The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between written authority, experiential authority, travel, and gender in late medieval travel literature. By expanding Terrence M. Bowers’ discussion of travel as a masculine rite of passage beyond Margery Kempe to include Marco Polo, John Mandeville, and Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, the relationships between the aims and experiences of each figure are clarified. Each figure claims that their travels have given them unique a experiential knowledge which allows them to both recreate themselves on their own terms and to assert their own authority in opposition to written authority. Variables such as the gender of the traveler and the author who wrote about them and the fictionality of the traveler’s claims allow for Bowers’ thesis to be further developed, but also challenged. These four figures are united in their use of their journeys as a claim to experience, yet their differences allow for an expansion of the theory of rites of passage and how they may have functioned in medieval travel.

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