David Matthews, Making of Middle English, 1765-1910 Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
Medievalism is the name given to the study of the ways in which the culture and concepts of the middle ages returned to western culture from the late eighteenth century on in architecture, art and literature. Prime among medievalismists is David Mathews, born and educated in
and now at the . In this
major book he charts how scholars like Thomas Percy and Joseph Ritson gathered
and transmitted medieval texts and then how, with the major impetus given by Wlarer Scott, this
material became an object of study first
for learned enthusiasts like Frederic Madden and the ever-engaging F. J.
Furnivall, and then found its way into the developing curriculum of English
studies in universities. University
Mathews tells this complex story with wit, attention to curious detail, an awareness of the multiple forces that were at work – some of them eccentric, some of them radical – and a light but recurrent contact with the theory-aware world of modern humanities studies.
As humanities in universities are increasingly under pressure, neither attracting funding from billionaires nor leading directly to well-paid jobs unlike pharmacy and hairdressing – merely educating the public to a high and discriminating level -- this account of the slow, serious and social origins of cultural medievalism in education has much to contribute to a measured understanding of what we have gained, and what in late capitalist fetishisation of desire, we may well lose.