The idea of order and unity in Mandeville's Travels
MacDaniel, Elizabeth J.
Master of Arts
Mandeville's Travels, a fourteenth century work said by some critics to be wholly fictional, by others to be partially fictional, has defied scholarly attempts at definition and at placement within a genre. I do not intend to make such an attempt, to define Mandeville's Travels as a romance or moral treatise, for example, but rather will examine and explicate the text. It is my contention that Mandeville's belief in an order and unity that can simultaneously encompass and transcend disorder and diversity was the organizational and thematic principle upon which he created the work. I will provide a socio-historical context for the work, for I believe that the idea of Mandeville's Travels grew from a reaction to socio-historical events and changes within Mandeville's world. Mandeville's plan was to demonstrate the existence of order and unity despite the apparent disorder and diversity of the author's time. The text, then, is an exemplum of Mandeville's vision of the underlying unity and order in the universe, and, with an examination of the text, I prove that this idea governs the unified structure, the choice of formal techniques (such as juxtaposition, links across space and time, and repetition of images, among others), and the development of the theme of order underlying diversity.