September 26, 2023

The Inescapable Lure of the Medieval

Politics, Pictures, and Poetics in the Long Nineteenth Century

A medieval castle in the United Kingdom

In this lecture, Dr. Clare Broome Saunders will explore the variety of ways in which writers, artists, and commentators—radical and reactionary alike—use aspects of medieval literature and culture to express their views on the major questions and conflicts that challenged Europe in the nineteenth century. The medieval revival, always present in post-medieval British culture, reached its apotheosis during the reign of Queen Victoria, when the growth and popularization of medieval history and texts coincided with a time of contemporary social, political, and religious unrest. Nineteenth-century European women in particular found medievalism a useful way to describe their social and imaginative experience, from the accession of the British liege lady Queen Victoria in 1837 to the suffragists who marched in the guise of Joan of Arc at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Dr. Broome Saunders will start her discussion with Victoria’s accession in 1837 and finish at the end of World War I in 1918 when Romantic medievalism arguably died with so many in the horror, mud, and mutilation of the trenches. She will consider the political significance of the Gothic and the use of King Arthur in British politics and suggest the ways in which the language of medievalism is still politically relevant today.

The lecture will be followed by a reception in the President’s Room.

This event is co-sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project and the Georgetown Humanities Initiative.


Clare Broome Saunders

Clare Broome Saunders

Dr. Clare Broome Saunders is a member of the Faculty of English and the senior tutor and a fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. She is a leading contributor to discussions of nineteenth-century medievalism in the United Kingdom. Her research interests include nineteenth-century women's poetry, uses of history, and women travel writers in Europe, as reflected in her books Louisa Stuart Costello: A 19th Century Writing Life (2015) and Women Writers and Nineteenth-Century Medievalism (2009), and in her publications on medievalism and politics and Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.