Skip to main content

The Premodern Condition

Medievalism and the Making of Theory

The Premodern Condition identifies and explains a surprising affinity for medievalism and medieval studies among the leading figures of critical theory. Drawing on a wide range of philosophical, literary-critical, and sociological works produced within the French nouvelle critique of the 1960s, Holsinger argues for reconceiving these discourses, in part, as a brilliant amalgamation of medievalisms.

Holsinger shows that the preoccupation with medieval cultures and practices among Bataille, Derrida, Lacan, Barthes, Bourdieu, and their cohorts was so wide ranging that it merits recognition as one of the most significant epiphenomena of postwar French thought. Not simply an object of nostalgic longing or an occasional source of literary exempla, the medieval epoch was continually mined by these thinkers for specific philosophical vocabularies, social formations, and systems of thought.

To supplement its master thesis, The Premodern Condition also contains original essays by Bataille and Bourdieu—translated here for the first time into English—that testify in various ways to the strange persistence of medievalisms in French postwar avant-garde writings. What results is an important and original work that will be a touchstone for specialists in medieval studies and critical theory alike.

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Medieval Studies

Philosophy: General Philosophy


"In this elegant and wide-ranging tour de force, Holsinger throws a bright new light on the familiar theorists."

Bettina Bildhauer | TLS

"[Holsinger has] contributed substantially to a more complete intellectual history of the later twentieth century of which the many intertwined branches of contemporary Medieval Studies are themselves a continuing part."

Craig R. Davis | Medieval Review

"[Holsinger] has done subtle, investigative, counterintuitive, yet steadily persuasive work."

James Simpson | Speculum

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Avant-Garde Premodern
1. Para-Thomism: Bataille at Rheims
2. Apocalypse and Archaeophilia: Lacan’s Middle Ages and the Ethics of History
3. Indigeneity: Panofsky, Bourdieu, and the Archaeology of the Habitus
4. Gothic Invention: Liturgy, History, Of Grammatology
5. The Four Senses of Roland Barthes
Appendix I: Medieval French Literature, Chivalric Morals, and Passion
Georges Bataille / Translated by Laurence Petit
Appendix II: Postface to Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism
Pierre Bourdieu / Translated by Laurence Petit
Works Cited

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press