Indeed, this is the explicit model for the essays by Linda Georgianna (Boccaccio's tales and frames contain the collection's anticlericalism; Chaucer's don't, so that his anticlericalism has 'bite': see esp.
The upshot is that these essays in large part retreat to the critical worldview of Lumiansky's Of Sundry Folk - or, to be a bit more charitable, to a depoliticised version of that world of 1980s and '90s debates in Renaissance N e w Historicism, which went round and round on the 'subversion/containment' debate.
This week’s events took place against the backdrop of France’s ugly colonial history, its sizable Muslim population, and the suppression, in the name of secularism, of some Islamic cultural expressions, such as the hijab. Blacks have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine’s cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of Guianese origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations.
Boccaccio uses the group's flight to the country as a "frame story" for one hundred short tales—he knew how much people loved telling and hearing stories. The brigata lieta—the happy band—as this young and beautiful group of people is called, settle into a palace in the countryside near Florence and devise a storytelling game to entertain themselves (and to keep from indulging in naughty deeds). The group elects a monarch each day who chooses a daily theme for storytelling and plans the fun. The ten storytellers tell one story each every day for ten days. That's 100 folktales, tragedies, fabliaux (bawdy stories), comedies, romances and moral tales (not to mention songs). They're stories about all kinds of adventures on all kinds of topics about all kinds of people: kings and knights, priests and pirates, painters and bakers, winners and losers in love—all subject to the ups and downs of fortune. Boccaccio's love of people in all their craziness shines through in his tales. They're some of the most gruesome, blasphemous, sexually explicit and absolutely hilarious stories you'll ever read. A New York Times critic called The Decameron "". It was put on the Catholic Church's first Index of Prohibited Books in 1564, and many editions were heavily censored.
But it is possible to defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech. It is possible to approve of sacrilege without endorsing racism. And it is possible to consider Islamophobia immoral without wishing it illegal. Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions. The A.C.L.U. got it right in defending a neo-Nazi group that, in 1978, sought to march through Skokie, Illinois. The extreme offensiveness of the marchers, absent a particular threat of violence, was not and should not be illegal. But no sensible person takes a defense of those First Amendment rights as a defense of Nazi beliefs. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were not mere gadflies, not simple martyrs to the right to offend: they were ideologues. Just because one condemns their brutal murders doesn’t mean one must condone their ideology.
The flip side to this procedure appears in Neuse's essay, mentioned above: in order to argue that the M o n k is a stand-in for Boccaccio, the author feels compelled to rescue the teller from those w h o judge him ill (p.
These kinds of crises challenge us all to define our choices. The frame story of The Decameron makes it clear that escapism is the choice of the brigata. Boccaccio really doesn't blame them, though. They're young, they're scared, they're virgins, they're not ready to die. What's so bad about a two-week spa vacation to calm down and forget your troubles? Who wouldn't want to spend the next pandemic at Canyon Ranch?
Most of you would have choices. You could arm yourself to the teeth and hunker down in the safest place you could find, ala . You could let loose and live it up because hey, you could be dead tomorrow. You might do selfless acts like the Doctors Without Borders and put yourself in harm's way to help your dying neighbors. Boccaccio's happy band choose to retreat to a country estate because they could. They have the youth and the financial means to do it, and they defend their choice as the only moral thing to do. They even bring a few lucky servants with them. Most of the working class, we assume, were stuck in the plague-ridden city waiting to die. If something like this happened today—oh, wait, it is happening today—you know which social classes have the higher mortality rates and which have access to lifesaving medical care.
Yet the other essays tend to take the safer route, as in Schildgen's remark that '[w]hile these similarities may not prove that Chaucer knew the Decameron, they do suggest ...
A bigger problem is the nature of the 'old question' mentioned in the subtitle, which refers not to Chaucer's failure to mention Boccaccio, but to the extent of his knowledge of The Decameron.
b. When the Medici family was restored to power in Florence, Machiavelli was dismissed from office and permitted to retire to his country home where he de-voted himself to writing.
One of the entries, Richard Neuse's 'The Monk's De casibus: The Boccaccio Case Reopened,' has nothing to do with the Decameron; that work is subordinate in James H.
To be sure, those interested in Chaucer's response to Italy will find much of great interest here - that is inevitable in a 300-plus page collection of essays, including some by major scholars - but the book is hampered by the 'oldness' of its governing questions.