Visions and ruins

Cultural memory and the untimely Middle Ages

Author: Joshua Davies

This book is a study of cultural memory in and of the British Middle Ages. It works with material drawn from across the medieval period – in Old English, Middle English and Latin, as well as material and visual culture – and explores modern translations, reworkings and appropriations of these texts to examine how images of the past have been created, adapted and shared. It interrogates how cultural memory formed, and was formed by, social identities in the Middle Ages and how ideas about the past intersected with ideas about the present and future. It also examines how the presence of the Middle Ages has been felt, understood and perpetuated in modernity and the cultural possibilities and transformations this has generated. The Middle Ages encountered in this book is a site of cultural potential, a means of imagining the future as well as imaging the past.

The scope of this book is defined by the duration of cultural forms rather than traditional habits of historical periodization and it seeks to reveal connections across time, place and media to explore the temporal complexities of cultural production and subject formation. It reveals a transtemporal and transnational archive of the modern Middle Ages.

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‘…a timely contribution to current debates about the relevance of the Middle Ages to contemporary political discourse. It is a thoughtful and meditative rumination on the various ways that the idea of medievalism functions within modernity, ranging from the dark underbelly of right-wing nationalism, which co-opts the medieval as a singular site of originary ethnicity, to the hopeful, almost utopian work of contemporary artists, who deploy an atemporal medievalism to bridge the difference between multiple pasts, presents, and futures.
Speculum

‘this is an engaging book written by a scholar who is immersed in the languages of his texts, the history of his monuments, the scholarship on them, and has managed to produce a book that offers something new to Medieval Studies while also being accessible to a range of audiences, if they are up to the task.
The Medieval Review

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