Medievalism: a Critical History

Medievalism: a Critical History

David Matthews

Personal eBook




An accessibly-written survey of the origins and growth of the discipline of medievalism studies.
The field known as "medievalism studies" concerns the life of the Middle Ages after the Middle Ages. Originating some thirty years ago, it examines reinventions and reworkings of the medieval from the Reformation to postmodernity, from Bale and Leland to HBO's Game of Thrones. But what exactly is it? An offshoot of medieval studies? A version of reception studies? Or a new form of cultural studies? Can such a diverse field claim coherence? Should it be housed in departments of English, or History, or should it always be interdisciplinary?
In responding to such questions, the author traces the history of medievalism from its earliest appearances in the sixteenth century to the present day, across a range of examples drawn from the spheres of literature, art, architecture, music and more. He identifies two major modes, the grotesque and the romantic, and focuses on key phases of the development of medievalism in Europe: the Reformation, the late eighteenth century, and above all the period between 1815 and 1850, which, he argues, represents the zenith of medievalist cultural production. He also contends that the 1840s were medievalism's one moment of canonicity in several European cultures at once. After that, medievalism became a minority form, rarely marked with cultural prestige, though always pervasive and influential.
Medievalism: a Critical History scrutinises several key categories - space, time, and selfhood - and traces the impact of medievalism on each. It will be the essential guide to a complex and still evolving field of inquiry.

David Matthews is Professor of Medieval and Medievalism Studies at the University of Manchester.


13 black and white illustrations
229 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Personal eBook, 9781782043980, January 2015
Hardback, 9781843843924, January 2015
Paperback, 9781843844549, March 2017
Library eBook
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004130, SOC022000
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

How Many Middle Ages?
"Welcome to the Current Middle Ages": Asynchronous Medievalism
This Way to the Middle Ages: The Spaces of Medievalism
On Being Medieval: Medievalist Selves and Societies
Wemmick's Castle: The Limits of Medievalism
Realism in the Crypt: The Reach of Medievalism
Conclusion: Against a Synthesis: Medievalism, Cultural Studies, and Antidisciplinarity
Appendix I: The Survey of Reenactors
Appendix II: Key Moments in Medievalism


Matthews' account of the history and contemporary status of medievalism is both highly readable (he is an elegant stylist) and frequently provocative. . . . (He) offers a fresh overview and compelling meta-commentary on the history and practice of medievalism, focusing on its uneasy relationship with medieval studies. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

In his well-researched book, Medievalism: A Critical History, David Matthews provides a foundational study for the multidisciplinary field of medievalism studies. MEDIEVALLY SPEAKING

Tracing the history of medievalism from the 16th century to today, the author closely examines significant phases in the development of medievalism studies, paying special attention to the period between 1815 and 1850, which he cogently argues was the apogee of medievalism in European popular culture, and provides the foundation for the relationship between medievalism and medieval studies. Recommended. CHOICE

Author Bio

Senior lecturer in Middle English literature and Culture, University of Manchester.

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