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Gaze, Object, and Precious Stones in the Book of John Mandeville



Manifesting the desire for seeing, the fourteenth-century travelogue the Book of John Mandeville presents a world of spiritual, physical, and especially visual wonders by having its first-person protagonist travel to Jerusalem, the holy cities nearby, and amazing places far beyond. Though the narrative seemingly reveals the exotic world and recounts the abundant material objects through the perspective of a Christian knight, the "gaze" shown in the text is not a unidirectional viewing from the Latin West, but a bidirectional, or even multidirectional, gaze that splits between self and other. In addition, the gaze in the text is intriguingly intertwined with precious stones and jewels, the material objects typically associated with the exotic. Lacan's conceptualization of gaze as a third locus surpassing the simplistic self-other relationship may potentially contribute to the interpretation of this connection. In this paper, I would like to appropriate Lacan's idea of gaze as objet petit a to explore three specific parts in Mandeville's description, namely the episode of the Castle of the Sparrowhawk, the description of the Sultan's merchant-spies, and finally the almost omnipresent "gold, silver, and precious stones" in the lands of Prester John. This paper aims to scrutinize how the gaze-object in Mandeville's narrative challenges the traditional subject-object relation and configures a new kind of subject that can never be settled and closed, which echoes Mandeville's portrayal of the Earthly Paradise as an alienated and eternally unreachable Christian center.

Parallel abstracts


Parallel keywords

《曼德維爾遊記》 物/對體 寶石 凝視 拉岡


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