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Medievalism and Excluded Middles

from I - Defining Medievalism(s) II: Some More Perspective(s)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Nickolas Haydock
Affiliation:
University of Puerto Rico
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Summary

In an uncharacteristic breach of Aristotelian ordo, Umberto Eco remarked that before we can speak about medievalism we have the “cultural duty” first to specify what kind of medievalism we're talking about. Of course this puts the cart in front of the horse, the species ahead of the genus: before we identify sub-categories of medievalism we first need to define medievalism itself – something Eco's famous essay “Dreaming of the Middle Ages” never does. Without delimiting the genus we run the risk – as indeed has tended to occur, in part because of the popularity of Eco's piece – of multiplying subcategories willy-nilly and failing to exclude what doesn't fit within the general definition or neglecting to revise this definition to bring wayward sub-categories into the fold. For me, central to any definition of medievalism should be the concepts of alterity and continuity, each the product of a complex array of contingencies. Such contingencies include medium and genre-specific influences (e.g., the historical novel or action-adventure films, church ornaments or popular music), as well as those contingencies brought to bear by the particular time, place, and situation of a maker and particular audiences. Indeed, adjectives or substantives qualifying the noun medievalism offered as sub-categories often represent attempts to identify just such contingencies: romantic medievalism, futurist, New Age, or postmodern medievalism, Spenserian medievalism, the medievalism of Alfred Lord Tennyson or T. S. Eliot, J. R. R. Tolkien or Seamus Heaney.

Type
Chapter
Information
Studies in Medievalism XVIII
Defining Medievalism(s) II
, pp. 17 - 30
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2009

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