A Medievalist’s Thoughts of the New “Image of the Middle Ages”

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Abstract. Considering the new “image of the Middle Ages”, the author starts with stating that any image of a historical age is an idea from the repertoire of the history of memory. It can be defined as a simplified interpretation of the past from the present perspective. This interpretation is closely connected with the topical problems and needs of the “interpreting” society, with the challenges of its time, its ideological position and historical experience. Among all the historical ages, the Middle Ages are especially meaningful for a historian. Since the Enlightenment, the Middle Ages have become a kind of a reference point, used for comparison and researching all the other epochs. Starting with the last decade of the XX cent., “the Middle Ages” have become a “brand”, primarily in the mass culture. Through contrasting two images of the Middle Ages – one typical for Europe in XIX cent. and the other characteristic of our days – the author concludes that the current “image of the Middle Ages” is devoid of the ideological basis, at least in the traditional (i.e. political and social) understanding. It can be described as “the technological Middle Ages marked by harmony with the environment”. Numerous artistic works that create such an image of the Middle Ages invite the reader or the viewer to “visit” the medieval everyday life, to be immersed into its “slow time”.

Keywords: the history of memory, image of the Middle Ages, historical conscience, the Middle Ages and today’s world, the technological Middle Ages.

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