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Unit information: Boccaccio’s Decameron in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

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
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School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Unit Information

Boccaccio’s Decameron is a manual for surviving a global pandemic and a European bestseller. During the Black Death of 1348, ten young Florentines decide to self-isolate in the surrounding countryside and tell each other stories to pass the time. The Decameron teaches us about the value of literature in a time of crisis. It is also a text which changed the face of storytelling across Europe: Boccaccio initiated a new trend for collections of short stories embedded in a frame tale and gave a voice to the underclasses and to women. It is Boccaccio’s writing style in the Decameron which is used as a model for prose writing in the vernacular, and that eventually contributes to the development of standard Italian.

Analysis of selected novelle will explore Boccaccio’s surprisingly forward-thinking views on gender and sexuality, his criticisms of the clergy, and the role of humour. We will also consider the complexity of the narrative structure and the metanarrative which comments on the art of storytelling and the role of literature in a pandemic. To complement readings of the text, students will be encouraged to consider the way in which visual design has been used to shape and influence the way in which the Decameron has been read across the centuries, from manuscripts to modern editions.

Your learning on this unit

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

How you will learn

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

How you will be assessed

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.