The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Boccaccio’s Decameron: A Three-Part Course with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Boccaccio’s Decameron: A Three-Part Course with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski


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“It is a matter of humanity to show compassion for those who suffer…,” writes Giovanni Boccaccio in the first line of the Preface to his medieval masterpiece, The Decameron. Set in Florence, Italy during the 1348 plague known as the Black Death, Boccaccio’s one hundred novelle have received recent, widespread attention as readers the world over struggle to navigate the perils of this first-in-a-generation COVID 19 pandemic. The real strength of Boccaccio’s tales, however, is not derived solely from the weight of their literary proximity to our current experience. Rather, these stories about virtue and vice; honesty and deceit; love and loss; fortitude and temperance; prudence and magnificence, help readers to shift their focus to the humanity that is needed to rebuild and remake the world.

In this three-part course, we will introduce readers to the major themes of The Decameron against the backdrop of the historical reality of the plague in Florence. We will then focus our specific attention on a close reading of various novelle from The Decameron. Each of these novelle will be read in relation to one another and discussed from within the framework of Boccaccio’s larger thematic and literary concerns. As these tales will demonstrate, it is not the pathos of Boccaccio’s plague that gives The Decameron its enduring and vital power, it is the passion and compassion that his stories reveal us capable of when called upon to care about and for each other.

Led by an expert in Italian literature and culture, Kristin Stasiowski, Ph.D., this interactive seminar will introduce participants to Boccaccio and The Decameron through an in-depth discussion of the playful nature of literature and storytelling. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of Boccaccio’s genius and the power of language to address, represent, and awaken the power of the imagination.

 

Lecture 1: Introduction, Day 1, and Day 10

Our first lecture will cover the Introduction to The Decameron and a discussion of the literary and historical contexts of the text. We will then move to a thematic discussion of the first story of Day 1 and the last story of Day 10.

Lecture 2: Day 3

This lecture will discuss the stories from Day 3, the theme of which is erotic desire. We will focus on the way that Boccaccio uses humor, sex, and love to address questions of language and lust.

Lecture 3: The Artists

Our final discussion will focus on Boccaccio’s “artists.” From Buffalmacco, Bruno, and Calandrino to Giotto himself, we will meet and discuss the ways that Boccaccio uses artists to address ideas about fortune and virtue; truth versus fiction; and the power of the eye and the pen to persuade.

Kristin Stasiowski, Ph.D. is the Assistant Dean of International Programs and Education Abroad for the College of Arts and Sciences and is also an Assistant Professor of Italian Language and Literature in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Kent State University. She received her Ph.D from Yale University in Italian Language and Literature and has taught Italian language, literature, cinema, history and culture in both the United States and Florence, Italy prior to arriving at Kent State. Her current research is on Italian author Clemente Rebora.

 

How does it work?

This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background in Boccacio there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $105 for three lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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