Big Ideas 2015

Louise D'Arcens

PROF. Louise D'Arcens 

 

"I examine post-medieval receptions and constructions of the Middle Ages, and consider the impact of these constructions on modern cultural, political, and social life".


“Getting Medieval”? The Middle Ages in Modern Politics

 

 When people in Australia today hear the word ‘medieval’, what springs to mind is a world like that  depicted in HBO’s Game of Thrones: brutal and superstitious, governed by tribalism and revenge rather than justice or the rule of law. It is a word that conjures up everything we believe that we, as members of a modern democracy, have left behind. But if this is so, why do recent Australian parliamentary records show a marked increase in politicians describing today’s world as medieval? Why do the Middle Ages crop up so often in modern debates about anything from global terrorism to industrial relations or the environment? Why do satirists resort to medieval imagery so often when portraying politicians? In this talk Professor Louise D’Arcens will trace the surprising but revealing resurgence of the medieval into the global political vocabulary, and explore why the Middle Ages have again become so important to how modern societies think about themselves.


Louise D’Arcens is a Professor in the English Literatures Program, and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2013-17). Her two main current research areas are medievalism and medieval women’s writing. Medievalism examines post-medieval receptions and constructions of the Middle Ages, and considers the impact of these constructions on modern cultural, political, and social life. Louise’s work on Australian medievalism examines the cultural and ideological role played by medievalism in colonial and former-colonial societies.

Last reviewed: 16 September, 2015