Saturday, September 2, 2023

CFP: IARHS Sponsored Session for Leeds International Medieval Congress 2024 1st-4th July: Outlaws and Crises, Outlaws in Crisis


Proposed IARHS session for Leeds International Medieval Congress 2024 1st-4th July
Conference Theme: Crisis
Proposed session/s for IARHS: Outlaws and Crises, Outlaws in Crisis
This session explores the relationship between outlaws, bandits and the crises they encounter or initiate – their reasons, their activities and their results, in medieval and later times, and in ‘modern’ (and earlier) representations of the medieval which respond to and/or create crises of their own.
Around the world and throughout history outlaws and bandits have found themselves in situations of crisis. These might be political: in his fifteenth-century reference to Robin Hood and Little John, Walter Bower states that they were outlawed as a result of taking the side of Simon de Montfort in the 1260s Barons’ War against Henry III. They might also be social (as in the case of Hobsbawm’s ‘social bandits’, who fight back on behalf of those who lack power themselves), or personal (being victimized by powerful authority figures, or as a result of criminal activity gone wrong – theft that turns to murder, for example). Some (such as Ned Kelly and Zorro – and indeed Robin Hood) have developed popular narratives of fighting back against colonizing powers, whilst others from Dick Turpin through Billy the Kid, Jesse James through Prohibition gangs and Peaky Blinders to London’s Kray Brothers have given rise to (undeserved) ‘good outlaw’ legends in the style of Robin Hood and earlier ‘social bandits’.
As outlaws and bandits, these men and women faced crises of their own… from broken, fragile or treacherous relationships, as a result of attacks from without, and from parlous situations created by themselves or others. Outlaws regularly created crises themselves for a variety of reasons – to carry out rescues, to make restitution, to ‘equalize’ and to help the powerless, or to ensure survival for themselves and others. 
Which leads to another important question:
Is outlawry and banditry itself in crisis? Robin Hood and other outlaws have been adopted by commercial interests to advertise products (from flour to finance to chocolate bars), and by political interests to conduct (sometimes violent) campaigns against lawful authority or the forces of order. From terrorists to hackers, the term ‘outlaw’ is frequently applied to anyone who stands in opposition to a hegemonic and/or authoritarian power, a power often named and fashioned by themselves. In recent times this tactic of self-identification has been adopted by would-be popular despots in their quest for power. Has the terminology/ideology of outlawry and banditry been emptied out, to be filled and refilled in response to a never-ending multiplicity of requirements – or can it still have value? Can it perhaps be retrieved from the past to serve the present and future in effective ways? Does it/can it still have validity? If so, how, and how should we see the outlaw or bandit, in the historiographical past or in the present day? 
This excerpt from the Leeds IMC general call for papers may also be of interest to anyone considering our session topics:
‘‘Crisis’ has long been used when writing about the Middle Ages – incorporating climate and environmental issues such as epidemics, famines, and floods, political issues such as the breakdowns of dynasties and popular revolts, and socio-cultural issues such as religious apocalypticism and the questioning of faith…Medievalists are also interested in how individuals and communities coped with crisis. Indeed, medieval societies had their own perception and understanding of risk and found ways to adapt. An important component of this was the construction of crisis narratives, sometimes informed by religious beliefs – stories that changed across time, place, and audience. Temporality is also fundamental to medievalists’ understanding of crisis, offering important counter-perspectives to views of linear progress and modernization paradigms often seen in crisis historiography. While substantial crises could serve as short-term ruptures and turning points, crises also provoked more incremental changes within economies, institutions, and cultures over time. Some things stayed the same despite crises and, thus, continuity remains important’. 
Ideas for themes:

The creation of crisis narratives and stories / Explicitly gendered approaches to crises / Global and national pressures/hazards played out at local or micro levels / Early modern and modern representations of medieval crisis / Material culture and conceptualizing crisis – objects and rituals / Hazards, shocks, disasters, and their redistributive impact / Textual representations of crisis and its impact on human agents – trauma, emotion, physical, and mental responses / Medieval crises represented in visual culture, music culture, and the arts / Crises occurring or conceptualized across borders / Settlements: adaptation and continuity under stress / Human-animal connections and their place within crisis contexts / Hazards, the managed environment, and the body politic

Please send your proposals, with a short (200 word max.) abstract, by September 25th, 2023 to Dr Lesley Coote (, along with a short abstract, a working title for your paper, your preferred designation and email address. 
Papers should be no more than 20 minutes’ duration. As the conference will be hybrid, please indicate whether you would like to attend virtually or in person.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

IARHS Sponsored Sessions at the ICMS, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA, May 9-11, 2024



Even though the Robin Hood tradition is identified as medieval, most of the texts are post-medieval, hence medievalist. These are often situated against the background of natural environment, and thus Valerie Johnson coined the term “ecomedievalism” for “the application of ecocriticism to neomedieval texts.” Therefore, discussion of neomedievalist texts of popular culture, such as films and TV series about Robin Hood that relate more to the times when they were made than to the Middle Ages, is particularly welcome. The Robin Hood tradition contains different interpretations of the environment, such as the myth of unspoiled nature, but also nature as dangerous, with apocalypse as something imminent. This session invites such ecocritical readings of various neomedievalist outlaw texts that represent nature or the relationship of nature to culture. You can focus, for example, on:

  • RH and greenwood in various cultural periods
  • the culture/nature divide
  •  apocalyptic versions of RH narrative



A popular saying has it that “Robin Hood in greenwood stood” and a similar phenomenon can be found in other outlaw texts and traditions. Such outlaws as Fouke le Fitz Waryn, Twm Shon Catty, or the Slovak Janosik all functioned in a specific natural environment. It needs to be examined how important this background was for their respective legends. The landscape was presented as a romanticized version of nature or as wilderness that went well with what was believed to be the outlaws’ “natural” brutality and violence. This tradition is important to examine as it is present in various countries, not only English-speaking. We can suggest, among others, the following topics:

  • outlaws against romanticized landscape
  •  violence of outlaws/wildness of nature
  •  the specificity of the landscape against which an outlaw is presented
  •  nature (e.g. its beauty) and nationalism in outlaw legends


Please send your abstract to:, but an official proposal can only be made and accepted through ( The deadline for proposals is Sept. 15, 2023.


Thursday, July 13, 2023

CFP: The 14th Biennial Conference of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies: “Robots, Androids, and Outlaws: How Machines and Bandits Disrupt Social Order," Oct. 18-21, 2023


Announcing The 14th Biennial Conference of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies: “Robots, Androids, and Outlaws: How Machines and Bandits Disrupt Social Order.”
The International Association for Robin Hood Studies Conference will be held at Missouri Valley College, USA, on October 18-21, 2023. It will be a hybrid conference. This conference brings together scholars to present current research on the famous outlaw as he appears in both medieval and post-medieval media. 
This conference will focus on (but not exclusively) discussions of Robin Hood and machine culture, with special emphasis on AI as a Robin Hood-like disrupter, banditry from robots and machines, and Robin as a subverter of social norms and expectations. We anticipate that this theme will allow us to address both traditional Robin Hood subjects and current changes happening in academic culture. 
Everyone interested are invited to submit paper proposals on this topic or any other topic related to Robin Hood. Please send a 500-word abstract to Dr. Thomas Rowland at
For those who would like to submit a session proposal, please submit an abstract description of the session topic and preferably three to four presenters. Please include with your proposal your name, paper title, and affiliation (if any). 
All proposals will be due by September 1, 2023.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Reviews from the Greenwood: Antha Cotten-Sprekelmeyer on Melissa Ridley Elmes and Kristin Bovaird-Abbo's Food and Feast in Premodern Outlaw Tales


Melissa Ridley Elmes and Kristin Bovaird-Abbo, eds., Food and Feasts in Premodern Outlaw Tales. Outlaws in Literature, History, and Culture 8. New York: Routledge, 2021. ISBN 978-0367751098. $48.95 Pb. 280 pp.


Reviewed by Antha Cotton-Spreckelmeyer

University of Kansas


Food and Feasts in Premodern Outlaw Tales examines a wide range of premodern works on outlawry, food, and feasts.  The volume draws these seemingly disparate topics together in a coherent and succinct collection of essays that provide both introductory surveys and deep analysis of epics, ballads, plays and films. The book includes twelve chapters ranging from the Old English period to the modern era of movies and television. The research and scholarly apparatus of each essay is thorough, giving readers ample citations, annotations, discussion and bibliographies for further study and research.

The editors’ introduction (1-12) is helpful for both new and seasoned scholars in the field, providing an overview of outlawry in the premodern period, especially in the context of forest law and the relation of this jurisdiction to the procuring, preparing and consuming of foods. The stated focus of the collection is “the function of food and feasts in outlaw tales” with a view to understanding how food preparation and consumption facilitates development (or subversion) of community and fellowship in the outlaw world. This community ethic extends from parallels with Christian eucharistic practice to basic survival modes in the “Tales” surveyed.

The first essay in the collection by Eric R. Carlson on “Grendel’s Eucharist: An Outlaw’s Last Supper” (13-29) sets a precedent for linking outlaw repasts with Christian communion in identifying Beowulf’s villain as a marginalized figure exercising a perverse variation of Christian practice in the mead hall. The second essay on The Tale of Gamelyn by ReneĆ© Ward (30-54) takes a similar tact with the power of food and communal feasting to identify and shape an outsider, and the third piece, creatively titled “Bread without Onions” authored by Sylvia Grove (55-74) contrasts Muslim and French culinary practice suggesting the French as gluttonous outliers, if not outlaws, in terms of food use and consumption. 

Perhaps the most definitive chapters on outlawry, food, and feasts are the two pieces by Sherron Lux and Lorraine Kochanske Stock that address these topics in the context of the Robin Hood canon. In “Of Courtesy and Community in A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode,” (75-92) Lux shows how meals in the Geste demonstrate both villainous and aristocratic sides of Robin Hood’s character with the outlaw hosting “gastronomic” events in the forest from which other episodes of the story derive. Stock takes this theme a step further in “The Preparation and Consumption of Food as Signifiers of Class and Gender Identity in Selected Premodern Texts and Examples of the Robin Hood Cinematic Canon” (93-126) with her discussion of class and gender identity in the preparation and consumption of food. Stock provides valuable information on sources of Robin Hood films and the nature of cinematic medievalism in the context of foodways. Of particular note are Stock’s observations on the function of meals in diminishing or enhancing gendered identities of figures such as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Maid Marian.

The remaining essays in the volume expand these foundations with discussion of outlawry in broader contexts and locations. Marybeth Ruether-Wu (127-145) and Mark Truesdale (146-168) along with S. Melissa Winders and Sarah Harlan-Haughey (169-198) explore procurement of food in the hunting and poaching traditions of the greenwood where the providing and serving meals signals a powerful place at the table in the exercise of backcountry justice. The collection moves from the medieval to early modern era with Melissa Ridley Elmes’ (199-221) comparison of outlaws with noblemen in two of Shakespeare’s comedies to demonstrate the natural morality of the greenwood versus corruption of the court.  The final chapters by Jason Hogue on Robin Hood’s Fishing (222-244) and Matt Williamson’s “Bread with Danger Purchased: Hunger, Plenty, and the Outlaw on the Early Modern Stage” (245-262) bring to light lesser known works of the outlaw tradition. Each study presents food as a vehicle for airing commercial and political concerns in a time of  impending  socioeconomic change.

Food and Feasts in Premodern Outlaw Tales is a well-planned and well-executed volume of original studies. It brings together important threads of outlaw and food traditions to inform readers of the broad scope and complexity of this engaging field of scholarship.