PUBLIC TALK: Medieval War in Modern Memory
A public lecture by Professor Andrew Lynch, Director, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence of the History of Emotions, The University of Western Australia.
War is perhaps the predominant theme in what is called 'medievalism' – the imaginative reception and reconstruction of the medieval period in modernity – but with ambivalent effects. While war has been central to many positive evocations of the medieval past, it has also served as an image of regressive barbarism: recent military atrocities, such as in the 1990s conflicts in former Yugoslavia, are readily described as 'medieval'; on the other hand, the Gulf War of 1990-91 was positively branded as a 'crusade' by its proponents.
This talk will take up various possibilities of providing this perceived contradiction in modern cultural memory with a genealogy. One way is to invoke the long-term side-effects of the subjection of medieval intellectual and religious practices to humanist, Reformation and Enlightenment attacks, and the related nature of cultural defences of the medieval against such attacks: the glory of war (often symbolically adapted) became an important but sometimes fragile element of continuity and respectability allowed to the middle ages. Another way is to trace the use of medieval military history, chronicle and romance in Romantic medievalism and nationalist image-building, causing an identification of the middle ages with militarism which was later negatively reconfigured. A third method examines how literature, film and other cultural products have treated war in their demarcation of the medieval from the period in relation to modernity. In investigating these matters, this illustrated talk ranges selectively from the immediate post-medieval period to the present day, but with an emphasis on the period 1800-2000, and will attempt to analyse some long-term trends in the discourse of war in both high-culture and popular medievalism.
This lecture is part of the 'What's new in the Medieval?' Lecture Series, presented by the Institute of Advanced Studies and the ARC Centre of Excellence of the History of Emotions.
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