Introduction: International Medievalism and Popular Culture
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The phrase international medievalism proposes a domain of cultural practice in which geographical, cultural, and temporal demarcations are brought into question. It is a rich and expanding domain in which epochs are co-present and national cultures are problematised, sometimes even as they are invoked. Medievalism, an umbrella term for a long and diverse range of practices in which postmedieval societies have reached for the Middle Ages to explain, signify, narrate, comment on, and even transform modernity, is at its heart a multitemporal phenomenon. Medievalism now tends less to reify the Middle Ages as a distinct period that precedes the modern as its reviled obverse, lost utopia, or bubbling crucible. (Assigning temporal specificity to "the medieval" was always problematic given its vast geographical and cultural span, not to mention its contested historical parameters.) Rather, medievalism is increasingly formulated as a challenge to the assumptions of both historical periodi- sation and linear models of temporality. Even texts and practices that, to borrow Bruce Holsinger's term, recruit the medieval past for entirely instrumental purposes, cannot help disclosing that past's uncanny and persistent haunting of the present in what Carolyn Dinshaw has recently called a temporal encounters, in which "different time frames or temporal systems collid[e]."1 At the same time as it dismantles historical and temporal distinctions, the recursive presence of the medieval within the modern also creates a cultural topography in which national boundaries are redrawn or erased, and familiar polarities and spatial coordinates no longer apply: the Old North drifts into the southern hemisphere, while East and West pull towards one another until sometimes they overlap. Indeed the very tectonics is alien as oceans evaporate, and Europe washes up now in America, now in Australia, each time seeming slightly different. It is this domain that we are calling international medievalism. Traversing this domain in all its transhistorical and crosscultural diversity, the chapters of this book meet at a dynamic crossroads that brings together current considerations of multitemporality with new articulations of how medievalism participates in and expresses a range of transnational, international, and even global perspectives.