The Middle Ages in the 20th/21st Century Imagination

For this week’s readings on The Middle Ages in the 20th and 21st Century Imagination the idea of historical misrepresentation for specific agendas is at focus. Throughout the readings, it was made clear that specific fragments of medieval history have been taken by groups and used to back claims and promote unity between certain people. Unfortunately, groups would find their unity through “othering” themselves from those they felt did not belong. In Amy Kaufman’s article this is made abundantly clear through the Ku Klux Klan’s pathetic attempt to undue social advances, during a time when men felt their social positions being threatened, and bring back a revisionist ideal of the white patriarchal Middle Ages. Furthermore, this manipulation of history from the Middle Ages that focused on a warped sense of chivalry and the protection of the white women’s virtue united both white men and white women and pitted them against those fighting for better social rights. Similarly, Patrick Geary, in both his podcast and article, discussed European nationalism and the teleological approach that has been taken in the past two centuries to explain nation building through a defined history. This relates back to medievalism, as sources have been cherry picked from the medieval period in order to validate claims to long-standing nationhood. Subsequently, these readings left me wondering whether or not those who rely on revisionist medieval histories look at history from a positivist perspective, or if that approached is beginning to disappear as suggested by Geary. From Kaufman’s article, this does not seem to be the case as the Ku Klux Klan held nostalgia toward the past, but with Geary I was left feeling as though European nations were building off of seemingly false past. I was also wondering whether or not those who were revising histories were doing so in order to fight back against reality through emulating traits seen more in medieval fantasy books rather than those of real life. In all, these readings bring to light the use and abuse of the history of The Middle Ages and the manipulation done in order to serve an agenda.

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