Medieval/Modern: The Middle Ages in 
Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Visual Culture

This graduate seminar explored some of the complex and often contradictory ways in which medieval and medieval-inspired forms and philosophies have been employed to articulate the “modern” in avant-garde cultural discourse from the early twentieth century to the present.


The term “Middle Ages” (derived from the Latin medium aevum) is a post-medieval construct. During the modern era this variously defined historical period (ca. 300-1450 CE) has been continually imagined and reimagined in many different artistic, historical, literary, ideological, and technological contexts. The remarkable diversity in modern and contemporary appropriations and constructions of the “medieval” was reflected in the wide-ranging research topics chosen by the six M.A. and Ph.D. students.


The seminar took place during the fall term of 2012 in the Department of Visual Arts at The University of Western Ontario under the direction of Professor Kathryn Brush. In addition to in-class discussions and the collaborative production of this website, seminar participants made a study trip to medieval-inspired buildings and art collections in Toronto. These included a prominent National Historic Site, the Byzantine-style St. Anne’s Anglican Church, designed in 1907, and decorated in the 1920s by members of Canada’s “iconic” Group of Seven; and the Malcove Collection at the University of Toronto Art Centre. Seminar participants had the privilege of studying and discussing some of the medieval and modern objects collected by Dr. Lillian Malcove, a prominent Freudian psychoanalyst in Manhattan, who bequeathed her collection to the University of Toronto in 1981.