From knights to kings and barbarians to nobility, the Middle Ages are an endless source of fascination and myth. In modern culture, depictions of medieval life can be found in classic films such as The Name of the Rose, El Cid and Ivanhoe and in modern series and films including Game of Thrones, Vikings and Pixar’s Brave. It’s a long-term fixation, even in America, that doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

Longwood University has become a hub for a growing web of medieval scholars that stretches across the East Coast: the 9th annual Medieval Conference on March 27-28 showcases the best undergraduate scholars in a two-day panel discussion on the history, cultural legacies, social life and literature of this era of upheaval.

"This conference in particular highlights undergraduate research in a way that isn’t typically available," said Dr. Steven Isaac, professor of history at Longwood University and conference co-director. "Students get to present their new research alongside expert scholars, and that experience can really propel them into graduate school or any number of careers that demand critical thinking and analysis."

This year’s conference theme, "Out of Bounds: Defying Medieval Norms," bridges the same gap between history and present day by asking the timeless question, "what is normative?"

"The conference taps into a growing interest in the Middle Ages that has been sparked by modern popular culture, particularly films, television, and games," said Dr. Larissa Tracy, associate professor of medieval literature and conference co-director. "Over the last nine years, we have been greatly impressed by the quality of work the students present, by their enthusiasm and their professionalism. This conference gives students of any discipline the unique opportunity to participate in an engaging research forum with their peers.

The conference will also feature two plenary addresses by Dr. Asa Simon Mittman of California State University-Chico and Dr. Stephen Morillo of Wabash College.

"These are two of the top medieval scholars in the country, both as researchers and presenters," said Isaac. "Their expertise and perspectives will be a model that the students will get to work in tandem with during the conference." In addition to presenting their own research, Mittman and Morillo will also be judges for the Abels-Johnson Award for Excellence, which goes to the best student paper, and has a cash stipend provided by Longwood’s history department.

Mittman specializes in medieval history, gender and culture, and Morillo is a scholar who has made several appearances on the History Channel and Spike TV.

In addition to presentations from Longwood students and faculty, the conference lineup includes scholars from

  • University of Mississippi
  • Florida State University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Radford University
  • Methodist University
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Appalachian State University
  • American University
  • Catholic University of America
  • Murray State University

"Those who attend will walk away with a deeper perspective about medieval people. The unique combination of research topics that come together here shows just how complex medieval society was, and how the sophistication of the Middle Ages continues to have an impact on the world," said Isaac.

Guests can register for the conference at, and same-day registration is available. A complete schedule is also available on the web page.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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