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In Boccaccio's innovative text ten young people leave Florence to escape the Black Death of 1348, and organize their collective life in the countryside through the pleasure and discipline of storytelling. David Wallace guides the reader through their one hundred novelle, which explore both new and familiar conflicts with unprecendented subtlety, urgency and humor: everything from the struggle for domestic space, fought out between individual men and women, to the greater politics of the Mediterranean world where Christian and Arab meet. He emphasizes the relationship between the Decameron and the precocious proto-capitalist culture of Boccaccio's Florence. He also discusses gender issues and the influence of the text, particularly on Chaucer and on the novel.
Acknowledgments; Chronology; Part I. The Making of the Decameron: 1. The Decameron as a landmark of world literature; 2. Boccaccio, Naples and Florence before the Decameron; Part II. The Decameron: 3. Title and preface; 4. First Day (Introduction); (i) the plague; (ii) the mise-en-scene; 5. First Day: the saint's life and the powers of language; 6. Second Day: fortune, female character and the impulse to trade; 7. Third Day: sex, voice and morals; 8. Fourth Day (introduction): Boccaccio's apology for Florentine prose; 9. Fourth Day: love and feudal aristocracy; 10. Fifth Day: romance, class difference, social negotiation; 11. Sixth Day: Florentine society and associational form; 12. Seventh Day: controlling domestic space; 13. Eighth Day: the scholar and the widow; 14. Ninth Day: the mystery of Calandrino; 15. Tenth Day: magnificance and myths of power; 16. The return to Florence and the author's conclusion; Part III. After the Decameron: Guide to further reading.