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Comic Medievalism


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The role of laughter and humour in the postmedieval citation, interpretation or recreation of the middle ages has hitherto received little attention, a gap in scholarship which this book aims to fill. Examining a wide range of comic texts and practices across several centuries, from Don Quixote and early Chaucerian modernisation through to Victorian theatre, the Monty Python films, television and the experience of visiting sites of "heritage tourism" such as the Jorvik Viking Museum at York, it identifies what has been perceived as uniquely funny about the Middle Ages in different times and places, and how this has influenced ideas not just about the medieval but also about modernity. Tracing the development and permutations of its various registers, including satire, parody, irony, camp, wit, jokes, and farce, the author offers fresh and amusing insight into comic medievalism as a vehicle for critical commentary on the present as well as the past, and shows that for as long as there has been medievalism, people have laughed at and with the middle ages.

Louise D'Arcens is Associate Professor in English Literatures at the University of Wollongong.


D'Arcens should be commended for writing a sophisticated book that explores why the Middle Ages continue to amuse. Highly recommended. CHOICE


First Published: 17 Jul 2014
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843843801
6 black and white illustrations
Pages: 219
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction: Laughing at, with, and in the Middle Ages
  • 2  The Cervantean Paradigm: Comedy, Madness, and Meta-medievalism in Don Quixote
  • 3  Scraping the Rust from the Joking Bard: Chaucer in the Age of Wit
  • 4  Medievalist Farce as Anti-totalitarian Weapon: Dario Fo as Modern Guillare
  • 5  Pre-modern Camp and Faerie Legshows: Travestying the Middle Ages on the Nineteenth-Century Stage
  • 6  Up the Middle Ages: Performing Tradition in Comic Medievalist Cinema
  • 7  'The past is a different and fairly disgusting country': The Middle Ages in recent British 'jocumentary'
  • 8  Smelling the Past: Medieval Heritage Tourism and the Phenomenology of Ironic Nostalgia
  • 9  Afterword: Laughing into the Future
  • 10  Bibliography

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