Northern Europe and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages, Part 1: Culture and the Arts

AHA Session 178
Saturday, January 8, 2022: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Preservation Hall, Studio 8 (New Orleans Marriott, 2nd Floor)
Michelle Armstrong-Partida, Emory University
The Audience

Session Abstract

The recent surge of scholarship in the field of Mediterranean Studies has directed new attention to regions once considered marginal to Medieval Studies and called into question long-standing assumptions regarding the evolution of European culture and society, the primacy of northern European lands in this process, and paradigms such as the nation. These new understandings of broad historical narratives provide some of the most important developments in Medieval Studies in recent decades. This two-session workshop examines connections between northern Europe and the Mediterranean with the aim of illuminating the networks, personal ties, and cultural flows between these two regions in the Medieval period. The first session of the workshop focuses on the adoption of elements of Mediterranean culture, especially visual culture, within Northern European ones, particularly in Britain and Scandinavia. The first paper looks at Mediterranean elements within the many influences on the carvings of the Romanesque stave churches of Norway. The second concerns the impact of Byzantine and Islamic silks on the art and court culture of England. The third gives a brief but dense overview of Mediterranean influence on England, Wales, and Scotland in a range of areas, from material culture and food to literature and learning. Together, the papers undermine any idea that Mediterranean cultures, including the Byzantine and Islamic worlds, were peripheral to northern European societies. Instead, they show that northern Europeans in the Middle Ages admired and valued Mediterranean cultures, even those with which they sometimes contended in religious wars. Taken together, the papers also demonstrate the remarkable permeability of culture across national, regional, and even religious barriers, and show the advantages scholars of northern Europe can gain from familiarizing themselves with the important work being done in Mediterranean Studies.