Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Marco Polo, the Description of the World

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Marco Polo, the Description of the World

Article excerpt

Marco Polo, The Description of the World, trans. Sharon Kinoshita (Indianapolis, Ind., and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company Inc, 2016). xxxi + 238 pp.; 9 maps. ISBN 978-1-62466-436-6. $15.00. The enduring appeal of Marco Polo's Description of the World has assured its continued popularity with scholars and general readers alike. Since the last English translation was published twenty years ago, however, medievalists have become increasingly critical of the Eurocentric perspectives that have long dominated Western historical scholarship. Marco Polo's descriptions of the Mongol Empire are therefore particularly pertinent to this ongoing shift towards displacing the dominance of a European medieval worldview. Polo 'essentially views the world through Mongol eyes' (p. xxv), offering an account of the diverse customs, cultures, and landscapes of the Mongol Empire that is simultaneously informed by his Venetian upbringing and his experiences of Mongol life.

Kinoshita's new translation of the earliest Franco-Italian manuscript of the Devisement du monde (BnF fr. 1116) offers a reading experience that similarly de-centres the modern reader's expectations; it embraces, rather than smooths over, the alterity of the medieval text, while presenting it in a way that is both very readable and informative. The translation is divided into sections according to the regions described, but the text itself conserves the frequent chapter divisions and rubrics as they appear in the manuscript. …

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