French and Italian | SEX AND SOCIETY IN BOCCACCIO
M340 | 24445 | Bondanella, Julia M


M340 is crosslisted as an honors seminar (H303). This course is an
opportunity to study Boccaccio IN ENGLISH. It is possible to earn
intensive writing credit for this course (M333 and H303). These
courses will also fulfill the College Humanities and Culture Study
(A) requirements.

BOOKS FOR THIS COURSE ARE AVAILABLE AT THE FINE ARTS BOOK SHOP (FINE
ARTS 120). If you have questions, please e-mail Professor Bondanella
(bondane@indiana.edu)

Storytelling is a quintessential human pastime. The
Decameron, which elevates storytelling to an art form, depicts a
cross-section of life in early modern European society as well as a
range of ethnic groups and non-Christians from Asia and Africa,
raising social, political, religious, ethical, literary and gender
issues. Boccaccio makes us think about the role of humor in life and
about the power of words. Although The Decameron was a hit
among the merchant classes of Florence, later readers considered the
work to be nothing less than scandalous, especially for its
exploration of human sexuality. The work records and explores the
tension between the chivalric ideals of the medieval aristocracy and
the values of the emerging mercantile capitalist middle class, while
offering a new basis for the formulation of values—Nature.

Boccaccio’s use of the Black Death of 1348 to provide a frame
narrative for his tales requires a consideration of the intersection
of literature and history throughout the work. Its range of
characters, its unrelenting dissection of human values, its sharp
wit and its sometimes outrageous humor makes Boccaccio one of the
first modern literary figures to emerge from the Middle Ages. To
better appreciate Boccaccio’s achievement, we will examine some of
his own writings and his classical and medieval sources, and we will
also consider briefly his influence on writers, such as Chaucer,
Marguerite de Navarre, Shakespeare and Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose
film The Decameron, we shall view.

Writing assignments will include 1-2 in-class essays (topics
announced beforehand) and 3-4 formal essays. All the formal papers
may be revised for an improved grade. Class attendance is important
and expected.