IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 427: Selling the Middle Ages/Popular Perceptions of the Middle Ages: Restorations - The Multimedia Past

Monday 9 July 2012, 19.30-20.30

Sponsor:White Rose Consortium, 'Making of Medieval History' Project
Introduction:Graham A. Loud, School of History, University of Leeds
Speaker:Joep T. Leerssen, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Universiteit van Amsterdam
Abstract

The Romantic rediscovery of the medieval past was a complex process that meshed many cultural media and fields, and which involved both popular, demotic culture and topics of high public prestige. It was precisely this quality which gave medievalism its appeal to the generation of Romantic historians, philologists and cultural nationalists; and which also poses a challenge to modern scholars’s capacity for interdisciplinary flexibility and grasp of complex dynamics. Popular culture (fairy tales, sagas, chapbooks) was seen as a sanctuary for the broken heritage of the Age of Chivalry, thus requiring a collaboration between cultural anthropologists and literary historians (‘philologists’ as they then called themselves) as well as creative artists in order to retrieve and ‘bring back to life’ the forgotten medieval past – a ‘restoration’, which was not only textual but also architectural (buildings) and political (nation-states). The role of J. J. Görres (1776-1848) and of romantic artists in the politically significant restorations of the purloined Bibliotheca Palatina, Cologne Cathedral and the Imperial Manor at Goslar will be used by way of illustration.

The ‘Making of Medieval History’ project is funded by the collaboration fund of White Rose Universities Consortium (Leeds, Sheffield and York). The project intends to examine the modern study of the history of the Middle Ages, on a collaborative and international basis. It discusses a number of recent approaches to medieval history; examines different national traditions of medieval historical study (including how this has reflected, and influenced, contemporary politics); and reflects upon the interaction between professional historians and the public imagination of the Middle Ages.