University of Rochester

EVENT: Even the Sheriff of Nottingham Can't Stop Robin Hood from Reappearing

September 22, 2009

Conference at Rochester Looks at Timeless Hero's Status as a Creature of the Media

The hero of Sherwood Forest is one of the best-known outlaws in history for launching attacks on the wealthy and the wicked in order to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Despite the fact that his origins are unknown, he has no authorized biography, and even scholars continue to debate whether or not he is real, Robin Hood continues to reappear, transformed by the media that present him, and gaining the attention of both popular culture and the International Association for Robin Hood Studies Seventh Biennial Conference.

"Every generation gets the Robin Hood they want and the Robin Hood they deserve," says Thomas Hahn, professor of English and the organizer of "Robin Hood: Media Creature," a conference that will examine the ways in which the outlaw hero has been reshaped over the past 700 years. Beginning Thursday, Oct. 22 on the River Campus, scholars and fans will take a 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" will include the 21st century World Premier of Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, a newly restored print of the 1922 film, which will be screened before an audience of 500 at the historic Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House. Accompanying the film will be a live 11-piece orchestra, playing a newly reconstructed score. "The showing will duplicate the experience of audiences who attended the Hollywood premier, and those in the early 20th century movie palaces," notes Hahn, explaining the film was shown once before at the Eastman Theatre, back in 1923.

The print was restored by the Museum of Modern Art and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. Contributors to the conference's unique nature and array of events includes the Strong National Museum of Play, the University's Eastman School of Music, Rossell Hope Robbins Library, and a number of private Robin Hood collectors in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Rochester.

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 than10 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!"

The four-day conference will take place Oct. 22 to 25 at the University of Rochester and many of the events are free and open to the public. For details, visit or e-mail

Highlights of "Robin Hood: Media Creature" include:
The Americanization of Robin Hood, 1883-1923
Rare Books and Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library

An exhibition of Robin Hood-related materials, ranging from the 18th to 21st centuries in all media, selected from thousands of items in paper media, film and TV recordings, musical recordings, a selection of previously un-exhibited photographs and other artifacts. The exhibition traces the development of the American images of Robin Hood deemed responsible for changing the outlaw's status in international popular culture.

"An Impression of the Middle Ages": Production Stills from Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood
Rare Books and Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library
A major exhibition drawing upon an archive of nearly 100 negatives at the George Eastman House, most never exhibited or examined. The display will also include original posters, lobby cards, and the boots that Fairbanks wore in the film.

Operetta in Performance: An Evening of Songs and Arias
Thursday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., Interfaith Chapel

Steven Daigle (Chair, Strings, Eastman School of Music, and Artistic Director, Ohio Light Opera) has organized an evening of arias and songs from Robin Hood musicals, spanning the 18th to the 20th centuries. This presentation will feature musicians and singers from the Ohio Light Opera, as well as faculty and students from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester.

Concert of Early Lute Music

Grammy-Award winner Paul O'Dette (Eastman School of Music faculty) will offer a recital of Elizabethan Greenwood and Robin Hood-related lute music, drawing upon the repertoire he established in albums including: Robin is to the Greenwood Gone (1992) and Robin Hood: Elizabethan Ballad Settings (2001).

East Coast Premier of Robin Hood (Éclair America, 1912)
Friday, Oct. 23, 9 p.m., Strong Auditorium
The earliest surviving film featuring Robin Hood, in a recently restored print from the Fort Lee Film Commission. To date, it has been shown only once in Los Angeles. Solo musical accompaniment by Dr. Philip C. Carli, renowned film expert and musicologist who has accompanied silent films at the Pordenone Festival in Italy, and elsewhere in Europe and North America.

Twenty-First Century World Premier of Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (United Artists, 1922)
Live orchestral accompaniment with Gillian Anderson
Saturday, Oct. 24, 8 p.m., Dryden Theatre

A new 35mm tinted print, restored by the Museum of Modern Art and George Eastman House/ International Museum of Film and Photography, will be screened before an audience of 500 at the Dryden Theatre, George Eastman House.

Gillian Anderson, renowned musicologist and film expert will conduct a live orchestra playing the newly reconstructed score of Robin Hood. The showing will duplicate the experience of audiences who attended the first-ever Hollywood premier, and those in the early 20th century movie palaces, will be instructed by Dr. Patrick Loughney, Head, National Audio Visual Conservation Center, Library of Congress (Packard Campus).

Plenary speakers include:

Professor Helen Phillips
Phillips is a professor at Cardiff University, one of Britain's major teaching and research universities. She is also the author of numerous books, including: Robin Hood: Medieval and Post-Medieval (2005) and Bandit Territories: British Outlaws and their Traditions (2008).

Gillian Anderson
The internationally renowned composer, conductor and musicologist, has participated in the reconstruction and performance of 34 orchestral scores from silent films. In addition, she is an author and founding editor of the new journal, Music and the Moving.