Knight, Stephen Thomas
Knight, Stephen Thomas
PERSONAL: Male. Education: Oxford University, M.A.; Sydney University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Office—Cardiff School of English, Communication, and Philosophy, Humanities Bldg., Colum Dr., Cardiff CF10 3EU, Wales. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Robert Wallace professor of English, 1987–92; Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, professor of English literature.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mythopoeic Award, 2005, for Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography.
Rymyng Craftily: Meaning in Chaucer's Poetry, Angus & Robertson (London, England), 1973.
(Editor, with Don Anderson) Cunning Exiles: Studies of Modern Prose Writers, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1974.
(Editor, with Michael Wilding) The Radical Reader, Wild & Woolley (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1977.
Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1980.
(Editor, with S.N. Mukherjee) Words and Worlds: Studies in the Social Role of Verbal Culture, Sydney Association for Studies in Society and Culture (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1983.
Arthurian Literature and Society, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor) Dead Witness: Best Australian Mystery Stories, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1989.
The Selling of the Australian Mind: From First Fleet to Third Mercedes, W. Heinemann Australia (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1990.
(Editor) More Crimes for a Summer Christmas, Allen & Unwin (North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1991.
(Editor) A Corpse at the Opera House: A Crimes for a Summer Christmas Anthology, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1992.
(Editor) Murder at Home: A Crimes for a Summer Christmas Anthology, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1993.
Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, B. Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Freedom Was Compulsory (history), Minerva (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1994.
Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction, Melbourne University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1997.
(Editor, with Thomas Ohlgren) Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI), 1997, second edition, 2000.
(Editor) Robin Hood: The Forresters Manuscript, D.S. Brewer (Rochester, NY), 1998.
(Editor, with H. Gustav Klaus) The Art of Murder: New Essays on Detective Fiction, Stauffenburg (Tübingen, Germany), 1998.
(Editor) Robin Hood: An Anthology of Scholarship and Criticism, D.S. Brewer (Rochester, NY), 1999.
(Editor, with H. Gustav Klaus) British Industrial Fictions, University of Wales Press (Cardiff, Wales), 2000.
Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2003.
Crime Fiction, 1800–2000: Detection, Death, Diversity, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Stephen Thomas Knight is an English literature professor who has written on subjects ranging from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and the legend of King Arthur to modern crime fiction. However, one of the subjects for which he is most noted—and on which many consider him to be an authority—is the legend of Robin Hood. Although some scholars have spent considerable time speculating whether or not the noble robber and his merry men were based on actual people living in medieval England, Knight considers such pursuits a waste of time. Instead, he is fascinated with the literature, music, poetry, films, and oral traditions that have evolved over the centuries and have, in turn, molded the mythical Robin Hood into various archetypes. Knight has compiled and edited several books about Robin Hood, as well as editing a recently discovered manuscript of verses known to scholars as the "Forresters Manuscript." He has also written his own studies of the subject, including Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw and Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography.
In his books, Knight discusses the various versions of the Robin Hood myth, which originated sometime in the Middle Ages and lives on today in English and American culture, most recently in the form of numerous Hollywood films. Originally, notes Knight, the figure of Robin Hood was that of a bandit of ordinary birth living in the forest with his gang. The clever Robin was a kind of "social bandit" who resisted authority in entertaining and exciting ways. Later, in the Elizabethan era, Robin was made a nobleman, the earl of Huntington, who lost his estates unjustly and survived in the forest until he regained his rightful lands. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the character of Robin was still endowed with noble birth but became a radical fighter against the Normans who had taken over Saxon lands. "The common element in all versions of Robin Hood is identified as 'principled resistance to wrongful authority,'" Stephen R. Reimer related in a Canadian Journal of History review of Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography.
Interestingly, over the twentieth century, the story of Robin Hood has become more popular in the United States than in England, especially in film and children's literature. In an interview with Allen W. Wright on BoldOutlaw.com, Knight suggested two reasons for Robin's popularity in America. First, the time and place are more exotic to Americans than they are to the British and thus more appealing. "But I also think the American Robin Hood has in some way absorbed the frontier myth," commented Knight. "The lone cowboy, the private eye figure, the Natty Bumppo figure somehow belongs to Robin Hood."
Many critics have lauded the research and writing in Knight's books. For example, in a Medium Aevum review of Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, John Scattergood wrote that "Knight is particularly good … at showing the way in which political and social considerations at any particular period shaped the ideology of the hero." The critic added, "This is a lightly written but highly informative book by one of the foremost experts on the subject of Robin Hood." In a review of Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Journal of English and Germanic Philology contributor Timothy S. Jones noted that "Knight's range of research is both very broad and very thorough, touching upon even the briefest incarnations of the outlaw, and his bibliography of texts concerning Robin Hood is a valuable resource."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Journal of History, August, 2004, Stephen R. Reimer, review of Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, p. 438.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, January, 1997, Timothy S. Jones, review of Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, p. 114.
Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Isabel Coates, review of Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, p. 132.
Medium Aevum, spring, 2000, Richard Firth Green, reviews of Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw and Robin Hood: The Forresters Manuscript, British Library Additional MS 71158, p. 142; fall, 2004, John Scattergood, review of Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, p. 341.
Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1994, review of Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, p. 50.
Review of English Studies, February, 1997, Elizabeth Archibald, review of Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, p. 87.
BoldOutlaw.com, http://www.boldoutlaw.com/ (November 27, 2005), Allen W. Wright, interview with Stephen Thomas Knight.