Book Cover

Material Remains

Reading the Past in Medieval and Early Modern British Literature

Edited by Jan-Peer Hartmann and Andrew James Johnston

302 pp. 6 x 9
27 illustrations
Pub Date: July, 2021

Subjects: Literary Studies, British & Irish
Literary Theory
Medieval Studies

Series: Interventions: New Studies in Medieval Culture

order Hardcover $99.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1474-9
Order PDF ebook$34.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-8136-9

“William Carlos Williams wrote that there are ‘no ideas but in things’ and reading this fascinating collection of essays it is tempting to concur, for the authors … make a compelling case for the importance of reading literature in a variety of intersections with material culture.” —Rebecca Pinner, English: Journal of the English Association

“Its chronological sweep and the attention to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries make Material Remains a welcome departure from business as usual in medieval English (note: not “British”) studies. The volume will interest scholars concerned with alliterative verse, burial practices, hagiography, historiography, material culture, and issues of temporality and fictionality in early literature.” —Eric Weiskott, Speculum

“I was inspired by what this volume accomplishes, not only in its plethora of intersections between material culture and literature but also its demonstrations of how these intersections encourage us—indeed, oblige us—to breach ‘period’ barriers between early and late medieval, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and often enough the centuries beyond.” —Andrew Galloway, author of Medieval Literature and Culture: A Student Guide

“The range is admirably wide, from early Anglo-Saxon writing to early modern, a width that answers to the volume’s own resistance to historical alterity: these are stories that can be told only within long chronologies. The objects, as recounted in these stories of invention, are wonderfully alive, giving a good name to Thing Theory.” —James Simpson, author of Permanent Revolution: The Reformation and the Illiberal Roots of Liberalism

Medieval and early modern literature was fascinated with the material remains of the past. Scenes involving the discovery, description, circulation, or contemplation of archaeological objects can be found in texts ranging from hagiography to elegiac poetry, from historiography to romance—across regions and periods. This volume gathers voices to explore the ways in which these texts employ descriptions of objects from the past to produce aesthetic and literary responses to questions of historicity and the epistemological conditions of historical knowledge.

The contributions to Material Remains: Reading the Past in Medieval and Early Modern British Literature examine the understanding and experience of temporality as registered through the representation of found objects. From Beowulf and King Arthur to Richard III, Roger de Norton, and more, these essays reproduce the thrill of the archaeological find and generate new forms of historical understanding beyond the established narratives that reinforce modern forms of periodizing the Middle Ages.

List of Contributors
Neil Cartlidge, Roberta Frank, Lori Ann Garner, Jonathan Gil Harris, Jan-Peer Hartmann, John Hines, Naomi Howell, Andrew Hui, Andrew James Johnston, Sarah Salih, Philip Schwyzer

Jan-Peer Hartmann is a Fellow at Freie Universität Berlin.

Andrew James Johnston is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature at Freie Universität Berlin.


List of Illustrations


Introduction    Reading the Past through Archaeological Objects

            Andrew James Johnston and Jan-Peer Hartmann

Part I   Traces

Chapter 1        Found Bodies: The Living, the Dead, and the Undead in the Broad Medieval Present

            Sarah Salih

Chapter 2        The Beaker in the Barrow, the Flagon with the Dragon: Accessorizing Beowulf

            Roberta Frank

Chapter 3        Evidence of the Past in the Legend of the Seven Sleepers

            Neil Cartlidge

Chapter 4        The Return of the King: Exhuming King Arthur and Richard III

            Philip Schwyzer

Part II  Entanglements

Chapter 5        Global Beowulf and the Poetics of Entanglement

            Andrew James Johnston

Chapter 6        Weapons of Healing: Materiality and Oral Poetics in Old English Remedies and Medicinal Charms

            Lori Ann Garner

Chapter 7        Saracens at St. Albans: The Heart-Case of Roger de Norton

            Naomi Howell

Chapter 8        The Ruthwell Cross and the Riddle of Time

            Jan-Peer Hartmann

Part III Spectacle and Perfomance

Chapter 9        Archaeo-Theatrics

            Jonathan Gil Harris

Chapter 10      11 Ways of Looking at Renaissance Ruins

            Andrew Hui

Chapter 11      But men seyn, “What may ever laste?”: Chaucer’s House of Fame as a Medieval Museum

            John Hines


List of Contributors


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