The Middle Ages in Modern England

Michael Alexander

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The style of the medieval period, which flows through the bloodstream of western culture, was vigorously re-established in post-Enlightenment England. This one-volume history of the Medieval Revival is the first coherent account of it, especially those aspects that are expressed and reflected in literature. The book focuses on the period 1760 to 1971, with an Epilogue on the reverberations of medievalism in the present day.

The rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, after its destruction by fire in 1834, re-established Gothic as the national style. But medieval imitation manifests itself wherever one cares to look: in literature, architecture, the applied arts, religion, politics, and even Hollywood. In this skilled dissection of the components of this pervasive cultural movement, Michael Alexander rejects the idea that medievalism was confined to the Victorian period, and overturns the suspicion that it is by its nature escapist.

Michael Alexander held the Chair of English at St. Andrews University. His many books include A History of English Literature and Reading Shakespeare.

"...a myriad of delicious plums in a richly illustrated pudding."---James Joll, The Spectator

"Why should an age of industrial revolution, technological advance and 'progressive' thought have harked so insistently to an apparently barbaric age? Thoughtful, full of fascinating insights and beautifully illustrated, this book wrestles with one of the great paradoxes of modern creativity."---Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

"Professor Alexander marshalls his argument with scholarship and wit. This is an intelligent, thoughtful and well-researched book. It is also very amusingly written, with marvellous throwaway remarks in every other line."---John Martin Robinson, Literary Review

"Michael Alexander's study of medievalism is a welcome contribution to [the] renewed and much more intelligent on the value of Victorian culture." --- Timothy Brittain-Catlin, The Tablet

"Alexander is able to summarise intellectual history in memorable ways...He has a sure but light touch as he takes a long sweep through English cultural history, enlivening the journey with a dry humour and a felicity of style that makes this the kind of serious contribution to scholarship which would also be a most acceptable birthday present." --- Michael Wheeler, Church Times

"...a refreshing account of the revival of interest in the culture of the Middle Ages...enlivened by his preference for quoting original sources; I feel inspired to go back to those works." - David Twiston Davies, The Catholic Herald

"[It] has plenty of beautiful illustrations, from the familiar – Pugin’s Royal Throne in the House of Lords – to a charming photograph of the great David Jones at work in his rented room at Harrow on the Hill in 1965. Like a good conversation, the book draws together all sorts of stray but related topics."---A.N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph

'This beautifully produced, generously illustrated book takes a panoramic view of the “recovery” of the Medieval in English literature, visual arts and culture, from the mid-eighteenth century to almost the present day. It is an ambitious, sweeping, sometimes idiosyncratic, but always interesting “essay in cultural history.”'---Rosemary Ashton, Times Literary Supplement

‘This well-written and highly accessible account of the medieval influence in England will certainly transform your thinking of a period in history which was much more than knights clanking around in cumbersome armour at flamboyant tournaments. Michael Alexander, in clear and beautifully researched prose (supported by excellent illustrations), takes us along from the literary experiments of the 18th century to the poetry Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and W H Auden among others’---Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"A superb study, showing how differing versions of the Middle Ages helped shape the art, architecture, and literature of modern England. . . . Deeply researched and stylishly written, Medievalism is an unalloyed delight that will instruct and amuse a wide readership."—Edward Short, Books & Culture

"Alexander, with the aid of dozens of lush illustrations and plates, examines how modern culture, values, architecture, art, religion, and politics in England have all been shaped by the Middle Ages. . . . Alexander's side-by-side comparisons of medieval and modern art are surely convincing if not breathtaking, and similarly he painstakingly demonstrates the connections between our newfangled world and a much older one, a world mired in the dust of times but in no way lost to us."—Bloomsbury Review

"Studies of medievalism abound, but Alexander makes a broader and more aesthetically sensitive foray than others have into the place of medieval literature and culture in 19th- and 20th-century British literature and art. . . . The book is less about how modern centuries have shaped medievalism than about how medievalism has shaped literary and cultural history. . . . Showing, often in exquisitely sensitive ways, a crucial but often-ignored conversation between writers of the distant and more-recent past. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Alexander has written a very useful introduction for undergraduates and the general reader. The mass of information is firmly marshalled, lucidly narrated, and salted with a pleasantly wry wit. It is handsomely produced, lavishly illustrated yet moderately priced."—Roger Simpson, Arthuriana

"With a sweeping survey of architecture, art, and especially literature that pauses long enough over specific artists and authors, this book charts the history of medievalism. . . . Medievalism, full of color plates and other illustrations, will benefit any scholar wanting to understand hwo a long-ago age resurfaced in British culture a couple of centuries ago."—Eric Daffron, Sixteenth Century Journal

"The strength of Alexander's book is in its careful tracing of the origins of nineteenth-century medievalism from its eighteenth-century 'Gothic' forms."--Julie Pridmore, Journal of British Studies

“Alexander is a witty, informed, and absorbing writer. His book is a delight to read.”—Andrew Breeze, Modern Language Review Vol. 106 Part 2

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.
ISBN: 9780300110616
Publication Date: June 14, 2007
352 pages, 7 3/4 x 189
90 b/w; 20 col

The Middle Ages in Modern England

Michael Alexander

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