Medieval War in Modern Memory
A public lecture by Professor Andrew Lynch, Director, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for 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 took 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 ranged 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.
Andrew Lynch is a Professor in English and Cultural Studies at UWA, and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800. He has written extensively on war in medieval and modern medievalist literature and culture. His recent publications include Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literature (Palgrave, 2015), with Stephanie Downes and Katrina O’Loughlin, and Understanding Emotions in Early Europe (Brepols, 2015), with Michael Champion. He is a contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Medievalism (Cambridge, 2016) and The Middle Ages in the Modern World: Twenty-first-century Perspectives (Proceedings of the British Academy, 2016).
This lecture was part of the 'What's new in the Medieval?' Lecture Series, presented by the Institute of Advanced Studies and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.
What’s New in the Medieval?
This 2016 Lecture Series featured an exciting exploration of cutting-edge research about the medieval period by leading researchers associated with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. These special lectures explored the compelling histories of warfare, tolerance, freedom and gender – topics as charged and contentious then as they remain today.
Series chair: Professor Susan Broomhall, Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Honorary Chief Investigator, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, UWA
Lectures in the series:
11 May: The Limits of Tolerance: arguments for and against religious violence in the high Middle Ages - Michael Barbezat, Postdoctoral Fellow, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, UWA
23 August: The Use of the Term “freedom” in Diplomatic discourse of the Renaissance Dubrovnik - Valentina Zovko, Australian Government Endeavour Fellow, based at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, UWA
11 Oct: Histories of gender, families and children: what do we still want to know? - Stephanie Tarbin, School of Humanities and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, UWA