CFP: Making History: Biographical Imperatives in Constructing “Robin Hood”
SEMA 2016, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, October 6-8, 2016
51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 11-14, 2017
Robin Hood (hereafter RH), his outlaw comrades, and antagonists sprang ex nihilo from the greenwood and urban centers of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire in such late medieval ballads as RH and the Monk, RH and the Potter, The Gest, and RH and Guy of Gisborne. Presuming audience familiarity with RH’s biography and the origins of his outlawry, these early texts narrated RH’s adventures in medias res, without supplying background about or the origins of the outlaw. Langland’s casual reference to the “Rimes of Robyn Hode” in Piers Plowman (1377) attests medieval familiarity with RH’s real or fictional identity. Already by the 15th century, Andrew of Wyntoun, Walter Bower, and John of Fordun chronicled (therefore historicized) RH’s exploits. 16th-century writers further summarized or augmented RH’s growing collective biography. Citing an “auncient pamphlet,” in 1569 Richard Grafton historicized his elevation of RH from yeomanry to an earldom. Anthony Munday’s 1598 plays, The Downfall … and the Death of Robert Earl of Huntington, extended the growing “biography” of RH: situating him in Richard I’s Plantagenet court; endorsing his earldom; and affiancing him to noble Matilda Fitzwater/Maid Marian, absent in the medieval ballads. The creation of anonymous 17th and 18th-century broadside ballads and chapbooks supplied backstory for the outlaw’s “history.” Bishop Percy combined ballads from Samuel Pepys’ 1723 collection with the Percy Folio’s texts (including RH ballads) in his 1765 oft-reissued Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Capping this biographical imperative, antiquarian Joseph Ritson published his 1795 (and oft-reissued) 2-volume Robin Hood: A Collection of All the Ancient Poems, Songs, and Ballads…To Which are Prefixed Historical Anecdotes of His Life. Ritson’s Preface, a 10-page “Life” of RH, is documented by 104 pp. of “Notes and Illustrations” supporting his construction of RH’s personal history. Subsequent iterations of RH’s biography adopted and adapted Ritson’s paradigm.
Rather than solicit documentation attesting the historical existence of an actual outlaw who was (or supplied the model for) the figure now recognized as “RH,” this session about biography/historiography and RH invites 15-20 minute papers investigating various manifestations of this enduring imperative to adapt, augment, or change the “history” or constructed “biography” of RH in any media including (but not limited to): medieval and post-medieval literary texts and chronicles; modern historiography (Rodney Hilton, Maurice Keen, etc.); post-medieval poetry, plays, fiction; opera; films; television; print and film documentaries. Final paper length depends on the number of apt abstracts.
For those interested in submitting an abstract for the 55th Annual Southeastern Medieval Association (SEMA) Conference, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, October 6-8, 2016, send 1-page abstracts before May 25 to Lorraine K. Stock, University of Houston: firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in submitting an abstract for the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 11-14, 2017, send 1-page abstracts before September 10 to Lorraine K. Stock, University of Houston: email@example.com