All studies in the field of cultural history are shaped by individual and collective mental filters that can be extremely powerful and often create difficult obstacles in our exploration of questions concerning the past to which traditional textbooks provide no answers, and which they sometimes seem to discourage us from asking in the first place. Moreover, these filters have tended to implant mythical concepts in our minds, allowing us to dream and fantasize about the past based on our own imaginations, rather than on actual situations, concrete developments, specific ideas, inventions, and events in the past. The film and publishing industries (see, for instance, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose  and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code ) have successfully tapped into this enormous reservoir of myths concerning the Middle Ages, a world we tend to idealize or demo-nize, according to our individual attitudes, needs, and imagination because it is both far away from us to allow us to fantasize about some kind of past, and close enough to comprehend the connections to our own world. The less we know about that age, however, the more tenaciously do commonly held notions about that age influence our minds. Modern scholars sometimes complain about the infinite spread of false information about the past, only to retreat into their academic seclusion. But this retreat is not necessary, and it amounts to self-defeat and a self-imposed delegitimization, especially since a critical discussion of the origins of some of these myths, and a careful examination of those sources that contributed to their dissemination, can provide very illuminating insights that may appeal to a wider readership as well.
KeywordsPublishing Industry Modern Scholar Wide Readership Traditional Textbook Nature Appeal
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