What Is Medievalism?


The Romantic poets felt an attraction for the mystery and supernaturalism associated with the Middle Ages which were integrally related to an aura of romance. Coleridge, Scott, and Keats were particularly interested in medievalism and romanticism associated with it. The element of supernaturalism has been brilliantly handled by Coleridge in 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Christabel' and by Keats in 'La Belle Dame sans Merci'. The essentially medieval setting and ambiance created by Keats in 'La Belle' are direct reflections of Keats' love for the remote and unfamiliar. At its root lay a refusal to `restrict cultivated interest within the bounds of the eighteenth century's defined boundaries of civilization, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

See also: What is Hellenism?

An interest in the middle ages had earlier become the fashion, with the Gothic novels of Horace Walpole, Mrs. Radcliffe, and others. The later period avoided the earlier extravagances of fantasy and showed a more intelligent interest in the imaginative reconstruction of history. This resulted in such serious revival like Bishop Thomas Percy's 'Reliques of Ancient English Poetry' and also in such revivals like Chatterton's pseudo-medieval 'Rowley Poems', or James Macpherson's pseudo-Gaelic 'Ossian'. While the interest in the past gives us the wonderful ambiance of Keats's 'The Eve of St. Agnes' and adds a depth of complexity to Coleridge's 'Christabel', its chief achievement was to be the historical novels of Walter Scott's imaginative understanding of the process of history would contribute a history-mindedness which would be a great boon to subsequent historical studies.

Source: NSOU

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