“Crye Fredome”? Medievalism and Twenty-First-Century Scottish National Identity

Berger, Matthias (5 March 2016). “Crye Fredome”? Medievalism and Twenty-First-Century Scottish National Identity (Unpublished). In: 18. Studientag zum Englischen Mittelalter (SEM). Bonn, Deutschland. 03.-05.03.2016.

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It is a well-documented fact that the Middle Ages have had a long history of instrumentalisation by nationalisms. 19th-century Eu¬rope in particular witnessed an origins craze during the process of nation-building. In the post-Shoah, post-modern West, on the other hand, we might expect this kind of medievalist master nar¬rative to have been consigned to the dustbin of history. And yet, as nationalism surges again in Europe, negotiations of national identi¬ties in medieval dress seem to have become fashionable once more. In order to come to terms with the fragmented and often contradictory presence of the Middle Ages in these discourses of national identity, I propose we consider medievalism a utilitarian product of the cultural memory. Rather than representing any ‘real’ Middle Ages, then, medievalism tailors available knowledge of the medieval past to the diverse social needs and ideologies of the present.

This paper looks at a selection of Scottish examples of present-day medievalism in an attempt to investigate, in particular, the place of the medieval Wars of Scottish Independence in contemporary negotiations of ‘Scottishness’. Both the relationships envisioned between self and other and the role played by ‘the land’ in these cultural, social and political instances of national introspection offer starting points for critical inquiry. Moreover, the analysis of a scholarly intervention in the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum indicates an intriguing dialogue of academic and non-academic voices in the context of Scottish medievalist cultural memory. We thus find a wide array of uses of the Scottish Middle Ages, some of which feed into the burgeoning nationalism of recent years, while others offer more pensive and ambivalent answers to the question of what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Arts (GSA)

UniBE Contributor:

Berger, Matthias


400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Matthias Berger

Date Deposited:

25 Apr 2016 16:16

Last Modified:

25 Apr 2016 16:16

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Medievalism, cultural memory, myth, national identity constructions, Scottish nationalism, Macbeth, Wars of Scottish Independence, The Wallace Muse, Dunsinane



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