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New proposals are welcomed. Montoya D. Montoya All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner First published D. Earlier versions of some sections of chapters 2 and 4 appeared in, respectively, he Romanic Review and Studies in Medievalism Koopmans and Nils Holger Petersen.

More substantial sections of chapter 6 have appeared as chapters in he Making of the Humanities, vol.

All remaining errors of fact or judgement, infelicities of expression, or oddities of thinking are, of course, my own. To my department colleagues in Groningen with whom I talked through its ideas, at various stages of elaboration, who commiserated with me and facilitated the writing process itself, and whose questions sometimes provoked entire new chains of thought, I am grateful, especially to Philiep Bossier, Annemie De Gendt, Hub.

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Hermans, and Liesbeth Korthals Altes. A special word of thanks is due to the enthusiastic students of my literature survey course Vroegmodern tot modernistische letteren: Frans, who over the years, by their many questions and insights, have helped me to clarify my ideas and intentions, and to write this book, again in many more ways than they may know themselves.

Finally, I gratefully acknowledge the various audience members at the conferences where I presented my work in progress, whose questions and comments oten helped me to further reine my ideas, but whose names I did not always have the occasion to learn. I would also like to thank the organizers of the annual Conference on Medievalism, which provided a welcome and exceptionally congenial venue for exploring some of the ideas in this book. Introduction P erceptions of medieval literature, far from being a simple matter of philological interest, have historically been fraught with ideological implica- tions.

Indeed, this book does not treat all aspects of medi- eval literature, but focuses primarily on narrative and lyrical texts, i. I do not discuss other kinds of texts, such as chronicles, religious texts and especially medieval theatre,6 on whose reception there is a growing body of work, except in a tangential manner. I contend that medievalist and medieval literature played a vital role in shaping the new genres that lourished in the eighteenth century.

Literary modernity, like its counterpart philosophical modernity, was characterized by an original emphasis on the marginal and by a new equalizing impulse. Introduction 5 on the particular.

Marginalia 69

Love was at the centre of many representations of the medieval, which drew on the memory of chivalric romances. Of course, many of these stances were contradictory and could threaten to cancel each other out, but this polysemic nature and malleability is precisely what made medievalism such a powerful instrument of change. Medievalism, New Medievalism Yet if, as I contend, medievalism was such a powerful force in early eighteenth-century French culture, then why has this phenomenon not been noted before?

First of all, only relatively recently has a critical vocabulary begun to be elaborated in which to talk about the cultural phenomena under discussion here. During the past few dec- ades, a new concept, that of literary medievalism, has been developed, giving rise to a new subield within literary and cultural studies.

In many of these early accounts, medievalism was described prima- rily as a nineteenth- and twentieth-century phenomenon. Only in recent years has the insight grown that there were important precursors, if not altogether diferent forms of proto- medievalism before the advent of romanticism. It also includes diferent degrees of relexivity in the use made of the medieval.


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Contrary to the emphasis in modern medievalist scholarship on cultural revival or rehabilitations of the medi- eval, I explore, too, various forms of what one might term, rather than medievalism proper, anti-medievalism. As such, medievalism was deined by its focus not on the medieval per se, but on its representation, and subsequent appropria- tion, by competing societal groups. Crucially therefore, medievalism as an academic discipline does not concern itself primarily with the authenticity of the phenomena examined. Medievalist cultural arte- facts, practices and texts can loosely recall the medieval without referring to precise historical events or artistic products from that period.

For a discussion of the phenomenon, see Fugelso, Deining Neo-Medievalism s. Introduction 7 Medievalist studies, in other words, see the Middle Ages as a historical construct that needs to be understood with reference to the culturally and historically deter- mined interests of those engaged in studying or imaginatively recreating them.

Studies of cultural memory seek to explain not only how we perceive the past, but also how our view of the past underlies more or less decisive cultural transformations in the present. It will constantly be reorganized by the changing frames of reference of a progressing present. Society does not receive new ideas by replacing its own past for them, but by taking possession of the past of groups other than those which hitherto determined it.

It reconstructs not only the past, but organizes the experience of the present as well as the future. Indeed, one of the problems facing any modern scholar wanting to write critically about medievalism is her own imbededness in a discourse that is inescapably modern. Such vexation either closes the mind, by producing responses of avoidance, or opens the mind, by producing responses of engagement.

In keeping with this circular motion, the book is divided into three parts, which return several times to the same authors and texts, viewing them each time from a slightly diferent perspective. Part II, Reimagining the Medieval, then moves from theory to practice, exploring concrete examples of literary medievalism produced by some of the same authors whose theoretical works were examined in Part I.

At the same time, prevailing eighteenth-century deinitions of the medieval as essentially a literary category meant that considerations of histo- ricity and philology remained intertwined. One of the core assumptions of eighteenth-century scholarship, ever since its inception during the revolutionary era itself, has been that the deepest sources of socio-political transformation and, by extension, the birth of our modern era, can be traced back to the literature of the preceding period.

Within their self-view as secular, progressive thinkers, essentially forwards- rather than backwards-looking, there was little or no place for the medieval. Progressive contempt for the Middle Ages and all they stood for was widespread.

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Cultural studies brought critical attention to bear not only on the canonical authors and genres associated with oi- cially sanctioned movements and categories, but also on non-canonical texts as they related to issues of power and representation. Gender studies, for its part, opened up new perspectives by making scholars aware of hitherto neglected female authors and texts and alternative forms of engagement in literary debate.

Such evidence, of course, belied the commonly held view that eighteenth-century authors had no knowledge of or access to medieval texts. Finally, fragments or looser adaptations of medieval texts appeared in other print venues, including literary journals such as the Mercure galant. Again, this was a genre particularly oten associated with a female readership, suggesting that there was a sense in which the Middle Ages themselves, during the eighteenth century, were gendered female.

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At the same time, the novel of chivalry appeared to be the crucial link relating the cultural production of the Middle Ages themselves to that of the eighteenth century. While book history proved especially fruitful, another strand of cultural studies paid increasing attention to textual artefacts that had, until recently, been considered only marginally textual or literary. What both these genres had in common, apart from their reference to medieval sources and narrative topoi, was the key role they gave to performance and the appeal they made to the senses.

Just as importantly, both opera and fairy tales were inscribed in a series of cultural practices that authors and audiences used in order to deine and, sometimes, legitimize their own participation in the literary ield. I end this central section on literary readings and recreations of the medieval with an exploration of two textual traditions that emphasized erotic love, understood as a medieval quality par excellence.

Professional approaches could in many cases be seen as a reaction to older, char- acteristically aristocratic engagements with the medieval, and carried a political dimension that has, until present, not been fully explored.


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  5. Modern ideas of the medieval as a discrete, closed-of period in history are themselves the product of discussions that took place, during the Enlightenment and at other historical moments, on the meaning and movement of history. I explore how and when authors developed a sense of the otherness of the medieval, and how concepts of the medieval were related to broader relections on history and the possibility of historical progress. Was the medieval, in other words, conceived as such, and if so, what categories did early Enlightenment readers and writ- ers use to describe this epoch and its relation to their own modernity?

    In order to answer this question, we must in turn interrogate our own, twenty- irst-century notions of history. Our modern perception of the medieval as a separate historical period is, essentially, dependent on the idea of historical evolution, as most forcefully conceptualized by nineteenth-century German historism. Imagine now, instead, another view that sees literary history not as a single, linear progression but admits multiple temporalities. In making this argument, I focus in particular on one episode that took place during these decades: the so-called Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes , which opposed defenders of the cultural heritage of Antiquity to those who held that modern culture had deinitively surpassed the Ancients.

    Along with the relections on history of many lesser-known authors, these works shaped new notions of history as a linear movement forwards, even if defenders of the older scheme of cyclical return remained a vocal minority well into the eighteenth century. With this change in meaning, the new, diachronic or progressive model of literary history became the dominant one and remains so until today.

    For the newly theorized separation of past and present implied, too, a view of the Middle Ages as a distinct and closed-of period, an object not of subjective, immediate experience but of detached historical study. How this transformation in historical thought came about has been recounted, among others, by Friedrich Meinecke in his seminal Historism: he Rise of a New Historical Outlook. Historical experience involves, in the irst place, a Gestalt-switch from a timeless present into a world consisting of things past and present.

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    But at the same time historical experience aims at a recovery of the past by transcending again the barriers between past and present. Because of its otherness, the past needs to be understood according to its own historically embedded system of beliefs, values and cultural prac- tices. But this sense of the past, as argued by Meinecke and Ankersmit, was itself a historical construct, the product of a historical development. However, later scholarship has proposed that Voltaire and Montesquieu should perhaps be viewed more as the continuators of a much longer tradition of humanistic scholarship than as the initiators of a truly original line of thought.

    In these works, humanist scholars developed new ways of looking at history not as the fulilment of divine providence but as the rise of human civilization, emphasizing not permanence but change, not universality but particularism. Signiicantly, all of these scholars came to their innovative stance on history through an interest in the Middle Ages.