Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture

Article excerpt

Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture. Edited by Elma Brenner, Meredith Cohen, and Mary Franklin-Brown. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2013. Pp. xvii, 354. $129.95. ISBN 978-1-4094-2393-5.)

The sixteen essays in this volume originated in a 2007 symposium on medieval memory held at the International Medieval Society in Paris, but reach beyond France in their relevance to Western European medieval studies and the growing scholarly discourse on memory. The volume has a cohesive unity not always found in collections from conference origins, and together the essays present an understanding of memory that is both multivalent and wide reaching.

Although individual contributors range in approach, they nearly all address "high" medieval culture in their examination of how memory and history are constructed. The elite focus is inevitable, given the surviving sources (which are drawn from a wide expanse of media and embrace both text and image), and in this case is far from a drawback; instead, the shared nature of the material provides a unifying note drawing these approaches together. The editors have organized the essays into five themes that emphasize specific aspects of memory and also highlight key concepts that weave through multiple sections.

The sections are titled, respectively, "Memory and Images"; "Commemoration and Oblivion"; "Memory, Reading and Performance"; "Royal and Aristocratic Memory and Commemoration"; and "Remembering Medieval France." Although the essays grouped under these headings work together to present aspects of each section topic, each of the section concepts also applies throughout the volume. The threat of oblivion (section 2), for example, is a note that sounds ominously, if softly, in nearly every essay, despite the paradoxical impossibility of deliberate forgetting. The dynamic interplay between individual and collective memory is one that also echoes through many of the contributions, as well as the crafting of specific memories for different target audiences, whether through liturgy, manuscripts, mosaics, or postmedieval community festivals. …

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