It is often assumed that those outside of academia know very little about the Middle Ages. But the truth is not so simple. Non-specialists in fact learn a great deal from the myriad medievalisms - post-medieval imaginings of the medieval world - that pervade our everyday culture. These, like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, offer compelling, if not necessarily accurate, visions of the medieval world. And more, they have an impact on the popular imagination, particularly since there are new medievalisms constantly being developed, synthesised and remade.
But what does the public really know? How do the conflicting medievalisms they consume contribute to their knowledge? And why is this important?
In this book, the first evidence-based exploration of the wider public's understanding of the Middle Ages, Paul B. Sturtevant adapts sociological methods to answer these important questions. Based on extensive focus groups, the book details the ways - both formal and informal - that people learn about the medieval past and the many other ways that this informs, and even distorts, our present. In the process, Sturtevant also sheds light, in more general terms, onto the ways non-specialists learn about the past, and why understanding this is so important. The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination will be of interest to anyone working on medieval studies, medievalism, memory studies, medieval film studies, informal learning or public history.
Paul B. Sturtevant is an audience research specialist at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. He completed his PhD at the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds. He is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the very popular collaborative history blog 'The Public Medievalist' (http://www.publicmedievalist.com/).
Chapter 1: The Public Understanding of the Past Chapter 2: The Medieval Film Chapter 3: Learning History from Film Chapter 4: Their Medieval-Middle Ages Chapter 5: The Middle Ages They Viewed Chapter 6: The Medieval Worlds They Found Chapter 7: Conclusions