Honors | Sex and Society in Boccaccio (HON)
H303 | 21351 | Julia Bondanella


TuTh 9:30-10:45am

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.