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The Governance of Friendship

Law and Gender in the Decameron

Michael Sherberg

Publication Year: 2011

The Governance of Friendship: Law and Gender in the Decameron by Michael Sherberg addresses two related and heretofore unexamined problems in the pages of the Decameron: its theory of friendship and the legal theory embedded in it. Sherberg shows how Aristotle’s Ethics as well as Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica inform these two discourses, at the intersection of which Boccaccio locates the question of gender relations which is one of the book’s central concerns.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

With this book I repay a debt to the author who first inspired me to study Italian literature. I begin therefore by thanking several galeotti who arranged trysts with the Decameron over the course of my education. Elissa Weaver set my future course when she assigned the tale of Madonna Oretta in my first-year Italian course. ...

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Introduction: The Governance of Friendship

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pp. 1-16

This study takes its title from two observations about the Decameron: first, that it traces its origins to a gesture of friendship, and second, that its initial focus on friendship opens onto a wide-ranging exploration of the relationship between friendship and governance, both in the household and in the state. ...

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Chapter I. The Order of Outsiders

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pp. 17-58

In dedicating the Decameron to women in love, Boccaccio executes a seemingly innocuous first step in orienting his text toward women. That decision does not lack for ramifications, however, for just as the Decameron puts women and their experiences at its center, so too does it relegate men to its sidelines, only to represent them as angling to reassert their authority. ...

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Chapter II: Lessons in Legal Theory

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pp. 59-106

In the previous chapter I undertook to show how Boccaccio positions men at the outside at all three levels of his text—author’s statements, frame tale, and stories—and how those gestures of exclusion inspire three parallel revenge narratives. Central to my argument there was the observation that, by dedicating the book to women, Boccaccio effectively turned his back on his (male) friends. ...

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Chapter III: Strategies of Coercion: Filostrato

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pp. 107-152

The restoration of men of the brigata from the margins of leadership to the center, their acquisition of the monarch’s crown, occasions a change in the dynamic of the brigata and in the nature of the stories told. While the narrative shift comes most abruptly in the case of Filostrato, in fact all three kings posit themes that expand the range of narrative options applied to women. ...

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Chapter IV: Dioneo and the Politics of Marriage

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pp. 153-190

The relative paucity of critical attention devoted to the seventh day of the Decameron finds compensation in the richness of the single contributions. To some degree we may attribute the lack of a sustained critical gaze to Cesare Segre, whose famous essay, “Funzioni, opposizioni e simmetrie nella giornata VII del Decameron,” ...

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Chapter V: The Rule of Panfilo: Fables of Reconciliation

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pp. 191-232

In his essay “From controversia to novella” Paolo Cherchi describes the last day of the Decameron as “a protracted courtly controversy where the debate revolves around levels of courtliness rather than around opposite systems of values or contradictory laws” (129). ...

Works Cited

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pp. 233-242


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pp. 243-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780814271032
E-ISBN-10: 0814271030
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211557
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211550

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2011