In This Article Giovanni Boccaccio

  • Introduction
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies
  • Editions
  • Manuscripts
  • Corbaccio
  • Esposizioni sopra la comedia di Dante and Rime
  • Buccolicum carmen and Epistles
  • De montibus and De casibus virorum illustrium
  • De mulieribus claris
  • Genealogie deorum gentilium libri
  • Minor Latin Works

Renaissance and Reformation Giovanni Boccaccio
by
Jason Houston
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0203

Introduction

Giovanni Boccaccio (b. 1313–d. 1375), along with the two other great Florentine writers, Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarch, is one of the Three Crowns of Italian literature. His vast body of poetic and prose works represents a great variety of classical and medieval literary genres. Boccaccio was acutely aware of his position as mediator between different cultures—classical and medieval; Italian, French, and Latin; and Christian and pagan—and thus he stands as an important figure in the development of a European humanist literary culture that defines the Renaissance and beyond. Although his Latin encyclopedic works were his most important and influential works for centuries, modern audiences, both scholarly and otherwise, have made the Decameron Boccaccio’s most read text. Italian, German, and French scholars made the first critical editions of Boccaccio in the late 19th century. Italian scholars, primarily Vittore Branca but also others, renewed efforts to create authoritative critical editions in the late 20th century. Italian criticism of Boccaccio remains mostly philological, with important exceptions. North American scholars of Boccaccio have focused on the Decameron. The late 20th century saw great interest in Boccaccio’s early vernacular works, primarily in North America. American critics have read Boccaccio in light of new critical categories, particularly feminism and Mediterranean studies, although more-recent critical attention has shifted back to Boccaccio’s Latin texts in order to illuminate his intellectual contributions to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The 700th centenary of his birth in 2013 saw a number of publications in which a range of scholars considered Boccaccio’s influence across genre and period. Besides his writings, Boccaccio was an important figure in the creation of an Italian literary tradition, promoting the poetic importance both of Dante and Petrarch.

Biographies

Branca 1977 remains the most detailed and comprehensive biography of Boccaccio available, introducing documentary evidence to supplement Boccaccio’s own biographical details from his letters. Bergin 1981 offers an overview of Boccaccio’s life, generally organized around his literary works. Branca 1976 translates (into English) parts of his biography and scholarship from his other works; this book is the best resource for English readers without proficiency in Italian.

  • Bergin, Thomas G. Boccaccio. New York: Viking, 1981.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book presents a general introduction to the study of Boccaccio, with a significant chapter of biographical material. The book is written for a general audience but gives useful information, even for scholars of Boccaccio.

  • Branca, Vittore. Boccaccio: The Man and His Works. Translated by Richard Monges. Cotranslated and edited by Dennis J. McAuliffe. Forward by Robert C. Clements. New York: New York University Press, 1976.

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    A compendium translation including portions of two of Branca’s books: Giovanni Boccaccio: Profilo biografico (Branca 1977) and Boccaccio medievale (Florence: G. C. Sansoni, 1991). The first book of the volume contains portions of the biographic work (1977), and the second book of the volume contains a portion of the general study (1991). Throughout the volume, citations from Latin are not translated; the Italian texts are translated into English.

  • Branca, Vittore. Giovanni Boccaccio: Profilo biografico. La Civilità Europea. Florence: G. C. Sansoni, 1977.

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    The standard biography of Boccaccio. Branca traces a chronological narrative of Boccaccio’s life, relying not only on Boccaccio’s own writings but also on documentary sources. Branca pays particular attention to Boccaccio’s political activity, friendship with Petrarch and his circle in Florence, and his youth in Naples. Citations in Latin are not translated into Italian.

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