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Unit information: Boccaccio’s Decameron in 2021/22

Unit name Boccaccio’s Decameron
Unit code ITAL30063
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Rhiannon Daniels
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Boccaccio’s Decameron is one of Italy’s greatest cultural exports and one of the world’s literary masterpieces. The text is both a core component of the academic curriculum and a recurring reference point in popular culture, continuing to inspire new works of literature and film (e.g. The Gay ‘Decameron’; Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love).

This unit sets out to understand the different ways in which the Decameron has been read and interpreted as it journeys through history. Students will be introduced to texts and images which engage with the Decameron selected from two main periods: 1) the Middle Ages and Renaissance; and 2) the 20th-21st-centuries.

Case studies might include: 1) letters and diaries from 14th-century merchants; prefaces and letters from Renaissance editions which frame the Decameron as a text book for language study; examples of Inquisitorial censorship; images on Renaissance furniture and in paintings; 2) examples of re-writing (e.g. Aldo Busi’s Il Decamerone (2013); translations into English; film adaptation (e.g. Boccaccio 70 (1962); Maraviglioso Boccaccio (2015)).


to introduce students to the history of the Decameron in the pre-modern and modern periods through the examination of a range of key written and visual sources;

to familiarize students with theories and methodologies relevant to reception studies;

to develop further skills of textual analysis, historical interpretation and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level I;

to equip students with the skills to undertake postgraduate study in a relevant field

No previous knowledge of the Decameron is required.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, a student will be able to:

  1. Identify key cultural trends and use this knowledge to evaluate the status and fortunes of the Decameron in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and modern period
  2. Analyse written and visual primary texts and evaluate them in their historical context
  3. Articulate and analyse theoretical and methodological questions relating to reception studies
  4. Communicate their findings effectively, both orally and in writing at a high level appropriate to H
  5. Carry out independent research appropriate to level H

Teaching Information

Interactive lectures and seminars with small group work and whole class discussion.

Assessment Information

1 x 15 minute group oral presentation (30%),(ILOs 1, 4).

1 x 3500-word essay (70%) (ILOs 1-5).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ITAL30063).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.