THE LEGACY OF THE MEDIEVAL IN AMERICAN CULTURE

The legacy of the Middle Ages remains prominent in our cultural mythology, linking such seemingly different phenomena, for example, as the goth movement and the war on terrorism. Modern culture often uses both positive and negative visions of the Middle Ages to shape its ideas about itself: witness the invocation of the Medieval Black Death in relation to current bioterrorism warnings, or the continuing use of the phrase "knight in shining armor" to label ideal masculinity. In this class, we will pursue an inquiry into the various ways in which the medieval is employed in popular culture. In other words, we will investigate how modern culture tries to define its own values by imagining its relationship to its medieval past. We will examine a range of sources including films, popular fiction, and modern subcultures influenced by ideas of the medieval, in order to take in many different views of the Middle Ages in action in our current culture.