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Communication Medieval Style

Detail of the Bayeaux Tapestry, a piece of medieval embroidery measuring approximately 231 feet long by 20 inches high.
Detail of the Bayeaux Tapestry, a piece of medieval embroidery measuring approximately 231 feet long by 20 inches high. For over 900 years it has preserved the story of William of Normandy's claim to the English throne and his subsequent invasion and conquest of England in 1066.

This article was originally published in the March 2005 issue of CLASnotes.

Church bells serving as alarm clocks; drums beating to signify the movement of troops; songs sung not for entertainment but to announce a battle victory. These examples of media used during the Middle Ages are the theme of UF’s fifth annual Carnevale conference, “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez—Missives and Messages: Media in the Middle Ages,” which takes place March 14­16."

Conference organizer Mary Watt, co-director of UF’s Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies and assistant professor of Italian, says the advent of cell phones that take photos and check E-mail messages might cause some to think media hundreds of years ago was quite different than today, but that is not necessarily the case. “A close examination of media in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period suggests strongly that modern media are by no means novel but are no more than electronic upgrades to highly effective analogue methods.”

Watt explains how the Distant Early Warning System, a series of connecting radio towers constructed across the northern hemisphere to detect missiles during the Cold War, takes its cue from the series of watchtowers built along the Andalucian front by the Moors of Southern Spain in the early Middle Ages.

For the first time, the City of Gainesville’s Department of Cultural Affairs is one of the conference’s sponsors, and many of the events will be held at the Thomas Center in downtown Gainesville, including an art exhibit that runs March 14-April 17.

Medieval scholars and enthusiasts also can enjoy a film and media conference preceding the Carnevale symposium. English Professor Richard Burt has organized “Getting Medieval on Film and in Media,” which will run March 11–12 on campus. One of the highlights will be the presence of renowned filmmaker Ron Maxwell, who has written and directed such films as Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. He will discuss his current production Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior, as the conference’s opening lecture.

“Many times when historical films are made, they are adaptations of literature,” says Burt. “But we don’t examine how faithful the film is to the novel or how accurate the film is historically. We look at what a film does with the Middle Ages in the present.”

Burt’s current undergraduate course The Schlock of Medievalism: Imagining the Middle Ages at the Movies examines references to the Middle Ages in such films as Pulp Fiction, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, National Treasure and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. “Rather than cordon off highly serious films about the Middle Ages from popular films that reference the medieval, the course addresses this question by examining the links between these serious films and more lowbrow, “schmedieval” films and film genres such as the epic and the B-picture.”

The France-Florida Research Institute is a sponsor of both conferences. All events are free and open to the public.

—Allyson A. Beutke

Getting Medieval on Film and Media Conference

March 11, 215 Dauer Hall
5:30 pm
Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior
—Filmmaker Ron Maxwell discusses his current film in production

9 pm
Screening of Robert Bresson’s Procès de Jeanne d’Arc (Trial of Joan of Arc)

March 12, 219 Dauer Hall
9 am
panel discussions on the Bayeux Tapestry, Middle Ages in German cinema and Medieval visual culture

2 pm
“Killing the Messenger: The Semiotics of Perspective and Aporia in Luc Besson’s The Messenger” by Nickolas Haydock, professor of English, University of Puerto Rico

3:45 pm
“Virtually Anglo-Saxon: The Digital and Typographic Reality of Early Medieval England” by Martin Foys, professor of English, Hood College

9 pm
Screening of Anazapta

Visit middleagesonfilm/getting
for details.

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez – Missives and Messages:
Media in the Middle Ages Colloquium and Exhibit

March 14, Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Avenue, Gainesville

4 pm
Art exhibit opening and keynote address by Amilcare Iannucci, professor of comparative literature and director of the University of Toronto’s Humanities Center

March 15, Thomas Center

2:30 pm
“Chartres Cathedral: Architecture as Media” by David Stanley, UF art history professor

3:30 pm
“Renaissance Painting and Sculpture: Art as Media” by Robert Westin, UF art history professor

March 16, 237 Dauer Hall

1:55–4 pm
panel discussions on The Vision of Medium and Genre and Media

4:05 pm
lecture by Ulrich Gaier, Professor Emeritus, University of Konstanz, Germany

Visit watt/carnevale05.html for details.

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