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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: March 2021

Preface

Summary

Selecting a timely theme for a volume to be published eighteen months later often requires considerable prescience, not to mention a little serendipity. But that was not the case with this installment of Studies in Medievalism. Indeed, this volume could hardly have been dedicated to anything other than political medievalism (studies), for its predecessor had far more accepted submissions on that subject than would fit into a single volume.

This volume therefore echoed its predecessor in calling for essays that build on particular examples of medievalism to address the following, larger questions:

How exactly have professional and amateur politicians misconstrued, mangled, and manipulated the Middle Ages and to what end? How have politics influenced the development of medievalism and/or study of it? In what sense, if any, is it possible to have medievalism (studies) without politics? How might medievalism otherwise be deployed in professional or amateur politics?

And judging from the fact that this call for papers joined its predecessor in attracting an extraordinarily large number of responses, there can be little doubt that its theme has enduring resonance for contemporary scholars.

Indeed, given the current state of academic, national, and global affairs, the wonder may be that scholars of medievalism are writing about anything besides politics. Since the 2008 recession, populists have severely tested and often overturned the established political order in many regions, frequently with disastrous consequences for liberal values and their defenders. That, in turn, has often led to a backlash, particularly by academics and other intellectuals who have recently seen their priorities, funding, and sometimes entire institutions devastated by the opposition. And emotions on both sides are now being exacerbated by a global pandemic, authoritarian crackdowns, and other demonstrations of the many divisions between and within that larger polarity.

Amid past crises of such magnitude, many people found refuge in a halcyonic, often highly imaginary vision of the Middle Ages. But with ever-expanding knowledge of that era and with the growth of self-awareness and skeptical postmodern perspectives, such retreats have been more challenging and often displaced by a tendency to find medieval parallels for contemporary problems.