E 392M • Fictions of Medievalism
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
Umberto Eco has said that every generation produces its own version of the Middle Ages. By examining selected works of fiction alongside literary criticism, poetry, visual arts, material culture, historical scholarship, and film, this seminar will explore how the category of 'the medieval' has been constructed (and its imagery activated) in post-medieval settings from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. Special attention will be paid to cultural moments in which the category of the medieval is especially important or volatile (e.g. the Gothic period; Victorian England; late 20th century USA; perhaps Nazi Germany), but the particular interests of seminar members shall help to determine our content directions. (Early contact by prospective course members is therefore desirable, but not requisite.) The professional study of the Middle Ages and of post-medieval representations of this era's history and cultural output are becoming increasingly intertwined. Indeed, the once retrograde discipline of academic medieval studies has begun to break free of its grouchy parochialism, and become more aware of the opportunities that exist for productive interchange with other eras of literary history and cultural study. But if medievalism isn't just for medievalists, we shall also find it necessary to engage the period directly (to the extent this is possible) by examining material actually from, not just about or representing the Middle Ages. What this shall mean in practice is that, while virtually all of our shared texts can be considered "primary" sources, some of them-- the older ones; the medieval literary texts themselves-- are perhaps more primary than others. (Arguments otherwise shall be more than welcome.)
A great many major literary figures have taken a special interest in the medieval period (and its themes, tropes, images) and popular culture has long gone wild for the medieval. This course shall aim to make our investments in imagining and studying the past-- which in every case involves reconstructing a version of it-- more clear. Seminar participants NEED NOT be medieval/early modern specialists, or practicing literary scholars; cross-period, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. Research opportunities will be tailored so as to fit, challenge and extend individual scholarly trajectories, within the context of our shared inquiry.