The study of medieval literature at the end of the nineteenth century expands rapidly at the same time that the developing field of anthropology demonstrates a great interest in performances and rituals of what were regarded as primitive or decadent cultures, and in some subtle and some obvious ways, medieval literature and ethnic theatricality were thought of as analogous to one another. Moreover, at the same time that detailed literary scholarship was reconstructing the physical production of medieval drama, anthropology was engaged in a new practice of reconstruction by display. In the late nineteenth century, certain strands of high imperial culture quite literally exhibited a deeply ambiguous relation to the theatrical, and nowhere is this relation more strikingly demonstrated than in the developing field of anthropology. One of the topics in this chapter is the ways in which the concept of the medieval in the late nineteenth century is redefined by the rise of anthropology, an anthropology that owed a debt, if not directly to Nietzsche and Darwin, than to the popular understanding and appropriation of Nietzschean ideas, especially in regard to ideas of race and progress. I argue, therefore, that some of these analogies were visually expressed. At precisely the moment when the study of medieval literature and culture achieve academic institutionalization, the medieval is imagined again as both foreign and indigenous.


Nineteenth Century International Exhibition Medieval Literature Islamic Architecture Gothic Cathedral 


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© John M. Ganim 2008

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