The argument of this chapter is that certain films with
medieval themes and settings, mostly dating from the 1940s to the 1960s,
demonstrate a surprising affinity with the themes and techniques
associated with film noir . The apocalyptic landscapes of these
films are often bleak mirrors of the empty streets of film noir
and sometimes allude to the sense of impending doom that haunted the
Medieval – Clare Hartwell
By the early nineteenth century, Manchester had already established
itself as a prodigy of industrial and mercantile power; as an unimaginably different future took shape, it was also an age of re-evaluation
of the past. There was growing national interest in native traditions,
as romantic notions of a medieval past were developed in Walter
Scott’s novels, in Romantic poetry, and with the scholarly study
of English medieval architecture. Appreciation of a home-grown
Gothic style was popularised and validated by the decision in
This is the first of a two-volume textbook that is aimed at first-year undergraduates as they begin their study of medieval history. It covers the period from the so-called ‘fall of Rome’ in the course of the fifth century through to the ‘Norman moment’ in the course of the eleventh. The textbook covers the broad geographical area defined by the former Western Roman Empire in an even-handed fashion, giving equal attention to Iberia and to Sicily as to England and to Francia. Each chapter deals with a given region within a defined chronological framework, but is structured thematically, and deliberately avoids a narrative presentation. The topics of governmentality, identity and religiosity serve as broad overarching categories with which to structure each chapter. The authors outline the scholarly debates within each field, explaining to a student audience what is at stake in those debates, and how different bodies of evidence and different interpretations of that evidence give rise to different perspectives upon early medieval European history. Medieval history can seem to the student as if it were an impenetrable thicket of agreed fact that just has to be learned: nothing could be further from the truth, and this textbook sets out to open the way to an engaged understanding of the period and its sources.
is subject, vulnerable in various ways to appropriation and
manipulation’. 4 Memory is a practice common to medieval and to
modern popular culture’s uses of the past: it continually reshapes the
past to answer the shifting questions put to it by the present.
And yet, as David Williams argues, ‘the demand for
authenticity, for the real thing, works subtly in the minds of all
watchers of film’. 5
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.
Even though studies of medieval films include articles,
books and entire conferences, critics tend to be silent on the subject
of music in films about the medieval period, even though music is a
conventional part of narrative cinema. Films use their soundtracks to
engage audiences’ emotional responses, to sell CDs and to provide a
musical counterpoint to the images on screen. This chapter highlights
Medieval film' forces us into a double-take on chronology. This book argues that such a playful confusion of temporalities is a fundamental characteristic not just of the term but also of medieval films themselves. Medieval films reflect on the fact that they make present a past that was never filmable and offer alternatives to chronological conceptions of time. The book examines the contrasting uses, or non-uses, of medieval art objects in two medieval films and assesses how they contribute to the films' overall authenticity-effects. It makes tentative contribution to a list of such characteristics: that the fragmented visual profile of the medieval makes medieval authenticity-effects particularly troublesome to produce. The reliance of film theory on medievalism has never been acknowledged by film scholars. The book shows the ways in which preconceived notions of the Middle Ages filtered into and were influenced by film theory throughout the twentieth century; and to what extent film theory relies on knowledge about the Middle Ages for its basic principles. It explores to what extent medieval film engages with questions of language, and to what extent these engagements may be distinctive. Cinematic medievalism participated in and drew on a wider cultural and political preoccupation with the Middle Ages. Romanticism posited the Middle Ages as an alternative, utopian realm promising creative and political possibility. The book argues that certain films with medieval themes and settings, mostly dating from the 1940s to the 1960s, demonstrate a surprising affinity with the themes and techniques associated with film noir.
Introduction: whose Middle Ages?
The cinema has long ransacked
historical and literary texts for their spectacular appeal to popular
audiences. Medievalism in film is no exception. From the era of silent
film to the present, the Italian cinema, long inclined toward historical
topics, has created versions of the medieval imaginary as popular
entertainment and also as social
This collection and the romances it investigates are crucial to our understanding of the aesthetics of medieval narrative and to the ideologies of gender and sexuality, race, religion, political formations, social class, ethics, morality and national identity with which those narratives emerge.
This book explores, through medieval literature, modern poetry, and theologies both medieval and modern, the ways in which bodies, very much including literary bodies, may become apparent as more than they at first had seemed. Transfiguration, traditionally understood as the revelation of divinity in community, becomes for this book a figure for those splendours, mundane as much as divine, that wait within the read, lived, and loved world. The riddle of the body, which is to say the deep and superficial mystery of its pleasures and complications, invites a kind of patience, as medieval and modern languages reach toward, and break away from, something at their deepest centre and on their barest surface. By bringing together medieval sources with lyric medievalism, this book argues for the porousness of time and flesh. In this way, Augustine, Cassian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dante, Boccaccio, and the heroes of Old French narrative, no more or less than their modern lyric counterparts, come to light in new and newly complicated ways. They become, in a word, transfigured.