In 1997, in one of the most widely received essays discussing questions of desire and sublimation among teachers and scholars of the Middle Ages, Louise Fradenburg includes a quick reading of director Chris Noonan's Oscar-winning 1995 movie, Babe, as a contemporary artifact with a “recognizably medievalist agenda.” She explains that the film:
celebrates love between master and servant (these days, animals have to stand in for the peasants), and rural life as the scene in which such love might be rediscovered. It expresses distaste for technology, focused especially on communications in the form of a Fax machine, but also recuperates the Fax, as well as discipline, training, technique. These figures recall the master tropes of anti-utilitarian medievalism in the nineteenth century. So does the film's insistent association of meaningless speech with commercialism and disbelief in the remarkable, and its association of meaningful speech with Babe's taciturn but loving farmer – a man behind the times who nonetheless is able to succeed because he recognizes the distinctive gifts of his animals, even when they want to do the work of the “other” (even, that is, when the pig Babe wants to do the work of a sheep dog).
For this essay, I am less interested in Fradenburg's subsequent subjecting of Babe to a Lacanian reading than in her brilliant reminder that medievalism, at least in many of its modern manifestations, continues to be aligned with romanticism and nostalgia for the premodern, the allegedly golden age which preceded machines, mechanization, science, technology, and industrialization.