Music Medievalism and Music
James Cook, Karen Cook
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0241


Medievalism, broadly construed, concerns the cultural and intellectual afterlife of the Middle Ages. It has a long tradition as a topic for critical scholarly engagement. Initially growing up in the disciplines of history and literature, it quickly spread to encompass the disciplines of art, architecture, music, and cultural studies, and began to incorporate theoretical positions taken from critical theory and psychoanalysis. With the founding of Studies in Medievalism by Leslie J. Workman, medievalism began to strike out as an interdisciplinary subject in its own right, crossing boundaries of genre, discipline, and period. The study of music and medievalism is a key part of the broader discipline, as an integral part of understanding popular culture broadly, and the genres of film, television, video games, and opera (among others) specifically. Medievalism is an important part of understanding the context of scholarly and performance traditions such as the historically informed performance practice movement and in understanding many types of music from Wagnerian opera to heavy metal. Indeed, medievalism has a long history in the arts. It has, throughout its history, come to mean many things, from the deliberate creative use of the medieval by later generations in art, literature, music, and other cultural products, to its explicit representation, and even more-general influence, conscious or otherwise. The earliest forays of 18th-century Romanticism tended to hold the medieval in high regard as a way of rejecting the political and ideological formulations of the Age of Enlightenment. It therefore formed an important part of 18th-century movements in art, architecture, literature, poetry, and music. More recently, medievalism has become an important part of popular culture, impacting upon film, television, video game, and popular music to an increasing degree, as well as entering political and journalistic discourse as a way of understanding contemporary phenomena.

Core Texts

The topic of music and medievalism is part of a broader academic discourse on medievalism that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Presented here are important readings from the broader discipline that are nonetheless vital for the study of music and medievalism. The section is divided into Foundational Texts on Medievalism, Reference Works and General Readings on Medievalism, General Literature on Medievalism with Substantial Sections Relating to Music, and Reference Websites, Publications, Societies, and Digital Tools.

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