IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 1007: 20th-Century Medievalism: Music, Architecture, Poetry

Wednesday 9 July 2008, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Thomas Prendergast, Department of English, College of Wooster, Ohio
Paper 1007-aForm, Function, and the Middle Ages: The Medieval Trace in Modern Architecture
(Language: English)
John Ganim, Department of English, University of California, Riverside
Index terms: Architecture - General, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1007-bMake It Medieval!: Ezra Pound's Vanguardist Retrospections
(Language: English)
Larry Scanlon, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Jersey
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1007-cExotic Sexualities: Masculine Voices in the Post-World War II Medieval Music Revival
(Language: English)
Helen B. M. Dell, Department of English, University of Melbourne
Index terms: Gender Studies, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Music, Sexuality

Paper -a:
Despite the interest in historical revivals and period style occasioned by the development of postmodern architecture, the use of medieval design and motifs is suprisingly rare in the practice of postmodern architects. This may be because medieval architecture, especially, but not only the Gothic, had a privileged place in modern architectural theory. In reacting against modernism, postmodern architects also, perhaps accidentally, devalued the Gothic. Medieval themes have, however, formed a leitmotif in the work of architects who, in the complex taxonomy of recent architectural history, have been classified as ‘late modern’, ‘neo-modern’, or ‘constructivist’. With the revival of modernism itself in recent years, its debt to medievalism requires reconsideration.
Paper -b:
This paper takes up Ezra Pound’s life-long fascination with medieval poetry. Using Hugh Selwyn Mauberly as my leading example, I read this fascination as symptomatic of a structural dilemma afflicting all movements of the modern avant garde. Because such movements focus all their desires on a radical break with the past, they are forever haunted by a question they barely recognize: what to preserve. I argue that Pound, in spite of his profoundly reactionary politics and other intellectual oddities, recognized this problem and sought a solution for it in his model of the Middle Ages, in particular in this poem by struggling with the poetics of laureation.
Paper -c:
The idea of the ‘medieval’ has often exercised a powerful hold over the imagination of late 20th-century readers, viewers, and listeners, functioning as an escape route to an exotic and sometimes transgressive fantasy world. A number of medieval music recordings have sustained the fantasy with a variety of musical strategies. Some of these strategies play with the sexual implications of vocal register and timbre.

One of the most successful has been the use of the counter-tenor voice with its connotations of sexual ambiguity and of mysterious and forbidden sexual knowledge, power and enjoyment. One instance is the Boston Camarata’s Tristan and Iseult. Here the role of Tristan is given to a luscious counter-tenor, while the cuckolded King Mark is a harsh, unrefined baritone. Alternative masculinities include the ‘jolly’ or the aggressive, ‘alpha’ baritone and the pained, sexless tenor. My paper explores the fantasies of medieval masculinity implied in these vocal characterizations.