Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West
Few figures from history evoke such vivid Orientalist associations as Marco Polo, the Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer whose accounts of the "Far East" sparked literary and cultural imaginations. The essays in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West challenge what many scholars perceived to be an opposition of "East" and "West" in Polo's writings. These writers argue that Marco Polo's experiences along the Silk Road should instead be considered a fertile interaction of cultural exchange.
The volume begins with detailed studies of Marco Polo's narrative in its many medieval forms (including French, Italian, and Latin versions). They place the text in its material and generic contexts, and situate Marco Polo's account within the conventions of travel literature and manuscript illumination. Other essays consider the appropriation of Marco Polo's narrative in adaptations, translation, and cinematic art. The concluding section presents historiographic and poetic accounts of the place of Marco Polo in the context of a global world literature.
By considering the production and reception of The Travels, this collection lays the groundwork for new histories of world literature written from the perspective of cultural, economic, and linguistic exchange, rather than conquest and conflict.
Table of Contents
Introduction: East, West, and In-between
Suzanne Conklin Akbari
Part One: Marco Polo and the Experience of Wonder
Text, Image, and Contradiction in the Devisement dou monde
Debra Higgs Strickland
Marco Polo’s Le Devisement dou monde and the Tributary East
Marco Polo’s Devisement dou monde as a Narcissistic Trauma
Currents and Currency in Marco Polo’s Devisement dou monde and The Book of John Mandeville
Suzanne Conklin Akbari
Part Two: The Reception of Marco Polo: Medieval and Modern
Plucking Hairs from the Great Cham’s Beard: Marco Polo, Jan de Langhe, and Sir John Mandeville
The World Translated: Marco Polo’s Le Devisement dou monde, The Book of Sir John Mandeville, and Their Medieval Audiences
Suzanne M. Yeager
Calvino’s Rewriting of Marco Polo: From the 1960 Screenplay to Invisible Cities
From Alterity to Holism: Cinematic Depictions of Marco Polo and His Travels
Amilcare A. Iannucci and John Tulk
Part Three: Cross-Cultural Currents
The Perils of Dichotomous Thinking: A Case of Ebb and Flow Rather Than East and West
Marco Polo: Meditations on Intangible Economy and Vernacular Imagination
Marco Polo, Chinese Cultural Identity, and an Alternative Model of East-West Encounter
Available from University of Toronto Press.
“Sur cet ensemble de contributions on peut porter un jugement nuancé. Marco Polo devient parfois un prétexte à considérations générales sur la conception dominatrice des Occidentaux à propos de l'Orient, dénoncée par la plupart des auteurs.”
—Philippe Menard, Medieval REview
“The collection is helpful in that it contains concise summaries of facts and scholarship on Marco and his collaborator, Rustichello da Pisa, on other medieval geographical and travel writings, and on European and Asian perceptions of each other.”
—Matthew Boyd Goldie, Speculum