More on Goya and Getting Medieval
Brian Tierney, November 2008
Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.
To the Editor:
As a fellow medievalist I enjoyed reading Gabrielle Spiegel’s article in the September 2008 issue of Perspectives on History. But I wish you had not perpetrated an ahistorical absurdity by attaching the words “Getting Medieval” to a painting of an early 19th-century tribunal by Goya. Or perhaps it was intended as a subtle reminder of the danger of misapplied analogies?
Editor’s Note: As the correspondent perceptively points out, the cover image of the September 2008 issue of Perspectives on History does serve, in its own anachronistic way, to illustrate the dangers of using analogies in history. We must confess (the mot juste, perhaps, given the circumstances?), however, that we chose the image mainly for aesthetic reasons and because it is, after all, a powerfully evocative image of a persistent institution that transcends boundaries of time and space, it seems, to continually act as an instrument of power.