I realize that The Fantasy of the Middle Ages was basically designed as an accompaniment to an exhibit at the Getty Museum and as such was possibly never meant to be a fully standalone book. Except that it now is, and as a stand-alone book, this is beyond shallow. It has a lot of pretty pictures, but often with little context of the history or art of the source manuscript) , and it brings up aa lot of things about how the Middel Ages in Europe have been represented over the centuries since. But that’s all it does; no discussion, no information about sources, just the general statements of a problem. It assumes you either already know or care enough to look up things like “the large conferences for medieval studies” in Leeds and Kalamazoo, because if you don’t, the elitist suggestion that such events are beneath featuring “elements inspired by faires and the Society for Creative Anachronism” goes unchallenged. I have been to both of these gatherings (both known officially as “the International Medieval Congress at ***”), and yes, they are mostly scholarly in nature, but a lot of medieval scholars also like to have some fun with their serious; both events do indeed feature recreations of jousts, falconry, smithing, vendors, performances of dramatic and musical persuasions, and discoes. But mostly it’s the scholarly paper and discussion panels. And ok, also book fairs! Big, grown up sized ones. With discounts.
It is soo irritating to see genuinely important ideas like the perceptions of race, gender and identity, and historical representation and understanding get mentioned and then totally glossed over. Nearly as bad is the organization of the book itself. You’d think a pair of art historians would know a thing or two about page design; I’m a literature specialist and even I know a thing or two about mise en page. This book has strange text box structuring on individual pages, as well as two page spread inserts with no indication that it’s an insert until you turn the page and have to figure out what came before the sudden mid-sentence you’ve just been dropped into.
Maybe it’s the sheer disappointment talking, but as a study in medievalism across time, this book is just not a good one. It’s got suggestions of real information but very few actual details, both from the medieval period and from later. Most people have probably heard of Tolkien, but how many folks know about Miracle Workers: The Dark Ages? There’s multiple reference to Chaucer, but no actual citations; I’d be ok even without the original Middle English, but there’s no poetry noted at all. Anyone know the technical term “illuminated manuscript” without looking it up?