Valhallolz: Medievalist humor on the Internet

  • Kim Wilkins
Cluster Essay


The Internet provides social conditions that allow medievalist ideas to continue to evolve in the twenty-first century. It is fertile ground for medievalist humor, and a significant proportion of that humor comes in the form of memes. Memes were first described in 1976 by Richard Dawkins as ‘units of cultural transmission.’ They are analogous to genes, replicating and mutating in response to the culture that hosts them, and passed on socially, rather than biologically. The Internet provides a ready social network and an accessible set of technological tools for memes to flourish. This essay explores the ways in which Internet memes foreground the social relations that structure medievalist humor.



I would like to offer particular thanks to my University of Queensland colleagues Sean Rintel and Fiona Nicoll, who provided invaluable feedback on the draft of this article.


  1. Atran, S. 2001. The Trouble with Memes: Inference versus Imitation in Cultural Creation. Human Nature 12 (4): 351–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernstein, B. 1964. Elaborated and Restricted Codes: Their Social Origins and Some Consequences. American Anthropologist 66 (6 part 2): 55–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonner, F. and J. Jacobs . 2011. The First Encounter: Observations on the Chronology of Encounter with Some Adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Books. Convergence 17 (1): 37–48.Google Scholar
  4. Brownlie, S. 2012. Does Memory of the Distant Past Matter? Remediating the Norman Conquest. Memory Studies 5 (4): 360–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bruns, A. 2010. Distributed Creativity: Filesharing and Produsage. In Mashup Cultures, ed. S. Sonville-Weiss, 24–37. Vienna, Austria: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burr, T. 2006. ‘Snakes’ Strikes the Right Chord. The Boston Globe August,
  7. Chuck Norris Facts. 2009. Know Your Meme, May,
  8. Dawkins, R. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Demotivational Posters. 2009. Know Your Meme, July,
  10. Dennis, C. 2009. The Strange Death of King Harold II: Propaganda and the Problem of Legitimacy in the Aftermath of the Battle of Hastings. Historian 101: 14–18.Google Scholar
  11. Ellis, D.R., dir. 2006. Snakes on a Plane. New Line Cinemas.Google Scholar
  12. Hancock, J.T. 2004. LOL: Humor Online. Interactions (September–October): 57–58.Google Scholar
  13. Honan, M. 2010. Inside ThinkGeek, Where Mythical Meat Can Make Millions. Wired Magazine 18, 10 September,
  14. Hutcheon, L. 2012. A Theory of Adaptation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Jander, J. 2011. Bildwirkerey von Bayeux,
  16. Kendall, L. 2000. ‘OH NO! I’M A NERD!’: Hegemonic Masculinity on an Online Forum. Gender & Society 14 (2): 256–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Knobel, M. and C. Lankshear . 2007. Online Memes, Affinities, and Cultural Production. In New Literacies Sampler, eds. M. Knobel and C. Lankshear, 199–227. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  18. McArthur, J.A. 2008. Digital Subculture: A Geek Meaning of Style. Journal of Communication Inquiry 33 (58): 58–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Medieval Macros/Bayeux Tapestry Parodies. 2009. Know Your Meme June,
  20. Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. 2013. Tapisserie de Bayeux,
  21. Reynolds, R. 1994. Superheroes: A Modern Mythology. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.Google Scholar
  22. Rintel, S. 2013. Crisis Memes: The Importance of Templatability to Internet Culture and Freedom of Expression. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture 2 (2): 253–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stam, R. 2005. Introduction: The Theory and Practice of Adaptation. In Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation, eds. R. Stam and A. Raengo, 1–52. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  24. Usher, N. 2010. Why Spreadable doesn’t equal viral: A conversation with Henry Jenkins. November,

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Wilkins
    • 1
  1. 1.School of English, Media Studies, and Art History, University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations