Burning Castles in Sherwood Forest: The Construction and Destruction of Political Ideology in Scott, Peacock, and Conan Doyle
For this study, I have chosen to concentrate on three historical novels from the nineteenth-century that are set in the medieval period: Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott; Maid Marian, a reworking of the Robin Hood legend by Thomas Love Peacock; and The White Company, by Arthur Conan Doyle, the story of a young Englishman who goes to seek military adventure in France with the famous (and fictitious) White Company during the Hundred Years War. As realistic novels, all three seek to transport the reader into a medieval world that is true to historical “life.” In an exploration of imagery in medievalist historical fictions, I will focus my analysis around two popular, imagistic settings which, together, encompass both angles of the political debates about this form of fiction: the forest and the castle. The following pages provide a general summary of the range and reach of British medievalism: how and why it originated, the many different forms it took, and, crucially, the different ideologies bound up in portrayals and “mobilizations” of the medieval past. I will also, however, question these established ways of thinking about medievalism, providing examples from the three main primary texts of this project.