LAURIE A. FIKE and MARTIN B. SHICHTMAN, Cinematic Illuminations: The Middle Ages on Film. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. Pp. xi +445. ISBN: 978-0-8018-9345-2. $60.00 (HB). $30.00 (PB).
The study of cinema medievalia in general and of cinema arthuriana in particular is fast becoming a fair field full of folk thanks to a number of recent studies of the cinematic tradition of reimagining the Middle Ages. Queer Movie Medievalisms, edited by Kathleen Coyne Kelly and Tison Pugh (Ashgate, 2009), with its dozen essays bookended by an introduction and an afterword, focuses on the ways in which such films undercut medieval and modern constructions of gender and sexuality. Medieval Film, edited by Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer (Manchester University Press, 2009), provides an introduction by the editors, eight essays, and suggestions for further readings. The focus here is on interdisciplinarity, as the contributors ask us to think about what it means to create and watch a 'medieval' film. Race, Class, and Gender in 'Medieval' Cinema, edited by Lynn T. Ramey and Tison Pugh (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), includes thirteen essays discussing multicultural identity, barbarism, the medieval other, and romantic values in films set in more or less recognizably medieval worlds. Medieval and Early Modern Film and Media by Richard Burt (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) links so-called 'medieval' film to such examples of old and new media as scrolls, illuminated manuscripts, the Bayeux Tapestry, and DVDs and HD DVDs. Le Moyen Âge mis en scène: perspectives contemporaines, edited by Sandra Gorgievski and Xavier Leroux (Babel, vol. 15, 2007), contains fifteen essays by British, American, and European scholars discussing the Middle Ages as an object of both representation and interpretation in modern theater and film. Portrayals of Joan of Arc in Film by Margaret Joan Maddox (Edwin Mellen, 2008) amounts, unfortunately, to little more than a facile discussion of a topic definitively discussed in greater depth by Robin Blaetz in her Visions of the Maid (University Press of Virginia, 2001).
But, despite these and other volumes, Cinematic Illuminations by Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Shichtman will remain the definitive study of the continuing phenomenon of cinematic reinterpretations of the Middle Ages. The book-like the authors' earlier King Arthur and the Myth of History-is a model of solid, insightful, groundbreaking prose unfettered by academic jargon and vigorous in its adherence to the highest tenets of academic integrity. …