The Spirit of Twelfth-Century Europe: Reason and Revolt, Reading and Romance, in a World of Custom


ACLS Fellowship Program




Twelfth-century Europe served medievalists through much of the twentieth century as the best answer to an abiding fascination with the origins of modernity. With it they laid claim to a medieval “renaissance” (Haskins) and “reformation” (Constable) that first set the tone for a distinctively European culture. In an age where neither the classics nor the Christian religion serve as presumptive paradigms, however, this period (roughly 1050-1200) needs a new conceptual approach and a new narrative. This study examines cultural dynamics that cut across religion and learning and politics, approaches it by way of forms of communication distinctive to the era, and shows how Europeans did indeed begin to think afresh about nearly all things from God to nature, the human to society.