Although the Medieval era took place from around 500 and 1500 A.D., its legacy and defining characteristics are still pertinent, to some extent, today in American culture.
To celebrate and remember the Middle Ages, Professor Rebecca Lartigue and her English 261 – British Literature I: King Arthur and Robin Hood class have planned out, and are currently hosting the first ever Springfield College Medieval Week on campus.
Comprised of a series of various events, including lectures, demonstrations and competitions, this weeklong event started on Tuesday evening and will end Friday afternoon.
The idea for an on-campus week commemorating the Medieval era formulated in Lartigue’s mind when she took students from the same class to England last spring as an extra learning component. To Lartigue’s pleasant surprise, her students were demonstrating applied knowledge regarding what they had learned in class.
“I got really excited seeing them connect all the things we were learning to the place that we were,” Lartigue said. “And they would be explaining things to the professional tour guides and to other Springfield College faculty who were with us on the trip. I was just so happy to see students be teachers like that and really know and understand the material.
“I can’t take students to England every year, so this was a way to bring a little of England to the campus and to share what the students are doing in class.”
Medieval Week officially kicked off on Tuesday with two events: a lecture presented by Dr. Matthew Wranovix of the University of New Haven regarding common myths and surprising truths about the Middle Ages, and a film showing of the 1938 version of The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Mike Freytag, a senior who is in Lartigue’s class, found both the lecture and film showing to be well worth his time.
“The lecture was great,” Freytag said. “[Wranovix] went through several common myths around that time period and explained where they may have come from.
“The film was also excellent. In my opinion, it’s the best Robin Hood film ever made. Robin Hood is one of my childhood heroes, so I had no problem seeing it again.”
In terms of competitions, there will be a human chess match on Thursday at noon on the sundial amphitheater adjacent to the Campus Union. Students and faculty will dress up like chess pieces and be controlled by Professors Andrew Perry and Jennifer Johnston.
“I’m looking forward to seeing 32 people dressed up in chess piece costumes and being moved around by professors and all smushed together,” Lartigue said.
After the chess match, a live performance by the critically-acclaimed Alex the Jester will take place at 8 p.m. in the Fuller Arts Center auditorium.
Alex the Jester is a theatrical court jester from the Middle Ages who puts on an interactive and diverse performance that includes music, juggling, comedy and medieval language.
There will also be an archery demonstration on Friday at the archery range behind Stagg field. Students will have the opportunity to try and hit the bull’s eye and attempt to be as skilled as Robin Hood was.
For Lartigue, these events not only reflect the past, but also the present. The planning and implementation of these events for Medieval Week have helped to increase awareness of how the culture from hundreds of years ago still echoes today.
“I think the Middle Ages continue to fascinate us,” Lartigue said. “Everything from Lord of the Rings, to Game of Thrones, to video games is very infused with medieval ideas. I think it’s interesting for students to get a chance to think about the similarities and the differences between now and then.
“There is a lot that inspires writers. Even Harry Potter’s emphasis on university living and books show affection for medieval culture.”
Despite playing such an instrumental role in the planning process for Medieval Week, Lartigue gives the students in her British Literature class substantial credit and hopes that it will offer them a unique learning experience.
“The class has worked really hard,” Lartigue said. “They are going to be introducing our presenters and answering questions during the events.”
“We had to help put up flyers on campus and spread the word around, help set up for each event, make the costumes for human chess, and help inform anyone that had questions,” added Freytag. “It’s really been a great experience. We’ve learned about different things that actually went on during the time and learned about myths that may be surrounding the Middle Ages”.
In addition to the student support, the funding for Medieval Week was provided from the Appleton Grant that Lartigue applied for in the spring after she returned from her trip in England. The Appleton Grant provides faculty with developmental funds to create innovative courses and teaching.
Ultimately, Lartigue hopes that Medieval Week will spark interest in students and allow them to make connections to the past and the present. She also hopes that it can become an event that is brought onto campus every few years.
“I’d love for Medieval Week to be a ‘regular’ event offered every couple years,” Lartigue said. “It takes a lot of planning.”
Note: The Falconry Demonstration that was originally scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 10th was postponed due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled to Wednesday, Oct. 17th, at 4 p.m. on Naismith Green. If the weather is questionable on the rescheduled date, please call 413-748-3000 extension 3189 to confirm if the event is on or off.