Doctor Virtualis 16: The Middle Ages as a novel

deadline for submissions: 
October 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Università degli Studi di Milano
contact email: 

The Middle Ages as a novel

Middle Ages has received, maybe more than other historical periods, different narrations and representations sometimes opposing. We know that an historical epoch, and then also the medieval millennium, is not existing as defined and unitary object, but in front of multiple readings that the Middle Ages in the course of history has received, it becomes difficult to oppose to strong and unitary representations an hypothesis in which emerges various and plural aspects. In the next isssue of “Doctor Virtualis”, we propose to study the Middle Ages from the point of view of narration: a Middle Ages that narrates itself and a Middle Ages as place of narrations.
We would be pleased to receives contributions on this theme from two lines of direction. On the one hand, a world that recounts itself, its society, its mental horizon, its imaginary, through different literary forms. In this way, it emphasizes peculiarities and contradictions of the age, as we can see in the Navigatio Sancti Brendani. On the other hand, a Middle Ages that is object of narrations, as a period that arouses narrative imagination and, more than other periods, allows to probes the conception of history as narrative form (H. White).
The literary works by Umberto Eco, according to this perspective, is certainly an interesting point of reference and a source of inspiration. His novels describe his Middle Ages maybe better than his essays, because the narrative form seems better adapted to a multiplicity of perspectives, characters and atmospheres, which create their own object at the moment in which it is told. Themes like those of auctoritas, falsification, travel, the places of abbey (The Name of the Rose) or court (Baudolino), are just examples of possible ways to narrate the middle age, a period that proposes its lively complexity in the form of novel.
According to this direction, there are different representations, as it happens in The Castle of Otranto (Walpole), Murder in the Cathedral (Eliot), [Brancaleone, il romanzo (Age, Scarpelli, Monicelli)], Ordalia (Chiusano) to mention just a few titles among the hundreds that refer to this era in different ways and styles. Nonetheless various and plural are also the non-literary images that indicate a similar narrative tendency, because the Middle Age becomes object of a narration that sometimes tends to project some present exigencies in the past, as in the idealised and utopic Middle Age of William Morris, which contraposes his ideal to the mercantilist and industrial society of his times.
Contributes that reflect on these arguments, with a particular attention to medieval representations and to the ways in which this period is narrated, as emerges from the medieval, modern and contemporary thought and literature, will make it possible to delineate a period that finds its different identity in the constant and always new form of the narration.



  • Abstract submission (6-8000 chars): 30th October 2019
  • Abstract acceptance: 30th November 2019
  • Paper submission: 30th March 2020