Odorico from Pordenone and his encounter with China (1318-1330)
By Annalia Marchisio
Given at the University of Michigan, on January 29, 2014
Odorico from Pordenone was a Franciscan Friar, who made a journey from Venice to Peking in the first half of the fourteenth century, at the time of the so-called “Mongolian peace”. Once back in Italy, he dictated to another friar the report of his travel, which is conventionally entitled “Relatio” In his work, Odorico gives an account of what he witnessed during his travels: towns, animals, plants and “monsters”, with a particular focus on the local legends and the strange habits of the people he met. 16 chapters over 38 are dedicated to the description of China.
Annalia Marchisio presents the content of the work to show what attracted the attention of a Friar who was among the first Westerner to reach and describe China. His astonished or rejecting reactions show us his different attitudes towards the Chinese culture and society. She also inquires how he strove to describe to his readers something that had been unseen before, an otherness from the environmental, cultural, linguistic and religious point of view. Finally, a brief analysis of the manuscript transmission of the text will help us to discover how the western medieval knowledge of the Far East was stratified. .
Annalia Marchisio is a post-doctoral fellow at the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame. She received her Ph.D. in Classics in 2013 by the Università degli Studi di Udine (Italy) and both her B.A. and M.A. in Modern Humanities from the Università degli Studi di Milano (Italy). Her major research interest is Medieval Latin Literature, and especially Travel Literature from the Late Middle Ages. She wrote her PhD thesis on the German version of Odorico from Pordenone’s “Relatio”, whose results have been published on “Filologia Mediolatina and ECodicibus”. She’s currently working on the first critical edition of Odorico’s “Relatio” and on a project on Geography and Travels in Europe from 1245 to 1400.
Click here to read her Doctoral Thesis: La tradizione manoscritta della Relatio di Odorico da Pordenone