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Marco Polo's Le Devisement du Monde

Marco Polo's Le Devisement du Monde: Narrative Voice, Language and Diversity

Series: Gallica
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Marco Polo's Le Devisement du Monde
    Book Description:

    Le Devisement du Monde (1298), better though inaccurately known in English as Marco Polo's Travels, is one of only a handful of medieval texts that remain iconic today for European cultural history, and Marco Polo is one of only a handful of medieval writers who still enjoys instant name-recognition. Yet there is little awareness of the Devisement's complex history and development. This book examines the text from a fresh, literary viewpoint, drawing upon a range of different disciplines and approaches: philology, manuscript studies, narratology, cultural history, postcolonial studies and theory. It contains comparative readings of multiple versions of the text in French, Italian and Latin, Rather than offering a Eurocentric vision of the world grounded in a sense of the absolute alterity of the non-Christian world as is often asserted, the author shows how the Devisement expounds a sense of the relative nature of difference, crucially positioning Marco uncannily between two worlds (East and West), just as he is positioned awkwardly between two languages, French and Italian, and (in modern reception at least) awkwardly between two literary histories. The author also calls into question traditional accounts of the use of French outside France in the Middle Ages and offers a re-assessment of Marco Polo's position in the evolution of European travel writing. Simon Gaunt is Professor of French Language and Literature at King's College London.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-113-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction: Le Devisement du Monde: textual tradition and genre
    (pp. 1-40)

    ‘Marco Polo is one of those comparatively few people from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries of whom everyone today has heard.’¹ Thus begins one of the most authoritative historical studies of this Venetian merchant, who was probably born in 1254 and who died on 9 January 1324. Airports and cars are named after him; he has been the subject of numerous children’s books from the nineteenth century onwards; he makes guest appearances inDr Who; and popular histories of his life appear with regularity every few years, which suggests he continues to fascinate.² The name Marco Polo remains a byword...

  7. 1 Narrative voice and style: ‘ego Marcus Paulo’
    (pp. 41-77)

    The aim of this chapter is to examine the ambiguous narrative voice(s) of theDevisement.The ambivalence of first-person pronouns in the text has not escaped remark before, and my own analysis is indebted, in particular, to articles by Valeria Bertolucci Pizzorusso, Dietmar Rieger and Cesare Segre.¹ I hope, however, that my own discussion can go further than previous studies by relating the fundamental ambivalence of first-person pronouns to broader issues of storytelling and reader response as they emerge not only in the narrative frame of theDevisementitself but also in the text’s reception. This chapter has three sections....

  8. 2 Language and translation: ‘in lingua Galica dicitur’
    (pp. 78-112)

    The question of from where the text speaks is related to another: in which language? The language of theDevisementhas been problematic in its reception from the outset, though this has been frequently occluded both by early transmitters and by modern scholars. One illustration of uncertainty concerning language comes early in theZredaction. At the beginning of Chapter 4, we read: ‘In Iorgia est quidam rex qui David Melic totis temporibus nuncupatur, quod in lingua Galica dicitur Rex David’ (4, 1: ‘In Georgia their king is always called David Melic, which is to say in French King David’)....

  9. 3 Knowledge, marvels and other religions: ‘oculis propriis videt’
    (pp. 113-144)

    The main interest of theDevisement du mondehas always been its subjec-tmatter. Though several thirteenth-century Latin texts based on eye-witness accounts of the Far East preceded it,¹ the wealth of detail and also possibly the fact that it circulated in the vernacular as well as in a variety of redactions seem to have ensured theDevisementits immediate success and its impressively long shelf life. European readers were apparently avid for information about the strange lands that lay to the East, and although these had always been represented as extraordinary, Marco Polo’s account suggested they were extraordinary in new...

  10. 4 Diversity and alterity: ‘diversarum regionum mundanas diversitates’
    (pp. 145-172)

    In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Christian Europe confronted two related problems concerning its relation to the rest of the world. First, how was Christendom to turn back the apparently relentless and frequently bellicose expansion of Islam, in particular its reconquest of the Holy Land, to which many believed Christianity had inalienable historic rights? Secondly, was the vast, and in medieval terms global, empire of the Mongols that had made its presence felt sharply from the 1240s onwards, friend or foe, a potential ally against Islam or another, potentially devastating, threat? From the brutal Mongol invasions of Russia, Poland and...

  11. Conclusion: ‘et ipse non notavit nisi pauca aliqua, que adhuc in mente retinebat’
    (pp. 173-182)

    My two epigraphs encapsulate the main cruces of readingLe Devisement du Mondethat I have explored in this book. For some scholars Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa chose to write in French because for Italians of the time it was the only available legitimate vernacular alternative to Latin: this case has been made most recently and persuasively with particular eloquence and erudition by Alison Cornish:

    because there was a literature in French a good hundred and fifty years before therewasone in Italian, for a long time, French literature was vernacular literature. To adopt it was not...

    (pp. 183-194)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 195-200)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-203)