Syllabus

Spring Semester 2015

Italian 1020: Boccaccio's Decameron
Class meetings: T,TH 10:30-11:50
(Digital Scholarly Lab, Rockefeller Library)

Prof. Massimo Riva
Room 202, 190 Hope St. / Faculty Study B-15, Rockefeller Library
Tel. 863-3984/1561
e-mail: Massimo_Riva@brown.edu

Description: Close study and discussion of Boccaccio's collection of 100 tales told by ten young Florentines as a game and pass time, over a period of two weeks, while in flight from the devastating plague of 1348. The Decameron defined the standard of Italian prose narrative for four centuries and deeply influenced Renaissance drama. We will pay particular attention to the book's visualizations and adaptations into a variety of media, from manuscript illumination to painting, theatre and film. Students will use, and contribute to, the Decameron Web, the award-winning Boccaccio web site administered by the department of Italian Studies. Sections in English and Italian.

Organization. We will re-play the game of storytelling, staged in the Decameron: in order to do this, each student will choose the identity of one of the ten narrators of the Decameron brigata and will be responsible for a weekly twit, a written review (on the Decameron Web blog) and a short (five-minute) oral presentation of each of the ten novellas told by her/his narrator. Weekly twits can be a paraphrase of Boccaccio's own synthetic title-descriptions of his stories (so called rubriche) or short commentaries highlighting some of the themes/topics emerging in our discussion. Final projects may focus on a textual or contextual topic across several stories and can be in any media of choice. Collaborative projects are encouraged (such as staging a novella, or contributing to a multimedia project). The best projects will be published on the Decameron Web.

Evaluation: weekly twits and reviews on blog (142 characters/500 words)=30%; participation in class discussions=20%; Final project= 50%.

Textbook: G. Boccaccio, The Decameron, English translation by Wayne A. Rebhorn, Norton (available at the Brown Bookstore). The Italian text of the Decameron and critical materials are available on the Decameron Web: http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/index.php
Additional materials available on Canvas.

WEEKLY PROGRAM

January 22
● Introduction to the Course: Overview of the Decameron Web. How to use the electronic syllabus. Reading assignment (for Jan. 27): Decameron Web:The Project.

January 27 No class. Snow day

January 29
Boccaccio's Life and Works.
Boccaccio, Scribe and Author.
● How to read this book: The Author's Preface; Dante, Ovid, Petrarca and Boccaccio. Nicknamed Gallehault.

February 3
● The Author's Introduction. The Plague and its representation.
● The Brigata and the Frame. Why did Boccaccio choose S. Maria Novella? Numerology and the Grammar of the Frame.
Pleasure and Plague.
● Brigata roles assignment (in class).

February 5
● Day One (under the rule of Pampinea): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day One. Selected articles available on Canvas: choose one about your novella (if there is no article included in this Reader's guide, try the general Bibliography, or research the library resources to find articles to add to the DWeb bibliography module. This assignment repeats each week).
The novella genre before Boccaccio.
Religion as a context and a theme.
● Sainthood as (blasphemous) performance.

February 10
● Day One: discussion of novelle 6-10.
Wit and clever remarks.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the first novella told by your narrator.

February 12
● Day Two (under the rule of Filomena): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Two.
Jesters and popular culture in the Middle Ages..
● The Wheel of FortuneFortuna as topic. The Iconography of Fortuna.
Prostitution in the Middle Ages.

February 17 No Class. Long weekend

February 19
● Day Two: discussion of novelle 6-10.
The World of the Decameron.
Medieval Merchant Culture.
● Class activity: Concordance to the Decameron. Searching for People and Places.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the second novella told by your narrator

February 24
● Day Three (under the rule of Neifile ): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Three.
● The Garden of Desire. Love as a topic. Seduction by silence.
Disguise and Gender Roles. Deception and its implications.

February 26
● Day Three : discussion of novelle 6-10.
Nature as Morality
Sexual desire.
Sex in Medieval Authors.
The Physiology of Gender.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the third novella told by your narrator.

March 3
● Day Four (under the rule of Filostrato): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Four.
● Love relics: Two hearts and a head.

March 5
● Day Four: discussion of novelle 6-10.
The Decameron and the English Romantics.
● Class activity: Anthropological Boccaccio. Intro. to Motif Index Codes. Find a motif for each of the novellas told so far by your narrator.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the fourth novella told by your narrator.

March 10
● Day Five (under the rule of Fiammetta): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Five. 
● The Art of Courtly Love (and its criticism).
Sex and Marriage.
● Of Nightingales and other birds.

March 12
● Day Five: discussion of novelle 6-10
Visualizing the Decameron.
Nastagio and BotticelliCassoni paintings and material culture.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the fifth novella told by your narrator

March 17
● Day Six (under the rule of Elissa): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Six.
Witty remarks.
Performance and interpretation.

March 19
● Day Six: discussion of novelle 6-10.
Boccaccio Feminist or Misogynistic?
Cult of Saints and Relics.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the sixth novella told by your narrator.

March 24-26 - Spring Break

March 31
● Day Seven (under the rule of Dioneo): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Seven.
Who rules the domestic space?
Adultery as a Power Game.
The Language of Spatial Relationships.
Music in the Decameron.

April 2
● Day Seven: discussion of novelle 6-10
● Class activity: Final projects brainstorming.
● Written assignments: twit and review of the seventh novellas told by your narrator. Draft proposal for your narrator's personal page (lay out and structural breakdown, ideas for links).

April 7
● Day Eight (under the rule of Lauretta): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Eight.
● Draft proposal for final project due (1-2 pages on topic chosen, bibliography)

April 9
● Day Eight: discussion of novelle 6-10
Magicians in the Middle Ages. Social Critique of Magic.
Three Spells.
● Florentine lore: the Calandrino's cycle.
Echoes of an Indian Tale.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the eighth novella told by your narrator.

April 14
● Day Nine (under the rule of Emilia): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide to articles in English, Day Nine.

April 16
● Day Nine: discussion of novelle 6-10.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the ninth novella told by your narrator.

April 21
● Day Ten (under the rule of Panfilo): discussion of novelle 1-5. See Reader's Guide of articles in English, Day Ten.
● Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4), Thomas of Aquinas (Commentary on Book 4) and Boccaccio: from Liberality to Magnificence .

April 23
● Day Ten: discussion of novelle 6-10.
● Griselda: A Moral Ending? A performance and interpretation by the students of an Italian high school, the Liceo Canopoleno of Sassari (winner of the Boccaccio AfterLife award):
● The Corbaccio, a controversial work by Boccaccio.
● Written assignment: twit and blog review of the tenth novella told by your narrator.
● The Author's Epilogue.
● Final discussion.

April 28
● Discussion of Decamerone, a film by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

April 30: Reading Period (Make up classes, if necessary).

May 12. Presentation and discussion of final projects.

Deadline for completion of all final projects: May 14