Castles along the Rhine

Kenneth Hodges

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Home For my Classes Beowulf and Grendel Links

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Castle along the Rhine, 2005.

Although I am currently a literary scholar, my interests are broader. I double-majored in English and physics, and then received an M.A. in math (specializing in differential equations and "chaos theory") before getting my Ph.D. in medieval literature. I've always been interested in complex patterns. I enjoy the intricacy of issues that are not oversimplified, and the beauty of finding a perspective that reveals the order. English and math complemented each other nicely, offering different ways of approaching complexity. My work, which replaces a static, fixed view of chivalry with one that allows evolution and local variation, reflects this habit of mind.

 

I am an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, specializing in medieval and early modern English literature, especially late chivalric texts. This website has materials for my classes and some links for those interested in medieval subjects.

My academic interests center on the complex ways chivalry changes at the end of the middle ages and into the early modern period, how individuals use chivalry to establish identities for themselves, and the ways groups, especially early forms of nations, use chivalry to create collective identities. (My c.v. has a list of publications). In Forging Chivalric Communities in Malory's Morte Darthur (Palgrave, 2005), I argue that, instead of chivalry being a simple system with fixed values, chivalric ideals evolve -- and that they evolve differently in different communities. This includes several proto-national communities, as England, Britain, and several key provinces compete to be the basis for national feeling, and certain knights, for individualistic or religious reasons, champion forms of chivalry not tied directly to political insitutions. Malory shows this evolution in action (he is not nostalgically invoking a simple past ideal) and he shows the consequences when knights loyal to more than one community are caught between differing codes of chivalry.

Currently, I am working on the next book project (tentatively titled Spenser and Post-Medievalism) that analyzes Spenser's cultural engagements with medieval material -- with the loss of certainty from a shattered western church and a change in dynasty, how does he assemble medieval fragments to support new, early modern cultural desires? Because I am not hunting for medieval sources per se but instead showing how Spenser uses and seeks to transform medieval literary traditions, I show that Spenser's far more engaged with medieval texts than scholars have recognized.

For those who care about interests outside English, my math background gives me an Erdös number of two (by way of Frank Harary, co-author of some papers on sum graphs), and a one-line role in the movie Stand By Me gives me a Bacon number of two, for a combined Erdös-Bacon number of four, only one higher than the apparent record held by Bruce Reznick and Dan Kleitman.

Carved Ivory, Louvre

Medieval carved ivory, at the Louvre, showing knights besieging ladies in a castle of love. The ability of women to imagine themselves as knights,not simply as ladies, is part of my interest in chivalry's ability to act as a flexible system of social interpretation, not just as a set of military ethics.

 

 
Home For my Classes Beowulf and Grendel Links

C.V.

Contact Me Guide to Writing