Vijayanagara in foreign eyes : a study of travel literature and ethnology in the Renaissance (1420-1600)
This dissertation attempts to understand the formationand transmission of images of non-European societies duringthe Renaissance from a case-study. An introductory chapterexplains travel literature as a genre, and establishes itsgeneral importance for the early development of the humansciences in the European cultural tradition, in particularthe empirical assumption that dominates the production ofpractically-oriented narratives based on the creative useof everyday language. The argument then goes on to focuson various descriptions of the South Indian kingdom ofVijayanagara written in the fifteenth and sixteenthcenturies by foreign observers. This body of literature isstudied thoroughly and in chronological order, withreference to the education and interests of the travellersand to the quality-of. their Indian experiences. Thus. theargument compares medieval with sixteenth-century travelnarratives, and texts produced within a Muslim and a LatinChristian traditions. Finally, it attempts to evaluate theuse travellers made of their rhetorical possibilities froma modern understanding of the complexity of the indigenouscultural tradition and political system. Continuousreference to the travel literature of the late Middle Agesand the Renaissance connects this original case-study withthe contemporary process of formation of ethnologicallanguages in Europe. The conclusion argues for theunderstanding of travel literature as a possible form ofcultural translation. It also defines the fundamentalassumptions of Renaissance ethnology as the understandingof human diversity in natural and historical terms, albeitin the limited form of descriptions of social behaviourwhich avoided the open discussion of religious beliefs.