Displaced Subjects: Narrative Structures and Material Contexts of Late Medieval Travel Histories

Voss, Elizabeth, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
McGrady, Deborah, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

My dissertation, Displaced Subjects: Narrative Structures and Material Contexts of Late Medieval Travel Histories, examines accounts of late medieval travel, which I call travel histories, to discuss the complex structures that they generally take. I analyze the narrative and material forms of three late medieval travel texts: Marco Polo’s Divisement du monde (ca. 1298), Guillaume de Machaut’s Prise d’Alixandre (1371) and the opening of the third book of Jean Froissart's Chroniques, the “Voyage en Béarn” (1389). My study of narrative manipulations and material book culture on display in both text and illustration show that the experimental form of these travel histories plays with various meanings of displacement and the subject positioning of the writer. Using an interdisciplinary approach grounded in literary criticism, art history and codicology, I analyze the variations of displacement present in these works to argue that they cultivate a distinctive relationship with the function of books in relocating and reenacting journeys. My work engages with recent cultural studies of early travel accounts, particularly with regards to the Medieval Mediterranean, the Global Middle Ages and the Postcolonial Middle Ages. While studies of this type have generally focused on the descriptions of the cultural other, I privilege the formal structures of these narratives and their manuscript contexts to show how innovative literary and artistic techniques situate the writer in distinct subject roles.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
medieval, travel, Marco Polo, Machaut, Froissart
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