Boccaccio’s tale of Calandrino and the heliotrope is justly celebrated as a masterful reflection on art and illusion. In this seminar, Justin Steinberg will explore the political dimension of this reflection. What are the power dynamics of seeing and being seen in the novella? In what ways is the beffa played on Calandrino also a civic punishment? What is the role of the customs agents in the tale? Is Calandrino simply a greedy friend or is he also a bad citizen (and immigrant)? Steinberg proposes that this fun tale is really about paying taxes.
Justin Steinberg is Professor of Italian literature at the University of Chicago and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Dante Studies. He is the author of Accounting for Dante: Urban Readers and Writers in Late Medieval Italy (Notre Dame, 2007), which won the MLA Scaglione Publication Award, and Dante and the Limits of the Law (University of Chicago, 2013), which won the MLA Marraro Prize. His current project on Boccaccio, law, and mimesis is supported from grants from the NEH and ACLS.