Secondary Literature Assignments for Tuesday

For Tuesday, we will be taking a break from our reading of Marco Polo to delve more deeply into our study of secondary literature and into the question of what kind of text exactly the Divisament dou monde might be.

In the right sidebar of this blog, you will find a link to the Sakai page for our course.  Once you log onto this page, you’ll be able to download PDFs of four different academic articles (because of copyright restrictions, I can’t make them accessible directly on this blog).

Your assignment for Tuesday is to pick ONE of these articles and read it very carefully – more than once, if possible.  I will post some discussion questions to help you think about what you have read on Sunday night. We will then gather as a group to discuss all four articles together.

These articles will also serve as the basis for your next paper assignment, in which you will be asked to summarize and respond to an academic argument.  Details on this paper assignment will be posted early next week. The essay will be due on October 12, with an extension over Fall Break possible.

To ensure a quality discussion on Tuesday, we need to make sure that not everyone picks the same article to read. Posted below are excerpts from the opening paragraphs of the four readings. Since there are 17 of you, each of these articles may be chosen by NO MORE THAN FOUR people, except for one, which may be chosen by FIVE.  First come, first served. To make your selection, simply post a reply to this post, listing ONLY the last name of the author that you have chosen (Campbell, Kinoshita, Strickland, Zhou). Before posting, please skim over the responses above you to ensure that the article you want is still available.

[UPDATE: As of Friday, 2am (can you tell that I have a 10-week old baby in the house?) Zhou is no longer available, having attracted five students already. All other groups will have a maximum permissible size of four people.]

[UPDATE 2: Strickland is now taken as well.]

[UPDATE 3: Kinoshita is now gone as well.  Annalise, Laura, and Brenna have been automatically assigned to Campbell.]

Mary Campbell, “The Utter East: Merchant and Missionary Travels during the ‘Mongol Peace,'” in Mary Campbell, The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400-1600 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991)

In the works of Marco Polo and the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck, the experiencing narrator born and bred in the pilgrimage accounts meets the fabulous and relatively unprescribed East of Wonders and the Alexander romances.  One might expect this encounter between the eyewitness and the factitious to be a meeting of matter and antimatter, in which explosion a host of images will perforce be smashed.  But images are hardier than that…

[Note: this is the third chapter of a book, and it occasionally makes reference to works discussed in earlier chapters, as well as to the writings of William of Rubruck, who traveled to Karakorum roughly 20 years before Polo.  The discussion of Marco Polo is still readily comprehensible, however].

Sharon Kinoshita, “Marco Polo’s Le Devisement dou monde and the Tributary East,” in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, ed. Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Iannucci (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008)

The Old French version of Marco Polo’s Le Devisement dou monde is best known  in magnificent manuscript versions from the turn of the fifteenth century. […] In consequence [it] is typically considered in its late medieval context – its manuscript analyzed alongside lavish volumes like the Très Riches Heures and its text alongside wonder tales like Mandeville’s Travels.  This essay returns the Devisement to its thirteenth-century context, reconsidering it not among those texts and trends that it anticipates but among those it draws on and transforms.

Debra Higgs Strickland, “Artists, Audience, and Ambivalence in Marco Polo’s Divisament Dou Monde” Viator 36 (2005): 493-529.

[…] That the Divisament was […] translated from the original French into numerous vernacular languages and survives today in some 150 manuscripts is a testimony to the work’s enduring, pan-European appeal. What is surprising is that of all of these extant copies, only four are extensively illustrated, and all four are of relatively late date. This alone may explain why previous analyses of the reception of the Divisament text do not incorporate its pictorial illustration to any significant degree.  The present study seeks to restore this dimension of the late medieval experience of Marco Polo’s tale…



Gang Zhou, “Small Talk: A New Reading of Marco Polo’s Il Milione,” Modern Language Notes 124.1 (January 2009): 1-22.

In his eloquently written book Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World, John Larner examines various interpretations of Marco Polo’s book Le Divisament Dou Monde, in terms of different genres in the Western medieval context […]. Taking Larner’s discussion as the point of departure, I argue in this essay that, while Marco Polo’s book pushes the limits of all these medieval Western genres, it demands an alternative perspective that reads “the Book” in light of the Chinese narrative tradition. A close reading of the book shall demonstrate that it bears strong similarities to small talk, a genre of minor quasi-historic work in the Chinese narrative tradition.



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16 Responses to Secondary Literature Assignments for Tuesday

  1. Kevin Fox says:


  2. Kaitlin says:


  3. Clare Welch says:


  4. Ivana Surjancev says:


  5. Charlie says:


  6. Erin Rice says:


  7. Lindsey says:


  8. Tobias says:

    As of now, Zhou is taken and our group of five is gone (Kevin, Ivana, Megan, Caitlin, Erin).
    Strickland has attracted three people (Claire, Charley, Lindsey) and Kinoshita one (Kaitlin).

  9. Allie Klein says:


  10. Cristina says:


  11. Tobias Boes says:

    Kinoshita and Strickland have now been taken as well. Annalise, Brenna, and Laura have been automatically assigned to Campbell. See you on Tuesday!

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