The Middle Ages and Popular Culture
Our present imaginations and visualizations of the Middle Ages are not at all consistent. They emerge from varying and shifting social and cultural conditions and appear within specific frames of reception. Thus, scientific discourses are grounded on historical records and are disseminated by official institutions such as universities, academies, scientific publishers, and museums. They stand in sharp contrast to the heterogeneous field of popular discourses and practices including Historical or Fantasy Novels, Graphic Novels, magazines, movies, TV-series, roleplaying/LARP, or medieval(istic) festivals. However, public response to, and social impact of these popular forms of Medievalism generally prevail over academic discourse.
Therefore, the systematic inclusion of popular medievalism in Medieval Studies seems paramount for at least two reasons. The first concerns the liability of popular discourses for ideological malpractice: political messages of high impact are often associated with popular appropriations of medieval themes and topics, e.g. the adoption of fictional characters as historical figures and vice versa. The second reason involves popular medievalism's contributions to cultural self-conception: adaptations and transformations of medieval myths, figures or artifacts lend themselves to alternative concepts of reality and/or identity, thus gaining significance as critical and aesthetical commentary on present conditions.
Analyzing popular discourses of the Middle Ages and making them critically accessible not only enables Medieval Studies to engage with contemporary political issues, but also encourages closer collaboration with other disciplines. The academic book series The Middle Ages and Popular Culture
provides a platform for studies on popular medievalism of all eras.
The series is edited by Robert Schöller
and Hans Rudolf Velten
(managerial responsibility), Michael Dallapiazza
, Judith Klinger
and Matthias Däumer