Publication Details

D'Arcens, L. (2014). You had to be there: Anachronism and the limits of laughing at the Middle Ages. Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies, 5 (2), 140-153.


Comic medievalism is one of the most widespread but least examined forms of postmedieval response. Its combination of comic modality, modern sensibility and historical vision captures what postmedieval audiences have deemed amusing about medieval society. But some instances have been less successful. ‘You had to be there,’ the phrase marking the failure of a comic attempt, and the relationship of that failure to the loss of immediacy, is realized in comic medievalism through the temporal fragility of laughter, historical mediation and temporal paradox. This essay explores some limitpoints to the comic reception of the Middle Ages, focusing especially on its use of anachronism.



Link to publisher version (DOI)