Strand Definitions: Medievalism and Reception of the Middle Ages

The study of what could be called the Afterlife of the Middle Ages has been increasingly productive in the past two decades, whether under the title of 'medievalism,' 'reception of the Middle Ages,' or Mittelalterrezeption. Scholars increasingly recognise that alongside research into medieval texts and artefacts themselves, the study of the ways in which the Middle Ages have been constructed and reinvented in the post-medieval centuries is crucial to an understanding of the medieval period. All eras are subject to reinvention - there are neo-Victorianisms as well as neo-classicisms and neo-medievalisms. But it can be argued that the reinvention of the Middle Ages has been culturally more significant in the past two centuries (at least) than that of any other period. The positioning of the Middle Ages as the despised 'other' in the sixteenth century, followed by the period's refashioning as a time of pastoral innocence in the era of industrialism, has meant that we inherit today a complex but conflicted and contradictory notion of the medieval.

This strand is open to papers on all aspects of this process. These can focus on popular-cultural manifestations (film, television, novel, music, art, architecture, social practice) or on the history and development of disciplines within medieval studies. Methodologically, discussions in this strand are interested in the problem raised by disciplinary history: why do we accept some scholarship from the past as part of the discipline's necessary pre-history, and reject the rest as the epiphenomenon, "medievalism"? What is at stake when such exclusions are made? How does disciplinary history matter to us today?