Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Reading History

I've been reading a history of the Middle Ages, starting in about 300 BC, and ending about 1500.  I was looking for something else in the school library, saw it, and just felt like reading it, so there I am.  I'm to about 1000 now.  I have to say, what I knew about the years 300 to 1066 could pretty much fit on a small postcard with plenty of room for an address and a stamp, you know?  It's sort of shameful, but I'm getting a better sense, and could probably fill a large postcard now.

One of the things I've long felt pretty iffy about is the split in the Roman Empire, and then the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, and then also, the beginnings of the Papacy (which this text didn't really go into, but it's pretty introductory).  One of the points the text made is that from day to day, most people from, say, 300 to 600 in western Europe wouldn't have said that the Roman Empire was falling.  They muddled through, and things changed, but they weren't looking at a big historical picture.  They were muddling through.

I feel like I'm muddling through the fall of something big here, a university system, at the least, perhaps, or something even bigger.  Day to day, not much changes, and then you think, hey, in the past 20 years, this X sure has changed, hasn't it?

I'm also prepping to teach "The Knight's Tale" and that has me thinking about the values of epic and romance, and the sense of loss they often seem to share, that there was something real, important, valuable, and that it's been lost.  Neither epic nor romance seems appropriate to our times, do they?  They depend too much on a hero standing up, and heroes don't stand out that way these days, and maybe never really did except in texts.  Villains, sure, sometimes, but not heroes. 

What genre speaks to our times?  Zombie shows?  (I'm not discounting zombie shows, just feeling unattached to them.  But then, I suspect I would have felt unattached to medieval romance were I a medieval peasant woman trying to scrounge enough bread to make it to the next day, too.)

1 comment:

  1. I think fantasy/dystopic writing are pretty important in our current time period. That brings in the zombies and things like Game of Thrones, which is very Shakespearean, as well as The Hunger Games and the more adolescent stuff like that. I think that it's telling that our popular entertainment is so heavily based in fantasy -- it says something about our reality that we superdooper don't want to face it when we're trying to be entertained. The popularity of YA lit also suggests a nostalgic longing for simpler times, when morals and ethics were much more black and white, like in childhood. I think The Hunger Games is actually pretty divergent from that nostalgia overall, but it gets to that complication of ethics via a (mostly) black and white binary -- government = bad, oppressed people = good.

    I think you're right though. You don't see things changing so much as you're in the time of change. You see it better in retrospect.