Recasting the Past: The Middle Ages in Young Adult Literature

Overview

Writers of adolescent fiction have long mined the Middle Ages for settings and materials-without much regard for historical accuracy. Too often, they perpetuate anachronistic fallacies, allowing modern attitudes about such things as literacy and tolerance for diversity to enter their presentation. So how are you to know whether a book is accurate? Where else can you look? That's where Recasting the Past steps in: both as a crash course in the Middle Ages and as a guide to some ...

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Overview

Writers of adolescent fiction have long mined the Middle Ages for settings and materials-without much regard for historical accuracy. Too often, they perpetuate anachronistic fallacies, allowing modern attitudes about such things as literacy and tolerance for diversity to enter their presentation. So how are you to know whether a book is accurate? Where else can you look? That's where Recasting the Past steps in: both as a crash course in the Middle Ages and as a guide to some of the adolescent fiction set in this period.

The purpose of this book is to provide teachers, librarians, and scholars of adolescent literature with a discussion of fiction set in the Middle Ages. By showing how novels incorporate ideas and misconceptions about the medieval period, Barnhouse demonstrates how to evaluate this fiction for historical accuracy and acquaints you with nineteen novels that can be paired with history lessons and canonical literary texts. The introductory chapter provides a brief overview of the Middle Ages and a timeline to help you conceptualize the novels; while the appendix offers suggestions for classroom use. Another chapter helps you differentiate between historical and fantasy fiction. Barnhouse provides a wealth of information about medieval people and practices-from pilgrims to crusaders, from Heloise and her lover Abelard to the saintly Joan of Arc, and from the Viking invasions of Ireland to the Norman Conquest of England. Along the way, you will learn more about medieval gender roles, literacy and the ways of learning, and attitudes toward religious diversity. You will also encounter familiar poems like The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, and The Song of Roland as modern writers incorporate them within their novels.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This small volume offers a crash course in the Middle Ages. . . . It packs an astonishing amount of material into its very readable pages.”–VOYA
VOYA
The wealth of literature set during medieval times has prompted this professional guide to the best and most accurate fiction available for classroom use. The author states, "The best historical fiction tells a good story and at the same time represents the past responsibly and accurately." Taking exception to the "Velveeta Theory of the Middle Ages," which purports that medieval times are the same no matter where you slice them, Barnhouse points out that the Middle Ages cover approximately one thousand years from 500 to 1500 A.D., and that during that time, conditions were not uniform or static throughout Europe. Some similarities, however, did exist—a dearth of printed materials, the predominance of the Catholic Church, and the prevalence of the three social groups of soldiers, clergy, and workers. Often modern writers are tempted to present medieval characters with modern sensibilities and social awareness to make them good role models for today's young adults. Medieval opinions might be disturbing. The repression of women, non-Christians, and the poor might make readers uncomfortable, but accurate portrayals allow them to understand better a very different society. Even literary inaccuracies can be used to illustrate important issues about gender roles, the transmission of knowledge, and medieval lifestyles. Various chapters examine literacy, religion, dress, historical figures, and fantasy as presented in books about the Middle Ages for teens. This small volume offers a crash course in the Middle Ages for teachers and librarians working with young adults. It packs an astonishing amount of material into its very readable pages. Suggestions for classroom projects are included,and the extensive bibliography is worth the purchase of the book. Index. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology. 2000, Boynton/Cook, 103p, pb. Ages Adult. Reviewer: Nancy Wallace SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780867094701
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 3/9/2000
  • Series: Young Adult Literature Series
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 0.26 (d)

Meet the Author

A former high school teacher, Rebecca Barnhouse earned her doctorate in medieval English literature in 1994. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Youngstown State University in Ohio, where she teaches medieval literature and a variety of other literature and writing courses.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Being True to the Past

Manuscripts and Medicine: Portrayals of Books, Literacy, and Knowledge

Fidelity to the Infidel: Religion and Religious Diversity

Tales and Their Tellers: Medieval Literature in Modern Dress

Saxons and Normans

Saints and Sinners: Historical Figures Fictionalized

Of Commoners and Kings: Medievalism in Fantasy Novels

Appendix: Into the Classroom

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