Marco Polo’s Travels, as we all agreed in class today, is a fairly impersonal text. Precisely this impersonality has given rise to all sorts of speculations about it, including most recently a heated scholarly argument about whether Marco Polo even visited China. Some people hold that Polo (who was undoubtedly a real person; his last will and testament from the early fourteenth century survive) only got as far as Persia, and copied the rest of his book from preexisting sources.
We’ll discuss these theories a little later. For the moment I simply want to ask whether you feel that it is, in fact, possible to derive any insights into Marco Polo’s personality from the narrative? Are there any telling passages that provide insight into his character? And what about Kubilai Khan? He’s not a big player in this story, and at any rate we won’t get to China until next week, but what do we learn about him so far?