Thursday, March 26, 2009

why medieval?

Sigh. The New Yorker runs to the obvious with the arrow story. Come on guys, bows and arrows have been around for 20,000 years. What is particularly medieval about them? Why not say "ancient" or "prehistoric"? People have been cutting town trees for awhile as well.

Had it been a crossbow, that would be another question.

One of my teachers, Prof. Joel Kaye, to the rescue:
Joel Kaye, a professor of medieval history at Barnard, said that he had not thought about the week’s news in the context of the Middle Ages, though he did point out that, suddenly, usury is a hot topic again. “I will tell you that I always bristle at the use of ‘medieval’ for ‘primitive,’ ” he said. “Modern people are not only doing the things that are called ‘medieval’ but doing them at times with gusto and greater will than they were ever done then.” Like what? “Murdering each other, starving each other.”


crystal said...

I was just reading Ivanoe and part was devoted to Robin Hood at an archery contest. Agincourt, Braveheart - I guess medieval and arrows are forever linked in popular culture.

crystal said...

er, Ivanhoe

cowboyangel said...

Funny, I was going to send you this article. So Kaye was one of your teachers? Is he related to Danny?

I'm afraid I can only sympathize so much. On that day when everyone stops thinking of "librarians" as spinster women with short hair and big glasses who tell you to be quiet, I might feel more of your pain.

You should prepare for the long haul on some of this stuff.

late adopter said...

It's like how people think of slavery as images of the South in the 1850s. The era just before something is replaced (such as archery with guns) retains the greatest grip on the imagination.