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Curating Global Medievalisms (Grollemond & Keene)

Updated: Feb 24

This episode introduces approaches that museum curators take to bring a global Middle Ages to life for a range of audiences. We focus on the exhibition and publication, The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds (Getty 2022) to address everything from the Grimm Brothers’ whimsical tales to Game of Thrones’ bloody battles, from The Lord of the Rings’ Middle-earth to Dungeons & Dragons’ mythical beasts, from Medieval Times to the Renaissance Faire to Disneyland. Transcending simply a fact-check of the medieval past, we aim to mobilize medievalisms in order to counter racist, misogynist, and homo/transphobic ideas perpetuated by popular culture.

Author information:

  • Larisa Grollemond is the Assistant Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She earned her PhD in the history of art from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a dissertation on the ideological status of the illuminated manuscript in late 15th century France. Her past exhibition projects at the Getty include All that Glitters: Life at the Renaissance Court, Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World and Blurring the Line: Manuscripts in the Age of Print, and Transcending Time: The Medieval Book of Hours. Her current exhibition, Painted Prophecy: The Hebrew Bible through Christian Eyes is on view at the Getty Center until May 29, 2022. She’s a Slytherin with strong Ravenclaw tendencies and is still a little mad about the ending of Game of Thrones.

  • Bryan C. Keene (he/él/they/elle) teaches at Riverside City College, where he advocates for LGBTQIA2+ student success, and is a curator who promotes equity for the display of premodern art. Scholarly works include articles on Italian illumination; the edited volume Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the World through Illuminated Manuscripts (Getty Publications, 2019); New Horizons in Trecento Art (with Karl Whittington; Brepols, 2021); The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds (with Larisa Grollemond; Getty Publications, 2022); and Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art (co-edited with Kristen Collins; Getty Publications, 2022). Keene received a PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art and has held leadership and service roles in the International Center of Medieval Art, the Medieval Academy of America, and the Association of Art Museum Curators. He is of the Houses Baratheon, Mandragoran, and Ravenclaw and follows the footsteps of wizards and elves from Middle-earth to Hyrule. Find Bryan on Instagram @brykeene and @_medievalart.


Key links:


For further reading:

  • Andrew Albin, Mary C. Erler, Thomas O’Donnell, Nicholas Paul, and Nina Rowe. Whose Middle Ages? Teachable Moments for an Ill-Used Past. New York: Fordham University Press, 2019.

  • Jes Battis, Thinking Queerly: Medievalism, Wizardry, and Neurodiversity in Young Adult Texts. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2021

  • Maria Sachiko Cecire. Re-Enchanted: The Rise of Children’s Fantasy Literature in the Twentieth Century. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.

  • Michael A. Cramer. Medieval Fantasy as Performance: The Society for Creative Anachronism and the Current Middle Ages. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009.

  • Stephanie Downes and Helen Young. “The Maiden Fair: Nineteenth-Century Medievalist Art and the Gendered Aesthetics of Whiteness in HBO’s Game of Thrones.” postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 10, no. 2 (2019): 219– 35.

  • Kavita Mudan Finn. “How to Talk to Your Kids about Old-School Disney.” Public Medievalist, November 12, 2020, https://www.publicmedievalist.com/talk-to-kids-old-school-disney/.

  • Larisa Grollemond and Bryan C. Keene. “A Game of Thrones: Power Structures in Medievalisms, Manuscripts, and the Museum.” postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 11, nos. 2–3 (2020): 326–37.

  • Sierra Lomuto. “Public Medievalism and the Rigor of Anti-Racist Critique.” In the Medieval Middle, April 4, 2019. https://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2019/04/public-medievalism-and-rigor-of-anti.html.

  • Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein. The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

  • Tison Pugh and Kathleen Coyne Kelly, eds. Queer Movie Medievalisms. Milton Park: Routledge, 2009.

  • Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein, eds. The United States of Medievalism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021.

  • Helen Young. “Game of Thrones’ Racism Problem.” Public Medievalist, July 21, 2017, https://www.publicmedievalist.com/game-thrones-racism-problem/.

  • Helen Young, ed. Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness. New York and London: Routledge, 2015.




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