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Reading The Decameron From Boccaccio To Salviati
My dissertation analyzes the assumptions and anxieties the Decameron, in complete and expurgated forms, reveals about the practice of reading, the category of reader, and the materiality of the text. I also consider stories from the Decameron as a dialogue among the narrators who discuss the responsibilities of readers and writers. My introduction sets up how I engage existing concepts of hermeneutics, reader-response theory, and imitation. In Chapter 1, I discuss the practice of reading in terms of humanist imitation. I privilege an appreciation and examination of method, highlighting two responsibilities that weigh on the Decameron’s readers: to recognize useful textual models and to execute those models in a way that balances their replication with innovation. In Chapter 2, I consider the Decameron’s assumptions about how readers judge useful models and discern opportunities for pleasure. I propose a reader who simultaneously acts as an individual agent and a member of a larger community. I identify two divergent models for communal participation that are marked by gender. In Chapter 3, I analyze the interventions of expurgators Vincenzo Borghini and Lionardo Salviati, illustrating how their editions manipulate the tensions inherent in any censored book between its status as literature and its mandate to represent and support a specific ideology. Salviati’s successful expurgation owes itself both to the way he justifies textual extractions in the terms of humanist discourse and to the way his edited pages serve as visual reminders of Church authority. Salviati’s edition highlights the central role the materiality of the text plays in its interpretation and circulation. In Chapter 4, I trace how certain narrators use their stories to create a dialogue about effective strategies for communication and interpretation. Their dialogue emphasizes the reader’s responsibility to recognize the abundance of meaning available in a text and the writer’s capacity to manage that abundance. This method teases out a tension in the Decameron between preservation and innovation in regards to hermeneutic ideals, a tension central to understanding the Decameron’s enigmatic final tale and the brigata’s return to Florence. My conclusion sets up further discussions prompted by my work.
dissertation or thesis