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New Approaches to Medieval Water Studies

Smith, J. & Howes, H. ORCID: 0000-0002-7105-0414 (2019). New Approaches to Medieval Water Studies. Open Library of Humanities, 5(1), article number 35. doi: 10.16995/olh.443/


The articles in this Special Collection engage directly with the realities of water as they simultaneously explore its intellectual potential in various genres of medieval writing, from crusade chronicles to medieval romance. In this way they shed new light not only on the literature and history they explore but also on medieval conceptions of water more generally, paving the way for a new approach to medieval water studies. In assembling this Collection, it was the intention of the editors to reflect on the best next steps for the study of water in the Middle Ages. A new medieval water studies should be novel, critical, self-aware, global and above all inclusive. Water is more than a subject of academic research, a catalogue of tropes and idioms to be described. As fields such as ecocriticism, environmental history, geography, anthropology, archaeology and water governance have demonstrated, water is always entangled with a larger ecology. The articles in this Special Collection reveal a water that is a puzzle, but also a cipher for a variety of nuanced readings and inquiries. An overly instrumentalist and scientific mentality leads to water being studied as a passive and malleable resource, but this trend has also affected cultural and historical inquiry.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > English, Publishing & Creative Writing
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