Dilapidated thirteenth-century walls as a playscape for today’s children, medieval relics made as fetish objects for twenty-first century enthusiasts, tourism at “the birthplace of...

Dilapidated thirteenth-century walls as a playscape for today’s children, medieval relics made as fetish objects for twenty-first century enthusiasts, tourism at “the birthplace of King Arthur,” Harry Potter’s pageantry, Game of Thrones‘ swordplay, the Renaissance Faire, York’s mystery plays, America’s jousts, and Chaucer translated into a panoply languages: the European medieval endures in the global postmodern. In Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture (Bloomsbury Academic; Hardcover 2015, Paperback 2017), Gail Ashton collects the work of 29 scholars studying the ongoing power and pleasure to be found in the ways that we resuscitate and remix remnants of the medieval world. This wide-ranging introduction to the study of contemporary medievalisms engages the questions of authority in interpretation, authenticity in translation and adaptation, and the accessibility of the past that inhere in the many ways that we engage the middle ages in the twenty-first century.

Do we think of the medieval, medievalism, and medievalists as a great premodern Other, or do we recognize within the medieval the roots and rhythms of speech and performance that still live in our own time and in our own tongues? How do we arrive at our ideas of the medieval, at the cultural markers we recognize as our own or as someone else’s based on time and distance? What does our ongoing reinterpretation of what makes something “medieval” reveal about how we produce and consume texts, create an identity based on historical claims, and come to feel that we belong to a community with a shared past? Through Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture, Gail Ashton and the scholars that have contributed to this collection invite readers, writers, researchers, and educators to engage these questions by looking at our shared life today through the various ways that we play and replay a medieval past as a present to ourselves.


Carl Nellis is an academic editor and writing instructor working north of Boston, where he researches contemporary American community formation around appropriations of medieval European culture. You can learn more about Carl’s work at carlnellis.wordpress.com.

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