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Trade and Romance Hardcover – December 16, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


“Both immensely erudite and fun to read, Michael Murrin’s Trade and Romance chronicles three stages of Europe’s premodern commercial engagements with Asia: the traversing of the Silk Route, the arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean, and the exploration by Englishmen and Russians of a northern land route to China. It examines, in turn, the role of Asia in inspiring the Western literary imagination. Writing as a geographer who has seen at first hand the Central and South Asian sites and terrain reached by medieval and Renaissance merchants, Murrin examines the relationships between trade and heroic adventure, between geographical distance and fantasy. Spanning the texts of Marco Polo, Chaucer, Huon of Bordeaux, Boiardo, Marlowe, Camões, Mendes Pinto, and Milton, Murrin demonstrates how the experiences of traders—the vast distances traversed, the risks and hardships endured, the wondrous sights and strange peoples encountered, the wealth and exotic products brought back—could be transformed by literature into the stuff of heroism and romance. Beneath the seemingly incredible marvels of romance fiction lurk real historical places, human actors, and events; literary genres designed for aristocratic soldier heroes find themselves accommodating, often uneasily, commercial actors and activities. Murrin is a good storyteller. Trade and Romance will be enjoyed not only by historians and literary scholars for whom it will be essential reading, but also by a broader educated public that shares Murrin’s interest in historical geography.”
(David Quint, Yale University)

“A man of many travels, Michael Murrin brings together his years of patient detective work and scholarship to explain how the mystery, wealth, and glitter of distant Asia added a new romance dimension to Renaissance epic poetry. Each chapter sets off through various textual labyrinths in quest of hidden meaning, whether tracing the influence of the Mongol conquests in Asia, the enterprises of the Portuguese around Africa to India, or the English explorations of the 1550s through Russia. The sometimes gnomic but always alluring style of the book is a master teacher’s tool to make us feel the ‘dark cold and empty desolation’ faced by traders in distant lands before Professor Murrin reveals the ‘deeper communion’ that our new knowledge of places and vast distances reveals. Literary history will have to be rewritten, for Trade and Romance gives us new worlds, different visions beyond the Mediterranean and the Americas.”
(Charles Ross, Purdue University)

“How travel feeds literature and feeds on literature: this could well be a subtitle for Trade and Romance, a book that fires our imagination about places and peoples at the same time as it enhances scholarship. The section on the Portuguese enters both deeply and audaciously into central issues of Renaissance literature and imperial history, happily supplementing work from Murrin’s earlier books Allegorical Epic and History and Warfare. As a climax to the section, the new interpretations of the sea-storm and its mythological ending in The Lusíads will stand as one of the most brilliant moments in the history of Camões criticism.”

(H. J. S. Alves, University of Évora)

About the Author

Michael Murrin is the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. He is the author of History and Warfare in Renaissance Epic, The Allegorical Epic, and The Veil of Allegory, all published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Chicago.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022607157X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226071572
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ninaworks on February 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This represents the most recent product of SuperScholar Michael Murrin, this time examining the interface between medieval trade routes and Renaissance epics. Fashionably in keeping with the current preoccupation of academia with the Middle and Far East, there is a lot of historically fascinating material buried in this compact collection of heavily annotated essays--perhaps best read as stand-alone items. Particularly interesting is the second chapter "Marco Polo and the Garden of the Assassins." Who knew, for example, that there was an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the prince who later became Edward I? (the English king who expelled the Jews from Britain) Much of the book provides intricately woven background material for the best-known works of Chaucer, Spenser and Milton, et al., and while those familiar with the texts under discussion will undoubtedly benefit the most, this is one work where I would say that in-depth knowledge of the literature is not necessarily a prerequisite to enjoyment. I would recommend for historians and those undertaking adventure travel in the areas under discussion, like Iran.

A companion digital map would be a nice supplement here because if there is any flaw in this work, it's the frustratingly tiny, almost unreadable maps, which do not do justice to the text. Several chapters contain the stuff of which good BBC documentaries are made. Hopefully, somebody at University of Chicago Press will figure that out and do something about it.
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