The Fantasy of the Middle Ages

An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds

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Pub Date 19 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 18 Oct 2022
Getty Publications, J. Paul Getty Museum

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This abundantly illustrated book is an illuminating 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. With over 140 color illustrations, from sources ranging from thirteenth-century illuminated manuscripts to contemporary films and video games, and a preface by Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton, The Fantasy of the Middle Ages will surprise and delight both enthusiasts and scholars.

This abundantly illustrated book is an illuminating exploration of the impact of medieval imagery on three hundred years of visual culture.
From the soaring castles of Sleeping Beauty to the bloody...

Advance Praise

“A fascination on every page. This bright and bold exploration of medievalism is not just a collection of stories told and reimagined in every new age, but a rich tapestry in its own right. Inclusive, illuminating, and filled with insight.”

—A. R. Capetta & Cory McCarthy, authors of the bestselling Once & Future series

 "Whether you're a storyteller looking for inspiration, an art historian, or simply a lover of beautiful things paying homage to other beautiful things, Fantasy of the Middle Ages is a lush and thoughtful exploration of why this period continues to affect our art today in both obvious and surprising ways.”

—Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of the Camelot Rising Trilogy

“With wit and verve, The Fantasy of the Middle Ages explores the perennial popularity of the medieval world in the modern imagination from Tolkien to Game of Thrones. Grollemond and Keene convincingly demonstrate how storytellers of all kinds utilize the rich imagery of the Middle Ages to create an alternative fantasy space, almost a playground, where their own contemporary fears and anxieties can be more safely probed, and paradigms subverted. From the Pre-Raphaelites to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda, we remain enamored with our own fantasy medieval worlds and the consequences of this infatuation continue to remake and reshape the material culture of the twenty-first century.”

—Kristina Pérez, author of The Sweet Black Waves Trilogy

 “The fascination with magic and the Middle Ages has captured imaginations for generations, and ours is no different. Grollemond and Keene take us through the tropes and imagery that first built the fantasy of medieval times and follow it through to our own modern day retellings with vivid illustrations, thought-provoking commentary on the past and current social context, and careful deconstruction of what was truly historical and what has become legend. An intriguing read for anyone who has wondered at the origins of legends like Robin Hood, King Arthur and the Round Table, and the magic and myth of fairies, princesses, wizards, and kings.”

—Jenny Elder Moke, author of Hood 

“A lavishly illustrated book full of delights and surprises: King Arthur’s knights, talking animals, music, movies, maps, and Renaissance fairs all make an appearance, alongside insights into race, gender, and sexuality, both in the medieval past and today. The authors even offer glimpses of vast, premodern worlds beyond Europe and Christendom—in this book, your grandad's European Middle Ages is wholly remade by new ideas and new pleasures in how the past is recovered today.”

—Geraldine Heng, author of The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages and The Global Middle Ages: An Introduction 

"This lively and engaging book highlights the key role that visual culture has played in constructing modern (mis)understandings of the so-called Middle Ages. Delightful images of everything from precious antiquities to contemporary film stills support the authors’ insightful analyses. Direct and nuanced engagement with issues around race, gender, sexuality, and other questions of diversity make The Fantasy of the Middle Ages essential reading for anyone curious about how we come to know the material cultures of the past as well as the present.”

—Maggie M. Williams, Executive Director, The Material Collective

“A fascination on every page. This bright and bold exploration of medievalism is not just a collection of stories told and reimagined in every new age, but a rich tapestry in its own right...

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ISBN 9781606067581
PRICE $29.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I really enjoyed this book, especially as someone who has a degree in Medieval Studies! I really enjoyed the approach that this book took, with relating modern media to the middle ages, and with the 19th century gothic revival. It also goes over the influences that medieval history has on modern media, especially with shows like Game of Thrones, and movies like King Arthur by Guy Ritchie. This book covers important topics such as race, gender roles, and "media" of the medieval period as well. It was an enjoyable read and I found the images and their descriptions to be very helpful.

This book is an excellent choice for someone with no medieval background but is also advanced enough for someone with some background knowledge. I could easily see this book being the basis of a university course - it's definitely something I wish I had while studying!

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This book shows fantastic pictures from the middle ages and shows the parallels between modern stories and middle-aged tales and legends. A great read for the middle-age and fantasy enthusiast.

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<i>The fantasy of the Middle Ages</i>: the title made my fantasy-loving brain click hell yes! And it did not disappoint!

This book talks about the history of fantasy in the middle ages. There are both examples from the middle ages compared to the fantasy that have been through the years after.

As a fan of Game of Thrones, I loved reading particularly about that. It was also interesting to read about other media of this time period.

I think this book would be a great book to have and look through every now and then. It can definitely be read from the first to last page, but also you can use it to read whatever chapter that interest you at the moment.

With illustrations, and thorough text, this book is a good read if you are interested in the subject such as fantasy, the middle ages, and history in general. It can be heavy if you are not that interested in the subject. Just a heads up. Other than that: happy reading!

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This book was so interesting! I loved seeing the art from the Middle Ages, but what was even more interesting was seeing how those times have been used and depicted in present day. I had never really made the connection between medieval times and present day fantasy, but it now seems so obvious! If you're either a history or a fantasy lover I think you'd really enjoy this one!

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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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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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The Fantasy of the Middle Ages is a beautifully illustrated and well written monograph and exhibition catalogue on the art of the middle ages as it relates to media and modern aesthetic sensibility. Due out 19th July 2022 from Getty Publications, it's 144 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. The relevant exhibition, titled Fantasy of the Middle Ages, is scheduled to run at the J. Paul Getty Museum from 21st June through 11th Sept. 2022.

This is a layman accessible, lushly illustrated volume written and curated by Drs. Larisa Grollemond and Bryan C. Keene. The text is interesting and the connections between the middle ages and the modern day are built up logically and perceptively. The book isn't academically rigorous and doesn't contain annotations. The authors have included extensive illustration credits and a short bibliography for further reading.

This would be a good resource and candidate for public or school library acquisition, as well as full of illustrations which will be of use to calligraphers, artists, and students of history.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

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I thought this was a great book about how the Middle Ages was such an inspiration to the Fantasy culture. How a lot of books, tv shows, movies, comics, etc took a lot from how people use to live back in the day and twist it in a fun way to give birth to a great genre. I love the illustrations through out the book.

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Interesting perspective, but I was expecting a more academic reading for a book published by the Getty Museum, which holds one one the larger libraries of Medieval manuscripts. The illustrations are lively and there are some great nuggets, but if you are looking for more than a fun introduction manuscript miniatures or not into Game of Thrones, probably not the book for you.

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THE FANTASY OF THE MIDDLE AGES is an absolutely gorgeous book. I read this book on Netgalley, but since I am also interviewing these authors for our library's podcast, I received a print edition as well, and it is a thing of beauty. From its magenta fore-edges to the gilded embossing on the cover, it took my breath away. But it contains not only perfect aesthetics, but valuable information on how medieval book art has shaped depictions of medieval life and fantasy worlds throughout history. Depictions of the medieval have much more to say about the eras in which they were created than the era that they depict; Grollemond and Keene ably guide the reader through how constructions of the medieval shape and reshape modern identities. Curious about the medievalism of Star Wars? How about how Disney has informed our image of the Middle Ages? Or perhaps you're just interested in its hundreds of glorious, beautiful full-color images from medieval and modern art? Then be sure to check this book out-- and if you're lucky enough to be in LA, the exhibit it accompanies at the Getty.

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Another fascinating book by Getty Publications: a feast for the eyes and some interesting essay about Middle Age culture and ideas.
The book is well written, not always easy but intriguing enough to keep me hooked.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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I'll admit, I picked up the eARC of this book for the pictures, LOL. And on that front, it absolutely did not disappoint. (Nor did the unexpected, but not at all unwelcome, references to and examinations of Tolkien and his works!)

I was a European Studies major in college, and the read brought back many a fond memory (truly!) of books read, papers written, and movies watched. I've defo got a shortlist of entertainment to revisit now!

The downside for me was the inclusion (no pun intended) of discussion on gender identity and expression, applying a currently very hot-button topic to a bygone era. If you're interested in that, fine; go for it! But--I was personally, frankly, very much not (looking for it, or interested in reading about it).

So, I'll enjoy the pictures here and revisit some old books and art I do enjoy.

3/5 stars.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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First, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this one! It was amazing. This was right up my street, not overly long, not overly wordy, and it was just... plain enjoyable. I'm going to purchase a hardcopy of this!

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This book goes with an exhibition at the Getty Museum this summer. It has interesting scholarly text along with beautiful artwork, from the Middle Ages to the present.

The authors discuss Medievalism as a cultural myth and how it relates to fantasy. We get a time-compressed and not always accurate depiction of the Middle Ages when the time period is represented in books, tv, and movies, but it’s what defines medieval for us now. What we see in medieval-based fantasy is almost mythology.

In case you think this is some dry textbook, it’s not! Just some of the cultural icons that make an appearance are Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, lots of Disney movies, Dungeons & Dragons, Assassin’s Creed, and more. Huzzah!

I enjoyed this book. I’ve only been to the Getty Center once, but I wish I could go back for this exhibition. It comes out July 19. Thank you to Getty Publications and NetGalley for my copy.

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“The Venn diagram of “medieval” and “fantasy” so closely overlap that they are almost inextricable.”

The premise was interesting, especially since I enjoy both medieval history and medieval-inspired stories many of which were mentioned here — but it just failed to click with me. And the main reason was probably how earnestly didactic it was.

A bit too dry and too repetitive, with very superficial explanations — I suppose that as an accompanying book to the exhibition at J. Paul Getty Museum it really needed to serve as just an overview, but it left me wanting much more.

But the illustrations were great, although a bit too many of the modern medievalist-inspired ones rather than actual old ones. But still — those I enjoyed quite a bit more than the accompanying text.

2.5 stars — but I’ll definitely see that exhibition if I have a chance.

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While I did find this book interesting it did seem a bit didactic at times. Would be a useful reference if I was doing academic research. Did enjoy the images and background references. Would recommend.

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Rating: 3.5 ⭐

First of all, thank you to NetGalley and Getty Publications for this ARC! This review is voluntarily written by me.

Truthfully, it is really hard for me to review this book because there are a lot of factors that need to be factored in. I will write this review as a non-native English speaker that wants to know about history but does not have enough basics about it. I actually have a hard time reading this book maybe because I rarely read books on these topics and I feel that somehow I’m reading a review paper with a lot of pictures in it. For me, I thought that this book is written in a really formal way that is quite hard to understand for some people, but it is understandable because this book is a companion book to an exhibition. This book is really heavy for me, however, I still get a lot of new knowledge about medievalism, fantasy, and arts from this book. For me, if any readers are interested in fantasy, art, and history, especially medievalism, they can read this book.

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Honestly, i am not the best or the right person to review this book as fantasy and medievalism are not my best subjects. As a matter of fact, you could say i rarely or hardly read books from such genres but i do watched them occasionally like Lord Of The Rings, Narnia and the fairy tales including the German version.

Thus, reading this book brought a whole new experience for me,like i am exposed to the world of medievalism and how its influences the fantasy elements in the artistic artworks and the media; from books, costumes, stage sets to the cinematic screens/the movies. So, in these areas, it was refreshing and very interesting exploration for me as a newbie in the area.

On the contrary it could also be quite a struggle for me to comprehend and grasp some of the interesting points of discussions in this book due to my lack of knowledge in the subject matter as i find the writings to be dense and heavy for me,a mere layman. At times, i find some parts to be repetitive.

However, as reiterated earlier, it could just be me,due to my lack of knowledge,experience and interest could be the slight hindrance in enjoying and giving a fair and deserving review and feedback of this very richly illustrated book with a fine analysis of the influences of medievalism in some of the well-known work of arts that we have known and seen today such as the Legend Of King Arthur, the Harry Potter series, the Lord Of The Rings, the Games Of Throne and even Cinderella.

So, i would highly recommend this book for those of you who are really into art, history,medievalism and fantasy and the related areas. Otherwise, you might find this book to be heavy and struggle a lot like i did. However,fret not this book is just a short read,accompanied by lots of interesting illustrations and manuscripts related to medievalism and fantastical elements for us to feast our eyes on and its coffee-table size would make it a great collection to one of our cozy reading book collections.

Thank you Getty Publications and NetGalley for the e-ARC copy in an exchange for my honest feedback and review.

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Thank you, Getty Publications, for the advance reading copy.

More like a coffee table book with quite an informative, colourful content with amazing illustrations and content related art/pictures/photographs the book offers some of the best content you will ever find and read in a book.

I have gained so much knowledge just from one page and I am taking my time to read the entire book. It's like traveling the world and the virtual world both combined through the book.

The content is incomparable to anything else.

It entertains. It surprises. It fulfills.

Kudos to the publication team.

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‘The Fantasy of the Middle Ages’ takes us through the Middle Ages and how we have seen it portrayed throughout history. It’s an absolutely beautiful book, with screen grabs and artwork from film and television. I particularly enjoyed the King Arthur chapter and the walkthrough of the many adaptations and their interpretations of the myth. A perfect mix of art, pop culture and history!

Thank you to NetGalley and Getty Publications for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This is a very short book accompanying an exhibit at the Getty on how the middle ages are depicted in fantasy literature, film, and other media. There is a great collection of medieval manuscript pages, as well as stills from movies, TV shows, photos of artworks, etc

Grollemond & Keene unpack the Arthurian mythos from its earliest known sources and track its transformation over the centuries, pointing out the renditions that include Black, queer, and non-Christian characters as they go. They do not have the room to do a deep exploration into what these transformative works say about the societies that produce them, only stating that the values of the subsequent works reflect the values of those creators.

The authors indict white- and straight-washing of medievalist fantasy and praise the inclusion of characters of color and queer characters in prominent roles in recent fantasy media (since 2019). There is (too little) mention of French and English medievalist tales drawing on stories with Persian, Arab, and Alexandrine origins, but again, there is hardly room in this little booklet to go into the subject. It would be nice to see a detailed analysis of how characters of color, queer characters, and women were whitened, straightened, and either erased or gender-flipped for English and French audiences.

After this, the authors address Ren Faires, D&D, Harry Potter, Gregorian chant as a stand-in for secular medieval music because real medieval secular music doesn't sound medieval enough, The Legend of Zelda, Costume, and so forth. In their view, fantasy and medievalism (aka the rough and wildly inaccurate approximation of "olden times") are inextricably intertwined. I disagree that medievalist staging is necessary for the fantasy genre. You can have modern urban fantasy without faux-medieval trappings, but it is definitely very common for "magic" stories to get a medievalist paint job.

The book closes with a call for medieval studies departments and museums to do some major soul searching wrt the racism and homophobia built into how the canon has been created by its authors and constructed by its scholars. Which seems like a thing the authors could best do with about 300 more pages to present their arguments. I absolutely want to read that book,

Things I found interesting: the princess in distress is a modern trope, not medieval. There's a drawing of Yoda (yes that Yoda) in the Smithfield Decretals (1300-1340).


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Una fantastica lettura che esplora vari aspetti della cultura del fantasy nei vari media odierni partendo ovviamente dai documenti antichi, fino ad arrivare a film, serie tv, fumetti, manga, videogiochi e quant'altro.
E' molto aggiornata e davvero interessante. Ve la consiglio.
Se fosse stata ancora più dettagliata l'avrei apprezzata ancora di più.


A fantastic reading that explores various aspects of fantasy culture in the various media today, obviously starting from ancient documents, up to movies, TV series, comics, manga, video games and so on.
It is very up to date and really interesting. I recommend it.
If it had been even more detailed I would have appreciated it even more.

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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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