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Slugs and Steins with Professor Sharon Kinoshita – Rediscovering Marco Polo

September 11, 2023 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm  |  Virtual Event


Few medieval figures enjoy greater name recognition than Marco Polo. Today, he is a brand whose name connotes exoticism, adventure, and East-West travel; academic critics sometime see him as the precursor to European explorers who cast a colonizing gaze over non-Western parts of the world. The source of all these images is the book usually known in English translation as “The Travels.” In this talk, Professor Kinoshita returns his work to its original title, The Description of the World (in Old French, Le Devisement du monde). Composed by the Venetian merchant in collaboration with an Arthurian romance writer named Rustichello of Pisa in 1298, The Description comes at the midpoint of a remarkable century when the Mongol conquests of Chinggis Khan and his successors, resulting in the largest contiguous empire in history, had produced a world of unprecedented travel, communication, and interaction. Our Slugs & Steins lecture will explore some of the most interesting, curious, and surprising aspects of that world.


Sharon Kinoshita is Professor of Literature at UCSC, specializing in medieval French literature (including the earliest Arthurian romances of figures like Lancelot and Perceval), Mediterranean Studies, and the Global Middle Ages. Her work on Marco Polo includes an annotated translation of the earliest surviving version of his Description of the World (Hackett, 2016), numerous essays exploring various aspects of his world (the silk trade, multilingualism, animals), and a book forthcoming in Reaktion Press’s new series, “Medieval Lives.” She recently contributed the blogpost “On the Road with Marco Polo” to The Humanities Institute’s 2022-2023 series on Travel.

Slugs and Steins are free informal lectures served up over Zoom. Brought to you by the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association, each talk will engage one of our favorite professors in discussion with you, the local community of Silicon Valley, and beyond. We will cover everything from organic artichokes to endangered zebras, self-driving cars to Shakespeare. All are welcome. Audience participation is encouraged.

Questions? Contact the UC Santa Cruz University Events office at


September 11, 2023
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm