Newsletter - Fall 1997

Questa pagina in italiano

"... e a chi per tempo passar legge, niuna cosa puote esser lunga,
se ella quel fa per che egli l'adopera ..."

Semiannual publication dedicated to the study of Boccaccio on the Internet.

Coeditors: Michael Papio and Massimo Riva
Editorial Board: G. Melloni, A. Oldcorn, G. Picco, G. Strazzeri

It has been two years now since the Decameron Web first made its appearance on the Internet. Since then it has received over 25,000 visits and 300 Guestbook entries. We offer our most sincere appreciation to our users for having encouraged us in this pursuit. As always, we are dedicated to the constant improvement of our site's quality and trust that suggestions and comments will continue to come in.

Project Description:

The Decameron Web is an archive of information, pertinent to the reading and studying of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, one of the most important literary works of the western world, a true encyclopedia of early modern life and a narrative summa of late medieval culture. The Decameron Web was assembled by graduate and undergraduate students at Brown University under the direction of M. Riva and is accessible to the general public via the World Wide Web. It currently comprises the original Italian text and English translation in a searchable format (the Branca edition, digitized by Nanda Cremascoli and her students and available through Liber Liber and the 17th-century English translation, until now accessible through the Oxford Text Archive and elsewhere). In addition, it features numerous documents and images designed to elucidate the cultural and literary context of the Decameron. These include: a variety of students' projects that explore literary topics, cultural relationships and the visualization of the text in various media; an on-site newsgroup and a real-time Chat Chamber designed to serve as a virtual forum for discussion among its users; and a system of electronic subscription to the e-mail newsletter which will periodically disseminate among subscribers information related to Boccaccio and medieval Italian culture in general.


As designers of the Decameron Web, we are convinced of the benefits of cooperative learning in the exploration of literary texts. It is particularly important to us to make the Decameron Web the best possible resource for the teaching of Boccaccio's masterpiece. It is also our intention to collaborate actively and reciprocally with projects similar to ours toward a new, multilingual, hypertextually-annotated edition- and translation-in-progress of the Decameron. Our specific goal is the creation of a virtual encyclopedia based on the Decameron and consisting of a wealth of textual and visual materials, all aimed at illustrating and facilitating its interactive reading, understanding and teaching from a variety of interdisciplinary and methodological perspectives, whether historical or literary. We believe that such an enterprise must necessarily be a collective and collaborative one, involving the active contribution of the entire community of Decameron readers, students and scholars. In our view, to allow for and to promote such a spectacular convergence of efforts is the best use we can make of new technologies and the Web. We gladly serve as the facilitators of such a virtual convergence of scholarship and readership.

We believe that the interaction of readers from diverse backgrounds invariably enhances the reading experience. This is especially true for a book like the Decameron, as Boccaccio himself so exhaustively drew upon both the popular and learned cultures of his time. By reconciling in a collaborative fashion the reader's freedom with a sound cognition of serious scholarly achievements in the study of the Decameron, we believe that our project is an effective example of how innovative technologies can provide a new pedagogical medium for a fulfilling educational experience based on a literary text.

Recent Site News:

New URL:

The text of the Decameron is now available in both the original and English translation. Both versions are formatted in HTML and are searchable on-site. A more detailed markup that will permit context-sensitive searches is now in the planning stage and could even be developed in cooperation with other Internet projects.

The newsgroup and real-time Chat Chamber are now up and running. Access is easy and dependable; our users are encouraged to make full use of these functions for the dissemination of items of their interest and, in particular, in the teaching of courses in which students read the Decameron. The newsgroup has been used locally with great success in the discussion of the text among students and will continue to be a useful resource for classes during the upcoming academic year. We wish to promote the Chat Chamber as a didactic tool: as a virtual "space" in which groups of students from around the world may "meet" together and exchange ideas and questions related to their study. This is a service broadly conceived to include not only one-on-one exchanges but also and in particular the interaction between students or groups of students and scholars of the Decameron - guest lecturers, translators, authors and so on. What is more, we are committed to making possible discussion sessions between professors and scholars of Boccaccio throughout the year. If you or your students would benefit by the sharing of ideas in this way, please let us know and we will schedule and publicize a "chat" at a time convenient for you. If you would like to host a chat as a "guest scholar" we will likewise be glad to set one up for you.

Plans for the Future:

It is our hope that the Decameron Web may increasingly include and feature the work-in-progress of colleagues and scholars, be it a pre-print abstract of a publication, or an essay conceived and written in hypertextual form expressively for the Web, or even an electronic version or summary of already published but not easily accessible work. Foreseeable contributions may include bibliographical references, visual materials, audio recordings and didactic and methodological discussions. Opening our web to external contributions and to the scholarly community at large makes quality and content control a necessary priority. In order to assure the most rigorous peer review process we can implement on the Web, we are now in the process of creating an Advisory Board which will supervise, in collaboration with the Editorial Board, the Web's expansion.

In particular, we would like the Decameron Web to grow in the following directions:

i. a significant augmentation of the visual "record" of the Decameron: from manuscript to print illuminations, from cassone painting to motion pictures (e.g. contributions to historical visualizations of the text, studies of its influence on contemporary and subsequent works in the visual arts, analyses of artwork and exegetic representations produced over the centuries);
ii. the elaboration of online tools for the reader (e.g. specialized dictionaries for English speakers, specialized glossaries, detailed mark-up to permit more precise and productive lexical searches);
iii. the incorporation (semantically linked and searchable) of additional texts which bear on the Decameron (e.g. source texts in the literary, theological and popular traditions, other works by Boccaccio, and texts which were inspired by the collection of tales) ranging from Greek and Latin to high and low medieval narrative texts, to encyclopedic compilations covering a number of cultural and linguistic traditions: the classical, Eastern, French romance, Italian and so on;
iv. the enhancement of the bibliographical resources of the project including book reviews, annotated bibliographies, readers' guides to critical debates concerning the text, publication pre-prints, publication of selected proceedings from Boccaccio conferences, texts of papers and lectures and original, previously unpublished scholarly work;
v. the compilation of additional translations of all or part of the Decameron in various languages, in order to provide for translation studies as well as an aid to those who do not possess the linguistic skills to read the text in its original language. As an outgrowth of this addition, we hope to make the site a useful tool to teachers of the Italian language, adopting the Decameron (or selected novellas) as didactic units (unità didattiche) for multidisciplinary studies;
vi. the translation of existing English documents into Italian and vice-versa; our goal is to make all contributions eventually accessible in a multilingual (or at least bilingual) format.

Invitation to Potential Collaborators in the Project:

There are two levels of participation in the project: as a user and as a collaborator. At the level of active collaboration, one may contribute to the Web in a variety of ways: from an idle query made to the newsgroup, to the correction or elaboration of already included material, to the composition of a historical, bibliographical or interpretive document, to the submission of a book review, to the publication of a full-fledged critical article or pre-print of a forthcoming article or book, to the hosting of a discussion section via the chat function and so on.

We warmly invite all of our users interested in collaborating in the project (and especially those who integrate the Decameron Web in their own courses) to contact us at one of the following email addresses:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

The Project