14 January, 2016

Recent review of David Matthews' Medievalism: A Critical History published in Arthuriana

From: Arthuriana, Volume 25, Number 4, Winter 2015, pp. 118-119:

The subject of medievalism has resisted easy categorization and definition for several reasons. As a practice, it could be said to begin with a self-fashioning Italian Renaissance, followed by an anti-Catholic European Reformation, and so on. As a term, it is tangled up with the specific national reception of the Middle Ages in early nineteenth-century Britain, where it emerges, together with ‘conservatism,’ in part as a continuist reaction against revolutionary continental movements and their terminological ambassadors like ‘democratism,’ ‘republicanism,’ ‘socialism,’ ‘communism,’ and ‘feminism.’ When the modern university includes the study of the medieval past, the new professional medievalists exteriorize the term to denote non-academic amateurs, bibliomaniacs, dilettantes, and enthusiasts who had dominated work on medieval culture during the Enlightenment. Endowed by their societies to investigate the Middle Ages scientifically, they establish an exclusively academic ‘Medieval Studies.’ Then, in the 1970s, medievalism studies (‘Mittelalter-Rezeption’) gradually claims space at academic conferences, often sustained by academic movements (reception study; women’s studies; cultural studies; postmodernism) also challenging traditional paradigms. The so-called ‘New Medievalism’ or ‘New Philology,’ and ‘Neomedievalism’ (a term used in politics as well as in cultural studies) complicate things even more, as do various other terminological and national variants (for example: ‘Mediävistik’ vs. ‘Mediävalismus;’ ‘médiévisme’ and ‘études médiévales’ vs. ‘médiévalisme’).

David Matthews is unfazed by these complex issues, but tackles them, as well as their various interconnections, one by one, relying not only on his deep familiarity with existing scholarship, but also on his original research especially into the intricate semantic and cultural history of the family of terms surrounding ‘medievalism.’…. READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE