With a specific focus on travel narratives, this collection looks at how Islamic and eastern cultural threads were weaved, through travel and trading networks, into Western European/Christian visual culture and discourse and, ultimately, into the artistic explosion which has been labeled the “Renaissance.” Scholars from across humanities disciplines examine Islamic, Jewish, Spanish, Italian, and English works from a truly comparative and non-parochial perspective, to explore the transfer through travel of cultural and religious values and artistic and scientific practices, from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries.
During this period travel, military conquest and trade through the Mediterranean placed Western European citizens and merchants in contact with Islamic and eastern technology and culture, and travel narratives illustrate the converging and pragmatic dynamics of cultural acceptance. Perhaps the spread of “Renaissance” values and beliefs might have followed a trajectory the reverse of what is generally assumed, and that salient aspects of Renaissance culture traveled from the fringes of Islamic and eastern cultures to the midst of hegemonically Christian polities.
Introduction: “Travel as episteme: An Introductory Journey” by Montserrat Piera
Part I. Transforming the rihla tradition: The Search for Knowledge in Jewish, Muslim and Christian Travelers
1: From Pious Journeys to the Critique of Sovereignty: Khaqani Shirvani’s Persianate Poetics of Pilgrimage by Rebecca Gould
2: Observing Ziyara in Two Medieval Muslim Travel Accounts by Janet Sorrentino
3: Vulnerable Iberian Travelers: Benjamin of Tudela’s Sefer ha-Massa’ot, Pero Tafur’s Andanças e viajes and Ahmad al-Wazzan’s Geography of Africa by Montserrat Piera
Part II. Imagining the East: Egypt, Persia and Istanbul in my mind
4: ‘Tierras de Egipto’: Imagined Journeys to the East in the Early Vernacular Literature of Medieval Iberia by Matthew V. Desing
5: The Petrification of Rostam: Thomas Herbert’s re-vision of Persia in A Relation of Some Yeares Travaile by Nedda Mehdizadeh
6: Between Word and Image: Representations of Shi’ite Rituals in Safavid Iran from Early Modern European Travel Accounts by Elio Brancaforte
7: Visions of a Pilgrimage of Curiosity: Pietro Della Valle’s Travel to Constantinople by Sezim Sezer Darnault and Aygül Ağır
Part III: To the East and Back: Exchanging Objects, Ideas and Texts
8: Gift-giving in the Carpini Expedition to Mongolia (1246–1248 AD) by Adriano Duque
9: The East-West Trajectory of Sephardic Sectarianism: From Ibn Daud to Spinoza by Gregory B. Kaplan
10: Piety and Piracy: Repatriating the Arm of St. Francis Xavier by Pilar Ryan
11: The Other Woman: The Geography of Exclusion in The Knight of Malta (1618) by Ambereen Dadabhoy
12: Experiential Knowledge and the Limits of Merchant Credit by Julia Schleck
Montserrat Piera is Associate Professor of Medieval Spanish at Temple University. She has published on a wide range of topics from chivalry texts to early modern women writers.