Monday, October 26, 2009

Robin Hood conference takes place at University of Rochester

A four day conference on the outlaw hero of Sherwood Forest finished up yesterday. The International Association for Robin Hood Studies Seventh Biennial Conference was held at the University of Rochester and drew an audience of 100 people.

"Every generation gets the Robin Hood they want and the Robin Hood they deserve," says Thomas Hahn, professor of English at the University of Rochester and the organizer of this year's theeme: "Robin Hood: Media Creature." Various scholars examined the ways in which the outlaw hero has been reshaped over the past 700 years, and look at the evolution of Robin Hood through stage, song, literature, memorabilia, and more. Even Hollywood can't leave the legend alone as it prepares for the 2010 release of Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, not to mention the start of the third season of Robin Hood, a the hit show on BBC America.

So how is it that an obscure mythological character, who may not have existed, remains an iconic figure all over the world and throughout history? According to Hahn, "The tale provides an escapist fantasy that is timeless and compelling to people at any age." It includes themes of rebellion, justice, brotherhood, and even a love interest- all subjects that Hahn says not only make a great story, but that are easy to connect with people's emotions.

"Robin Hood: Media Creature" included the 21st century World Premier of Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, a newly restored print of the 1922 film.

Throughout the event, researchers from around the world will present findings on well-established and even controversial aspects of the tale of Robin Hood, using stories, images, music, television, and film to explain complex issues and cultures from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. According to Hahn, while the tale lacks the prestige of, say, the works of William Shakespeare, the world's familiarity with the story has made it compatible with many different fields of academic study, including English language and literature, history, musicology and music performance, media studies, and visual studies.

Instrumental in the planning of the first international conference of Robin Hood studies in 1997, Hahn says he is thrilled to have the event return to Rochester for the first time in more than 10 years and even encourages people to dress up for the occasion. However, his enthusiasm only goes so far. "While I will have hundreds of items from my personal collection on display, you won't see me walking around with a feather in my cap!"

See our earlier article on the discover of a passage from a 15th century manuscript that reveals new information about the legendary figure Robin Hood.