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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Decalogue in the Decameron
by Curcio, Timothy, Ph.D., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies, 2020, 167; 28150295
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation provides insight into the academic debate concerning the moral message of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. Although the earlier tradition of critical commentary on the topic tends to disregard the text’s didactic scope, more recent scholars generally point out the ethical values of this literary masterpiece. I argue that the work’s morality can be judged more effectively by applying the Ten Commandments as its original interpretative key. This approach highlights the centrality of Christian thought, which has been largely overlooked because of the Decameron’s often salacious material. I argue that the apocalyptic reality ushered in by the plague incites Boccaccio to reconsider prevailing laws and ethics, specifically spiritual and religious laws, like the Ten Commandments. After careful analysis of the Decalogue in the Decameron, I conclude that Boccaccio takes a more compassionate stance on morality. The author affirms the New Testament’s Greatest Commandment and its Golden Rule, rather than the rigidity of the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. As I examine primary and secondary sources through a historical and interpretive approach, I do a close reading of numerous novellas of the Decameron, and I also consider biblical commentaries by theologians like Augustine, Aquinas, and Bonaventure. I am in constant conversation with Boccaccio criticism, which provides the framework for my research. My dissertation spans four chapters and connects the Ten Commandments thematically. “Observance,” the first chapter, investigates the polemical way in which religious observance and authority are depicted by the text; this is where I highlight idolatry, sabbath, and honor thy mother and thy father. Chapter Two, “Word,” focuses on the use of immoral language through the second and eighth commandments that prohibit blasphemy and deceit. The third chapter, entitled “Deed,” investigates the commandments of murder and adultery, where I examine the instances in Day Five and Day Seven when the decision to commit murder or adultery is considered a righteous act. Concupiscence is the topic of the fourth chapter, entitled “Desire,” a concept that encompasses the seventh, the ninth, and the tenth commandments prohibiting theft and coveting; here, I highlight the ethical tensions between Day Two, based on greed, and Day Ten, based on generosity. As a witness to the collapse of society during the plague in 1348, Boccaccio reevaluates right and wrong, and his articulation of moral dilemmas is ageless because all generations must grapple with political, social, and thereby moral upheaval.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vettori, Alessandro
Commitee: Gambarota, Paola, Marsh, David, Barsella, Susanna
School: Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies
Department: Italian
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 82/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Italian literature
Keywords: Boccaccio, Decameron, Ethics, Morals, Religion, Ten Commandments
Publication Number: 28150295
ISBN: 9798557093613
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