Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo and the Left-Modernist Reclamation of Medieval Popular Culture

  • Louise D’Arcens
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The study of popular culture has long harbored what can be described as a latent medievalist impulse. Among the cluster of competing definitions of the word “popular” over which scholars have wrestled,1 there has been one that has taken a longitudinal approach, perceiving “popular culture” to be the authentic expression and repository of “the people,” il popolo or das Volk, who have been understood as an historical category. According to the practitioners of this approach, the customs and traditions of these “popular classes” have endured across centuries despite not participating in “official culture.” The culture associated with “the people” is deemed popular in the sense that it is produced by them and for their own consumption, expressing their interests and their aesthetics. I am calling this a “medievalist impulse” of popular cultural theory because, as cultural theorists and medievalists have separately argued, its emergence in the nineteenth century is inextricably bound up with the philological, literary, and material recovery of medieval culture. David Hall argues that the perception of an “unofficial” medieval culture had preceded the nineteenth century, but the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were distinctive for their celebratory recovery of the culture of the people, a culture regarded as enduring yet fragile to loss under modernity.2


Nobel Prize Popular Culture Performance Tradition Folk Culture Official Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Gail Ashton and Daniel T. Kline 2012

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  • Louise D’Arcens

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