Marco Polo's Le Devisement du Monde

July 2013
2 black and white illustrations
212 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Library eBook

Marco Polo's Le Devisement du Monde

Narrative Voice, Language and Diversity

Simon Gaunt

The first book in English to examine one of the most important and influential texts from a literary perspective.
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.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Le Devisement du Monde: textual tradition and genre
Narrative voice and style: 'ego Marcus Paulo'
Language and translation: 'in lingua Galica dicitur'
Knowledge, marvels and other religions: 'oculis propriis videt'
Diversity and alterity: 'diversarum regionum mundanas diversitates'
Conclusion: 'et ipse non notavit nisi pauca aliqua, que adhuc in mente retinebat'


In this ground-clearing study, Gaunt cuts through thickets of scholarship, much of it obfuscatory, to bring us a fresh vision. ... Its insights make it indispensable to any future study of Marco Polo. MEDIEVAL REVIEW

Simon Gaunt's scholarship in this book is, in a word closely associated with his subject, a marvel. Astute and entertaining [his book] thoroughly merits a place in the medievalist's library. COMITATUS

[This] excellent study of Marco Polo's Devisement du monde provides both an introduction to controversies and complexities that have beset the study of this text in modern times, and an analysis of key aspects of the text. ... [It is] a valuable contribution to the study of Marco Polo specifically, and, more generally, of medieval concepts of linguistic, religious, and cultural alterity, and of European fantasies and knowledge of the Far East. MEDIUM AEVUM

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