Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Disrupting the Otherness of the Medieval Past"

by J J Cohen

Check out this post by Bavardess, the starting point of which is the decision of the Victoria and Albert Museum to combine its medieval and Renaissance exhibits. Sounds like the museum is enacting something that scholars like James Simpson have been speaking about for quite some time.


Lee Huttner said...


I've posted my thoughts over at (the blog has moved to tumblr). Thanks for posting this; Simpson's playing a major part in the thesis I'm working on, and the med/ren divide has been in the front of my mind for some time. And I've just recalled Brian Stock's great little summary:

The Renaissance invented the Middle Ages in order to define itself; the Enlightenment perpetuated them in order to admire itself; and the Romantics revived them in order to escape from themselves. In their widest ramifications “the Middle Ages” thus constitute one of the most prevalent cultural myths of the modern world.

And that was nearly 14 years ago.

Hope you're having a wonderful holiday!

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks; I wondered why your blog had gone dormant. The Tumblr site offers a beautiful integration of text and image ... but no comments? no RSS feed?

Lee Huttner said...

I know, it's really an experiment/temp site while I get my unfortunately-virus-attacked Google account back on track. I hate the tumblr commenting/feed system, too, but the old blog should be up and rerunning by New Year.

Anonymous said...

Yes - not sure that James Simpson's and the V&A's agenda are that similar.

V&A seems to me to be addressing the very ancient problem of periodisation (that there is no chronological divide or distinction between medieval and renaissance but only overlap), rather than asserting any more emphatic kinds of anachronism. I cannot help but wonder if this is to achieve a certain economy/efficiency in doing this (also increasingly embraced by the term 'pre-modern') by putting everything from 300 - 1600 in the same place - and that the intellectual justification (do they make any?) follows that. This makes perfect sense in the context of the range of its collection as a whole.

It does have a med/ren blog with the title 'past, present, future' which is certainly promising. But all the stuff i have found there and elsewhere on the website so far is of the particularising kind - I cannot find any overviews of the collection as a whole - perhaps I ahve missed something?

wonderful collection - cannot wait to go.

Bavardess said...

A belated thank you for the link - summer holidays coincides with Christmas in my part of the world, so I haven't been online much recently.