marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Those Terrible Middle Ages

Those Terrible Middle Ages:  Debunking the Myths by Regine Permoud

A view of the myths about the medieval era, as believed in France.  In 1977.  Nevertheless has some things I recognize.

Though she's an academic, it's very informally written.  Indeed, when comparing access to medieval French literature in France vs. in the United State, she take a moment to enthuse about the Dewey Decimal System, which let her find a book all by herself.  (She comments that it was just beginning to be introduced into France.)

It goes through the myths by topic.  The visual arts and literature, for instance, in both of which the entire medieval era is treated as failure because, in the grip of the classical thought, they deemed that everyone must really have been trying to slavishly imitate the ancients, and therefore they must have been total failures.  (What the Renaissance really brought France, apparently, was the delusion that departing from the classical models was always a decline.)  The social structure and how it worked -- with the observation that slavery was revived, not continuous.  Women, where the view that medievals thought that women didn't have soul is treated with all the contempt it deserves.  The legal system.  What can be discovered, and what needs to be introduced into the study of history.

Tags: history reviews: medieval

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