Eco-Narrative and Self-Fashioning in Medieval European Travel Writing: M. Polo, J. Mandeville, M. Kempe and F. Fabri. Domaine: Germanic and Romance Philology, medieval intellectual history; Christian theology; the philosophy of the Self; environmental history;

Auteur Chen CUI
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Résumé de la thèse

This doctoral project looks at the interplay between eco-narrative — that is, the rhetorically well-wrought and richly connotative verbal descriptions of what is traditionally construed as “nonhuman” — and the poetic externalisation of “human” perception, emotion and subjectivity in four medieval European travel texts, as belong to the Germanic and Romanic vernacular traditions.


It is argued that quite contrary to the modern dichotomous approach towards the material world, as attributed directly, if not ultimately, to the Enlightenment, the four medieval travel texts under investigation demonstrate a status of mutual placement and mutual illumination between the human and nonhuman elements, counteracting the enthroning of dualism as the scientific mode of thinking and reasoning since the age of Descartes. Philosophically, this situation is indicative of the medieval concentric insertion of “human” within the materialistically defined “nature” of the terrestrial sphere, in which the human and nonhuman are conceived as interlocked rather than separate. On the poetic level, moreover, this also foregrounds the essential role of inter-subjectivity in stirring human emotion, which accords with the mystical, devotional and homiletic traces in passages of allegorical travel. Hence, while nature acts as the objective medium to which humanness is projected in the process of verbal creation, it is also the source of inspiration from which poetic ingenuity is derived, as concerns the occurrence of literary minds. And therefore, the eco-narratological fashioning of the self, be it symbolical and figurative in the texts, is ultimately in tune with the theological origin of modernity.

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