Conversations on Europe. “Visually Demolished and Textually Reconstructed: The Middle Ages in Contemporary Crime Fiction.”
Despite the growing interest in medievalist (re)constructions of the Middle Ages (e.g. in film, theater, and fiction), the image of the “Middle Ages” in contemporary crime fiction has not been studied at all despite the immense popularity of this subgenre of crime writing. This talk will take a look at this production that, more or less, began in the late 1970s and has grown into a vibrant industry encompassing a variety of periods from the 7th to the 15th century, mostly placed in England, but also in France, Germany, and Italy. An attempt will be made to recognize the narrative mechanisms of “medieval mystery novels,” their literary models; their ideological approaches to various medieval societies; and their depiction of violence, sex, power, and friendship. A brief look will be offered to crime fiction dealing with cultures outside the conventional frame of the (Western) Middle Ages, such as, China, Japan, and Byzantium. Ultimately, it will be proposed that the “new” Middle Ages of contemporary crime fiction are an exotic locus of intertextual and intervisual fantasy, rather than an academic archeological recostrunction of a clearly defined medieval past.
Panagiotis A. Agapitos is professor of Byzantine literature at the University of Cyprus. His research interests focus on textual and literary criticism, with an emphasis on Byzantine rhetoric and its performance, poetics, erotic fiction, and the representation of death in Byzantine literature. Beyond his scholarly papers, he has published Narrative Structure in the Byzantine Vernacular Romances (Munich 1991); Theodoros Metochites on Greek Philosophy and Ancient History (Gothenburg 1996); the first critical edition of the thirteenth-century verse romance Livistros and Rhodamne (Athens 2006); and, most recently, Between History and Fiction: Medieval Narratives between History and Fiction: From the Centre to the Periphery of Europe, 1100-1400 (Copenhagen 2012), edited with L. B. Mortensen. He is currently preparing an English translation with introduction and notes of Livistros and Rodamne for Translated Texts for Byzantinists (Liverpool University Press), and a study on the periodization of Byzantine literature. Parallel to his scholarly activities, he is a writer of historical crime fiction, having published sofar three novels set in 9th-century Byzantium.
Sponsors: CES, Department of Classical Studies, Department of Comparative Literature, Modern Greek Program
Panagiotis A. Agapitos, professor of Byzantine literature, University of Cyprus