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In 1859, the historian Lord John Acton asserted: ‘two great principles divide the world, and contend for the mastery, antiquity and the middle ages’. The influence on Victorian culture of the ‘Middle Ages’ (broadly understood then as the centuries between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance) was both pervasive and multi-faceted. This ‘medievalism’ led, for instance, to the rituals and ornament of the Medieval Catholic church being reintroduced to Anglicanism. It led to the Saxon Witan being celebrated as a prototypical representative parliament. It resulted in Viking raiders being acclaimed as the forefathers of the British navy. And it encouraged innumerable nineteenth-century men to cultivate the superlative beards we now think of as typically ‘Victorian’–in an attempt to emulate their Anglo-Saxon forefathers. Different facets of medieval life, and different periods before the Renaissance, were utilized in nineteenth-century Britain for divergent political and cultural agendas. Medievalism also became a dominant mode in Victorian art and architecture, with 75 per cent of churches in England built on a Gothic rather than a classical model. And it was pervasive in a wide variety of literary forms, from translated sagas to pseudo-medieval devotional verse to triple-decker novels. Medievalism even transformed nineteenth-century domesticity: while only a minority added moats and portcullises to their homes, the medieval-style textiles produced by Morris and Co. decorated many affluent drawing rooms. The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism is the first work to examine in full the fascinating phenomenon of ‘medievalism’ in Victorian Britain. Covering art, architecture, religion, literature, politics, music, and social reform, the Handbook also surveys earlier forms of antiquarianism that established the groundwork for Victorian movements. In addition, this collection addresses the international context, by mapping the spread of medievalism across Europe, South America, and India, amongst other places.
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- Full Book Name: The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism
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- ISBN # 9780199669509
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