The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Description Must use the sources: Provincializing Europe by Dipesh Chakrabarty World Histories by Marnie Hughes Warrington Herodotus Diodorus William of Tyre Geoffrey de Villerhardouin Travels of Sir John Mandeville Prompt: In the first half of the quarter, we are focusing on the development of Western historiography from the Classical Greek period through the late medieval era. As a way of synthesizing the various themes, both historiographical and theoretical, that we will be pursuing, we will be analyzing The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, the record of the purported journeys around the known world of a fourteenth-century English knight. What we are interested in understanding is the manner in which Mandeville conceptualizes the world through which he travels. How does he see the world? What does he focus on? Why does he focus on the things that he does? What sorts of things inspire his attention? What is he not interested in? What is included in his account? What is left out? What are the criteria that are at work in terms of inclusion and exclusion? How does he structure his narrative? How does he connect one thing to another? What sort of attitude does he take toward the various peoples and cultures that he describes? Upon what basis does he legitimate his claims to truthfulness? As you sort through these issues, you will want to consider Mandeville’s relation to the other historical narratives that we are reading. Mandeville was the heir to an already rich and heterogeneous set of historical accounts stretching back to the Classical Greek and Roman periods, as well as numerous records of the travels of other Europeans. How does the manner in which Mandeville depicts the world relate to the approaches we have seen in Herodotus, Diodorus, William of Tyre, and Geoffrey de Villehardouin? How similar or different is Mandeville’s approach to theirs? How does he both draw from and expand upon the approaches we have encountered in these others writers? In addition, you will also want to think about Mandeville’s narrative in relation to the theoretical issues that we have been pursuing in the first half of the quarter. How can Mandeville’s approach to depicting the world aid us in thinking through the problems that the authors in Hughes-Warrington’s text have raised concerning the writing of an inclusive human history? What exactly is the status of Mandeville’s text? Is it a world history, a universal history, a global history, or something else? Further, how does Mandeville’s depiction of non-European cultures fit into Chakrabarty’s concerns surrounding the inherent Eurocentrism of all forms of Western thinking? Mandeville is writing in a period prior to Europe’s rise to the level of a global power, so how does this affect the manner in which he envisions his own culture’s relation to the rest of the world? Is Mandeville’s manner of depicting the world free of the problems that Chakrabarty identifies? A word of caution: we are reading Mandeville’s narrative as a piece of primary evidence concerning the development of historical thinking and writing up through the fourteenth century. As such, we are not interested in a literary-critical reading of the narrative, but in a historical-critical one. This means that the paper’s argument should be centered on explaining and analyzing Mandeville’s idea and approach, not in evaluating the aesthetic merits or faults of the text or summarizing its narrative. In the same respect, we are not interested in the validity of Mandeville’s depiction of the world – its truth or falseness – but in the manner in which he can better help us understand the way in which Europeans were thinking about their relation to the rest of the world up through the late medieval period. In this regard, what does Mandeville allow us to see about the fashion in which Europeans saw themselves, others, and the world around them?

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