Boccaccio and romance
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This dissertation traces Boccaccio’s engagement with the genre of romance as both a writer of romances and an avid critic of the genre. It will show that even when he wrote his masterpiece, the Decameron, he still struggled to resolve the conflict between his continuing attraction to the genre he tried to master, and his resistance to it because of its association with illness, in particular, lovesickness. After an introduction devoted to theories and definitions of romance relevant to Boccaccio’s own conception of the genre, the dissertation will examine his continuing engagement with the genre by looking at two moments in his literary production: 1) the time he spent in Angevin Naples composing romances; and 2) the period in republican Florence during which most of the Decameron was written. Each of the two phases under consideration reveals a distinct attitude on the author’s part toward romance, but all point to an irrepressible impulse to draw on his experience as a reader, writer, and critic of this genre. Inasmuch as Boccaccio actively pursued a career as a writer of romances during his period in Naples, the works he wrote there will be examined to show what Boccaccio’s conception of romance was and how they prepared the author to write the Decameron. Then we will see how Boccaccio, in writing the Decameron, spurned the long-winded romance, the genre of his youthful literary debut, in favor of the more manageable novella, although even these short tales, which seem the opposite of romance, continue to use elements of that genre, either themes, structures, or images and motifs. A principal problem in the study of Boccaccio is a failure to consider fully that he was influenced by every type of romance available to him throughout his career. While critics have discussed this matter in terms of individual works, no one has examined why or how Boccaccio experimented with romance throughout his career. I am not denying that Boccaccio was influenced by the works of Dante and Petrarch, who openly spurned romance in their works. What I am saying is that he found something worthwhile in romance and used it to his own ends.