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‘Medievalism’, though present in all postmedieval times, is most evident in the wake of Romanticism. In Britain it reached a peak in the 1840s before going on to exercise continuing influence for the rest of the nineteenth century. It was closely allied to the establishment of medieval studies in the same time period. In this essay I describe the circumstances of medievalism’s nineteenth-century emergence, linking it specifically to the growth of romantic nationalism in and after the Napoleonic wars. I consider its intrication with medieval studies and the enduring visible impact of medievalism in, for instance, the neo-gothic building programme. I then shift more specifically to literary culture to consider the impact of medievalism on the literary novel. The medievalist novel could be said to have waned in appeal quite soon after its initial appearance in Ivanhoe; later nineteenth-century iterations are today rarely read. Despite the triumph of the Tudor-focused historical novel in recent times, medieval novels have recently, and as I argue, very persuasively, made a comeback in the English-language world. I consider some examples and close with a brief reading of the most recent instance, James Meek’s To Calais, In Ordinary Time (2019).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Medieval English Literature
EditorsRaluca Radulescu, Sif Rikhardsdottir
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780429197390
ISBN (Print)9780367186494, 9781032324296
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


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