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Title: Fantasies of the North : medievalism and identity in Skyrim
Author: Cooper, Victoria Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 7966
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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The primary text of this thesis is Skyrim, a fantasy role-playing game released in 2011 to huge commercial success and critical acclaim. Through this text, the project explores the intersection of medievalist fantasy, politics, and whiteness. It investigates the parallels between political medievalisms, playful medievalisms, and the ways in which medieval fantasy is used to reinvent or reaffirm white identities. The Middle Ages, as a time period, an imagined geographic space, and an ideological concept, is often nostalgically recalled as a key element in Western nationalism and identity formation. Skyrim provides a major case study through which to interrogate the tropes of medieval fantasy in order to understand how the genre situates itself as a space of creativity and resistance, but in fact maintains conservative social values. Furthermore, it asks how players engage in identity play in medieval fantasy games, and to what extent Skyrim’s politics encourage discussion and reflection. This thesis is highly interdisciplinary in its form and utilises multiple methodologies to explore the construction of the self and the other through medievalism in fantasy. Traditional humanities methods are combined with a survey of players’ narrative choices and modes of identification with characters and factions within Skyrim, as well as analysis of ‘gamer’-activism in popular politics. Ultimately, although the games explored are established to be highly conservative in their modes of racial representation, the thesis finds that players are actively engaged in identity play. Although this is limited in many ways by game design—especially where medieval fantasy genre conventions are heeded—the potential for game worlds to destabilise racial boundaries and provide a space for identity play is acknowledged, opening up several avenues for further research in the fields of enquiry.
Supervisor: Hall, Alaric ; Warnes, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available