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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

b) The Romantic Middle Ages. Canada, Denmark, Russia

1) John Richardson’s Wacousta and the transfer of medievalist romance

Anna Czarnowus

Texte intégral

1John Richardson’s Wacousta exemplifies both the cultural transfer of gothicisms into Upper Canada and the transmission of romance as a genre from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when in this very case it adopts the form of colonial romance. It shows the two manners in which the Middle Ages existed in the Enlightenment, which apparently continued in Romanticism, at least in Canada. The choice of 1763 as a temporal setting entails the presence of indigenous peoples, who for Canadians symbolized similar primitivism as medieval culture for Europeans at the time. Yet another temporal dimension that functions very much like the functioning of the Middle Ages in relation to the eighteenth and nineteenth century is the history of Scots and even the Cornish oppressed by imperial England. Fort Detroit in Wacousta provides a similar, pseudo-medieval, hence medievalist, architectural background to the events. Richardson’s intention was very likely to show his personal interest in the other culture of colonial Canada but also to illustrate the idea that the indigineous people could be seen as sophisticated, much the same as medieval people were imagined by intellectuals and scholars in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Wacousta is a text about cultural transfer: the transfer of romance as a genre from Europe to Northern America; and the transfer of culture from the medievalist Scotland and Cornwall to colonial North America, where medievalist phenomena had to acquire a new meaning.


2Richardson, Wacousta


University of Silesia, Katowice

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