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|University of North
Florida/Paul Halsall/Summer A 2005|
HIS 3932 AD 054
Myth, Epic, and Romance: Medieval History in Film
Students need not have any background in medieval history for this course, although it would help to have some knowledge. A good basic textbook is
For more detailed information there are two good encyclopedia resources you can consult:
A much older Catholic Encyclopedia is available on the internet:
Important Web Sites
As adults in college you are entitled to know what the class policies are, and to adhere to them. They are designed to help with your education, and to enable all class members to do their best.
* Attendance: Attendance will be recorded. You are required to attend all classes. Since this class meets just 12 times, after the second absence, each unexcused absence will reduce your final grade by half a letter grade. Persistent lateness, which is extremely disruptive (4 times or more) will lead to a grade reduction of one letter grade.
* Classroom courtesy: Out of respect for your fellow students, come to class on time and do not move around during class. Turn off beepers and mobile phones (see me in emergency situations). Do not tape or record lectures. Do not talk during film screenings. Have dinner before class as major munching is forbidden.
* Class preparation: You will learn much more if you come to class prepared, therefore you must read assignments before class. Papers must be handed in on time, unless an extension is given. All class work must be submitted in order to earn a final grade.
* Ownership of class work: All class work must be your own. In any case of cheating or plagiarism, the penalty will be flunking the course. For written work, keep your preparation materials, and be prepared to explain the meaning of everything you write.
* Make up exams: Make up exams will only been given in the case of certifiable family or health emergencies.
Students are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor to discuss papers, projects, and issues raised in class.
Note: Individual film screenings are subject to change.
Class Title and Reading
# UNF Library has copy
|Blood and Sandals: The Fall of Rome from Cecil B. De Mille to Ridley Scott||Filmography
*Ben Hur (1926), Fred Niblo,
Aberth. A Knight at the Movies. vii-xi.
W.V. Harris. "Spartacus." In Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. Edited by Mark Carnes. New York: Henry Holt, 1995. 40-44
Winkler, Martin. "The Roman Empire in American Cinema After 1945." Classical Journal 93:2 (1998): 167-96.
Ron Magid. "Rebuilding Ancient Rome."
American Cinematographer 81:5 (May 2000). 54-9 [Online via
(Sin and Spectacle)
--Ben Hur (1927)
Lawrence Russell. Fellini Satyricon.
Maria Wyke. "Ancient Rome and the Traditions of Film History."
Roman spectacles (triumphs, circuses, races and combats) have been irresistible attractions for Hollywood film makers. What elements draw cinematic attention?
How has traditional Christian understandings of
such spectacles impacted film representations?
--Fall of the Roman Empire
C.S. Stone. Gladiator Fact - Gladiator Fiction
Kathleen M Coleman. Movie Consultancy.
How do the goals of modern historians and modern movie makers differ? Consider the numerous efforts to "correct" the errors in Gladiator, and especially the comments of Kathleen Coleman, the historical consultant to the film.
In making Gladiator, Ridley Scott drew on the cinematic history’s portrayal of a decadent Roman Empire. Identify three films that seem to have influenced him, and explain how they did so.
In what ways does the account of Rome by Ridley
Scott (and Hollywood movies in general) accord with Roman and Christian
writers such as Ammianus, Lactantius, and
|Theme 2||Man or Myth?: Jesus in the Movies||
Passion Play of Oberammagau
William Telford. Images of Christ in the Cinema
Peter T. Chattaway. "Jesus at the Movies." Christianity Today. Mar/Apr 2000
Harold W. Attridge. "The
Tensions between Faith and
(Jesus as Myth)
--From the Manger to the Cross
Film: Gospel According to
Kendrick James firstname.lastname@example.org. "The Gospel
According to St. Matthew" ("Il Vangelo secondo Matteo") (Italy, 1964) A
Film Review By James Kendrick". 4 Apr 1998 17:25:26 GMT. Newsgroup:
rec.arts.movies.reviews. r.a.m.r. #11828
What problems face the filmmaker in portraying Jesus? Identify the way in which three films have addressed these problems. Do they succeed?
Pasolini’s Gospel according to Matthew is, without question, the closest to the Biblical text. Pasolini was also consciously reacting to Hollywood’s view of Jesus. Why do you think, given that Pasolini was an openly homosexual Communist, that the Vatican lists only his film of Jesus’ life in its list of recommended movies?
What stories of Jesus do you think would make
sense to most Christians in the past -- Hollywood’s or modern historians’?
Do you think most Christians cared nothing for historical truth?
(Jesus as Man)
--Life of Brian
Film: Last Temptation of Christ
Steven D. Greydanus. The Last Temptation of Christ: An Essay in Film Criticism and Faith.
Carol Iannone. "The Last Temptation Reconsidered. " First Things 60 (February 1996): 50-54.
Is the Life of Brian really an effort at demythologizing Jesus?
How is Jesus characterized in Jesus Christ Superstar? What aspects of the film attempt to secularize the story? Does the story of Jesus make sense when presented like this?
Martin Scorsese was much criticized for Last Temptation of Christ. Explain why he was criticized. Then consider defenses of Scorsese that could be made by a sympathetic Christian. For instance, does Scorcese ever really abandon Christian concerns? Consider, for example, how Kundun could be seen as a Christian account of a Buddhist leader.
Christian art (icons, statues, paintings) over
the centuries has done a remarkably successful job in presenting powerful
images of Jesus. Do any of the films we have considered succeed
|Theme 3||Epic Heroes: The Knight as Hero||Filmography
*Siegfried (1924), Fritz Lang,
*#The Seven Samurai (1954),
Akira Kurosawa, 141/203 mins
Aberth. A Knight at the Movies. Chap 1, Chap 3, Chap 4
Alexander Murray. "Missionaries and Magic in Dark Age Europe." Past and Present 139 (1992). 186-205.
Stephen Knight. "A Garland of Robin Hoods." Film and History 29 (1999): 3-4.
Peter A. Linehan. "The Cid of History and the History of the Cid." History Today 37 (Sept, 1987): 26-32.
Brian Stone. "Models of Kingship: Arthur in Medieval Romance." History Today 37 (Nov, 1987): 32-38.
Vale, Juliet, and Malcolm Vale. "Knightly Codes and Piety." History Today 37 (Nov, 1987): 12-17.
Kaminsky, Stuart. "The Samurai Film and the
Western." Journal of Popular Film 1 (Fall 1972):
(Epic heroes in film)
About.com: Knights & Armor
Consider why knights featured so frequently as the heroes of medieval literature. What other people might have be considered as heroes by people of the time (think religion)? What impact did the social power of the nobility have on the presence of knights in literature? Make up comparable questions and answers for current heroes in movies and television.
What were the important issues in medieval
Spanish history according to El
Adventures of Robin Hood
Film: Clips (Robin Hood)
Since the Robin Hood of movies is a composite figure, is there anyway Robin Hood movies can be considered as "historical"?
Film: Clips (Modern Critics of Knights)
Aberth. A Knight at the Movies. Chap 5
Approaches to Film: The Seventh
Roger Ebert. The Seventh Seal [Online review]
Why is the Seventh Seal considered a great film? Think of other movies you may have seen that address similar issues. How do they compare.
Why has the Seventh Seal been spoofed so
|7/20||Film: The Seven
Cora Agatucci. Introduction to Seven Samurai
Asian Films: Akira Kurasawa
What does Seven Samurai have in common with films focusing on Western Knighthood?
In what ways were the Samurai like western knights? In what ways was the Samurai system different?
Why has this movie been so important in later
|Theme 4||The Viper's Brood: The Plantagenet Saga||Filmography
*Becket (1964), Peter
Glenville, 148 mins.
Ralph V. Turner. "Eleanor of Aquitaine and her
Children: an Inquiry into Medieval Family Attachment." Journal of
Medieval History 14 (1988): 321-335.
Film: Clips (Sainted bishops)
What was historically accurate about Becket? What was anachronistic? Make a list of five points on each side. Would the film have been better as a film if it were more accurate?
After his death, Thomas Becket was one of the
most important saints in the middle ages. Does the film bring out this
aspect of his renown?
||Film: The Lion in
Film: Clips (Stars and Melodrama)
The Lion in Winter, from Magill's Survey of Cinema, 15 Jun 1995
Although much praised, The Lion in Winter has also been criticized for its deliberate emotionality, and has been compared to Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Meanwhile Katherine Hepburn has been both praised and criticized as "star" who only ever played herself. Read the medieval chroniclers on the Plantagenets and try to come up with a defense of the movie.
Should members of royal families, or the people
who govern, be the proper focus of historical
|Theme 5||Feminist Medievalism: Powerful Women||Filmography
Women and Power*The Sorceress [Le Moine et la sorcière] (1987), Suzanne Schiffman, 97 mins.
*The Anchoress (1983), Chris Newby, 108 mins.
*Stealing Heaven (1988), Cliver Donner, 115 mins.
Joan of Arc
*Joan the Woman (1916), Cecil
B. Demille, 100 mins.
Aberth. A Knight at the Movies. Chap 6
Gerda Lerner. "Joan of Arc: Three Films." In Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. Edited by Mark Carnes. New York: Henry Holt, 1995. 54-55
Carina Yervasi " The Faces of Joan: Cinematic Representations of Joan of Arc." Film and History 29:3-4 (1999).
David John Williams. "Culture Wars Medieval and Modern in Le Moine et la sorcière." Film and History 29:1-2 (1999). 56-70.
Jean-Claude Schmitt. The Holy Greyhound:
Guinefort, Healer of Children Since the Thirteenth Century. New York:
Cambridge University Press,
Film: The Sorceress
About.com. Witches and Witchcraft in Europe
The Sorceress is notable as a film that reflects the participation and interests of a modern historian. How does this effect the film? How does it differ from the medieval story told by Stephen de Bourbon? How does it differ from the stories the peasants told each other?
Eleanor of Aquitaine (of The Lion in
Winter) is one example of a "powerful woman." What sort of "women’s
power" is of interest to the makers of The
||Film: Clips (Joan as
--Joan the Woman
Film: Passion of Joan of Arc
International Joan of Arc Society
Joan of Arc
Arc Online Archive
Historians know more about Joan of Arc than almost any other non-royal medieval person. In some respects, since the records of her trial interviews survive we know more. She lived the most conventionally "heroic" life of any woman history , at least according to the conventions of male heroism. Film makers have either tried to re-interpret her, or simply stick to the texts. Which approach do you think works best?
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent
film. Do you think it would work better with spoken
|Theme 6||Hollywood's Best Efforts||Filmography
*Ivanhoe (1952), Richard
Thorpe, 106 mins.
Sid Ray. " Hunks, History, and Homophobia: Masculinity Politics in: Braveheart and Edward II." Film and History 29:3-4 (1999).The Case of Braveheart: Two Points of View
Make a list of ten historical inaccuracies in Braveheart. Do they add up to a political program by Mel Gibson, or are they simply a result of efforts to make a better film?
Consider Sobchak’s article (it is difficult to
read, but try in any case). Is she defending or attacking movies such as
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