Taming the Fairy Tale: Performing Affective Medievalism in Fantasyland

  • Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy


Within Disneyland—a space which already appeals to fantasy and imagination—Fantasyland stands out as simultaneously familiar and exotic, a space created in the recognizable idiom of childhood fairy tales, but one in which those same fairy tales are spaces to be explored as representative of a time and place very different from our own. This chapter argues that Fantasyland reframes medieval European stories in recognizably American idioms, reflecting the influence of the American Dream narrative. Gutierrez-Dennehy argues that Disney’s Fantasyland idealizes economic success, intertwining the company’s medieval ideal with images of middle-class whiteness. Thus, by inserting the values of Middle Class America into the European Middle Ages, Disneyland creates the past in the image of the present. Gutierrez-Dennehy coins the term “affective medievalism” to argue that Disneyland’s use of rigid narrative structures in a space ostensibly meant for visitor exploration works to shut down the pluralism with which the twenty-first century has otherwise characterized the Middle Ages.


Disneyland Fantasyland Medieval Medievalism Class Affect Affective medievalism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy
    • 1
  1. 1.Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA

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