Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Bulletin of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies

The IARHS is pleased to announce the launch of a journal dedicated to Robin Hood studies: The Bulletin of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies. The journal is fully digital, open access, and double-blind peer reviewed; in keeping with the Robin Hood tradition, authors retain their rights to their own materials.

The first issue of the Bulletin features three articles: "Robin Hood and the Forest Laws," by Stephen Knight (The University of Melbourne); "A Critical Edition of Little John's Answer to Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster (1727)," by Stephen Basdeo (Richmond University [Leeds RIASA]); and the 2015 "Review of the Year's Publications in Robin Hood Scholarship," by Mikee Delony (Abilene Christian University).

We invite scholars to submit articles or essays detailing original research on any aspect of the Robin Hood tradition. Submission is via the web, and preliminary inquiries or questions may be directed to Valerie Johnson (University of Montevallo) and Alexander Kaufman (Ball State University).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Medievalists Respond to Charlottesville

Friends and colleagues, the IARHS, an inclusive group, has added our name to the recent Medieval Academy of America's response to the events at Charlottesville, the text of which can be found here:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reviews from the Greenwood: Melissa Ridley Elmes on Douglas Gray's Simple Forms (2015)

Douglas Gray, Simple Forms: Essays on Medieval English Popular Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. ISBN 978-0-19-870609-0. Hbk, $95.00. 300 pp.

Reviewed by Melissa Ridley Elmes
Lindenwood University

As the title suggests, Douglas Gray’s Simple Forms is modeled on and expands the work of the mid-twentieth century German literary theorist Andre Jolles in Einfache Forem (1930). Gray’s book takes as its point of departure the argument that contemporary English literary studies often overlook or, at best, marginalize the “vast substratum of oral literature” lurking beneath the surface of extant literary forms (2). First reminding the reader that “popular beliefs and oral literature are alluded to or mediated through the learned or the relatively learned” (4) Gray points out that “it is misleading to suppose that medieval popular culture is totally opposed to or separate from the culture of the learned” (4) – an argument that has gained critical support recently in scholarly works such as Richard Firth Green’s Elf Queens and Holy Friars. [1]

After an Introduction in which he describes the decline since the mid-twentieth century in scholars’ attention to folk and oral culture studies, Gray makes a case for a definition of “folk literacy” that bridges the written and oral traditions, and considers what to call texts that derive from such a tradition (fairy tale, tale of wonder, international popular tale, or folk tale, the term he ultimately settles on). Gray turns in Chapter Two to a description of folk culture, which he charmingly deems “a loosely organized ramble with many pauses and some digressions” (19). From there, the chapters that follow focus on a specific genre or set of genres, taking as a starting point an English title or set of titles, and then showing how the English work demonstrates affinity with other similar works from the Continental folk tradition. Ultimately, Gray’s sophisticated approach highlights ways that these folk and oral traditions might be viewed as “the building blocks of learned and sophisticated literature” (2) — that is, how writers transformed the simpler folk tales of the oral tradition into sophisticated literary texts. The genres examined are Myth, Epic, and Heroic Lay (chapter 3); Ballads (chapter 4); Popular Romances (chapter 5); Folk Tale (chapter 6); Sage, Tale, and Legend (chapter 7); “Merry Tale” (a broad category including all forms of medieval comic literature including burlesque, parody, and the fabliau); Animal tale, and Fable (chapter 8); Proverb (chapter 9); Riddle (chapter 10); Satire (chapter 11); and Songs and Drama (chapter 12).

Although this book’s subject is folk literature, it ventures far beyond the most common literary genres, motifs, and subjects in such studies; therefore, the outlaw tales that typically take center stage in the study of popular folk literature in the medieval period are among the many, rather than the featured, works examined. Scholars interested in the outlaw tradition will find chapter 4 (“Ballad”) of particular interest. Pages 78-87 comprise discussion of the outlaw ballad tradition, including shorter consideration of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, Robyn and Gandeleyn, and an extended study each of Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley and the Gest of Robyn Hode. There is a brief discussion of a Robin Hood proverb in chapter 9, and of the Robin Hood plays in chapter 12. Beyond this, outlaw tales are mentioned in passim, but not emphasized. From a comparative standpoint, on the other hand, scholars interested in considering the relationship between outlaw tales and other forms of popular literature will find this book to be a treasure-trove of possible avenues for further research.

Simple Forms is a highly ambitious undertaking that could have turned out disastrously in the hands of a scholar less well-versed in its various components; fortunately, with Douglas Gray at the helm wielding his exceptional learning lightly, earnestly, and with characteristic humor, the product is a study that should produce important new lines of inquiry and reinvigorate folk studies in a literary context. This book will be of great use to students of medieval literature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, early-stage scholars thinking through the development of courses emphasizing genre and literary and cultural transmission, and anyone interested in how the literature that we have inherited can show us glimpses of the many acculturations that have gone into its development.

[1] Richard Firth Green, Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvanis Press, 2016).

IARHS CFP: Leeds International Medieval Congress 2018

Remembering Robin Hood:
Memory, Representation, and Adaptation in the Post-Medieval Outlaw Tradition

IARHS Sponsored Session
International Medieval Congress
University of Leeds

Stephen Basdeo

“The [Robin Hood] legend endured through adaptation. In each generation it acquired new twists from shifts in composition, outlook, and interests of the audience, or changes in the level of literacy, or developments in the means of communication”
James C. Holt, Robin Hood (1982)

Following on from a well-attended and very well-received panel at the IMC 2017, the International Association for Robin Hood Studies seeks to build upon this success by sponsoring a panel on the theme of memory in the outlaw tradition.

Of all medieval legends, Robin Hood is the one whose ‘afterlife’ in the modern period has proved to be the most successful in terms of longevity. Throughout history, he has been represented in plays, songs, books, and films, and memorialised in landmarks. The proposed panel will explore the various ways that certain aspects of the medieval Robin Hood tradition have been remembered by people and/or adapted by writers, artists, and filmmakers in the post-medieval period.

Possible papers might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Robin Hood in landmarks (e.g. in sculpture, Robin Hood’s grave, Little John’s grave, Robin Hood’s well, etc.)
  • Robin Hood in post-medieval popular culture (e.g. 18th, 19th, and 20th-century medievalism: books, films, comics, etc.)

  • Community and contested memories of Robin Hood (e.g. local and nationalist appropriations of Robin Hood)
  • Folk memory and folk song.

In order to be considered for inclusion, please submit a 250 word abstract to by 15 September 2017.

The following should be included with your abstract:

  • Correspondence address and email address (this is important, as it will need to be submitted to the IMC)

  • Affiliation.

  • A brief biography (please indicate if you are a postgraduate student, as this will need to be included on the IMC submission)
If possible, please submit the abstract, your contact details, and biography as one word document.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

IARHS CFP: ICMS, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 10-13, 2018

The International Association for Robin Hood Studies (IARHS) is sponsoring two sessions at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies. Please see below for session details and submission information.

  1. Multicultural, Multimedia Outlaws (Session of Papers)

The outlaw figure is a universal cross-cultural phenomenon. This session solicits papers that analyze adaptations of narratives about outlaws, whether literary or historical, male or female, from any period (medieval through contemporary), in any medium (ballad, saga, drama, novel, young adult fiction, films, television, comic books, opera, music, to name a few) from any location (Britain, Europe, America(s), Australia, Asia, ranging from the Merry Men to Icelandic outlaws, Ned Kelly, Pancho Villa, and Moll Flanders.

Please send 300-word abstracts, a brief bios, and completed Participant Information Forms to Lorraine Kochanske Stock ( by September 1, 2017.

  2. Oral Tactics of Medieval Outlaw Literature (Session of Papers)

This formal session of papers explores the modes of writing and of performance (and their interconnectedness) that exist within medieval outlaw tales. From the The Outlaw’s Song of Trailbaston to the late-medieval rhymes, plays, games, and “talkings” of Robin Hood, medieval outlaw tales are, like the medieval lyric, ad hoc, improvisatory, and situational works or literature. This session, inspired by Ingrid Nelson’s recent study Lyric Tactics, explores the ways in which the religious, societal, political, and manuscript contexts inform the genre, form, vernacular language, semantics, and voice of a medieval outlaw tale. 
Please send 300-word abstracts, a brief bios, and completed Participant Information Forms to Lesley Coote ( and Alexander L. Kaufman ( by September 1, 2017.

Here is a link to the ICMS’s Participant Information Form:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

IARHS CFP: Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, November 15-18, 2017, Charleston, SC

CFP: Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, November 15-18, 2017, Charleston, SC
IARHS–sponsored panel: "Cities of Gold, Forests of Green:  Sacred and Profane Spaces in Outlaw Tales"
Session organizers: Melissa Ridley Elmes and Sherron Lux
Session Presider: Sherron Lux

A traditional reading of outlaw tales might classify them as antithetical to the concept of the biblical city of gold designated for those saved by God’s grace, viewing the outlaws as irredeemable sinners and the forests they inhabit as the liminal spaces where demons and fairies abound. Outlaw tales are typically viewed as more profane than sacred in nature. The International Association of Robin Hood Studies invites papers that go beyond such a view, to consider in more nuanced fashion the relationship between sacred and profane, or between characters and either concept, in the city and/or forest spaces of premodern outlaw tales or in outlaw narratives in the tradition of medievalism. Papers for this session might (re)consider the anticlerical attitudes of medieval and early modern Robin Hood narratives, or Robin’s or other of the merry men’s relationship to the sacred; how outlaws like Hereward and Gamelyn negotiate city/manor spaces; the tensions between the sacred and profane in city spaces; the forest as sacred or profane space; the relationship between ecocriticism, the sacred, and the profane in outlaw tales, or similarnot forgetting that churches, priories or abbeys, and graves are found in both city and forest, and can be sites of events both sacred and profane.

Please send a brief bio and abstract of 300 words to Melissa Ridley Elmes at and Sherron Lux at by June 5, 2017.

Friday, January 20, 2017

CFP: Deadline Extended for IARHS Conference

The Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies will take place on 16-17 June 2017 at Auburn University at Montgomery, Montgomery, Alabama, USA.

The theme for this two-day international conference is “Southern Outlaws,” and proposals are welcome on any aspect of “southern” outlawry, banditry, piracy, and other transgressive activities and movements. Such topics spanning the fields of outlaws of the Southern United States, Australia, and South America are particularly welcome. Papers are also invited that explore the metaphorical and spatial conceptions of a “southern” outlaw, especially bad outlaws and trickster figures, and the ways in which geographical and topographical features create and foster outlawry. Papers on the Robin Hood tradition are also welcome. Conference participants will enjoy a variety of peer-reviewed papers from a number of academic fields: literature, history, folklore, theatre, music, anthropology, sociology, geography, art history, and media studies.

The deadline for abstracts for papers and fully formed sessions is March 1, 2017. Papers from graduate and undergraduate students are particularly welcome.

For more information on the conference and to submit abstracts, please see the conference's webpage: