Nasty, Brutish and Short: Politics, Sex and Myth-making in Starz' Camelot

  • Tue 31 Oct 17

    17:00 - 19:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Professor Susan Aronstein

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of

Starz positioned Camelot (2011) as an Arthurian legend for a new generation, the perfect vehicle for the network’s entry into the “sexy historical” popularized by HBO’s Rome.

As such, the series offers its viewers all of the hallmarks of that genre: elaborate sets, name actors, expensive production values, and plenty of nudity, sex and violence.  On the surface, the series seems to forego the “the dirty middle ages” of muck and mud made famous by Monty Python and the Holy Grail and favoured by series like Game of Thrones. It is visually stunning: its landscapes lushly green, its skies blue, its actors beautiful, its fabrics and jewels rich and dazzling. However, the series portrays its own "dirty middle ages," offering the new generation not the idealism of Arthurian mythmaking but a reflection of the nasty, brutish, and dirty politics with which we all are too familiar. In its Hobbes eat Hobbes world, the Arthurian legend’s founding myths and benevolent magical memes – Merlin, the sword in the stone, the Lady in the Lake—are reduced to cynical political spin and magic itself is taken out of patriarchal hands and placed into a sexually threatening monstrous feminine.

Susan Aronstein is Professor of English at the University of Wyoming.  She is the author of Hollywood Knights: Arthurian Cinema and the Politics of Nostalgia (Palgrave, 2005) and British Arthurian Narrative (University of Florida, 2012) as well the co-editor (with Tison Pugh) of Disney’s Middle Ages: A Fairy Tale and Fantasy Past (Palgrave, 2012). Her articles on medieval Arthurian romance, medieval film, medievalism, and Disney have appeared in numerous books and journals, including Exemplaria, Prose Studies, Assays, Cinema Journal, Theatre Survey, Women’s Studies, and Studies in Medievalism.

The seminar will be followed by a reception in the LiFTS common room.

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