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The Fantasy of the Middle Ages

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Member Reviews

The Fantasy of the Middle Ages is a fun and easily navigable informative book about an era that captures the interest of many. I loved reading it and felt Grollemond made learning easy.
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The title of The Fantasy of the Middle Ages says it all. The Medieval times have held setting monopoly of speculative fiction (sometimes even sci-fi!) for centuries - probably longer than most would assume. This books seeks to explain why that is, and how the Middle Ages' charm doesn't fail to captivate us to this day. While it's obviously too short for an in-depth explanation of each medievalism (nice term) brought to the discussion, I was negatively surprised that despite the authors' repeated claims of inclusivity, an example quoted multiple times was Harry Potter. It never ceases to surprise me that J.K. R*wling's endless transphobic ramblings, not to mention her other questionable beliefs, have not yet reached the majority of readers (of which, I assume, the staff of the Getty Museum must host a few at least). Do better next time!
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There was a lot more of "how the middle ages have appeared in fantasy through the ages" than I expected in this exhibit catalog, but it was still interesting (especially the parts dealing with non-European cultures).  And the art was gorgeous.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

To sum up, this is a book about how European Middle Ages has inspired and still influence all the works of fantasy at the present time and more. It was not a really deep work on the subject and with a more modern view than what we might find in much older scholastic books. All in all, I liked it but it is not the best book if you want to learn in more details on the subject, this was a kind of Middle Ages for beginners, a beautiful book to put on your living room's table to look good. I liked the pictures and the illustrations more than anything.
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This book was outside my usual reading range but wow I am so glad I grabbed a copy. A real tour de force! I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and made a fan by the incredible writing. Highly recommend.
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This was actually a very interesting read. I really liked learning about the subject, and the illustrations are gorgeous. I learned so much from this book, and it's very acessable. Highly recommend
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This would have been an amazing book if it didn’t have a tragically, horrific, severe woke slant. In short, it’s a book about how racist/sexist/whateverist white men are. Did you know that the term “Anglo-Saxon” is used by white supremacists to “create false accounts about nationhood and race??”

Unfortunately, and despite seemingly interesting reading throughout the book, the most I could stomach is skimming after the first five mentions of this sort of thing. Because of how biased the authors are, I don’t know what I can actually believe in this book. I was so looking forward to reading this so it is extremely disappointing.
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This work explores the prevalence of medieval imagery and tales on the historical and modern world. From Disney to Game of Thrones to Renaissance Fairs, interpretations of the Middle Ages are common in modern culture. People have differing opinions about the “accuracy” of these depictions, but the authors of this work included a fascinating discussion revolving around this topic. Namely, that authors and artists in the Middle Ages already took their own artistic license and fantasy incorporated when depicting their world and times, so the “cultural myth” of this time isn’t a modern invention. 

The strongest aspect of this work is its compilation of images relating to this topic. From stills of cinema to photographs taken for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems to medieval illuminations, this book had them all. The images supported the text and made for wonderful visuals of the topics being discussed. The inclusion of so many images was important as one of the goals of this work was to emphasize just how vital to fantasy (especially medieval-based fantasy) art and illustrations are.

The chapters in this work discuss illuminated manuscripts and the medieval imagination, the typical “cast of characters” of medieval times, magic and fairy tales, and more. The authors also did their best to discuss diversity (race, gender, etc.) in the Middle Ages and how these became whitewashed in recent history. I highly recommend this read to anyone interested in the Medieval Era and how it pertains to popular culture. My thanks to NetGalley and Getty Publications for allowing me to read and review this work.
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Another beautifully published book from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in support of an exhibition. The central focus is the representation made over the centuries of the European Middle Ages. The book starts from the observation that the fascination for the European Middle Ages is still very much alive. This is evidenced by the success of the Game of Throne series (and its recently launched prequel), as well as numerous historical films (mostly about the King Arthur stories). This book goes into detail about that, and also shows how ‘medieval mania’ has even permeated Japanese manga’s and TikTok movies.
It also demonstrates well how distortion and appropriation are inevitably involved in all those performances: a certain image of the Middle Ages actually says something about the time in which that representation was created. This adaptation and distortion already started in the Middle Ages themselves, when monks and other writers produced stories and illustrators presented a specific image in manuscripts, for example of a knight's tournament. According to the authors, it is mainly the stories and visual representations from the 14th and 15th centuries – so rather late – that came to determine our later image of the Middle Ages. Fascinating, especially because that information is extensively illustrated in this book.
Another merit is that the authors point to the need for a more inclusive approach and representation of the Middle Ages. There is nothing wrong with that, on the contrary: there is certainly a need for a correction to the inevitably colored image that was given in the Middle Ages themselves, but also afterwards: too masculine, too white, too elitist, too European, etc. That correction has been going on for some time now: in recent decades, historical studies have been constantly published that nuance the classic picture of the homogeneous Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, and that point to the diversity of beliefs, values and norms, behavior, but also to the forms of discrimination (racial , gender, etc.) that have so far been underexposed. It is a good thing that attention is being paid to this.
But then the authors apparently find it necessary to go one step further. They even make a direct plea not to take historical reality too serious and to approach the past 'audience-driven', i.e. to bend to the values and norms of the present time. Look, call me old-fashioned, but I do have a problem with that. Hence the slightly lower rating. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC
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This is a wonderful book for fantasy fans interested in the inspirations of so many stories. It is more of a decorative coffee table esque book as opposed to one you’d sit and read through and I think is best enjoyed reading little bits here and there as it may be a little dense and repetitive otherwise. I do think it’s intended to be read in parts though so that’s not a criticism.
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"If Chaucer's cast of characters can be seen as a blueprint for the many inhabitants of the fictional used Middle Ages [...]".
The book compares the art of the Middle Ages to the way art was used in a modern setting, for example much of Disney's art and movies were taken from the Brothers Grimm. I described this book as a journey through the Middle Ages through art. The choices of pieces are definitely a pleasure for the eyes. Although this book was more art than writing, it is enough to educate the reader along with the images it is educational and purposeful.
I've studied Medieval art, which was mostly religious painting. I found the author's choices refreshing and stayed on subject. Figure 66 " The Fox Preaching to a Flock of Geese" was stunning with the gold leaf along with the lettering, which encourages the viewer to take in the entire piece. What was interesting was how the author incorporated architecture into the book and the way Walt Disney was inspired by "the German structures follows feature of Byzantine throne room".
This is an incredible book, which can be explored over and over.
Thank you Larise Grollemond, Brian Keene, Getty Publishing, and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this book.
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***Thank you Clavispublishing and NetGalley for providing me a free copy of the book in exchange for honest feedback.***
I picked up this book as a historical source about The Middle Ages for my writing project.
And Though I thought it was going to be some sort of a pure history textbook -which is my bad I don't contemplate the titles for more than three seconds- yet I enjoyed the majority of the book.
It has gorgeous colorful illustrations and interesting information both historically and fantasy-related.
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“The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds” is the program book for an exhibit from the J. Paul Getty Museum in California in 2022.  Beautifully illustrated, this book bridges the historical with contemporary interpretations of medieval life in fantasy, film and television.  Modern adaptation of medieval characters and legends are based more on “fantastical reimagining of the period” than history.  Authors Grollemond and Keene seek to answer two questions:  1) How, why, and for whom did these episodes of medievalizing emulations come about? And 2) What are the kernels of truth to be found in modern constructs and what has been erased from reality in favor of popularization and commoditization?  This book provides answers while examining how history ha been reinterpreted to modern tastes. Those who love medievalism in all its genres will find this book of interest
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The Middle Ages (or medieval times, roughly defined as between 500 and 1500 C E,) have long captured our imaginations. From movies to books, even popular entertainment such as theme restaurants and re-enactments, we see examples of our conceptions of medieval life everywhere. In this book, the authors make the case that what we think of as medieval lifestyles, clothing, food and architecture are largely amalgams and constructions; not even well known stories like the tale of King Arthur are consistent. This leads to a rich variety of imaginative stories of medieval life as well as medieval elements that seep into the popular culture as far ranging as Harry Potter and video games.

The book, which accompanies an exhibit of the same name at the Getty Museum, is beautifully rendered with dozens of full color plates of both medieval paintings and contemporary interpretations. The history and evolution of these concepts is presented in a scholarly (fully researched and sourced) yet accessible manner. The authors also spend some time discussing the role of people of color, non-binary and LGBTQ people in both medieval culture and contemporary depictions, which is a welcome addition.

Many thanks to the Getty Museum, the authors and Net Galley for the advance review copy which I accepted in exchange for my honest review. I highly recommend this gorgeous, fascinating book.
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The fantasy of the Middle Ages is a beautiful book with great illustrations on medeval art and culture. It would be a great addition to any historical art lover.
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Many thanks to Getty Publications for the review copy.

This is a perfectly fine introduction to medievalism in pop culture. I am in the awkward position of knowing a little more than the average person about medievalism, and also am just generally unpleasable, so I do have some complaints.

Firstly, my perennial problem with books: the organization. The broad divisions of the chapters overlap and are confused, some are gathered around a medium (books, or cinema) while others are gathered around themes (fairytales, or characterization) and there is a ton of overlap between them. Some things get a very shallow treatment, like music or video games, that don't fully explore the interesting particularities of each to the field of medievalism. Sometimes the authors give a really thin explanation to something that they assume you are previously familiar with. Since we are dealing with over a millennia of materials, with many different narratives, this gets overwhelming quickly. This leads to things being mentioned out of order. A prime example is that Dungeons & Dragons is mentioned for the first time on page 13, mentioned three subsequent times, and then finally defined on page 93. A better editor could have fixed this.

Secondly, the book makes many overt statements about its commitments to social justice, which does make me scratch my head at some of their other choices. We are repeatedly told that the Middle Ages were not a strictly white, heterosexual, Christian period, but then why are Jews and Muslims mentioned only sparingly? Where are the texts and artworks from Medieval Africa, or East Asia? This is particularly confusing because just a few years ago Getty published the extremely excellent Toward a Global Middle Ages, so it's not like this idea is new. I am not saying that all Medieval publications have to be global in scope, but if you're committed to social justice, your choice to limit it to the arbitrary European borders should at least be explained. 

Thirdly, the book glosses over the negative downsides of how fantasies of the Middle Ages muddy people's understanding. I will be honest that I first noticed this in the section about Medieval Tiktok, because I myself have spent some time watching Medieval Tiktoks and marveling at how quickly unsourced, rampant misinformation spreads on that platform. The book even eschews the typical discussion of the misnomer "The Dark Ages" which I thought all Medieval history books had to include by law. If there were ever a book where it was appropriate, I think a book about fantasies of the Middle Ages would have been it! The only ways that the authors can conceive of a piece of media inappropriately representing the Middle Ages is in media that makes the period appear overly sexist, racist, or otherwise non-diverse. Why not discuss other types of misinformation? 

I don't think this book makes any great intellectual strides, it does not contribute anything new to the field to experienced readers, but it is a perfectly fine introduction let down by some annoying writing and editorial decisions.
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A beautifully laid out piece on not only the middle ages, but on how our perception of that era has been formed.

I'm a great lover of fantasy in books, film, and video games, so it was fascinating to see how the art, texts, and misconceptions have informed the genre over the centuries. I particularly enjoyed that the authors spoke to the white washing of medievalism, and the importance of broadening our horizons as to the true diversity of the time.

It was a lovingly put together book and I appreciated that, while it was scholarly and well researched, it didn't read like a text book. I'd recommend it to anyone who had even the slightest interest in the middle ages!

Thank you to Netgalley and Getty Publications for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review!
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The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds by Larisa Grollemond; Bryan C. Keene is an exploration of the impact of medieval imagery on three hundred years of visual culture. From the soaring castles of Sleeping Beauty to the bloody battles of Game of Thrones, from Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings to mythical beasts in Dungeons & Dragons, and from Medieval Times to the Renaissance Faire, the Middle Ages have inspired artists, playwrights, filmmakers, gamers, and writers for centuries. Indeed, no other historical era has captured the imaginations of so many creators. This volume aims to uncover the many reasons why the Middle Ages have proven so flexible—and applicable—to a variety of modern moments from the eighteenth through the twenty-first century. These “medieval” worlds are often the perfect ground for exploring contemporary cultural concerns and anxieties, saying much more about the time and place in which they were created than they do about the actual conditions of the medieval period. 

The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds is a well written and researched exploration on the subject matter. I thought the book can appeal to those with a background in medieval studies or literature and those with little advanced knowledge as well. Since I studied Medieval literature in college and am an avid fan of fantasy, this book was a perfect combination of my interests.  I really enjoyed getting to look at the artwork along side the text, the combination made this book equally interesting intellectually and visually.  I wish I had the time and energy to get to the The Getty Museum to see the exhibit this book is a companion for, but if you are lucky enough to be able to attend I think it is worth the time. 

I think The Fantasy of the Middle Ages would make a great addition to the library of anyone interested in the subject matter, and it would be a great addition to public library collections as well.
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Thank you Netgalley and Getty Publications for access to this arc. 

The lavishly illustrated book shows the ways that the middle ages have been interpreted or reimagined over the centuries beginning with illuminated manuscripts of the actual age through to, among other things, 19th century Gothic Revival architecture, modern “Game of Thrones” costumes, and various Japanese Manga series in order to fit the views of the times in which they were created. What has been mainly, but not totally, shown as a Eurocentric view of the years from 500-1500 is now being expanded, both geographically and culturally, in stage, screen, music, or a Ren Faire near you.

Scholars discuss how various aspects of the medieval world such as knights and princesses, King Arthur, jousting and combat, and costumes and song have been and are being depicted using various examples – historical and modern – to illustrate. Among these are a Psalter from thirteenth century Germany, a “Star Wars” poster, Disney World’s Cinderella’s Castle, costume sketches from Hollywood epics and Royal Ballet productions, and “tableaux vivant” style reenactment photographs taken by late Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

I found myself drifting towards looking at the varied illustrations and skimming the accompanying discussions. While billed as “An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds,” this is more a pop culture sampling rather than a rigorous, scholarly examination. But the photos are marvelous. B-
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This is not only a fantastic companion to what I'm sure is a fascinating, highly enjoyable exhibit at The Getty Museum, but it's also a very fun and interesting read in its own right!   An exploration of how we've depicted our fantasy of medieval life, it considers a wide variety of human expression from film and television to architecture and even dinner theater.   The writing is informative but accessible and considers obvious interpretations like fairy tales and Game of Thrones, as well as more unconventional depictions like Monty Python.   

The art and illustrations offered are striking, well curated, and abundant.  This would a great pick for not only art lovers and amateur historians, but also for lovers of pop culture, cosplay, and role playing in a variety of forms.   It would make a lovely coffee table book and a nice addition to personal libraries.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!
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