Counter-Medievalism: Or, Protestants Rewrite the Middle Ages

  • Miriam Elizabeth Burstein

Abstract

The Methodist J. H. Rigg,1 a staunch opponent of Roman Catholicism, here lights into Anglo-Catholics—those who sought to revive the Church of England’s pre-Reformation character. For Rigg, medievalism is not just an aesthetic or even political orientation toward the past; it is, rather, irrevocably bound up with a specifically Roman Catholic moment in English history. Such medievalism involves a leave-taking of the senses—the Anglo-Catholics are, after all, “possessed,” not least because they insist on tracing all modern foibles to a single ancient cause. More dangerously, that leave-taking includes a most un-English (so Rigg might say) worship of authority. Thus, absorbed by visions of a unified, centralized church, Anglo-Catholics work to reconstruct it in the present. They are spiritual Luddites, resisting the modernizing force of the Reformation. To be a medievalist is not to engage with history, but to revive its dead corpse in the present; not to value progress, but to desire regression toward an earlier state; and above all, not to embrace Protestant reason but instead Roman Catholic authority. In this reading, medievalism is not, properly speaking, a “historical” attitude at all.

Keywords

Europe Hunt Tate Dition Rosen 

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Lorretta M. Holloway and Jennifer A. Palmgren 2005

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  • Miriam Elizabeth Burstein

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