Knights at the Movies: Reformulating Fellowship in Film Adaptations of Chivalric Communities (Public lecture, 7th October)


Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Bromances, road-buddies, fellowships: close-knit male communities lie at the centre of movies such as The Lord of the Rings or A Knight’s Tale which revive medieval notions for the modern cinema. Colin Davey’s Late Summer Lecture will take us on a round-table tour of the way these bonds were originally represented in medieval literature, and how and why they have been redeveloped on screen. The lecture starts at 17.15 in Alington House, with free refreshments from 17.00; there is no need to book and all are welcome.

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the protagonist is famously lauded for his ‘felaȝschyp forbe al þyng’, an assertion which the rest of the poem considerably complicates. This lecture briefly reviews the striking amount of trouble the word has given to modern translators, ever since Tolkien’s rendering of it as ‘friendliness’ (surely an interesting choice from the author of The Fellowship of the Ring). The word is indeed something of a false friend, strange in its familiarity. The concept, constricted by its archaism, is strikingly in need of translation and yet at once evades it. The same is true of its adaptation in a variety of medieval films.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach to explore the fractures and continuities in filmic translations of the medieval notion of fellowship, this lecture will consider the disintegration of the Round Table in Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac (1974) and its parodic counterpart in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975); versions of medieval buddy/road-movies in Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Helgeland’s A Knight’s Tale (both 2001); and recent highly popular TV offerings such as the inbetweener chivalric ‘bromance’ of the BBC’s Merlin and the – ostensibly – celibate male enclave of the Night’s Watch in the sexual maelstrom of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Adopting and cross-examining Foucault’s ‘friendship as a way of life’ the lecture explores the similarities and differences between medieval and medievalist notions of homosocial community, and asks how far apart – or close – the two are as ways of life that might ‘yield a culture and ethics’.

This is the last in our Late Summer Lecture Series – we hope you’ve enjoyed coming! If you missed any of the earlier lectures, on topics ranging from literature and chocolate toViking tourism, you can catch up via our podcasts.

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