthetic layering, cinema possesses a specific affinity to medieval culture, and that in its fascination with the multidimensional mediality of medieval works of art, medieval film proves capable of imitating, recreating, and adapting the way medieval men and women envisioned concepts of history.

Keywords

Archaeological Remains Medieval Literature Creative Adaptation Roman Road Christian Spirituality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Jeffrey Richards, “Robin Hood on the Screen,” in Robin Hood: An Anthology of Scholarship and Criticism, ed. Stephen Knight (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1999), p. 436 [429–40]; first printed in Robin Hood: The Many Faces of that Celebrated English Outlaw, ed. Kevin Carpenter (Oldenburg: Bibliotheks- und Informationssystem der Universität Oldenburg, 1995), pp. 135–44.Google Scholar
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    Robin and Marian was the first of several medieval films starring Sean Connery, such as The Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984), The Name of the Rose (1986), Robin Hood—Prince of Thieves (1991), First Knight (1995), and Dragonheart (1996). As Tison Pugh notes, Connery’s medieval films do not simply continue the Bondlike superhero formula of his early career but “queer [its] alpha-male construction of heroism . . . thus allow[ing] the actor to escape the typecasting that trapped other [Bond] actors” (Tison Pugh, “Sean Connery’s Star Persona and the Queer Middle Ages,” in Queer Movie Medievalisms, ed. Kathleen Coyne Kelly and Tison Pugh [Farnham: Ashgate, 2009] p. 148 [147–64]).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Admittedly, the final fight scene looks “disturbingly realistic” (Stephen Knight, Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw [Oxford: Blackwell, 1994] p. 237).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer, “Introduction: The A-Chronology of Medieval Film,” in Medieval Film, ed. Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), p. 15 [1–19].Google Scholar
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    William F. Woods, “Authenticating Realism in Medieval Film,” in The Medieval Hero on Screen: Representations from Beowulf to Buffy, ed. Martha W. Driver and Sid Ray (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2004), p. 38 [38–51].Google Scholar
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    Johan Huizinga, The Autumn of the Middle Ages, trans. Rodney Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1996), p. 1.Google Scholar
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    Martha W. Driver, “What’s Accuracy Got to Do with It? Historicity and Authenticity in Medieval Film,” in The Medieval Hero on Screen: Representations from Beowulf to Buffy, ed. Martha W. Driver and Sid Ray (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2004), p. 20 [19–22].Google Scholar
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    For a concise description of the triptych’s basic characteristics, see Shirley Bloom Neilsen, Early Netherlandish Triptychs: A Study in Patronage (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1969), pp. 3–7.Google Scholar
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    For an earlier discussion of the rotten/rotting apples see Christian Kiening, “Einleitung: Mittelalter im Film,” in Mittelalter im Film, ed. Christian Kiening and Heinrich Adolf, Trends in Medieval Philology 6 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006), pp. 46–47 [3–101]. For Kiening the apples symbolize the point at which Robin Hood’s heroism achieves its final mythical quality: an “apotheosis” without body or transcendence.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Andrew Higson, “‘Medievalism’, the Period Film and the British Past in Contemporary Cinema,” in Medieval Film, ed. Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), p. 210 [203–24].Google Scholar
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    R. D. Fulk, Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles, eds., Klaeber’s Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 1. 725.Google Scholar
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    Seth Lerer, “On fagne flor: The Postcolonial Beowulf,” in Postcolonial Approaches to the European Middle Ages, ed. Ananya Jahanara Kabir and Deanne Williams (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 77–102.Google Scholar
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    Emily V. Thornbury, “Eald enta geweorc and the Relics of Empire: Revisiting the Dragon’s Lair in Beowulf,” Quaestio 1 (2000): 82–92.Google Scholar
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    Monika Otter, “‘New Werke’: St. Erkenwald, St. Albans, and the Medieval Sense of the Past,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24 (1994): 407–8 [387–414].Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    Robin and Marian, dir. Richard Lester (US: Columbia Pictures, 1976).Google Scholar
  21. see Stephen Knight, Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009) pp. 22–26.Google Scholar
  22. 26.
    For treason as a tragic way to substantiate a character’s heroic nature, see Andrew James Johnston, Performing the Middle Ages from Beowulf to OthelloGoogle Scholar
  23. 28.
    Margaret Aston, Lollards and Reformers (London: Continuum, 1984), pp. 49–70.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    St Francis was one of cinematic medievalism’s more visible hippie-style heroes of the 1970s. Franco Zeffirelli, already famous for investing a seemingly conventional Romeo and Juliet with f lower-power-elements in 1967, had directed his “visually arresting” Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna [Brother Sun, Sister Moon] in 1972 (Kevin J. Harty, The Reel Middle Ages: American, Western and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian Films About Medieval Europe [Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999], p. 39).Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    Francis of Assisi, The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, trans. Paschal Robinson, (Philadelphia, PA: Dolphin Press, 1906), p. 153.Google Scholar
  26. 32.
    The film’s skeptical view of political utopianism is already present in the medieval outlaw tradition. For an analysis of how the popular romance The Tale of Gamelyn systematically buries its own utopian hopes, see Andrew James Johnston, “Wrestling in the Moonlight: The Politics of Masculinity in the Middle English Popular Romance Gamelyn,” in Constructions of Masculinity in British Literature from the Middle Ages to the Present, ed. Stefan Horlacher (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 51–67.Google Scholar
  27. 33.
    Uccellacci e uccellini [The Hawks and the Sparrows], dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy: CIDiF, 1966).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrew James Johnston, Margitta Rouse, and Philipp Hinz 2014

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  • Andrew James Johnston

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