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  • Writer's pictureLogan Quigley

Racialized Medievalisms & Rings of Power: the ‘Diverse’ Fantasy Prequel (Francis, Ishikawa, & Chism)

Updated: Feb 24

Join your episode co-hosts Kersti Francis (BU) and Misho Ishikawa (NYU) for a lively conversation with Chris Chism (UCLA) about prequels that attempt to "diversify" preexisting fantasy IP. Together Kersti, Misho, and Chris discuss the racial politics of The Lord of the Rings and the new Rings of Power series based on Tolkien's Silmarillion. Throughout the conversation, they deconstruct the white supremacist myth of a racially homogenous (re: white) European Middle Ages to better contextualize and understand 20th- and 21st-century medievalisms. Topics covered include The Green Knight, Game of Thrones, nationalism and war, fanfiction and fandom culture, and how to teach/grapple with medievalisms in the classroom.

Kersti Francis is a postdoctoral scholar in the Society of Fellows program at Boston University. Kersti works on the intersections between magic, gender, and sexuality in the Middle Ages and English Renaissance. Her first book project, Queer Magic: Sodomy, Sin and The Supernatural, 1150-1650, uses the guiding framework of medieval understandings of nature and sins contra naturam to argue that literary magic functions as a “safe” form of heresy for authors to engage in queer imaginings of bodies, genders, and sexual acts. Kersti has also worked extensively on medieval histories of science, focusing on the role of alchemy in the Latin Christian West and Dar al-Islam; on depictions of Mary Magdalene in medieval and Victorian understandings of prostitution; and on the figure of the meykongr (maiden-king) in the Old Norse saga tradition. Her work has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation, The National Science Foundation, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, among others. She can be found procrastinating on Twitter (now “X”) (@kerstifrancis), where she tweets about feminism, queerness, dogs, history, and weird niche debates in academia.

Misho Ishikawa recently joined the faculty at New York University as an assistant professor of the Global Middle Ages. Her research centers the Mongol empire (1206–1368) from a transcultural perspective, considering its profound and wide-reaching impacts through a variety of "contact" literatures. Working primarily across Middle English, Latin, and Classical Chinese texts, Misho approaches Mongol imperialism through the lens of phenomenology and sense studies. Her first book project, Into Sensation, attunes to the intimacies of empire, to its embodied experiences. Ultimately, Into Sensation argues that the contact literatures of the Mongol empire alternately explain, accommodate, and, in some cases, resist Mongol imperialism through narratives about sensation and its relationship to self and world. Misho has forthcoming work in New Medieval Literatures and Exemplaria. You may find her on Twitter (now “X”) (@ishikawa_misho), but she can't remember her password so please reach out via email with any questions (

Chris Chism joined the faculty at UCLA as a professor of English in 2009, after holding positions at Rutgers University and Allegheny College. Between 2003 and 2005, she was the recipient of a New Directions Mellon Fellowship to learn Arabic and study Islamic culture. Since completing her first book on late medieval alliterative romance, she has been working on several projects. The first, Mortal Friends: The Politics of Friendship in Medieval England, explores the social force of friendship as it is tested in a range of late medieval texts, from romances, to court-poems, to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, to Robin Hood ballads. The second project, Strange Knowledge: Translation and Cultural Transmission in the Arabic and English Middle Ages, juxtaposes the great eighth- through tenth-century ‘Abbasid translation movement of Greek, Byzantine, and Pahlavi texts into Arabic with the equally avid post-twelfth-century translation of Arabic texts into Latin and English. This juxtaposition illuminates the complex interdependent processes by which both medieval Islamic and medieval Christian writers come to remake their visions of the world, the astronomical heavens, the secrets of God, and human rationality. Chris Chism has also been working on the medieval Arabic and European travel narratives of Ibn Battuta, Ibn Jubayr, John Mandeville, and Marco Polo; and the Middle English and Arabic Alexander romances. She enjoys teaching classes on medieval romance, the cultures of the Middle Ages, medieval drama and performance theory, and medieval dissent literature.

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