Glückshaus (House of Fortune)
Notre Dame offers many opportunities for undergraduates to learn more about the medieval world. In concert with the Film, Theater, and Television Department and the English Department, the Medieval Institute offered a class, "Harry Potter, Medievalism, and Transmedia Narratives," this past spring semester.
While of course Harry Potter belongs to the twenty-first century, J. K. Rowling's work and the subsequent film adaptions would be hard to recognize without the omnipresent "medieval" elements, in everything from aesthetics to character inspiration.
We asked instructor Jacob Coen, Ph.D. candidate in the Medieval Institute, to tell us about the class's "Medieval Field Day," an opportunity for students to interactively experience medieval and early modern forms of entertainment, some of which have persisted into the present.
"Contrary to popular representations of the Middle Ages as a 'dark' period of unpredictable barbarian raids, endless tilling of the soil, and hours of prayerful meditation, the people of medieval Europe certainly knew how to make the most of their free time.
"From the well-known jousts and mêlées of courtly tournaments to the composition of floral, erotic poetry at wine-soaked garden parties in Spain, Western Europe in the Middle Ages boasted a lively culture of fun and games, many of which remain staples into the twenty-first century.
"As a celebration of this vibrant atmosphere, students in the Medieval Institute’s 'Harry Potter, Medievalism, and Transmedia Narratives' course recreated medieval and early modern activities as part of an interactive class discussion session.
I had no idea so much of our everyday lives are rooted [in] the Middle Ages.
—Amy Mansfield ('19)
"Highlights of this 'Medieval Field Day' included precursors of modern bowling and golf, medieval drama and music, and a chance to discuss the finer things in life at a mock 'wine' party—complete with non-alcoholic sparkling cider and an opportunity to discuss masterpieces from the so-called 'Golden Age' of Iberian Jewish poetry.
"Students, broken into ten groups of ten, were encouraged to take advantage of a more upbeat and colorful day in class by taking pictures with their group mates as they explored various games set up in the auditorium.
"Amy Mansfield ('19) documented her the journey of her group’s journey around the classroom.
Commenting on games with pre-modern origins like golf and bowling, Amy said: 'I had no idea so much of our everyday lives are rooted [in] the Middle Ages. The activity overall was a really fun way to engage with the concepts we had been reading and hearing about in class. Definitely made the material memorable!'
"A memorable day in an already memorable class, Medieval Field Day was definitely a celebration for the books!"
Editor's note: all photos taken by and copyright Amy Mansfield ('19).
Originally published at medieval.nd.edu on May 13, 2019.