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2.4 - From Romantic Gothic to Victorian Medievalism: 1817 and 1877

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2020

Catherine Spooner
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Dale Townshend
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
Angela Wright
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
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Summary

This chapter discusses the continuities and contrasts between ‘Romantic Gothic’ and ‘Victorian medievalism’, focusing on the figures of Robert Southey and William Morris. Bringing together the perspectives developed in Morris’s conservationist activities with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and his utopian romance, and Southey’s ‘black letter’ works of 1817, it argues for the early and late nineteenth-century presence of an alternative ‘history of the Gothic’. This is Gothic as what Morris called a ‘style historic’, articulated either side of the 1840s and the rise of historicism in architecture and ‘medievalism’ in literature. Where Morris ultimately chose a harder-edged Nordic ‘Gothic’ over the ‘maundering medievalism’ of Tennyson and Rossetti, Southey consistently avoided the category, despite being present at its inception with his review of the 1817 work in which the word ‘medieval’ first appeared. Revising received critical and semantic histories of ‘Gothic’ being subsumed by the medieval, the chapter explores the articulation and the ongoing significance of a more granular, aphasic and rhizomatic approach to the art and culture of the Middle Ages.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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