chapter  14
14 Pages

Medievalism and Nationhood in Children’s Literature


Postcolonial studies have generally focused on the development of concepts and reading strategies for examining the effects of imperialism upon people, cultures, language, and places. They have, however, paid little attention to temporality; specifi cally, to “ancient” or “distant” pasts and cultures, such as the period now referred to as the Middle Ages, which stretches from 500 to 1500. In Orientalism (1978), Edward Said described the totalizing discourses of Orientalism, which treat the people and practices of “the Orient” as though they occupy a homogeneous and uncomplicated state. Similar orientalizing processes have constructed the Middle Ages as “a millennium of middleness, a space of empty waiting and virtual death until the reawakening of the West to its proper nature and purpose in the period of the Renaissance” (Freedman and Spiegel 678). Within this “space of empty waiting,” the specifi cities and complexities of diverse cultures and societies are frequently displaced by homogenized representations of a Middle Ages characterized along two principal lines of signifi cation: a time and place of brutality, squalor and primitiveness, or an aristocratic society preoccupied with romance and chivalry.