Villanova Professor’s Book Portrays Decameron Author as Early Champion of Feminine Cultures

James C. Kreisel, PhD is author of Boccacio’s Corpus: Allegory, Ethics, and Vernacularity.

Villanova, PA—Best known for the Decameron, medieval Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) is considered one of the early humanists and was celebrated in the Renaissance as the foremost stylist of Italian prose. James C. Kriesel, PhD, assistant professor, Romance Languages and Literatures in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has published a new book titled Boccacio’s Corpus: Allegory, Ethics, and Vernacularity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), in which he explores how medieval ideas about the body and gender inspired Boccaccio’s vernacular and Latin writings.

With the earthy, bawdy and comical Decameron, Boccaccio distinguished himself from his fellow celebrated medieval authors Dante and Petrarch by writing about women, erotic acts, and the sexualized body. Due to these facets of his texts, Boccaccio has often been heralded as a proto realist 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.  

In his book, Dr. Kriesel proposes that Boccaccio wrote about women to engage in debates concerning the dignity of what was coded as female in the Middle Ages. 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. 

"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,” says reviewer Simone Marchesi, PhD, associate professor, French and Italian, Princeton University. “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."   

The author of numerous academic articles, Dr. Kriesel teaches Italian Studies at Villanova. This is his first book.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenging and changing world. With more than 40 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.