In my research on marvels, there is much information to suggest that their wide transmission was due to their amazing, unique, and ultimately pleasurable nature. Medieval people loved a good story, and were happy retelling them again and again, and were less concerned with whether or not they were true perhaps than modern people would be. Part of this easy transmissability of accounts of marvels relates, of course, to the fact that they are enjoyable to hear and read. In this paper, I intend to present the evidence for this sort of ‘marvels by the fireside’ image of medieval storytelling, borrowing from both well-known sources and my own original research.
My paper examines some key representations of oriental women as they appear in Marco Polo’s Divisament dou monde (c.1298). It pays particular attention to descriptions adapted by Marco Polo’s medieval readers in their own tales of pleasures and perils of the distant East. The author of the epic Entrée d’Espagne (c.1320), Jacopo d’Aqui in his Imago mundi (c.1333-4), Thomas Bradwardine in his De Causa Dei (c. 1344), Filippino da Ferrara in his Liber de introduction loquendi (c.1347), and Jean de Beauvau in his Traité (c.1479) are among medieval authors who drew on Marco’s descriptions and especially the more salacious passages dealing with oriental sexual customs. Each author brought his own moral or literary purposes to reworkings of the Divisament.
Hidden in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale are non-Western views of religions, cultures and laws. Most importantly, Man of Law’s Tale offers readers a view to a liminal bonding agent (Dame Custance), one who bridges and holds disparate contexts together.
This essay blends post-colonial with de-colonial theory to show how Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale presented a less dehumanized narrative than his peers while demonstrating an end to cultural biases through cultural hybridity. As Custance moves through third spaces and serves as interstitial diplomat, a dramatization of colonialism emerges at the inception of the English vernacular.