Affective medievalism

Love, abjection and discontent

Thomas A. Prendergast
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Stephanie Trigg
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This book destabilises the customary disciplinary and epistemological oppositions between medieval studies and modern medievalism. It argues that the twinned concepts of “the medieval” and post-medieval “medievalism” are mutually though unevenly constitutive, not just in the contemporary era, but from the medieval period on. Medieval and medievalist culture share similar concerns about the nature of temporality, and the means by which we approach or “touch” the past, whether through textual or material culture, or the conceptual frames through which we approach those artefacts. Those approaches are often affective ones, often structured around love, abjection and discontent. Medieval writers offer powerful models for the ways in which contemporary desire determines the constitution of the past. This desire can not only connect us with the past but can reconnect present readers with the lost history of what we call the medievalism of the medievals. In other words, to come to terms with the history of the medieval is to understand that it already offers us a model of how to relate to the past. The book ranges across literary and historical texts, but is equally attentive to material culture and its problematic witness to the reality of the historical past.

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‘In their project to legitimize affect in medieval studies, Prendergast and Trigg examine the dialectic between the medieval past and subsequent representations of that past. Their considerations weave a densely learned tapestry.
Studies in the Age of Chaucer
February 2020

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