Italian 114B: Boccaccio’s Decameron: Storytelling In Context

Instructor: Raphaëlle Burns

This course focuses on Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, a fourteenth-century collection of novellas composed in the aftermath of the Black Death in Florence and a masterpiece of Italian prose literature. As we read and discuss Boccaccio’s novellas, we will also investigate the literary, historical, and cultural context in which he was writing. In addition, we will examine the contours of the novella as genre: special attention will be paid to the orality and sociability of storytelling in the Decameron and to how narrative framing devices structure readerly experience. Above all this course is intended to give students an appreciation of this art of storytelling as a means of articulating and debating—often humorously—the complex ethical problems of everyday life. Weekly readings will be accompanied by analyses of visual materials including illustrations and films. The Decameron will be read and discussed in English translation, though attention to the Italian original will be encouraged.