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medievalism


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Enthusiasm for or imitation of the arts and customs of Europe during the Middle Ages—that is, from about the 8th century to the 15th. In literature, this may manifest itself in the use of archaisms, in the choice of medieval settings for narrative works, or more broadly in an ideological attachment to values associated with medieval societies (e.g. chivalry, religious faith, social hierarchy). Antiquarian interest in ballads and other aspects of medieval art grew in the late 18th century, influencing the Gothic novel and the strongly medievalist nostalgia of Romanticism. Medievalism is a significant current in 19th‐century literature from Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe (1819) and Keats's poem ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ (1820) to the prose and verse romances of William Morris. Important works of Victorian social criticism, notably Thomas Carlyle's Past and Present (1843) and John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice (1851–3), contrasted medieval social conditions favourably with those of the modern industrial city. A medievalist is usually a scholar studying some aspect of medieval history or culture. For a fuller account, consult Michael Alexander, Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern Literature (2006).

Subjects: Literature — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).


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