Embodying the Mandevillean voice
in Medieval literary voices
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The voice of ‘Sir John Mandeville’, author and protagonist of Mandeville’s Travels, is an illusory textual effect: Mandeville, as we all know, was not Mandeville, and probably did not travel. Mandeville’s first-person experiences are plagiarised from those of genuine travellers; yet the text forges a distinctive voice that unites its disparate sources and the positions, in Michel de Certeau’s terms, of ‘voyeur’ and ‘walker’. This voice constitutes what David Lawton names ‘a public interiority’: generations of Mandeville’s readers occupied his position. Hence, for someone who did not exist, Mandeville generated significant material traces, including two grave sites, at Liège and St Albans. Mandeville’s English readers added additional biography to flesh out the character, emphasising, variously, his Englishness, his knightliness and his scholarship. Two manuscripts of the Travels visualise him both as author and as traveller: in BL, MS Harley 3954, he is a humble guide and pilgrim; and in the luxurious BL, MS Additional 24189, he is an elegant aristocrat.

Medieval literary voices

Embodiment, materiality and performance


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