In Boccaccio’s Corpus, James C. Kriesel explores how medieval ideas about the body and gender inspired Boccaccio’s vernacular and Latin writings. Scholars have observed that Boccaccio distinguished himself from Dante and Petrarch by writing about women, erotic acts, and the sexualized body. On account of these facets of his texts, Boccaccio has often been heralded as a protorealist author who invented new literatures by eschewing medieval modes of writing. This study revises modern scholarship by showing that Boccaccio’s texts were informed by contemporary ideas about allegory, gender, and theology. Kriesel proposes that Boccaccio wrote about women to engage with debates concerning the dignity of what was coded as female in the Middle Ages. This encompassed varieties of mundane experiences, somatic spiritual expressions, and vernacular texts. Boccaccio championed the feminine to counter the diverse writers who thought that men, ascetic experiences, and Latin works had more dignity than women and female cultures. Emboldened by literary and religious ideas about the body, Boccaccio asserted that his “feminine” texts could signify as efficaciously as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Petrarch’s classicizing writings. Indeed, he claimed that they could even be more effective in moving an audience because of their affective nature— namely, their capacity to attract, entertain, and stimulate readers. Kriesel argues that Boccaccio drew on medieval traditions to highlight the symbolic utility of erotic literatures and to promote cultures associated with women.
James C. Kriesel is assistant professor of Italian at Villanova University.
"This is an original study of Boccaccio that offers the first extended inquiry into both questions related to the body/corpus in his works and his allegorical interests and practices. In addition, the volume provides a sustained close reading of several of his works in relation to these themes and to questions about ethics and the vernacular across his oeuvre. . . . [The book] is an important and updated approach to Boccaccio." —Simon Gilson, University of Oxford
"James Kriesel makes a distinct and original contribution to the study of Boccaccio's role as a leading intellectual in the cultural turmoil between medieval and Renaissance conceptions of literature. The book has the potential to reorient the current debate on several key issues in Boccaccio studies for the wide scope it takes as well as the pointed analyses of central texts it provides throughout." —Simone Marchesi, Princeton University
“As Kriesel shows definitively, these aspects of Boccaccio’s vernacular and erotic writings stemmed from literary genres that had been designated ‘female’ and the ongoing debates about the spirituality of women.” —Choice
"Kriesel's new book is a welcome addition to the study of Boccaccio's writings, positioning the poet in relation to his two near contemporaries, Dante and Petrarch, and examining his writings in the context of many important philosophical, linguistic, and theological debates taking place in the Italian Middle Ages. . . . It is an excellent book." —Sixteenth Century Journal