Gravois opens "Knights of the Faculty Lounge: From dragons to scholars, one man's journey through medieval studies" with this:
I had a fat chance of finding a Dungeons & Dragons game in Kalamazoo, they told me. It was a harebrained quest. But it was a quest, at least, and that seemed appropriate.
OK, I admit it. I was among the skeptics. I knew that a lot of medievalists had come to the field through RPGs, but I thought it would be their secret shame, one that would remain in the closet during the Congress.
I really should have known better. Just look at his brief (non-comprehensive) list of popular medievalist subcultures:
- Lord of the Rings fans
- The Society for Creative Anachronism
- Renaissance Faires
- World of Warcraft
In the two articles (though there is some overlap, the audio piece is an article in its own right, not just a reading of the print piece), I was struck by how much agreement there is among the scholars he spoke with. Dan Kline, Jeff Sypeck, JJ Cohen, Eileen Joy and I might often be in disagreement about a lot of things (often theoretical), but I found myself in total agreement with what they said here about popular medievalism, love of medievalism, and academic anxieties about that love.
I'm starting to think that the most juvenile part of our love is our denial of it. I'm not a grad student any more -- I can read dead languages, properly handle and transcribe medieval manuscripts, and measure my library by the pound rather than by numbers of books. Who are trying to impress here, anyway?
So, here's my unsurprising confession: I love this stuff. I love the high culture and the low. I love tweed-and-bowtie adorned lectures, and I love playing medievalist games. I love reading academic critiques of medieval lit, and I love reading Terry Pratchett. I love the medieval geek culture of academic conference, and I love the very different species of geek at fantasy conventions. And if you don't like it, you can eat the most famous artifact at the York Archaeological Resource Centre and die.
One clarification: At one point in the article, I refer to "the pseudo-medieval world." The quote is accurate, but I was using someone else's nomenclature. I prefer "popular medievalism" to such terms as "recreational medievalism," "quasi-medievalism," "pseudo-medievalism," and "neo-medievalism" -- but that's just a preference, not a point of angry contention. I do sometimes use the term "recreational medievalism" to refer to a sub-category of popular medievalism, i.e. anything that is for fun but cannot be considered art (such as books, film, etc), e.g. Renaissance Faires, SCA, etc.
UPDATE, JULY 3
Arts & Letters Daily (which I read every single day -- as you should) included the "Knights of the Faculty Lounge" article in their "Articles of Note" section for today. Also, Kate Laity of Wombat's World found a YouTube video from the K'zoo dance.