A Semantic Pet Peeve

As Medievalists, we get the short end of the stick. Our discipline is only defined in relation to others. Indeed, the very name is a derogatory relegation to secondary importance, a placeholder between the Classical era and the Renaissance. This has annoyed me for some time, so I have decided to take the time to rant.

For those who are unaware, the Middle Ages (If you call them the dark ages, I will find you) were characterised by a dominant ideology defined by the Roman Church. However, the simple dismissal of this as making the era backward or irrelevant is ignorance. The notion seems to be that a homogenous perspective is all to be found. This is false. Of course, part of the problem is also the idea that, since the Renaissance was the rebirth of Classical culture in Europe, anything not of Greek and Roman origin is valueless. As a result, a period of nearly a millennium is dismissed as nothing more than a good source for fantasy novels and Monty Python humour (For the record, Terry Jones is a Medievalist, and a funny one, at that). From a literary standpoint, some of the most poignant and subversive poetry I have read was written during this period. Poems like The Wanderer, The Seafarer and Beowulf capture the melancholy of loss and the desire for the eternal in such powerful ways. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales skewers the hypocrisy of the dominant authority, turning its own discourse back on itself.

This is just a quick temper tantrum, er, comment on something that bugs me. Thanks for reading.

Also, just so you know, Beowulf would totally kill Achilles. Who needs weapons when you can rip someone’s arms off and beat them to death with them? I doubt the protection from the Styx will aid with blunt force trauma when the weapon is your own limbs. Just saying…

This entry was posted in Anglo-Saxon/Old English, Bah Humbug, History, Language. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Semantic Pet Peeve

  1. Pingback: Good Health & Anglo-Saxons…And A Little Lead Poisoning | Things Medieval

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