A study of legal and literary representation in Boccaccio's Decameron
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.
Mimesis on Trial: Boccaccio’s Realism, Judicial Inquest, and the Rise of the Novella. This project examines the influence of the most important development in legal procedure in Western Europe—the emergence of the inquisitorial trial—on the most important development in Western literary style—the emergence of realistic representations of daily life. In particular I will focus on the novellas of the fourteenth-century author and poet Giovanni Boccaccio, whose celebrated realistic narratives, lifelike characters, and employment of naturalistic dialogue are also a response, I argue, to new method of prosecuting crime. However contested, Boccaccio remains a pivotal figure in our imagination of the Renaissance, yet no assessment of his legacy can ignore his contribution to these two pillars of early modernity: realism and inquisition.