Boccaccio’s Decameron: A Fictional Effort to Grapple with Chaos

Boccaccio’s Decameron: A Fictional Effort to Grapple with Chaos

By Nancy M. Real

Published online as part of the Virtual Commons Modules (2006)

Introduction: The Italian fourteenth century was a time of flourishing artistic activity Indeed, there has been a long-standing debate over whether Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) is best understood as a medieval writer or a Renaissance one, and this kind of debate can easily be extended to include other fourteenth-century Italians, Giotto di Bondone among them. The world was being seen from new perspectives literally and figuratively–men like Masaccio and Filippo Brunelleschi would soon be wrestling with problems about representing space in two dimensions–and figures like Boccaccio and his fellow writers were inaugurating new ways to speak to daily human experience. At this time in Italy, the teachings and power of the Church certainly held strong, but scholars now also see efforts of many trecento minds to carve new imaginative territories for understanding private and social experience that were not wholly dependent on religious assumptions.

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