Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 September 2012
Today's fascination with the Middle Ages is usually attributed to Romanticism. This, however, is true only in that Romanticism marked a peak of interest in the period; the Romantics largely misunderstood the Middle Ages, and one may as well situate the crucial moment for the revival of medieval studies in the eighteenth century, when serious scholarly work on the Middle Ages began, or at the end of the nineteenth century, when scholars brought to fruition the erudition and methodology developed during the previous century. Or, as I would like to do here, one may place it still later, in the 1920s and 1930s, two decades during which our vision of the Middle Ages went through a decisive reevaluation. In this article I would like to trace a possible approach to the study of our combined representations of the Middle Ages and its literature, particularly in France, during the years between the World Wars, in order to try to show how our current vision of the Middle Ages largely depends on what happened during these important years. In order to do this, I will start with a short text dating from the very end of this period, a text that seems to me emblematic of the author's assumption that his audience is familiar with the Middle Ages. The passage also reveals a certain number of automatic responses on the part of his audience linked to the use of such a reference.