Friday, August 01, 2008

Trigg and Prendergast on Medievalism

by J J Cohen

From Humanities Researcher, a preview of an important new essay on medievalism, presentism, and all those temporal -isms we salivate over here at ITM:

We talk about the opposition between medieval studies and medievalism studies, and argue that medieval studies often abjects the latter as involving too much pleasure to be taken seriously. The real "work" belongs to medieval studies proper. "Contemporary medievalism is now tarred by the same brush that in conservative circles continues to dismiss cultural studies as mere chat about television, cinema and the Internet; that is the accusation that there is too much pleasure, too little work in its study." We also suggest that while the opposition between the medieval and the post-medieval is a crucial component in the formation of the modern subject "who thus emerges as capable of both forgetting and remembering the past," this dynamic also characterises the relationship medieval men and women had with their own past; that the medieval is just as often medievalising, as it is not. That is, that the opposition between medieval and post-medieval, medievalist or even, we might say, the non-medieval, is never as crystalline as the strictest medieval scholars might like to maintain. That in fact, the medieval is always being made, by medieval scholars, as well as by popularising medievalists.

And, what's more ... the essay is followed by a response from Carolyn Dinshaw, which in part takes up some of her paper given at the New York NCS, on Rip van Winkle, engaging with the pleasure of this text, and its "temporal heterogeneity", courting the dangerous threats to one's professional identity as a medieval scholar that might ensue from engaging with popular fiction. What's not to like about that?

Read the whole essay in New Medieval Literatures (volume 9, for 2007).

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