Sunday, December 10, 2017

Of Interest: Echoes of Valhalla

Echoes of Valhalla: The Afterlife of the Eddas and Sagas

Jón Karl Helgason; Translated by Jane Appleton
Distributed for Reaktion Books

256 pages | 50 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Cloth $24.95
ISBN: 9781780237152
Published June 2017
For sale in North and South America only

Tolkien’s wizard Gandalf, Wagner’s Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Marvel’s superhero the Mighty Thor, the warrior heading for Valhalla in Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and Donald Crisp’s portrayal of Leif Eriksson in the classic film The Viking—these are just a few examples of how Icelandic medieval literature has shaped human imagination during the past 150 years. Echoes of Valhalla is a unique look at modern adaptations of the Icelandic eddas (poems of Norse mythology) and sagas (ancient prose accounts of Viking history, voyages, and battles) across an astonishing breadth of art forms.

Jón Karl Helgason looks at comic books, plays, travel books, music, and films in order to explore the reincarnations of a range of legendary characters, from the Nordic gods Thor and Odin to the saga characters Hallgerd Long-legs, Gunnar of Hlidarendi, and Leif the Lucky. Roaming the globe, Helgason unearths echoes of Nordic lore in Scandinavia, Britain, America, Germany, Italy, and Japan. He examines the comic work of Jack Kirby and cartoon work of Peter Madsen; reads the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Gordon Bottomley; engages thought travelogues by Frederick Metcalfe and Poul Vad; listens to the music of Richard Wagner, Edward Elgar, and the metal band Manowar; and watches films by directors such as Roy William Neill and Richard Fleischer, outlining the presence of the eddas and sagas in these nineteenth- and twentieth-century works.

Altogether, Echoes of Valhalla tells the remarkable story of how disparate, age-old poetry and prose originally recorded in remote areas of medieval Iceland have come to be a part of our shared cultural experience today—how Nordic gods and saga heroes have survived and how their colorful cast of characters and adventures they went on are as vibrant as ever.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bishop's Medievalist Comics and the American Century

With apologies to the author for the long delay:

Medievalist Comics and the American Century
By Chris Bishop 

University Press of Mississippi
224 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, bibliography, index

9781496808509 Printed casebinding $65.00S


The comic book has become an essential icon of the American Century, an era defined by optimism in the face of change and by recognition of the intrinsic value of democracy and modernization. For many, the Middle Ages stand as an antithesis to these ideals, and yet medievalist comics have emerged and endured, even thrived alongside their superhero counterparts. Chris Bishop presents a reception history of medievalist comics, setting them against a greater backdrop of modern American history.

From its genesis in the 1930s to the present, Bishop surveys the medievalist comic, its stories, characters, settings, and themes drawn from the European Middle Ages. Hal Foster's Prince Valiant emerged from an America at odds with monarchy, but still in love with King Arthur. Green Arrow remains the continuation of a long fascination with Robin Hood that has become as central to the American identity as it was to the British. The Mighty Thor re ects the legacy of Germanic migration into the United States. The rugged individualism of Conan the Barbarian owes more to the western cowboy than it does to the continental knight-errant. In the narrative of Red Sonja, we can trace a parallel history of feminism. Bishop regards these comics as not merely happenchance, but each success (Prince Valiant and The Mighty Thor) or failure (Beowulf: Dragon Slayer) as a result and an indicator of certain American preoccupations amid a larger cultural context.

Intrinsically modernist paragons of pop-culture ephemera, American comics have ironically continued to engage with the European Middle Ages. Bishop illuminates some of the ways in which we use an imagined past to navigate the present and plots some possible futures as we valiantly shape a new century.

CHRIS BISHOP, Canberra, Australia, teaches classics at the Australian National University. He has published widely on the history of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, as well as comic book studies. In 2012 Bishop was awarded a Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress for his research.


Utz Reviews Bishop

The latest number (Vol. 27, No. 2) of Arthuriana has a review by Richard Utz on Chris Bishop's book Medievialist Comics and the American Century (more on this to follow).

You can read the review on Project MUSE (or preview you it if,like myself,you have no access to the site) at

Update 6/24/17

Sorry to not have kept things up to date this past year.

Our session in honor of the eightieth anniversary of Prince Valiant on American medievalisms was not accepted for the 2017 ALA conference.

Michael Torregrossa
Founder and Blog Editor

Friday, January 6, 2017

Call for Proposals on The Medieval in American Popular Culture: Reflections in Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of Prince Valiant

The Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture is sponsoring a session on "The Medieval in American Popular Culture: Reflections in Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of Prince Valiant." Complete details can be found at our main site at