- Boccaccio at 700: Tales and AfterlivesAn Introduction
The articles in this issue of Mediaevalia stem primarily from the plenary addresses at the April 2013 conference “Boccaccio at 700: Medieval Contexts and Global Intertexts,” hosted by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Binghamton University, in honor of the seven hundredth anniversary of the birth of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375). In keeping with the collaborative spirit of CEMERS, this conference was conceived as an interdisciplinary forum in which to rethink all aspects of the great Italian writer’s work, as well as the numerous fields touched by his legacy. In the course of his lifetime, Boccaccio was a merchant-banker, courtier, scribe, philologist, mythographer, geographer, literary scholar, social critic, lecturer, cleric, and ambassador of the Florentine republic, as well as fiction writer, biographer, and poet. No historical figure could serve better as fulcrum for a multidisciplinary examination of the manifold economic and cultural innovations, of the extraordinary fusion of commerce and aesthetics, that took place in late medieval and early modern Europe. The essays here cover an even longer time span, however, ranging from Boccaccio’s classical and medieval sources to his lasting influence on Western fiction, theater, and cinema, shedding light especially on his many formal and topical innovations that remain evident in contemporary narrative genres.
This volume will speak to scholars well beyond those whose primary area of research is Boccaccio. The essays address a broad range of topics and disciplines, and intersect with one another in interesting and compelling ways. Marco Cursi’s and Anne D. Hedeman’s articles focus on the production of manuscripts—particularly the framing of texts, the relation of text to image, and the role of the producer of the manuscript (be it the author, translator, scribe, or illuminator) in shaping the reception of the work(s) presented. Roberto [End Page 1] Bigazzi, Regina Psaki, and Millicent Marcus all show the profound influence Boccaccio has had on genres that came into being long after he was gone, namely, the novel and cinema; Boccaccio’s innovative approach—with his frame story, tales within tales, and interweaving narratives—proved to be highly fertile ground for authors and auteurs from Ariosto to Woody Allen. Many of the articles will be of particular relevance to those who study gender; Psaki’s piece, for example, focuses on several contemporary women novelists who have picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Boccaccio, as it were, modeling (in varying ways) their work after his, and engaging and reinterpreting themes of obscenity, repression, and gender. Historians of politics, languages, and literature will be especially interested in Charmaine Lee’s article, as it considers issues of code-switching in multilingual communities, and the mutual contamination of oral and written communication. Both Teodolinda Barolini and Janet Smarr consider the somewhat vexing final tale of the Decameron, which deals with the theme of marriage. They offer compelling discussions of medieval and early modern views on marriage and politics, as well as the ways in which literature both reflects and attempts to reshape societal views. Ronald Martinez’s essay on Day 6 of the Decameron might be grouped with Barolini’s and Smarr’s essays in terms of its concern with politics—specifically the governance of the medieval comune—and the closely related theme of rhetoric, but also perhaps with Lee’s, in terms of its concern with the relation between speaking and writing in conjunction with political discourse. Finally, Victoria Kirkham’s essay offers a brilliant overview of Boccaccian “apocrypha,” as well as important considerations on what constitutes apocrypha and why.
In “Boccaccio’s Neapolitan Letter and Multilingualism in Angevin Naples,” Charmaine Lee examines an example of Boccaccio’s work as linguist in the context of early-fourteenth-century Naples, a multilingual city comprising speakers of French, Occitan, Tuscan, Sicilian, and other languages. She considers his so-called Epistola napoletana, written half (the presentation or frame) in formal Tuscan, and half (the enclosed tale) in Neapolitan dialect, to be a stylized oral text, rather than a sample of spontaneous speech. The article examines other examples of multilingualism in Angevin Naples as well, especially French Chancery documents containing...