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Syllabus
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When discussing texts for Travelers on the Silk Road, professor of comparative literature, English, and religion Michael Murrin quickly turns sorrowful. "I've been limited by what's in print, by cost, and by copyright law."

PHOTO:  Michael MurrinNo English spoken here
He's also limited by what's been translated. The adventures of Marinus, an ancient Macedonian explorer of the Silk Road, for example, exist only in Renaissance Greek texts with Latin translations. "I'll have to narrate that one for you," he says.

High-priced travel
The price tag for the course's original list of required texts tallied to $150, forcing Murrin to merely recommend the $60 Si-yu-ki, a Buddhist record of the Western world penned by the Chinese monk Xuanzang, who traveled to India during the 7th century a.d. Divinity students of Buddhism, he advises, would be wise to make the investment anyway.

Who's who on the Silk Road
Travel narratives on Murrin's syllabus date back to 140 B.C. Some personalities and works on the list are familiar: Marco Polo's Travels; Rudyard Kipling's secret-agent tale Kim; Tamerlane and his court, as witnessed by the Castilian envoy Ruy González de Clavijo. Others will remain a mystery until later in the quarter: Rabban Sauma ("the East's answer to Marco Polo," says Murrin), the Hungarian-British archaeologist and geographer Aurel Stein ("infamous in some quarters"), and Peter Fleming, whose News from Tartary details his travels from Peking to Kashmir in the 1930s. For a women's view of the road, Murrin recommends the "amusing and acidic" writings of Mildred Cable and Francesca French, missionaries who traveled East during the early 20th century. The women's works, unfortunately, are out of print.- S.A.S.


  APRIL 2001

  > > Volume 93, Number 4


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