Errant Latin: The Transformation of Language in Medieval Missions to the Mongol Empire Public Deposited

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  • Ringel-Ensley, Meredith
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This dissertation examines the status of Latin outside Western Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries through the narratives of missionary friars to the Mongol Empire. It shows that Latinity was a key component in Western Europeans’ construction of their identity vis-à-vis other cultures, and contributes to wider scholarly conversations about interactions between Europe and Asia in the global Middle Ages. More specifically, it argues that, during the friars’ time abroad, the uses of both spoken and written Latin were substantially different than the uses they had in Europe. The lingua franca of prestige and the sacred did not function as such in Asia and therefore took on new social functions in new contexts. To demonstrate this, I examine a variety of texts across several genres: travel reports, letters, chronicles, and codices. Beginning with the long travel reports of William of Rubruck, John of Plano Carpini, and Odoric of Pordenone, I then move to looking at the shorter letters of Pope Innocent IV, John of Montecorvino, Peregrine of Castello, and Andrew of Perugia. Subsequently, I turn to Latin books in Asia, especially as discussed by Riccoldo of Montecroce. Lastly, I look at how missionary narratives could be appropriated and transformed by the most famous medieval pseudo-traveler, John Mandeville. Broadly, I analyze how Latin functions in a different space, and the new forms it can take on.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Legassie, Shayne
  • Collins, Marsha
  • Babcock, Robert
  • Whalen, Brett
  • Wolfe, Jessica
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2020

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