The Dark Ages didn’t happen

This is a great article on Dark Ages bullshit:

No amount of “humanities advocacy” is worth desecrating the past it purports to promote or undoing generations of valuable scholarly work. Regardless of what knowledge, ignorance, or love for the Middle Ages the average reader begins with, at the end of the book readers know less than before because their heads have been filled with errors.

Wollstonecraft on Purity (with a dash of Fielding)

My friend India Valentín has a great discussion of “the fallen woman” in the Victorian years. Something I found interesting, if horrible, is how similar it is to the mores and tropes around the issue in the eighteenth century, which had very different conceptions of women in many ways.

Of course, the ultimate discussion of this in England is Mary Wollstonecraft’s famous treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She discusses multiple scenarios for how women could become unwed mothers—teenage ignorance, seduction, exploitation by predators—and then moves onto the shaming of rape victims:

When Richardson makes Clarissa tell Lovelace that he had robbed her of her honour, he must have had strange notions of honour and virtue. For, miserable beyond all names of misery is the condition of a being, who could be degraded without its own consent!

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It’s not history

The more I write, the more I feel that “Oh, but it’s a fantasy world! You’re not actually depicting any real cultures” is not at all useful or productive. For one, if you can’t see the connection between something like Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire and medieval West Europe, I don’t know what to say to you. They are not direct depictions, but they are very, very evidently rooted in history and culture—and the baggage that comes with them.

It’s true that the connecting fibres are much thinner for some works than others, but while most are certainly not on the scale of Middle-earth or Westeros, many follow in that kind of tradition. In my day job (such as it is), I study the early Renaissance in western Europe along with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain, and those interests constantly pervade my fiction. I did as much historical research for the first chapter of The Timewalker as for straightforward historical fiction, because most aspects absolutely are drawn straight from history.

At the same time, of course, it is a fantasy and a secondary world, and those are never going to be directly analogous.

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