The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

Irene Eibenstein-Alvisi

LecturerPhD, Cornell University

Lecturer, Department of French and Italian



CTI 375 • Lit/Art Florence At The Renais

33399 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm PAR 101
(also listed as EUS 347, ITC 349)

Florence in the 1300s lived through a tumultuous period of internal strife and wars, bankruptcies, floods, famines, and epidemics that culminated in the Black Death of 1348. And yet, this is also the century that saw the beginning of Italian literature with the creation of three masterpieces that will forever influence the Western tradition:  Dante’s Divine Comedy, Petrarch’s Canzoniere, and Boccaccio’s Decameron. This course will analyze these fundamental texts written at what is traditionally considered the point of transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and will place them in their cultural and historical context with emphasis on the visual arts, Giotto in particular; architecture; and music.

The final project for the course will be a web-based documentary jointly produced by the class that will showcase the century in all the aspects discussed in class.

The class will be held in English and texts will be read in translations.

The course carries the Writing Flag and has no final exam.

CTI 345 • Boccaccio's Decameron

34190 • Spring 2011
Meets MWF 900am-1000am MEZ 1.216
(also listed as EUS 347, ITC 349)

COURSE DESCRIPTION: In this masterpiece of the western canon, ten young Florentines flee the horrors of the Black Plague of 1348 and use storytelling in order to overcome their fears and console their grief. Through the analysis of these 100 tales and their relationship to the characters who narrate them, we will discuss how Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) explores the basic elements of the human condition - love and desire, power and politics, virtue and fortune - while at the same time exposing the ambiguities of language and the pitfalls of representation. Considering its reputation as a proto-feminist text and the major scholarly discussion around this notion, we will pay particular attention to the depiction of women and their roles.

The class will be held in English and we will read the Decameron in its entirety in English translation.

BOOK: Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, trans. Musa and Bondanella (Penguin/Mentor Books)

Grading Policy

Study questions: 40% 
 Analysis paper and rewrite based on teacher comments: 20%
 Short research paper: 10% 
 Quizzes: 10%
 Creative paper: 10% 
 Class participation: 10% Final exam: No

Substantial Writing Component: Yes


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