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Exoticism as the Appropriation of Travail

Exoticism as the Appropriation of Travail

Chapter:
(p.21) Chapter One Exoticism as the Appropriation of Travail
Source:
The Medieval Invention of Travel
Author(s):
Shayne Aaron Legassie
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226442730.003.0002

This chapter explains the cultural logic of medieval exoticism and its implications for reading travel writing about East Asia during the period. In the Middle Ages, the prestige-value of exotic commodities derived in large part from the labor involved in transporting them from their place of origin to their place of consumption. In many settings, the exchange, ownership, and display of exotica were politically symbolic in nature. This cultural reality invites a reconsideration of how two of the most widely studied works of medieval travel writing--the ​Itinerarium of William of Rubruck and the ​Divisament dou monde of Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa--render the subjective experiences of their traveling protagonists.

Keywords:   exoticism, Mongol Empire, William of Rubruck, Marco Polo, subjectivity, The Divisament dou monde, subjectivity, courtly culture, vernacular travel writing, book history, Il milione

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